Saturday, September 7, 2013

School Days

"School Days" - 8"x8"

I painted this one twice.

In the first version, I got too dark too quickly in the cast shadow areas, so there was no sense of warm sunshine in the painting. When I looked at it from a distance, all I could see was a hard diagonal shape that dominated the scene.

So I tried to use opaque watercolor - in this case, watercolor mixed with gouache - to paint over it and try something different.

That experiment didn't go well. There's a strange drying shift in opaque watercolors that I can't get a handle on. Traditional watercolors tend to look dark while the wash is still wet, and then lighten while drying. Over time, you get used to this drying shift.

Once you mix the watercolors with white gouache or with opaque titanium white watercolor, then the opposite happens. They dry darker. And that difference drives me crazy. I have no sense of how anything will eventually look while I'm putting it down.

Secondly, I think the appeal of oil and acrylic paintings - at least for me - is seeing all those bits of colors that peek through, particularly with the alla prima painting technique. I could not get any such effect in my experiment because the watercolor paint dries so quickly. So I ended up with masses of sharp-edged and flat shapes that were not very interesting to look at.

An application of colored pencil over the opaque watercolor finished off that piece of paper (the cold press paper is just too rough), so I transferred the drawing to a fresh piece of Arches cold press paper and started again.

The second time I learned from my mistakes.

This image is something of a composite, which is still very hard for me to do. The scene no longer looks like this -- the doors have been removed and replaced with modern, metal-framed glass doors. But I thought it would be more appealing to go back in time and reconstruct the doors as they were when the Wardensville School was still open. I couldn't find any clear images from WHS yearbooks, so I cobbled the doors together in my mind's eye. I hope I got close.

Only seven days and the mini exhibit of my Wardensville paintings will be on display at the WHS alumni dinner. The Wardensville Scholarship Fund Association benefit auction of my donated painting is that evening too!

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