FINALLY. As I sit here typing this, Thursday morning Feb 9, a blizzard is pounding my Isle of Long with silent fury. It is a heavy, wet, swirling snowfall and we’ve been warned to expect “disruptions” due to the storm but so far, the power has not gone out obviously. Yay. I sit here in preparedness for any and all catastrophes. I have a just-poured cup of tea, plenty of English muffins for toasting, a good book set aside (The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis), and a 1,000-piece picture puzzle to break open at a moment’s notice. Plus, I have peace of mind that all my kitties are accounted for:
Right: I shoveled a path to the garage just so I could deliver feed to my crush, Steve, who is wisely staying put in his new cubby:
And, oh yes, I got the Champagne-O-Meter set up:
This was how it looked yesterday (Wednesday), when it was 60 degrees (16 C) and I debated whether or not it was cruel to abandon perfectly decent cheap champagne outside in such a heat wave. But I had faith in all the dire forecasts of debilitating snow because, science, and just for you, Dear Readers, I plonked my bottle down.
Full report at the end of this blog.
Now, where was I? Oh, right:
Remember last week I told you that I was going to paint a monochrome Winter for you, a snowy scene in shades of blue?
Well, I lied. I’m not going to paint in monochrome today, I’m not going to paint this scene (below) in shades of blue:
Because I really need to use white in this picture (which I have cropped to my liking) and, it seems to me, black:
The first thing I do when I set my sights on painting from a reference photo is to think hard about my strategy. I ask myself, How am I going to paint this? especially in the case of trying something new. Maybe I have a new idea of how to get this done. Think think think.
OK, I’ve thought about it and I think I have a plan.
So this is the strategy that I thought hard about how to paint my blue snow picture. . .
. . . which is to wash the entire picture surface with a moody mix of Prussian and Cobalt blue mixed with a smudge of black. I slather on the paint heavily at the top to a lighter, and thin it out at the bottom, before slapping in a splash of Royal blue as a feature in the landscape:
I really want a rich, multi-layered wash here, which is why I have mixed several different shades of blue into it. (P.S. I am using my cheap Grumbacher paints for the first wash, and a dab of my more saturated Winsor Newton paint in the swipe you see here (above).)
Let dry, and hope you get a smooth color field, with some interesting watery residue (I do love letting watercolor do what it wants to do):
See the watery smudge on the bottom? I LOVE that!
Now I make the only pencil lines I’ll draw, to guide me in my future tree-making:
I get out my tube of acrylic paint, called Titanium White, to make my treetop snow:
So now I’ve got the white bits of my moon-lit forest:
I’m using black to paint in the foliage . . .
. . . which I will continue to do even as I get to the part where I have to imagine where the blue snow is:
This was my well thought out plan, to use the blue/black wash to form both the sky and the blue-in-the-shadows snow:
I think it works!
But I’m not done. Because there is a crescent moon in my reference photo, I’m going to paint one into my watercolor, like this:
As soon as I stepped back to get a look at this, I knew that I should have made the moon smaller, and full. I don’t like the crescent — and duh, I have artistic license to change whatever I want. I could have improved this pic with a full moon but nooooooo, I got stuck in my mind loop of slavish obedience to the reference photo.
Dear Readers, don’t do what I did. Time spent thinking about how you want to edit your reference photos is time that is always well spent. I wish I’d thought a little bit harder when I was plotting out my plan for this pic. Lesson learned.
Here’s hint when it comes to painting moons, in whatever phase: the shape has to be perfect. So don’t try to draw it on your own. (Notice that I don’t use the term “free hand”. I have never liked that terminology. I have my reasons.) There’s tool you can use to get the curvature just right, and I beg you to get one:
I won’t draw a moon, or sun, or sphere without it.
Now, if you glance at the pic so far. . .
. . . you might be tempted to call it DONE. And it could stand as is, and be an OK pic. But let’s say we want to flirt with failure. Let’s say we want to try out another trick, just to see if we can pull it off. Even if it means ruining the whole thing forever. OK?
So, let’s do a clear water wash on the bottom bit of the scene, like this:
And let’s blob in some very pretty hue (again with the Winsor Newton stuff), and let the watercolor do what it wants to do:
Oooooooooo! The gamble paid off! I LOVE this:
Again, we could leave well enough alone, and call it DONE. But something wants me to do ONE MORE THING, and that’s to match the color of the blue-in-the-shadows snow on the trees with the blue-in-the-shadows snow on the ground:
So I paint in some Winsor Newton color, and then add more shadow to the far side stand of trees, and dab in some white highlights to the snow on the other side of the shadows:
And also futz with the cusp of shadow on the tree branches:
And, now, let’s see if all that futzing screwed us up:
So, starting from scratch a few weeks ago, when I was first learning how to paint snow-laden evergreens . . .
. . . we now end up here:
I’m not bragging. I’m pointing out how practice, doing it over and over, works. You can’t help but get better! I know that most people how give How To lessons want to come off as experts from the get-go, but I think it’s more informative if you see how not-hard it is to teach yourself something new, which at first you will e total crap at, until you get it. ANYONE CAN DO THIS!
Dear Reader Christine Commented last week that she hoped we would paint a blue Winter tree like the one on page 187 in my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam:
I did this illustration circa 2006 or 2007, back in the early days of my painting, back when I used fluid resist to blank out the white bits on those trees in the pic below. As for that blue tree, that was a sketch that I did, futzing around with my paints, learning what I could do with them, and I remember exactly how I got that background effect of a swirly cloud between the branches of that tree. How about I show you all ow to do it, when we re-paint that for next week? And Christine, that pic will go to you.
And for Wonder One Deborah Hatt, who made the suggestion that started this whole Winter Watercolor series in the first place: if you want this week’s Blue in the Shadows Pine Trees pic, it’s yours.
And now, without further ado, here’s your Champagne-O-Meter 2017:
As of now, I am waiting to take the 10:30 am pic so if this blog stops here you’ll know it’s because we have lost power and I am busy toasting English muffins in the fireplace and breaking open the Champagne-O-Meter!
Or, all is well but I’ve just broken open the Champagne-O-Meter!
Have a great weekend everyone! See you in Boyleston on Sunday!