Cancelled Flight

Today’s watercolor experiment:

In keeping with my quest to change the way I begin my watercolor sketches, today I started with dry paper and a 2″ brush loaded with Prussian blue. I swept across the paper twice horizontally at the top and bottom (to form 4″ swaths) and once vertically on each side to form a 2″-wide border. The result was a rectangle, open in the middle, inscribed within the larger picture plane.

I couldn’t help seeing this shape as a frame. The dry paper did not absorb all the blue color, which left me with an interesting form in the lower midsection of the inside of the frame. I accentuated the top and bottom edges of the inner frame with Winsor yellow, adding a bit to the right edge of the frame as well. With a very small brush (size 1) I added Winsor red just to the inside of the yellow.

The midsection of the frame reminded me of a postage stamp, for some reason. I thought I would have some fun and create my version of one of the rare philatelic errors, the Inverted Jenny, a misprint of a 1918 US stamp. The error resulted in the featured image, an airplane, being mistakenly printed upside down.

The loose form of the airplane was the result of my application of indanthrone blue (a dark, indigo-like pigment) on the wet field at the center of the frame. At first, I  showed the upper and lower wings of the biplane (I should say lower and upper, since it is upside down). However, I opted to draw a water line to show that this plane met with disaster.

For the final flourish, I painted three parallel squiggly lines on the left side of the frame. If the stamp analogy was not noticed by the viewer, surely these iconic marks would do the trick.

Watercolor: Abstract - Blue square border surrounding a Yellow outlined square with thin Red accent; Blue plane upside down in water at center

Cancelled Flight
9’x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I kept this study simple. There was no significant washing or glazing of areas with different colors, minimal flourishes, and no overworking of the content. Somehow it didn’t seem right putting down my brush. But I liked the way it looked and I couldn’t think of anything more to add.

Perhaps the trade off for simplicity in design is the lack of depth. This is a flat design; rectilinear from the first brush strokes.  I suppose it doesn’t have to be that way. Many of Hans Hofmann’s paintings contained rectilinear elements, and yet the thesis behind his art was ‘push pull‘, the role that colors and shapes play in adding a third dimension without the artifice of perspective.

Perhaps, in a future experiment I could combine the rectilinear format of today’s study with the fluid ease of applying the swooshes of color of some of my previous work.

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