Saturday, October 15, 2011

next project: "mississippi backwaters"

mississippi backwaters from the rabbit trails
in keeping with the landscape theme, which i am going to stick with until i am satisfied i see improvement, i am going to paint the mississippi backwaters as seen from the rabbit trails near the university. for those not familiar with these, we are blessed by the powers that be with not channelizing the river in our immediate area. this not only gives a huge reservoir to soak up flood waters (we flood much less frequently than our surrounding communities because of this) but also are an incredible refuge for any number of species of flora/fauna who find their homes in the marsh, and they are beautiful. this is the photo that i took earlier this week that will serve as the inspiration for this painting.  i will say right from the get-go that i am going to make the sky more dramatic, give more than a hint of fall colors to the distant foliage, and strengthen the foreground with some reed, cattails, etc. some of this is more for practice than compositional "correctness." i think that the painting will be okay with these and i need to work on my skies. if i painted it like in the photo it would be pretty much a plain grayed blue graded wash.....i know how to do that......and not very exciting!

initial washes
so i started by lightly drawing in a horizon line and the basic placement of distant hills (i made them more prominent, duh), the midground trees on the far bank, and some of the placement of the reflections. i then, using a 1" flat brush wet some of the sky/hill/tree area with clear water, blotted it a bit, and put in a slightly graded, broken wash of cobalt blue grayed with raw sienna. just before this dried so that i got a blurring of the edge i put in the distant hills/bluffs (they are the minnesota-side bluffs as this is looking west about noon) using the same brush. i'm not sure if i should have put in its reflection in the water now or save it for later. i chose the latter in this instance.
when this had dried thoroughly i painted the trees on the far shore with a variety of colors that you can probably figure out by observing allowing the colors to mingle on the paper much more than mixed on the palette. as the sheen came off of this wash i scraped out the trunks of the aspen/birch.

next washes 
i decided that the sky needed a little "punching up." i mixed a puddle of mineral violet and ultramarine blue and darkened the top of the painting and drew the color down into the clouds using a 3/4" flat. i then spritzed clear water at places along the bottom edge of that wash while it was still quite juicy and blotted it to further soften some of the edges. i am meaning to leave about 50% hard vs 50% soft edges. i think this gives the sky a bit more depth. i experimented with the left-most reflections suing the same colors as the trees but in a little lighter value. i think the water in the last painting (timber coulee....) was not quite flat????what ever i mean by least not quite right. so i thought that i would try messing with the values. i have found that in painting, if something doesn't look right it is probably the value rather than color, structure, etc. i am sure that there are exceptions to this "rule" but you have some strategy for this painting.

"mississippi backwaters" 14"X20"
i then finished the reflection of the trees and added the reflection of the distant hill/bluff. i decided not to put in the reflection of the sky as i felt this may have been too dark and i would have had trouble putting in the plant life i was planning for the foreground. i might have been better served by putting in the sky reflection and leaving out the cattails, etc.. the floating islands of algae were done in a combination of oxide of chromium, quinacridone gold, and burnt sienna with a touch of ultramarine blue in places painted in  broadening streaks as they came closer to the front. i put in the large mass of algae/ground, whatever in the extreme foreground and then the cattails and some sort of "berry" bushes. a few splatters for floating debris finished it off. i wish i hadn't put in the hard trunks and branches of the bare trees along the far bank....they add little (other than accuracy of scene) and are a distraction. i may be able to lighten then considerably but since they are mostly sepia, not completely.

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