I have an interesting relationship with painting portraits. A loose, confident application of paint is required in watercolor to keep the paint fresh and clean while an accuracy in the positioning and drawing of the main features and structure of the forms is required to make it convincing. I’m after a balance between the cartoon and photo realism. This is the demo I did during a class I taught at our local gallery.
We’ve been socked in with winter fog for days. This morning the glorious sun hit the hills outside our kitchen window. I’m trying to narrow down my view in a few small watercolors trying to catch one fleeting effect. An enjoyable hour with morning coffee at the kitchen table.
Each season has its own lighting effects. In small colored notebook sketches I can explore different techniques to find the magic I’m after.
When I’m a bit lost I remind myself to get back to the basics. Composition is the foundation for all that sits on top of it. Value is where form is described and color is like the flavors that make up a good meal. Out of many tiny thumbnails a few will stand out and call for more exploration and refinement. It’s design at this stage, pushing the shapes around and easy to adjust anything at a small size, no more than a few inches. Then after many small idea sketches a few will stand out and hopefully one will be interesting enough to take into a painting. This is just one process of many, but a good one to remember.
In my little watercolor notebook I start working this out. I want the brightest glow from the sky to just hit a bit on the right wall and around the figure. Perhaps the left wall is still too light. And I have to do a couple real vanishing points so the walls read correctly. And then the water reflection shapes need to be worked out as I don’t have a real photo of this, just a snap from a TV image.
After being completely focused on the straw bale building project for eight months, I’m feeling a bit burned out. So my watercolors and notebooks showed up and I started to play with some little landscapes again. It feels good to put the brush in the paint. The curves and shadows of nature are endlessly inspiring.
The fires are inundating us with smoke, so I’m in the studio finishing up some older paintings that didn’t quite make it on the first go. This one is inspired by the windy bluffs on the oregon coast.
I finally figured out that the most interesting morning shadows are off to the east from our house. This is looking from the north section of our east hay pasture. We planted these poplars …. hmm, a few years ago.
I’ve been getting up pretty early for me, and heading outside for the morning light. I usually have a piece of paper taped-off and readied on a watercolor block. If I get to it I might even do a wet into wet sky the night before so the paper will have time to dry and be ready to work on in the morning. After the initial layin out in the field I take it back to the studio to finish.
This spring has been a color feast for the eyes. The early sun hits the top edges of the Manastash Ridge and glows with pinks and purples, defining the rolling shapes of the hills. I’ve been making my morning coffee and doing a few watercolors looking out our kitchen window. Now the snow is gone and the glowing emerald is just beginning to cover the hills.