Wednesday, February 23, 2011

anza-borrego from palm canyon to font's point (and further diddling on the portrait)

charles on break in jackson
for those of you who said, "he won't be able to resist monkeying around with this painting of charles reid," you were right. i felt there needed to be some darker areas around some of the periphery of the painting and the right (his left) collar wasn't finished. i even managed to get a rather reid-esque dribble on the far left bottom! i also succumbed to further manipulating of the mouth by moving the highlight on the lower lip down a smidgen by painting over the old one with a dark value and scratching in the new one with the small blade of my trusty swiss army knife.  okay i am finished now....really.  here 'tis.

photo for next painting, a desert scape
for my next project i decided that i really should do a desert scape as we are in the middle of the anza-borrego desert and it is starting to "pop" with blooms the result of the recent rains. on a hike up the palm canyon trail i looked east and saw this scene of font's point (the long low wedge rising from left to right in the right center of the distant hills that abruptly drops down at its point on the right) framed by a dark hill on the left and, what will be in the drawing, tall blooming ocotillos on the right.  i snapped a quick photo and this will be the source material for this next painting.

first washes of "anza-borrego:
palm canyon to font's point
close-up of ocotillo painted over droplets of water
i started by lightly drawing in the placement of the major shapes on a piece of 140#, rough, fabriano artistico paper measuring 14"X20". i moved some things around so it would fit neatly on the page. the first wash, for the sky, i painted with a #12 round using cobalt blue grayed with raw sienna graded to mostly raw sienna near the horizon.  i wet the sky area with horizontal brush stokes of pure water separated by areas of dry paper.  this allowed me to get a few broken clouds without everything running together.  just before the sky dried i put in the distant hills using the same brush and paint but accentuating the font's point area by a little more bluish hue. the closer hillside on the left was painted with ultramarine blue mixed a bit on the palette (but mostly on the paper) alternately with quinacridone gold or burnt sienna and then just as the sheen was leaving the paper, i scratched in the agave using the side of a thin palette knife. i pushed things a bit because i wanted to experiment with how i was going to paint the ocotillos. i tried spritzing some small to medium water droplets using a spray bottle over the area that would be the ocotillos and then painted the irregularly bent and interwoven stalks with mixtures of the same paints i used for the near hillside plus some oxide of chromium. i once saw a video of tom lynch doing this and thought it would work here. as you can see from the close-up this gave a nice "prickly" appearance to them that is reminiscent of the actual plant after it sprouts its "rain leaves".  it has a lovely rose/magenta flower at the end of the stalk that i painted at the same time as the stalk to which it is attached so that it ties in with a bit of a bleed. i didn't finish these now as i needed to put in more of the foreground first. that's all for now.


  1. I love love love the portrait! The background is brilliant the subtle color really pops him out of the page. I really like the sparseness of the paint in this one, like you only put the color where it was needed. It is one of my favorites,for sure, so glad you "messed around" with it!
    Very inspiring!

  2. thanks for your praise. i felt really good about this painting while i was doing it (except that mouth!)and am glad that it turned out as well as it did. charles reid is really nearly the entire reason i took up watercolor in the first place and wanted this to be a tribute of sorts to him as i tried to incorporate much of what he has taught me about portraiture, dribble and all!