Claude left in the last week of May for Texas! He is excited for this new adventure. One of my Ravenista’s purchased him for a gift for a friend. Isn’t that the best kind of present? Claude is looking forward to greeting his new Bear-Tamer every day and staying wild.
My friend and I hike around his 160 acrea homestead. We have the current owners permission to explore and paint for the day. An empty writing studio sits quietly high on the side of a hill guarded by golden aspen. The creek where he gathered water is below the collection of buildings near the remains of the old Valdez trail. Hidden remnants of an ancient bridge gave up it’s timbers for his cabin. He talked about that bridge in his book. My friends sharp eyes spied it.
It was a fried ice cream kind of day, hot and cold at the same time. Sharp biting autumn wind calmed into warmness by sunshine.
We walk around the small collection of treasured buildings. A great American writer made these well worn paths. John Haines. He built these small buildings. Wrote and watched seasons pass here. His ashes were carefully placed at the top of the hill. His voice is in the aspen leaves rustling in the wind, whispering his poetry
We spend hours painting and listening and letting sunshine take away the chill of the autumn.
Downpours of rain formed translucent curtains across the valley.
How could those shapes and colors be expressed in a painting?
Dark blue pigment with a touch of orange, then more blue flowed into the fibers of the paper. The wet fibers expanded but held onto the different pigments. Yellow ochre, cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium orange. More water. Clear water softened the edges. Colors were moved back and forth as the brush searched for the right shape and texture. A dry brush picked up pigment and exposed the white paper. Puddles of paint slid into new areas, mixed, spread and made surprising effects. Some puddles were left untouched to change some more before they dried.
THIS IS THE MAGIC OF WATERCOLOR
Work quickly, go after a plan but be aware of what the paint does on it’s own. Evaluate the surprises. The quick change of direction or too long a hesitation will make or break the success of the painting. Paint changes as it dries on the paper but there is time to alter it while it’s still damp. An intentional brush can make an impact if carefully done.
Put a wash of deep pigment onto the paper that appears too dark so it will dry to the right value. This is a continual challenge. If it dries too light, a second wash of color will darken it but put on too many layers and the wash looks dead and uninteresting.
This time, the colors remained interesting when they dried. The colors worked well together and the tree shapes were formed by the pigments intertwining. I left them alone and gambled that they would look ok when they dried. This time they did.
TIME FOR A BREAK
This is one of the most important parts of the painting process. STOP and LET IT BE. Walk away. Do something else. Do this BEFORE you think it is done. BEFORE you have overworked the painting. I know this only because I have overworked MANY paintings. Soften the edges of the washes before you stop so you can come back later and and add to it.
The following painting was stopped. I took a picture of it and left the room.
When I returned I spent some time thinking about it and decided to add the foreground, darken the clouds and make some other small adjustments.
Is it better? You will have to be the judge of that. I like it better. The contrast of the foreground golden trees complements the cool tones of the valley. The darker clouds appear more ominous and capture more of the mood that I was trying to achieve.
You can see more of my paintings in this gallery.