I wanted to get out today to paint, despite the heat. Got to the park about 4:30. It had become overcast, so didn’t have to worry about sun or shifting shadows. I also made up my mind that I didn’t have to find a perfect subject. I just walked about 100 yards from my car into the outskirts of the woods, reconnoitered a few seconds, and sat down and started painting. I had John Singer Sargent in mind. Many times when working en plein air, he didn’t much care what his subject was, he just painted what was right in front of him.
This is a watercolor illustration that I painted for a promotional series to promote the printing capabilities of the company I was working for. My idea was to create a large-scale calendar and use a staged photo or illustration for each month with the theme as a visual pun on the word “wall”, since this is what the piece would be, a wall calendar.
I wanted this particular month to look like a very old Chinese silk painting. I bought a large sheet of extra-heavy litho paper, took it home and placed it in my bathtub, filled with instant coffee and water. I let it soak for a while, then let it dry. I finished up using watercolor dyes.
A few years back I went on a watercolor “paint out” to a dairy goat farm outside of Houston called Blue Heron Texas. There a young couple make wonderful goat cheese from Nubian goats and sell it regionally at farmers markets. It was a great experience. There were just about every species of barnyard critter you can imagine. Cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and a giant male turkey by the name of Dory.
As I stood at my field easel, painting away, Dory sauntered up to me and began humping my leg. Not a little. A lot. This was a big turkey, and he just about knocked me off my feet. I was greatly amused, as was the young lady who was hosting us, and besides being somewhat embarrassed, decided to record the event for her blog. Dory followed me around for the rest of the day. I made a few sketches, but didn’t get much painting done. Alas, I found out a few weeks later that he ended up in a frying pot.
I love nature. I went for a walk in Houston’s Memorial Park for the first time since the big drought several years ago. It had been too difficult to see the devastation. But the park’s coming back. I pulled out this watercolor I did there pre-2011. Those pines are all gone. Nature doesn’t experience time or loss. It just relentlessly goes on…and prevails. The thought gives me comfort in these uncertain times.
This is the first of several watercolors I painted recently for a benefit art show and sale. A few years ago, my wife and I took our first trip to California. We visited one of the parks and were very moved by the majestic trees. Inspired, I took out my trusty, cork-covered sketchbook and pen on the flight home and created the drawing that became the painting.
It took me quite a while get the look that I envisioned. I wanted to portray dappled sunlight, and I did a whole bunch of preparatory exercises. I was particularly challenged by the reddish path and the tree trunks. Once I took a deep breath and laid down that first wet-in-wet wash, I have to say I was less than satisfied. Exasperated, I quickly blotted out the still damp wash and let it dry. Having spent many hours practicing and still not achieving the results that I wanted, I was very frustrated. What worked was that the second time around I went at it with a devil-may-care fury. I realized that I was being too deliberate and tight with my brushwork and once I loosened up, the results were beyond my expectations.