The 6th of my 6 Painting Outside class (in watercolor) was this past Friday. As with the class last fall, I felt a definite pang when we parted and an eagerness to see the 2 ladies again, some time in the future. The energy of my 2 students was invigorating to me. I enjoyed their company and their level of interest and expertise. I also enjoyed that we got to paint outside 4 weeks in a row with the first 2 weeks characterized by rain and cold & spent inside. My 2 studemts weren’t daunted by the murky, chilly, sometimes drizzly atmosphere and an unusual May chill in the air this past Friday morning. We sat out a few sprinklings, unwilling to pack up and leave. We painted until noon, when things were definitely looking up for the rest of the day.
Our painting spot du jour was West Cemetery, Litchfield. We set-up in the 1800's section looking up the slope to the 1700's and earlier part. Birdsong was the prevalent sound, but there were times of cars passing, wind gusts and the High School Marching Band practising for the Memorial Day Parade up the hill behind us, hidden by the trees and bushes.
The top painting is approx 5x7 and was done with water on medium grade, sketch quality paper in a bound notebook. This is where I ‘take snapshots’, experiment with drawing, paint & technique, express myself as simply and directly as possible. When painting outside, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible. Less time fussing about things, more time to sit, think and work. This sketch was drawn rapidly, then I applied a very wet, almost tone-less wash and worked out my value pattern by adding in more paint. Since this is a sketch and not intended to be a finished painting and in order to keep things simple & experimental, I used 3 pigments (Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow) to make as neutral and murky a gray as possible. I left the sky area light and worked in increasingly heavier layers of the neutral gray I’d mixed into areas where the light was least. The sky area was still damp when I’d worked as much gray/dark into the other areas (& therefore established a value pattern), so I mixed a little UB into a puddle of gray on my pallet and wetly filled in a bit of more colorful sky area, leaving the lighter part as the cloudy murk that hovered over everything.
The atmosphere on the scene wasn’t conducive to quick drying; my painting was still damp when we quit. I hadn’t planned on doing any more work on the sketch but I left the notebook open on the coffee table and the more it caught my eye, the more I wanted to work on it some more. This is a good time to make amends, corrections, satisfy the inner critic who’s thinking coulda, shoulda, woulda....
On the first sketch, the underlying base of tone was what I established first with the neutral gray I mixed with very little color/light added in. The photo of the sketch after I finished that day, has 2 layers; the base using gray and establishing the pattern of where light and dark will be the most or the least. The most dark gets the most gray. Anything that’s closer to the light gets the most color. That’s what makes this dark painting appear to have more light in the 2nd photo. When I worked over this painting last night, I heightened the contrast between Light and Dark by using the most color and the most gray. Much of the gray was mixed in with the color, on this layer, and the paint was applied most heavily, much thicker than the preceding layers which were more watery.
I’m happy with this sketch. I think of it has having an Oscar Bluemner* mood and quality.
*Oscar Florianus Bluemner (June 21, 1867 – January 12, 1938) was a German-born American Modernist painter.