The Art Of Watching Paint Dry.

This is the most interesting thing I’ve learned from the results of Round One of the French presidential election:

The front-runner, Emmanuel Macron, is a 39-year old Sagittarian with Capricorn rising. Interesting, non?

And oh, yeah, his wife is 24 years older than he is.

They’ve been married for ten years but met ages before, when he was a 17-year old high school student and she was one of his teachers. In the French newspaper that I read, their relationship is described as being a union of intellectual soul mates. Interesting, non?

I’m thinking of taking this photo to my hair dresser to get a blonde dye job just like Brigitte’s. She looks amazing.

In other news of the week, Robert Pirsig died. In my early 20s I tried to read this book back when it was still a hot item in the zeitgeist. I got half way through it and could not bear to hear one more paragraph of that author’s “voice” –which is the same voice as in The Bridges of Madison County, BTW, another story told by a manly narrator who is a thinly disguised version of the author’s own conviction of his ethical and moral superiority. Rambling’ men, both of them, too cool to be held accountable by “society”.

That said, I do think that Mr. Pirsig came up with an absolutely brilliant title for his book. It really swings, and that’s no mean feat. I’m sure it helped sell his book by the boatload, and that’s no mean feat either. It’s funny, these books that the culture latches onto at any given moment; it means that millions of people who don’t read books become, suddenly and unpredictably, motivated to read one, and that’s just good luck, or good timing, or magic because it obviously isn’t quality. 

But now we are getting into something that I can get a little too obsessed about, and lord knows I can get snide when it comes to authors who buy villas in the south of France from selling boat loads of dreck, so let’s get back to the regularly scheduled programming for this blog.

If you remember, we’re painting this view of Monet’s lily pond in his Water Garden on his property in  Giverny, France:

And this was the sketch I made of this view, using only these few guide lines to orient me:

Last week I painted the top third of the view:

And this week I’m going to start painting the bottom two-thirds:

For me, it’s necessary to start by using masking fluid to block out bits of foreground foliage (see below) . . .

. . .and all the lily pads that float on the surface of the pond:

The reasons I use a toothpick to apply making fluid is because, for One: I work on a small scale, so a toothpick doles out the proper amount of fluid for my purposes; and TWO: toothpicks are disposable, which saves me the bother of clean up. You can see (below) that the pattern of my lily pad/masking fluid resembles random splotches:

When the masking fluid is thoroughly dry, I load up the area with clear water:

I can’t emphasize the importance of using clean clean CLEAN water! I change my jars of water frequently — I use two at a time: one for cleaning off the blue and green paints, the other for cleaning off the yellow and reds. And I never let the water get the tiniest bit murky. As son as I detect the slightest hint of cloudiness in my water jars, I dump them. Clean water is the secret to making your paint sparkle.

Any hoo, getting back to the painting: I’m putting a wash of light green on the “top” of the pond (the bit near the shoreline):

And then, quickly, I’m putting a bright blue wash at the “bottom” of the pond:

I work the blue wash up towards the middle, where it meets the green wash — don’t use too may brush strokes here, or else you’ll end up with mud; just let the water do the work:

While the entire surface is still wet, I dab in some darker green:

And I pat in a drop or two of green around the edges of the lily pads (for s kind of shadow, to give depth):

Ooooh — I really like the way the green wash is pooling!:

Although I sometimes I use a hair dryer to speed things up, in general I spend a lot of time waiting for paint to dry. I never use a hair dryer on washes! It’s best to let washes dry naturally — in my experience, the air does very interesting stuff to paint and water. In the case of this wash that I did for the pond here, I knew it was going to take several minutes (up to 15) to dry so I left the room to make a cup of tea, and when I came back I discovered that the pool of water did not do what I expected it to do:

OK, that’s not what I was counting on, but I do love it when watercolor does what watercolor wants to do, so I’ll make the best of it. Here’s how the wash dried in the rest of the pond:

I really like blotchy watercolor. And now that this wash is bone dry I can paint in a very light “reflection” of the Willow Tree:

If you refer to the reference photo . . .

. . . you’ll see that there is an inconvenient pile of weeds sticking out of the surface of the pond (to the right). I’d rather not have to paint that but, oh well; let’s start with a light green base, and while it’s still damp I will stroke in some very dark green:

With that done, I’ll attack the dark green foliage by painting over the masking fluid:

Then we let everything dry:

And then I pick up the masking fluid with a special wad of rubber that I only use for this purpose. Don’t use an eraser — it will peel too much of the paper away — try something gummy, and soft:

Painting lily pads is hard. I think I used 10 different tones of blue-green, green, yellow-green, and green-blue:

For the lilies I’m using a dab of white acrylic paint as my base:

While that acrylic paint is damp, Ill drop in some hot pink:

And voila: We have achieved pondage!

