Continuing the large watercolour

Yesterday, I put in the basics of a large watercolour (see previous post). I’ve had time to contemplate what I’ve done. Now I’m continuing on.

I took a photograph of the mid stage so that I could post it and you could see the effects of the various beginning washes.

On the large Scarlet Lake Hibiscus, I’ve added some cool reds for the shadows. I’ve tackled the white flower with a cool red centre that radiates out. My mood is near despair. It looked quite competent actually, before I messed with it. I’m in that state that says “I should have left it alone. It was good enough as it was. Why tamper with it.”

But of course, I haved a vision for it. so I continue on.

While painting the centre of the flower, I noticed an inconsistency in the drawing that made one petal too long. I’ve shortened by darkening it at the end with some neutral grey. Now I’m questioning my judgement but I can’t really go back on it. I’m also waiting for the cool red to dry in the middle of the flower.

I did that part with my big number 14 round which, by the way, has a great point to it. Nevertheless, I’m somewhat unhappy about the pointed rays that come out of the centre. They look too uniform. Perhaps I should not have been so exuberant and hasty. Perhaps I should have used the smaller number 5 round and gotten picky and detailed. Besides, I’ve noticed that some of the central colour has bled into a white area. I don’t think I can get it cleaned off back to white. I’m going to have to figure out how to integrate that into the rest of the flower so that it doesn’t look like a blurple.

So while I wait for this to dry (cup of coffee in hand) I’m going to select a colour or mix a colour to use for the shadows on the white. As this is a tropical flower, I want to emphasize the brilliance of the flower. I need a cool colour for shadow, but not grey. Or if grey, one loaded with Cerulean or Manganese blue, perhaps. Mixing shadow colours is an art in itself.

I have some Cerulean and dilute it. I try a bit on the petal and find it is alright, but now I’m committed. I should have tried it on a piece of napkin and held it over the space where it was to go. Some people never learn. But this colour will be adequate as long as it’s diluted a bit more.

My sister came in from school where she is preparing for the first day of teaching next week. As I’m on holiday and “doing nothing”, I get to make lunch. I fixed up a vege sandwich – Okanagan tomato slices, cream cheese, cucumber and a dash of salt and pepper; and a home made soup with broccoli. It’s in our tummies now and I’m back at work on the watercolour while she gets an afternoon snooze.

I’ve got two problem areas. One is the centre of the white flower and the other is the area I painted a neutral grey because the flower petal seemed to long. I’ve regretted this last action and am trying to figure out how I can make this area look more integrated.

I’m back to this artistic consideration of tonal balance. As I know I want a very dark tone in the background, I figure it’s time to fill that in. Until that is done, I won’t be able to figure out what to do with the problem areas.

I mix a little more than a half cup of water with pigment – Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine. It takes a bit of time to do this with constant stirring to get an even consistency to it. I test the colour on something else, a little thinned out with water so that I can see what the dominant colour is. Once it dries, it’s going to show.

It’s more brownish than blue. I add another spurt of blue and continue to mix. Now it’s pretty near neutral black. I’d like some green in this and select Windsor Green and add it in and continue to mix.

Now I have a little more than a half cup of some pretty potent watercolour with a green undertone. Same as yesterday, I take the two inch flat brush and soak it with this paint. I turn the painting upside down to work on the top portion, brushing the dark paint along the edges of the flowers, close as possible when I can do it well and leaving small portions where I need a smaller brush for detailed work. I’m really working with two brushes at once, and go quickly into these detailed areas. It’s my last chance and this outer edge needs to be perfect – no little overlays that don’t mean anything.

It reminds me of my friend Jim who confessed that he ironed his own shirts. He took on this task when he discovered his wife was not particular to his tastes in this matter and she often left the crease from the previous time, creating a new crease just a fraction of an inch beside it. Like a ghost crease. He couldn’t bear to see that, having had to have perfect creases when he was in the army; so he ironed his own.

With watercolour, it’s much the same. When one layer overlaps another then these double edges form and I don’t like them. They’re sloppy, somehow. This is my opportunity to ensure they are none left.

But I’ve got another problem. It’s 25 degrees Celsius out. A beautiful day is going on outside with big puffy Kootenay clouds scudding across the sky and a majority of sunshine heating up the place after three days of cool autumn weather. This has affected my watercolour paper. It’s dry. I have to work even faster than yesterday to get the wash to flow down the page. If it dries before I attach the next swash of colour, overlapping lines will show – big ones. More panic. More furious brushing and detailing. I opt for the broad work before the detailed work and try to get my big brush to do as much detail as possible.

Once the whole top portion is done, I lift the paper and try to lift it on a greater angle so that the paints will run down evenly along the paper. I’m hoping to end up with a very smooth wash when I’m done.

When it’s dried enough and there are no remaining wet shiny areas, it’s coffee time again. It has to thoroughly dry, even if I’m going to turn the paper around and do the same to the bottom third.

Of course, I’m impatient. This time, I decide to wet down the area that is to be covered in the dark wash with a clear water wash first, damp away the excess water with a paper towel or tissue and let it almost dry. Then maybe I won’t have the same problem as I did with the upper wash.

It works!

There is only one area where the dark wash has not settled in as much, as dark, as I wanted, but it has the same sweep to it as the leaf I was going around. I will be able to save this somehow.

Now all I have are finishing touches.

I still need to “save” the centre of the white flower, but I’m otherwise done.

As often happens, I’m not thrilled with the results. If I leave it alone for a day or two, I may come back to it and wonder how I managed to do it! When all the frustrations of doing the thing are over, sometimes the perceived faults go away and the picture looks mighty good after all.
Here’s hoping.

And just a last thought.

This has been the first large watercolour I’ve done in several years. I got the feel of it again but maybe that has to do with my disaffection with the final product just now. But I’ve learned from the past. Sometimes revisiting the same image, now that I know it, now that I’ve tried it out once, will give me a better and freer painting. I might just do it again. Or maybe a variation. Or maybe with a blue background. Maybe Cerulean sky blue, or a pure yellow. Or change the flower colours, or flatten them, not looking so much to reproduce the flower but represent it. Or maybe……

My desire is always to do better than last time.

And that’s how a series grows.

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One Response to “Continuing the large watercolour”

  1. forestrat Says:

    Very cool description of your process – look forward to seeing it completed.

    Painting is so final – the artist works and works on it, but there comes a point where there is just nothing more that can be done. You either have to say it is what it is and go with it or you have to trash it and start over. Of course one can re-paint a certain scene, but perhaps one can never recapture the original inspiration.

    In my own little photo world I sometimes look at shots that I have edited months ago and I decide I don’t like the cropping or maybe I decide it needs a little more contrast. I go back to the original file and I work it up again.

    It is always a bust. Once the image and the memory of its creation starts to get stale, I can’t seem to go back. I have to just let it ride and move on to new images.

    MDW

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