I like Spring. I like just about everything about Spring. It’s the time of year when we can sleep with windows open, the days are getting longer and warmer. The earth’s growing things burst forth with an abundance of new growth. Most of that growth starts out in a yellow-green color that I call Spring Green.
This luscious shade can be painted with a mixture of lemon yellow and cool blue pigments.
Last spring, I was inspired by a post on Kate Davies’ blog showing a view from her garden shed. The weather was wet. There were big raindrops dripping down the glass. While the view itself was out of focus, it was radiantly colored – mainly in spring green.
It was so inspiring that I tried to capture the color sequence on a piece of cotton with fabric paint.
I think I was successful. After I painted it, the piece languished on my design wall for a year. I was busy with other projects that had overtaken my attention. But with the coming of spring I feel inspired to return to the subject. The painted cloth will become the background of the art quilt. For the foreground, I will focus on seedlings.
This quilt will challenge my technical abilities as I intend to hand embroider the plantlets using wool yarn and/or cotton floss.
You may recall that I was back to experimenting in water color paint earlier this week. Working with carbazole violet, I laid down a wash and then lifted the paint back in vertical lines. Because these looked like tree outlines to me, I added some pencil lines to accentuate the effect.
Yesterday I returned to this sketch. Deciding that I would continue with one color, I started to layer up violet washes between the white lines. This went pretty well, except for the fact that some of the white trunks and branches got covered up. In my mind the painting was ruined. Instead of giving up on it, I let the paint dry and then, following the lines of the trunks, lifted up the paint to find some branches. I stroked some paint horizontally in the foreground to suggest tracks in the snow. Finally I dabbed water and dots of paint in upper area of the paper, splashed on more water and let it dry again. Now I was willing to sign this one.
It’s interesting how much I am learning by doing with these little pieces. I guess it’s the idea that there is no price to pay for failure.
It’s been over a month since I worked in watercolor paint. I’m disappointed in myself for dropping out of a self-imposed daily practice. Even though I am busy with two quilts, the desire to improve my painting skills is ever present. It’s time to pick up my brush again.
To that end, I signed up for a 10 week program of in-person art classes. The instructor is Ross Meyers, who is offering the classes at our local art association. After my first lesson (drawing), I got all ambitious again, remembering that I wanted to paint some snow scenes this winter.
You may recall that I am working on 4 by 6 inch pieces of Fabriano Studio cold press paper. In this little painting I am practicing with carbazole violet. I like the way that shadows on the snow pick up cool hues of blue and violet. The reference photo I am looking at is by Catherine Arcolio, who posts under the name Leaf and Twig. In her posts she combines beautiful photography with a brief poem.
The second painting is another experiment with violet. I laid down a graduated wash and let it soak in briefly. Then with a rigger brush, I lifted the paint vertically.
The resulting image reminds me of snow blown onto tree trunks. I added some pencil marks to accentuate this impression.
For the next layer, I will come back with full strength violet and a rigger brush to make grasses in the foreground. I will use a dry brush technique and maybe some black paint to further refine the tree trunks.
After my next art lesson, I’ll write about what I am learning, and whether I think it is worthwhile.
I’m still playing around with quinacridone gold as a background wash. This time, I dropped in five splotches of violet, hoping to get some interesting browns.
I failed to take a photograph of the initial wash. But the results reminded me of the geranium cutting I started a few months ago.
The most striking thing about this photograph is that it is backlit. The leaves furthest from the viewer are the lightest. I really wanted to capture this impression in watercolor, and today is the day to try, using my quin gold washed paper.
I painted leaves on top of four violet blotches, and the pot over the bottom one. To make green, I added a small amount of cobalt blue to the gold. When that didn’t give me a bright enough color, I tried lemon yellow with the cobalt.
