This is the final studio watercolor, along with my working sketch of a commissioned work, one of my more challenging. Final size about 18 by 13 inches. There was a lot going on with this home. I took many reference photos from different angles and spent quite a bit of time consolidating and compressing the placement of the many prominent items in the yard as to get them all in the image in a pleasing way without overly compromising their actual placement in the landscaping. I’m a bit reluctant to say that this work took many months to complete. Fortunately, the homeowner was very accommodating and understanding. It just so happened that about the time I was commissioned, my graphic design business really took off. But I should also admit that I intermittently suffered from the “crisis of confidence” that I suppose every creative person goes through. In my experience, the only way out is to go through it.
I set up my easel at Winter Street Studio last Sunday afternoon and painted this watercolor. I’m not necessarily a transparent watercolor purist, meaning that I use opaque white when the need arises, especially out-of-doors when I’m having to paint quickly and don’t really have time to mask small areas of paper so that they will stay paint-free. So it was freely used here, apparent in the sunlit telephone lines, but not as much so in the highlighted areas of the transformers and the fence.
I went to Glenwood Cemetery off Washington Ave. to paint this watercolor yesterday. It’s one of my favorite places. The most beautiful place of its kind that I’ve ever seen. Opened in 1871, it’s terraced, hilly, haunting and mysterious, I get a real sense of history when I’m there. Today I craved a different subject than angels and tombstones. My thoughts turned to the many mausoleums there. I chose one on top of a very steep hillside, so steep from the road that I couldn’t get a good setup from in front. So I climbed to the top and set up my gear behind it, sitting on a low cement grave barrier. I’ve always loved the challenge of painting dappled sunlight. And a challenge it is. The sun kept going behind a cloud, but it stayed out long enough. This took me about an hour and a half to paint.
I painted this watercolor at the Houston Arboretum yesterday. It was a nice late summer afternoon and the place had quite a few people. I toted my equipment around for a while, thinking I didn’t want to spend the whole time looking for the “perfect” spot. I ended up where I usually do, at the little pond covered with lily pads. I sat on a bench with a railing and trees behind. I didn’t necessarily want the curious standing over my shoulder. Once I penciled the general shapes, I realized what a daunting subject I’d chosen. Although sunny, clouds intermittently blocked the light. And those lily pads! Dappled light, then clouds, tree shadows, sky reflection in the water. It was all very hard to visualize on paper. Once I got the first tentative washes down, I was ready to give up. To me, this is one of the hardest times to push on. I know from experience (or I hope) that at some point this will start to resemble a painting, but I’m not always mentally prepared to persevere. But I’d gone to a lot of preparation to be out there and I had looked forward to it. Before I knew it, I had laid in some darker washes for the trees and I started to have hope. But I was overwhelmed with all the detail before me, Many years ago, my drawing teacher told me to squint my eyes to better see the values. This time I did something more drastic. I removed my eyeglasses. My nearsightedness blurred the scene just enough so that I was able to concentrate on the mass shapes and colors. My confidence strengthened and I pressed on, and about an hour and a half later, just as a light sprinkle started, I was done.
Painted this afternoon in Houston’s Memorial Park. This is an expanded view of the same scene from an earlier post (opens in new window). The colors are more intense and the sun’s out. This took about two hours.
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.