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This (above) is the September sun set that I want to paint for you today. I chose it because it’s got two of my favorite things (to paint) in it: clouds, and diagonals. It’s got diagonal clouds: a two-fer!

I’m going to use two techniques for this painting. Ha ha. I said “Techniques”.

There are two gimmicks that I’ll use for this painting, my two favorite gimmmicks: First, I like to use a bleed. That’s when I put two very wet colors next to each other and let them flow into one another, like this:

The other thing that I like to do when I paint clouds is to do a nice dark wash of sky color (in this case, blue) and then use a rolled-up piece of paper towel to sponge up some paint, as much as I can, off the surface of the watercolor paper.  Like this:

The trick is to dab the rolled up piece of paper towel onto the wet watercolor paint as soon as possible — like a nano-second after you’ve swabbed the paint all over.

For the September sun set that I’ll be painting today, I’m going to divide the picture into three parts:

So, let us begin.

1. Sky, with rolled-up paper towel clouds:

Let dry.

Then, for parts 2 and 3, I’ll do bleeds. I’ll brush the lower part of the painting with water, and then start layering in the sun set hues very quickly, letting them bleed into one another delicately. . .

I only got a photo of the first layer, a yellow wash. I had to paint this part very quickly, while the paper was still nice and wet, so I didn’t have time to get photos of the whole process. But here’s what I did:

From the bottom up, I brushed on a layer of light yellow and yellow ochre mixed together, then a little light orange, then some light red, and then magenta. (I’m using the names of the paints in my Grumbacher paint set — the “light red” looks dark orange to me, and the “magenta” looks like pink when it’s diluted with a lot of water.)

The I dabbed in a zig-zaggy layer on the middle part, a dark blue sky paint-color over all those colors (to make the underside of the clouds) and I made it pretty wet, too, to let the water take an effect. Then I sat back and let gravity do what it does.

This is what it looked like:

I like to paint my tree-line black. There’s something about a black tree-line that is a tiny bit melancholy, and that’s what a beautiful September sun set  is…so my September sun set will have a black tree-line, like this:


Now that it’s done, I can assess what I’ve got here

Well, I like the diagonal sweep to this cloudy sky, I like that part of the cloud is very white. But I don’t like the way the blue paint bled down too far into the sun set over on the right hand side…see it? It’s a funny triangle shape ? I’ll either have to crop it out of the picture (and lose a bit of that nice white cloud shape) or I’ll have to disguise it.

Hell — my whole raison d’etre as a painter is to fudge my shortcomings as an artist. Disguise is my middle name!

I dare say that I got away with it.

4 comments to I’m a paint-stained wretch

  • My goodness; You’re a genius !!
    It’s wonderful, Vivian. Thanks again.
    I just scrolled back to the top. Your painting is more beautiful than the real picture !

  • August

    I don’t know if you have an agent or anything, but on the off chance that you do, have you spoken with her about collecting these blog posts into a book?

    I love ‘em, and my feeling about watercolor is that it’s a) far beneath me really, as I’m a much more serious artist and b) completely impossibly complex, as I’m not an artist at all.

  • Deborah

    You totally got away with it. I second Mary’s statement that your painting is more beautiful than the original photo.

    The white lines that you put on the photos (in a previous entry & this one) really help me “see” the steps of painting it in a way I’ve never been able to see before. And the paper towel daubed clouds — also a revelation. Makes me realize how literal and concrete I’ve been in thinking about painting — like it all has to be done with a brush and without the aid of lines.
    This new understanding makes me think I might actually be able to paint something on my own.

    But then my inherent laziness (and voyeurism)takes over, and I find I am content to let you do the work. Thanks!

  • Good idea, August. I would like to have it all in book from, then I cd look at them whenever I felt like it. Especially the cat stories and pictures, for me. An on-going account of Long Island in seasons. Tips on how you create a picture,….. all of it.

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