Today’s watercolor experiment:
Yesterday I briefly talked a little bit about the difference between photography and painting, the way I see it. I take some photographs as reference, intended to be used as the basis of a painting, and others as photographs. My artwork used to be exclusively photography, back in the days of film. But my photographer’s eye, dormant for the most part, is activated by interesting juxtaposed forms or light play. This was the case with the photograph I took at break time the other day.
Yesterday, I merely transcribed the photograph to the medium of watercolor. Today I tried another painting of the same subject, that partially white washed fence at the edge of the parking lot. Instead of working from the image, I thought back about what prompted me to snap the photo. I realized what the visual elements were: 1) the two white washed areas of the fence; 2) the foliage at the top of the fence; 3) the tops of the trees lit by the sun; 4) the shadowy areas in the foreground and middle ground on the right side of the composition.
Since I already knew basic construction of this study, four horizontal layers consisting of the parking lot, the middle ground, the fence and the foliage, I merely had to realize the visual elements I mentioned above.
Here is the result:
As in yesterday’s composition, I began by using my 2 inch hake brush to paint in the foreground. The fence slats were next, this time I made them wider. I started the upper foliage by applying lemon yellow, then Hooker’s green, with the 1 inch hake brush. Later I used a 3/4″ flat brush for more Hooker’s green and some red. I used my sponge to dab in some phthalo green foliage on the yellow ocher branches I tapped in using the end of the flat brush.
At the end of the first pass (the underpainting), I realized that I had better take out some of the darkness where the white washed areas were. I used my elephant ear sponge to do that, but ultimately that wasn’t satisfactory. I relented and used white gouache to make those areas stand out. I also used gouache for the spiky plants in the foreground and the orange shape on the right hand side of the composition (representing the cardboard in the photograph).
I must say that I am quite pleased with this composition. It has a wide tonal range, from dark to light; the white washed slats of the fence stand out against the unpainted part of the fence; the area in shadow is noticeably darker than the rest of the painting. The coloration is also pleasing, as are the spiky, dry foliage in the middle ground.
The only things I would do differently would be to work on the shapes of the tops of the trees and make a more interesting visual path from the lower left to the upper right of the composition.
I’m starting to get the hang of this.