Peninsula Clouds, 2010
24″ x 19″ : 61 cm x 48.3 cm
Before the big storm moved in I took the time to get some good shots of the Palos Verdes Peninsula with clouds billowing above it. I always wanted to paint this view looking south from the pier. Most of the time it looks a bit ‘boring’ with cerulean blue skies, the ocean, the headland and the sand. I wanted to paint it so the center of interest would be the sky. In our area you don’t get to see a lot of cumulus cloud formations as it is almost always sunny and cloudless. Not that I am complaining but this time of the year is perfect for nice and interesting skies.
This painting is all about the sky. Painting clouds in watercolor can be tricky, but with a few preliminaries it can turn out quite nice. One thing to remember is that they paint themselves if you let them! The sky needs to be painted in one go and it helps to pre-wet your paper to create nice soft edges. But not everywhere! It is important to leave some areas dry to also have some hard edges where clouds meet the blue sky. Of course, that depends on the look of the actual sky you are doing.
When applying the washes it is imperative to work quickly, roughing in the shapes of the clouds and painting the sky areas around it. I premix two big puddles and use two paint brushes so I don’t have to go back to mixing more right in the middle of it all. Since the paper keeps drying while you apply the washes you should get a wide range of beautiful edges, from soft to broken to hard. I love getting the broken shapes that only happen on damp paper. They are the trickiest and riskiest to achieve as the paper is just about dry, the possibility of explosions imminent! The key is not to fiddle with it, NEVER go back in with the brush trying to correct! Usually I like to put some figures in my paintings, but I felt it unnecessary this time. The seagulls rising into the sky give it some life and the absence of people add to the desired mood, in my opinion.
I wanted to take this last post of the year to thank all of you who showed interest in my blog this last year! I appreciate your visits and supportive comments! They give me confidence to keep this going, not just to promote myself but because I feel like some things I say are actually useful to some of you and that makes it all worth while!
Another one from Venice! This one was done early in the morning with that typical haze lingering in the air. I tried to paint as quickly as possible, letting the paints bleed. I feel I overworked the water a bit. It’s so easy to be overwhelmed when painting on location. There are so many things you see at once and the longer you look, the more you start seeing. But like the master painter Joseph Zbukvic says, “You mustn’t put it all in”! I have also found that you cannot put in all the colors your eyes perceive. There’s so much to learn still…
Speaking of the Mr. Z: I am very happy to announce that I signed up for his workshop at Fallbrook, California next spring. I can hardly wait and I am sure it will be an eye-opener in many ways.
My next post will be from CA as I am heading home!
This view was probably painted a million times before. The Basilica of Saint Mary of Health, as it is called in English, was built after a particularly devastating outbreak of the plague in 1630. It quickly became an emblematic part of the skyline of Venice and inspired many big-name artists like Canaletto, Turner, Sargent and Guardi.
As always, it was important for me to get the mood of the place and I tried not to put any details into the building itself. Just the shapes and letting the paint do the work. The only details are the boats and the poles on the left hand side, but I tried to keep those vague as well.
This was one of those lucky shots! I definitely got my tones and values right without fiddling around too much. I am no longer in Venice, but all my work is based on sketches I did on location there. This piece was done with a very limited palette, mostly just ultrablue, magenta and the siennas. I tried to capture the energy of the place, the complete chaos: people moving about, street vendors, some pigeons. Speaking of pigeons: they seem to have gotten rid of lots of them.I remember being in Venice when I was a kid, there were so many pigeons everywhere you could hardly get away from them.
In the background you can see San Giorgio Maggiore, a 16th century Benedictine church on the island of the same name.
It is true that there is a special light in Venice. It’s very soft and milky, perfect for watercolor! It was great fun to visit, I just wish I’d have had more time. I guess I’ll just have to come back again soon…
At first glance both cities have a lot in common. The canals, nice old buildings and beautiful bridges–that’s about it. Oh yeah, and maybe the funky smell and the claustrophobic feeling of being surrounded by water at all times.
The biggest difference to me is that you seriously run the risk of being run over by crazy cyclists when exploring Amsterdam. They are everywhere, all the time and for some reason, its *your* responsibility to watch out and get out of their way. Yep, ultra-annoying.
That won’t happen to you in Venice, the worst thing there are probably the crowds. If you plan on going there, spring or fall is a better choice than summer.
Having said that, both cities are awesome, even more so from an artists perspective. You could spend a year in both places and never run out of things to paint. I know one artist who wouldn’t even go to Venice because she thinks the place is so “over-painted”, meaning so many artists have painted there over the course of centuries…
I don’t care–I look for my own views of any place I go to, it doesn’t matter if there were a thousand people here before me.
The hardest thing for me to paint is the water. It’s a greenish blue, more blue than green with some turquoise in it, I think. (It doesn’t look right in the picture, btw.) I am not sure I got it right just yet, it may take another few paintings. I plan on doing at least 15 or more, we’ll see what happens but there will be a series of both places.
I don’t know where my art is going at this point. It may not look that way but I am really struggling with things right now. I love working on location and my sketches usually come out nice, but then I try to do a studio piece from references and I just hate it! It seems I just can’t figure out how to work from photographs. I get tight, nothing flows and my brushstrokes look awkward. I just seem to do a lot better when I am in front of what I paint. Has anyone else ever experienced anything like this?
I’ll try to post more often once I have more internet access.