Warmup – Storms

The next master whose work the Tate Watercolor Manual* reviews is David Cox (1783-1859). The title of this section his called  ‘Painting the Elements’. Often, it seems, Cox would paint scenes where the sky was in turmoil with high winds and dramatic coloration. The manual references Bull in a Storm as one of Cox’s most notable paintings.

It did not matter to Cox if colors became muddy during the painting process. In previous exercises the reader was encouraged to avoid muddiness. However, muddiness of color adds to the drama in Cox’s representation of the elements. Instead of color as the major visual element, brightness counted for more. Light and dark were manipulated by brushstrokes separating light from dark, lifting of pigments and scraping the surface of the paper after the pigments were laid down.

Today’s warmup exercise:

I marked out four areas on my 9″x12″ paper to practice painting storms. As with recent lessons, I tried to use brushstrokes to mimic the violent nature of the atmosphere in a storm.

I mixed cobalt blue with cadmium red light as in one of the first exercises, to create a gray color. With a couple of whisks of the brush, all that I could manage in such a small area of the vignette, I tried to capture a storm. Using burnt umber, I painted in the ground and scraped away some of it with a knife edge while it was still wet.

Watercolor Chart: 4 Vignettes of Storms in Gray and Burnt Umber

Storm Studies

I like the juxtaposition of these colors. However there was no room for me to work out the violence of a stormy day, or even calm before the storm. I just could not work the correct brushstrokes in the small allotted space.

After these warmup sketches, I am going to try a very big canvas (paper) to give myself more room to express myself.


Tate Watercolour Manual, Lessons from the Great Masters by Tony Smibert and Joyce Townsend

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