Friday, April 21, 2017

Thank Goodness for Spring

The dark cold season has turned, at long last, out here in flyover land. The grass has gone through that early, intense green, narcissi are still in full flower, and so are at least a few flowering trees. Spring color is all the more beautiful following a dull, grey-brown winter season. We had perhaps the least snowfall within memory, so the dry grasses and decaying leaves were more obvious. For those who don't do much outdoor work, the warming sun and popping buds are a real temptation. The great weather has even lured me out of the studio.

In celebration of spring, here are a few outdoor images from the past couple of weeks, showing not only the progression of the season but the progression of a completed painting from sketchbook to signature.

The first is a watercolor sketch showing the emergence of honeysuckle in the woods across the creek.
The old fallen tree that has been a subject in the past--a winter casein painting some weeks ago--has drooped a bit more as new green erupts around it. The sketchbook is about 3x5 when closed, so this image is around 3x8.
Here is the same subject from a lightly different viewpoint about a week later, showing how much new foliage has emerged. The first image is on a plain white page, but the second page was toned initially with a light violet, the way at least some of the Impressionists did. Unlike the first image, this sketch was finished with casein. I laid in the drawing with a watercolor pencil, placed the basic color scheme using watercolor, then painted over it, taking advantage of the opacity of casein. In effect it's rather like laying in an oil wash and then painting over it with full-bodied paint, or perhaps like using a thin acrylic underpainting to begin an oil. The watercolor can still be incorporated into the casein layer above it, adding complexity.

Finally, after making several other studies, I did the final casein painting. "Druid Hill Spring"
"Druid Hill Spring," casein, 9x12, 2017
is 9x12 on 300 pound, cold-press watercolor paper. I used a watercolor block, so stretching the paper wasn't necessary. I toned the paper with light violet to reduce the white of the paper and to provide a complement to the generally yellow-green colors of spring. The paint is an "acrylic gouache" which stays in place when overpainted. I drew the basic shapes and indicated levels of depth using a burnt sienna watercolor pencil, which is mostly obliterated by the opacity of the casein. From those steps I completed the picture in several overlapping layers, trying throughout to be mostly loose and painterly, adding sharper detail toward the center of interest. The violet under-painting added sparkle.

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