Now I have a big problem. See that big blank area? I have to do something interesting here. I have to do something there that will make it *POP*, but not too much POP so that it over-takes the rest of the pic. I can’t do what I’ve already done so far (the green blobs in the background) — that would make the whole pic too samey and b-o-r-i-n-g. This bit of foreground is on a different scale than the rest of the pic, so I’ll need to do something new and different. Bold. Whatever that is.

Here is where I actually put the pic aside for a day, because I really had not thought out, beforehand, how I was going to tackle this section. I think I’m very lucky to have gotten this far without crapping things up!

So let’s use this as a stopping point for now. Next week we will paint that foreground, and hope it works, and muse on other hot topics of the week.

BTW, Robert Pirsig didn’t use his millions of dollars in royalties to buy a villa in the South of France. He bought a sail boat and a house in Maine. The author of The Bridges of Madison County bought a ranch in the middle of Texas. E L James (Fifty Shades of Gray) has houses in LA and Cornwall. CORNWALL. So, not only are their books bad, but so is their taste in real estate.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers.




13 Comments, RSS

  1. We of the Older Women with Younger Men salute M. Macron and wish him well in June! (For any number of reasons, that probably being the least.)

    Vivian, next week when I’m recovering from surgery I’m taking your instructions to heart, printing out the step-outs and going on Round Three of this! I’ve learned a lot here and while I don’t want to “copy,” I do want to implement what makes yours sparkle. You’re using the brighter greens I love and seem to be having trouble mixing so that’s one goal — better mixing. And my first foray into masking fluid. So if you can use an eraser (even a kneaded rubber eraser?) then what kind of rubber do you recommend. In my vast life experience that would be a canning jar ring or a tire and I’m not either are what you had in mind. I eliminated loads of lily pads because I just couldn’t get them so I might try a whole page of just those! And you got that willow shadow in the water. I just missed that! This is so instructive and I am learning tons. Thank you.

    • Judy Jennings

      Jeanie, for picking up dried masking fluid, some painting friends of mine made their own “pick up” with dried rubber cement. They just kept adding to it until they had a nice size lump, about eraser-size. It works really well.

  2. It’s beautiful!

    I always used my finger for the masking fluid..that’s one of the reasons I may hate it.. could also be the DS one I have used..I hate it.
    Only DS thing I hate apart from Buff Titanium.

    Your pondage is perfect to me..wondering what you will do on the right..
    I just found that out also during the elections..Jacques told me 😉
    The line up in Montreal for the vote was endless..68,000 French people from France live here..not all voted..but a high percentage did.
    She does look 17..he said:” I am going to marry her:)”

    So glad you didn’t bring up Nafta..ooops..:(I guess I just did.
    Have a good weekend..Paint on paint on…

  3. Cheryl

    Vivian, I just want to add my thanks for these tutorials. I’m currently undergoing chemo for breast cancer and I’m not getting out to paint as much as I would like. Having a chance to “mimic” your tutorials helps to keep me fresh–and learning!


  4. I really love your rendition of this shot of Monet’s garden, Vivian. The serendipity of watercolor is why I love this medium … no two paintings look a like, and indeed, they cannot be duplicated. The “blooms” are almost always a surprise, and not always welcome, as you know, but you used those two blooms to great advantage, and made the painting better because of them! Bravo, my dear! AND, I really admire your reflection of the willow tree! Perfection!

    We eagerly await to see your choice of the right-hand foreground. I’m wondering if you will use some of those magenta spirea shown in the photo. The color is pretty “grabbing”, but they do give depth to the view (strictly personal opinion). It’s always fascinating to me, to see how another person renders the same scene I am looking at.

    A tiger kitten has been mewing around our property. Allen and I tried to gather the little thing up, but so far, no go. Our older female (outside) cat beats the snot out of it, so it is pretty skittish. We set kibbles out for it and some water – under our front deck, where the clearance is too low for the adult cats to bother. It is eating and drinking the water, so we’re doing what we can for the poor baby. It looks to be about three months old. It was probably dropped off (especially bad for so young a kitten). We have no neighbors within half a mile, and drop-offs are common out in the country, unfortunately. sigh.

    Well, Happy Trails, Vivian, as you go forth in awe and in folly.

  5. Carey

    Cheryl, we’re all thinking of you this Friday and wishing you speedy recovery.

    It is as always amazing to watch a blank sheet of paper come alive under your supervision.

  6. My beloved college mentor LOVED Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I tried multiple times to read it & failed. It was the most dogeared book on my shelf but I never could finish it. Whatever “there” is there for other people was never there for me. For decades I felt that was my failure. In retrospect, it has always been men recommending it. And you’re right. The voice IS the same as BoMC. Also, perhaps the Jonathan Livingston Seagull guy.

  7. Zen and…… failed to grip me.
    Did read Madison County – it sucked
    failed to read 50 Shades

    But how nice to purchases real estate
    Cornwall – the English one – is charming…..
    Hope to see you soon

  8. Becky

    You continue to amaze me with your techniques…and you work so small which makes it all the more amazing to me to see all the details.
    Cheryl …I will keep you in my prayers. Painting does so much to help keep you centered.

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