Sunday, July 10, 2011

next project: pastoral scene

it has become extremely clear to me that summer is not a big painting season for me. too many distraction, i guess. however, i do wander up to the studio 2-3 times a week and paint for an hour or two. in pursuit of not being ridiculously late for the wet canvas watercolor challenge again this month (i was at least 4 weeks tardy last month), i am determined to get this rural farm scene done in a timely fashion. i did a loose sketch of the major elements in the landscape on a sheet of 14"X20" fabriano artistico traditional white 140# rough paper. here is the photo that will be used as a source:
dale end farm

i started the painting with the "figures" which in this case are the sheep in the foreground. i have been told this is a bit backward from what most painters do in terms of the "lighter to darker" mantra of watercolor guru's. i find putting in the more important objects first gives me an opportunity to judge how well i am doing with these as well as to gauge all of the other values against them. this allows me a better way to get the values right. the important thing, i think, with this method is to make sure that the objects don't look pasted on and "sit" in the scene. the way i have chosen to do that in most cases is to lose edges to surrounding structures in a few shadow sides...where the values appear similar, especially when i squint. so i did start with the two larger sheep. i used a #4 round and a variety of colors from cerulean blue, alizarin crimson permanent, and raw sienna for the lighter larger one, to ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for the smaller darker one. i created some tie-ins with the surrounding grassy areas by painting up to the edges of the sheep with a mixture of quinacridone gold and olive green (in places i believe i also used hookers green). i scratched a bit of texture into these in places with a palette knife.
first steps on "dale end farm"

because at this stage of my painting "career" i am having trouble with skies that have white clouds in them, i thought that i should tackle the sky next before i invested too much time in this painting in case that the sky did not turn out well and i wanted to abandon the effort and start over. how's that for confidence? to begin this process i lightly ran a 1" flat  over the sky area and down to the fence/shrub line with clear water making sure that i skipped some areas so that there were several dry spots. i then ran over splotches of cobalt blue dulled with just a bit of raw sienna (i think cobalt blue right out of the tube is a little too "sweet" for lack of words to use in the sky). by leaving the dry areas i got a hard edges there and a soft, mingled edges in the damp areas. i further grayed the blue with burnt sienna nearer the hill tops as i moved down. when this wash was just barely damp i added the far hillside with a wash of cobalt blue with burnt sienna so that the edge was softer than if it was done over bone dry paper. this i hoped would create some atmospheric perspective pushing the hills into the distance. i worked on the house/barn/hedgerow mid ground while that dried. i used a #6 round with mixes of the colors i have already used, but in appropriate values, as i moved left to right doing everything in, more or less, one step. i have to be careful doing this not to get one big blur...getting just the right amount of water in the brush i think is key. at this point the far hills were dry and i did have to let the mid ground  dry before adding the greenish, near hillside with a mix of hookers green, burnt sienna, olive green, quinacridone gold, and one of the blues (cobalt i think but i wouldn't rule out ultramarine in places....sometimes i'm not real sure at the time as i just sort of stick my brush in a well that i think looks right value/tint-wise). i used the 1" flat for this work. the negative painting around the slats of the white fence was most tedious and i did it with a #2 round. it probably would have been easier to keep the fence dark as in the reference photo, but i thought that it would look better white. so i have no one to blame for this extra work but myself. that will be all for now and i hope to finish up later today or tomorrow.

i do HAVE to get the paintings for the upcoming "art fair on the green" at the end of the month mounted, matted, and framed this week as well. since i am too cheap to pay someone to do this i will have to take time away from painting to do it myself. luckily i have only about 10 feet of wall space so ten or so plus some extras just matted and put in stretch wrap should suffice. until well.

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