pouring a landscape

Sometimes I manage to create a piece of art work that I just love to look at, and this is one of them. I am very pleased with the texture in the trees, the the coolness of the blue bleeding into the rocks on the edge of the pond, and the occasional spots of undissolved pigment.

There is something very freeing about just pouring paint onto paper and letting the subject matter create itself, without a preconceived vision or idea. One day I took several quarter sheets of watercolor paper and just brushed, dripped, and poured some paint onto the wet paper with no real plan in mind other than to use just a few colors and to go very bright. I do this every so often, just to get out of a mental tight space. Once the paint is on the paper, I tend to just set these aside in my “in process” pile and then look at them occasionally. When I don’t have a specific project in mind, I get one or two out, tape them to the wall, and just look at them, trying to let my eyes do all the thinking.

I kept coming back to this one. I loved the bright colors, and it definitely spoke “landscape” to me (they usually do) but it took a few months before something finally clicked. One day, I just started to draw, following some of the contours and shapes that had been created by flowing paint. I started with the trees and some of the long lines to establish the main layout, then started drawing in the rocks and finishing up with the little grassy parts.

I have a general tendency not to stop soon enough when I am working, but with this one it seemed that when I was done, I was done. Unlike many other of my supposedly finished paintings and drawings, I have not gone back on this one to add another rock, or more grass, or make this tree a little taller. I am happy with it just the way it is.

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exploration in gray

This little drawing was done one day in drawing class when I just needed a little diversionary break. I grabbed a scrap of bristol paper (7×11) and an assortment of warm grays (Prismacolor) and just started doing some cross-hatching, with no plan in mind. It created itself into this little sand dune / ocean sort of landscape. I like the texture of the cross-hatching and the illusion of distance created by the use of space and the flow of the lines. The drawing process of drawing this was very calming, and I like the feeling of serenity it evokes.

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My latest, possibly first of a series. I started with the rectangle, carefully measuring and lightly drawing in pencil points, then taping off the rectangle with artist’s tape. I did the little black and white painting, let it dry, and took off the tape.

After a few weeks of thinking about it, one day I covered the trees with a piece of scrap watercolor paper, taped it down carefully to create a little white border around the rectangle (about 1/4 inch, maybe less), and let myself go. I wet the paper with a brush and basically splashed blue and purple watercolor on the paper. I blew some with a straw, just a little to spread it around and help it blend, and then dropped pretzel salt onto parts of it. The salt sucks up water and paint, making a spotty texture. I plopped in a little yellow, waited for it to dry completely, brushed off the salt, and took off the paper mask.

I have another painting similar to this one, of an oak tree, which still has a white background. I’m thinking of doing something similar, going greenish or maybe fall color-ish.

This is done on a half sheet of Arches 140# watercolor paper (15×22).

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stripes and white space

One day I walked into my watercolor class and saw a vase of flowers and a long piece of bunched-up striped fabric arranged across the worktable. “Uh oh,” I thought. The very idea of dealing with all that fabric seemed overwhelming. After our instructor’s demonstration of how she does her sketching and laying out the initial color and the use of negative painting, I sat down and just stared at that complicated fabric for a long time, the glass vase with its reflections, and all those irises and leaves and lilies. After a while, finally, tentatively, I started drawing the contour of the vase and laying out the main contours of the fabric, and then, suddenly, I started looking at the fabric a new way. It was basically like a landscape! The hills running into each other, the valleys in between… and then the fabric started to make sense to me. But I left a lot out, because I am a big fan of white space, and I wanted this to be about the fabric and the vase, without all the clutter of flowers and leaves and background. In this class, people are always talking about filling the paper with color, but I don’t think that’s always necessary. Maybe I’m just lazy. Maybe I don’t want to deal with the details of backgrounds. But to me, white space can be just as dramatic as the subject matter itself. In the end, I like the way this turned out. I don’t think it needs background other than that little yellow glow.

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playing around

Just for fun, last week I did four little watercolor “pours” with the idea that I would do some drawing on them.

The purple and blue landscape is about 8×9 and the smallest, the green and yellow landscape, is about 4×7. The green, yellow and blue pour and the gray and rose one below are both about 8×10 or so.

These are fun little things that are relaxing to me. I do them now and then to loosen up, usually when I am stuck on something else that’s not quite working. It’s like taking a little break. I just let the paint go where it wants, sometimes slanting the paper to help it move along, or blowing through a straw for some drippy effects.

When they’re dry, I just get out my pens and start following the lines to define shapes, colors, and spaces. It’s fun and relaxing; I like letting the work speak to me, instead of trying to control the space.

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landscape with rocks

The other day in drawing class I just started playing around with my colored pencils. No plan in mind, just started cross-hatching on the page. Of course, usually when I have no plan in mind, I end up with a landscape of some kind, because that’s what I love doing most. Landscape with sky. So in the course of a couple of hours, I went from blank, white page to this soft, quiet landscape. I used a lot of cross-hatching, giving it this wonderful texture. I think it has a nice feeling of space and perspective. I probably used about fifteen or more colors on this, but I couldn’t even begin to remember which ones. I love the way it reminds me of a quiet, warm, summer day. From far away, those rocks look like a flock of sheep, which is kind of fun.

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Portraiture is not really my thing, most likely due largely to inexperience, non-practice, and undeveloped drawing skills, but recently we played around with faces in my watercolor class, working from photographs. This little blue watercolor is the result of a monochromatic value exercise in which we started out by painting only the shadows. I went for a combination of Winsor Blue and French Ultramarine, using for inspiration this photograph of my daughter taken a few decades ago. I just love the way her hair is flying around kind of willy-nilly, and the expression on her face, which is lifted just a bit. I created a black and white image of the original photograph and painted only the shadows. I came back in later and darkened up a few places, and consciously chose to not add any other color. I am not bothered by the fact that it looks nothing like the photograph, since it was not my goal to do a portrait, but rather just to see what would happen if I concentrated only on shadows. I like the way the negative and positive space work together, and that there is a rather ethereal quality to it.

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