Watercolor, 7 x 5 inches, $250
Since the Watercolor Workshop began in late February, I've noticed that I've been able to enjoy painting with the same enthusiasm that I had when I began years ago. Teaching in my studio has been a very positive experience; I'm fortunate to have a wonderful group of students. My goal in teaching is to ignite interest in the watercolor medium, while laying out the lessons in a sequential pattern so that we build on our knowledge base. I've seen dramatic results, with sometimes breathtakingly beautiful paintings showing up on the studio wall as students bring in the work they've been doing during the week.
Last Wednesday evening, we spent a short time mixing all the possible combinations of the color green, using a lemon yellow and a yellow ochre combined with cerulean, thalo blue, ultramarine and black. We've been painting landscapes and working a bit with transparent washes. I enjoyed seeing the class realize all the subtle shades of green available from mixing a few colors. As in oils, it's easy to get too comfortable and just dig into a green right out of the tube. By mixing your own green rather than depending on a thalo green or viridian, the color harmony is easier to control.
We also studied design, using an exercise from Arthur Wesley Dow's book "Composition". It entails drawing a landscape and then redesigning or simplifying the linear composition several times before deciding which version might be the best choice for a painting. While this lesson may seem advanced for a beginner, it actually gives us more freedom and offers a real chance for succeeding with our work.
Beginning a painting may be considered analogous to taking a road trip. If I wish to drive to California from Vermont and simply get in the car and begin driving, then there's a very good chance that I will get lost. If I first consult a map, I have a better chance of success. If I spend a few extra minutes to decide on the BEST route, I will ultimately save time and have a more pleasant experience. Designing the painting through a series of line drawings before the brush touches the paper is like choosing the best route. Arranging the masses, trying a few different shapes for the outer dimensions, deciding where the darks and the lights will be takes a few moments, but once you try it it's amazing how many good ideas show up.
The watercolor, Distant Buildings-Purple Sky was painted from memory, utilizing a series of transparent washes.