Monday, October 21, 2019

Taking a Second Look

Painting outdoors doesn't come easily to me, but pushing myself in that direction has taught me a few things. First, I always bring at least two or three small-format painting surfaces –– 140 lb. paper securely taped to a 10" x 14" Gatorboard panel, a watercolor block (7" x 10" or 9" x 12"), a watercolor notebook made with high-quality paper (Moleskine sells a good one). Too, my three-legged, collapsible, folding stool (with a shoulder-strap for carrying) guarantees a place to sit. A one-gallon water thermos and a folding vinyl water bucket are both necessities, as are a few folded sheets of paper towel and a clean scrap of 100% cotton fabric (a man's discarded T-shirt is ideal) for blotting my brushes.
After painting non-stop for 40 minutes, I generally need to step back and check my work to see if I've misjudged an aspect of perspective, or if I have focused too closely on details. My goal when working outdoors is to capture the general mood or feel of a scene, without worrying about a completely accurate rendering. Recently I was painting at Tower Hill Botanic Garden, and discovered that the color values in my sketch were too uniform and the scene lacked depth.
Before adding deeper colors...

Rather than "fix" the problem right then, I set it aside and reached for a second watercolor block. When I got home, and my problem painting was fully dry, I thought about which areas needed deeper color, and how to make the background recede which would give the bright foliage more emphasis.
I started by mixing a wash made of Mineral Violet with a little Burnt Umber to darken the background foliage on the right. Using Burnt Umber and Sepia and a 1/2" flat brush, I dropped in dark shadows where the lawn met the gravel roadway, I added a few strokes of Mineral Violet wash to give depth to the road. Finally, with Shadow Green and Sepia, I added more deep green foliage. The changes I made were subtle, but the results are sketch that is more dramatic, and the eye is drawn to the vivid trees on the left at the front of the scene.
"Bend in the Road" transparent watercolor   10" x 7"
Available for purchase at my Daily Paintworks Gallery

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