Thursday, March 3, 2011

new project: "old '49 headin' west"

i saw an old gray-blue short box pickup starting to go to rust with out of state plates going through town the other day.  when i was going through some of my photos from a road trip up in montana a couple of years ago i thought that i could incorporate these two things into one painting (figure, truck, in landscape).
barn on montana by-way
here is a copy of the inspiration photo.

i started right off with a problem because for the truck i would have preferred to use cold pressed paper and for a landscape i usually like rough. to work my way out of this vexing conundrum i decided that the painting would probably be more landscape than figure so rough won in the end. i lightly drew the the elements of the landscape on a piece of 14"X20" fabriano artistico rough paper and then a bit more meticulously drew the truck coming from the left foreground.  i didn't like the ratio of length to width of this paper (or the standard 30"X22"/15"X22"/11"X15") for that matter.  so i trimmed about three inches off the left side of the paper to make it about 14"X17" ( or a ratio of about 1.2:1) which appealed to me more. the truck is a bit sloppily drawn, but i think this is going to be a bit of a "practice" painting so i left it as is.

first steps: "old '49 headin' west"
after the drawing i started painting the truck using a #8 round that pointed well.  i used cobalt blue and burnt sienna for the colors and mixed them only slightly on the palette leaving most of the mixing up to the watercolor on the paper. the highlights more or less painted themselves.  to do this i rinse the brush, shake it out, dip the tip in the fresh wet paint on the palette, work out just a little on the palette and then apply it. the application is done by pointing the tip loaded with paint where i want the most intense color and value, then pressing the brush almost to the ferrule, stroking it for the distance needed and then lifting it.  because the belly of the brush has way more water than paint it makes a nice graded brush stroke.  charles reid describes this much better than i and i would encourage you to peruse his latest book on painting flowers in watercolor to get the gist of this in more detail. as usual i was concerned with making the truck seem part of the scene so i was constantly looking for places to lose edges and tie it into the background. the mostly hooker's green/quinacridone gold wash was used for this purpose along with the cast shadow of the truck on the roadway. i think i may have him on the wrong side of the road.......wait, is this jolly old england?..........i'm being told it is not. then please allow me a bit of artistic license! until the morrow, be well.


  1. Looking good, that green is gorgeous!
    I really need to start playing with color again, I think I am a little scared of it and out of practice these days.

  2. thanks, heidi. that empty white page can be a bit daunting. you could start by just splashing some color on the page to get the starkness over with in a hurry and then work the splotch into your painting! just remember that it is only paper and it does have a back side that is perfectly usable. just go for it!