My favorite subject to paint is rocks and water. The reference photo is from upper Wisconsin and is the choice for this blog.
First is always the composition.
*Horizontal or vertical. Either can work in this painting with some added color or textures.
*Do I want to emphasis the rocks or the water?
*Because this will be a watercolor painting, paper choice needs to be made.
*Cold press, hot press or rough?
*Watercolor papers vary also in the amount of sizing. Do I want paper with more or less sizing?
*Which colors do I use? Full color or limited color?
*How should I apply the paint? Layering or more direct painting?
The success or failure of a painting occurs before you pick up the brush!
In the end, I chose the vertical photo because it featured the water more than the rocks –and because my students prefered the vertical composition.
Size of the finished painting is 19 x 14 inches.
The paper that I chose for this painting is Khadi rough. The paper has more surface sizing than most papers. The advantage is that the colors will be more intense because the pigment does not soak into the paper which causes the paint to lose intensity. The disadvantage is that layering is limited because the pigment does not soak into the paper.
Starting light to dark as usual, I concentrated on the water which will be lighter than the rocks. Painting the lighter values allows me to paint more freely. The edges, where the rocks meet the water will be established with the darker values of the rocks.
I painted this on a very slightly moistened paper using a solution of glycerin and water. I did not want to work totally wet because I wanted to leave some of the whites as highlights in selective places.
I painted the “lightest” parts of the dark rock in the first wash because I needed a visual reference to judge the light values.
I have all of the colors in my palette available, but will mostly use Pthalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and Cadmium Yellow Medium.
Planning is extremely important. You always have to make adjustments when transferring the composition to the actual dimensions of the paper. The large rock had a too regular shape in Step 1, so I cropped the top of the composition.
Most of the focus in this step was in establishing the color and values in the rocks on the left. More intense colors are in the upper portion where I wanted the center of interest to be.
The actual shapes within the rocks are determined by how the colors mix when wet, not the shapes from the photograph.
Now that most of the large areas are painted, I concentrated on establishing the center of interest. How much I do there determines how much I do in the rest of the painting.
The center of interest is in the water close to the center of the composition.
I softened some edges by scrubbing out some of the color. With this kind of paper, scrubbing is easily done –but has to be handled very carefully. This paper has a lot of surface sizing but very little internal sizing. Too much scrubbing will tear the paper.
Adding very light washes in the water created the movement and the flow of the water in this crucial step.
Once the center of interest was established, shapes, forms and texture were added for more interest and movement.
I added darker values in all areas, but “lighter” than the darkest values near the center of interest.
Subtle washes were added in the lower section of the water for movement, and darker values to give it a “base”–where the water hits the horizontal plane of the water. The flow of the water from the top to the bottom needs a place to “stop”.
The final step in any painting is the most difficult. How much to add or subtract will complete the painting –or destroy the painting.
I did some spattering in the upper rock for more texture. I also added some pure Cobalt Blue and some Cadmium Red Light in the rocks for more emphasis.
I put a light layer of Raw Sienna on the rocks on the left near the center for more intensity.
Very light washes were added to eliminate all of the white except for the lights in the center of interest, and the lights I wanted for movement. I also added some light washes of opaque white to soften some edges instead of scrubbing.
I defined the lower portion of the rocks and water for more definition, keeping the edges soft. This portion is the most difficult to do because the tendency is to over define the shapes and forms. Defining without detail is what will make the painting work.
Remember that it is just paper and paint. It takes time to make create a painting. Paint boldly without hesitation, and you will achieve good results...most of the time.