As I worked, I felt strongly that the painting was falling well short of my vision for it. But instead of giving up, I kept adding more layers, working the shadowed areas with violet and lifting paint from the highlit ones. Continuing to work, I dropped in white gouache mixed with a little lemon yellow into the background and also into some of the leaf veins. To finish, I layered a bit more gold into corners of the background.
I wouldn’t call this my best work. But something good is beginning to happen. There is a sense of shape – the lower right leaf is the best example. The varying layers of color are bringing a depth of color that is suggestive of the natural world.
I will be painting geraniums again, and soon.
Quinacridone gold, Winsor yellow, cobalt blue and carbazole violet on Fabriano Studio cold press paper.
For my exercise, I wanted to experiment with a quinacridone gold wash. Since it is a staining pigment, I decided to pair it with burnt sienna, a granulating pigment. With the idea of a sunset, I added some splashes of alizarin crimson. Streaks of payne’s gray served to ground the image.
I love the mingling of the pigments so far. This image reminds me of a place at Tallgrass Prairie, where rushing water had torn away part of a ridge, exposing roots and strata of soil. I quickly painted in some details to complete the scene.
Later, I searched my photographs for a picture of the wash.
If I were to paint this scene again, I would include the deep shadows where the landform bends away from the viewer.
Painted wet-in-wet and wet-in-dry with a Sumi brush on 140 lb. cold press paper.
I laid down this wash yesterday so it had plenty of time to dry. This is a weak blend of French ultramarine blue and sap green. It took mere minutes to paint.
This morning I had a firm idea of what I wanted to do. First I washed some water over the lower portion and blotted up the excess. This brightened the foreground. Using a one inch flat I brushed the sky with a stronger ultramarine wash and picked out the clouds with a tissue. The rest of the paint went on with the same brush using vertical strokes for the trees and horizontal slashes for the snow shadows.
At the end, I used the Sumi brush to work a little burnt sienna into the trees. It was this last step that caused the wonderful blooms. I love the texture that resulted.
Total time to make this impression: 15 minutes.
Pigments: Ultramarine blue, sap green, payne’s grey and burnt sienna.
Last week my order from Jerry’s Arterama arrived just in time. I had run out of watercolor paper. Here is my choice:
I was convinced to try this particular paper by a video demonstration from manufacturer. While the cotton content is only 25%, it was described as the next best thing to 100% cotton at less than half the price. If I use 1/2 a page per exercise, my daily cost for paper will be .25 cents.
So how did my first try go?
This is a gradient wash using Thalo blue. I didn’t get it as gradual as I would have liked, but I found it acceptable for my purpose. For the next one, I used a Sumi brush to manipulate the wash more while spreading it over the wet paper.
I really like this effect. The flares, or blooms, of pigment near the top of the paper suggest flowers to me. So I chose to paint poppies.
I probably spent about 45 minutes on this – 2 times longer than my allotted 15 minutes. What I like about this painting: By using a lot of water and working with the shapes left on the background wash, I achieved an impressionistic look. I was also able to make some nice shadows and highlights. What I don’t like: My brushstrokes are hesitant and a bit fussy. And the darks could be darker.
To evaluate this paper, I will need to paint on it a lot more. My initial impression is satisfaction. It didn’t buckle and it stayed wet an acceptable period of time.
I am carrying on with color wash experiments. Today I am exploring yellow ocher. I started out by wetting the paper before dropping on the paint. Yellow ocher pulled from the top to near the bottom. Then I brought violet up from the bottom to mix and mingle with the yellow. Here you see the washes still wet.
I stared at the dried paper for a long time before deciding what to do. To me, the colors reminded me of a place where my family has spent many a vacation: New Mexico. The American Southwest is characterized by dark, crumbling mountains and earthy adobe dwellings. I wanted to portray this idea in a quick sketch.
Using a watercolor crayon, I drew in the buildings as I remembered them from past visits to Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Next came a little texture painted on the purple foreground. And lastly, I added a bit of blue for sky, pulling the paint down to touch the horizon.