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 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 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.