Sunday, February 22, 2015

Try, try again...

I had finally ginned up the nerve to start on a large watercolor that I've been planning since last fall...... and it's turned into a muddy mess already.

I think I'm going back to the start, transferring a fresh drawing to a fresh sheet of watercolor paper, and starting over.

My biggest mistakes were looking too closely at a color photo reference (leading to no color harmony in the painting) and getting too dark too quickly in the largest shadow masses.

I've made the same mistakes before.

I had managed to avoid these pitfalls for most of last year, but here they are again. I remind myself that I've heard several interviews with respected watercolor artists where they acknowledge throwing away lots of bad paintings. "So it's not just me," (I tell myself).

And I start again....

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


"Sunstruck" - 5"x8"
I took a detour and spent time on this sunflower for a few weeks. Given how cold it's been, I think it warms me up by simply looking at it.

I developed this composition and its feeling of bright sunshine by following some of the "rules" I listed last year for doing small floral paintings (see the original post here).

  • Tight focus on a primary subject
  • Little to no detail beyond the subject
  • Extreme value contrasts
  • Dramatic lighting

I think the leaves and stem fall under the "little to no detail beyond the subject" rule. The point is the flower (and maybe the bee), but not the plant. So merely suggesting the greens is sufficient. There's no need to get fussy over them.

Now, about that my original drawing, the bee was the focal point. But in the painting, the extreme value contrasts on the lower petals really hog the scene. I had already blocked the bee shape in when I realized that I might have a problem. I thought about scrubbing the bee out, but I decided to leave it. I'm hoping it encourages the viewer's gaze to move around all the petals, rather than focusing on just the brightest ones.

I used six pigments: Lemon Yellow, Cad Yellow and Quin Gold, as well as Permanent Rose, Pthalo Blue (GS) and Quin Burnt Orange.