Category Archives: Watercolors

Watercolor on watercolor paper. I have used both hot pressed and cold pressed papers but generally prefer light exploratory washes on the flatter texture of a cold pressed paper.

Circle, De Lovie, Poperinghe

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9" x 12' or 23 x 30 cm.

Arched garden walkway De Lovie. Watercolour on hot pressed paper. Alizarine Crimson and Forest Green. 9″ x 12′ or 23 x 30 cm.

About a month ago, out near Westvleteren, we stumbled across a large domain called De Lovie (nice name, eh?). The whole area is run by a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children, youths and adults who have mental handicaps. But besides the buildings dedicated to such assistance, a large part of the domain actually contains a beautiful heritage castle, its memorial chapel and landscaping including a lake and English garden. John snapped a photo of the main promenade to the castle with its dappling light. The haloed effect in such a simple, one point perspective piqued my interest, so I decided to try to render it within the circle motif.

The main challenge really was how to render the highlights. In watercolour, this actually doesn’t mean rendering the highlights but rather allowing the white of the paper to (strategically) shine through. In the past I’ve experimented with latex masking fluid, but for anyone who has actually tried it, you realise very quickly how difficult it is to control. Large areas are possible – at the cost of your increasingly clogged and ultimately useless paint brush. Fine details however are not. But recently I discovered a product that dispenses the masking fluid through a very fine, narrow tube, creating a very fine, thin line. Ha! So, after washing in the starting golden circle and laying in the composition, I used my new handy-dandy dispenser pen to block out various areas of highlights quickly and playfully. It was better than a brush but even so, still difficult to control. After everything dried I began to lay in my washes, wet-in-wet.

I had already decided to use just a two colour, complimentary palette, so washes of Forest Green were matched up against washes of Alizarine Crimson. I knew this approach would also allow for chromatic changes within the golden circle, but that would be out of my control. Nice! The washes went quickly and quite well, though I couldn’t really see what I had. After they had dried I rubbed off the latex. The results were stunning! – at least from a light point-of-view – even though it was also immediately clear that I still had a lot of form to recover/describe. Thus, a few hours of open brushwork gave me the basics, but it took another week of diligent searching/reclaimation to discribe the overall formal coherence.

I’m pretty pleased with the result. The latex itself creates hard edged highlights. So I really like how the strong highlights of the cross branches in the foreground stand out. Compositionally, they mitigate too, against the centrifugal pull of the circle and the walkway’s halo. The foliage, too, has nice hard edges. Still, I’d prefer that the dappled spots on the ground were a bit softer. Sigh. That gives me something to work on for next time. 😉

Along the Damse Vaart. Watercolour on hot-pressed paper. 6" x 12".

Circle, Along the Damse Vaart

Another watercolour, a medium which, by the way, is incredibly difficult to photograph. The colour of the spectrum of light influences the photograph. So if I try to create a photograph on a bright sunny day the subtle highlights become washed out. If I try to create a photograph on a cloudy day, there is an inevitable bluish tonality to the light. I can try to colour-correct for that using software but then colour is lost in the process. The highlights inevitably suffer. So suffice it to say that the image presented here is the best I can do to given my skills and conditions. Sigh, the warm yellow wash in the centre is underrepresented. OK.

Otherwise, I had a lot of fun doing this one. It is created on hot-pressed paper, whose flat texture allows for finer detail, especially with the (HB) graphite pencil. I continue to enjoy discovering the possibilities of working wet-in-wet, dry/saturated-in-wet, wet-on-dry or even dry/saturated-on-dry (not much of that last one here). I continue to explore a reduced, complimentary palette within a circular motif. I didn’t use any masking fluid on this one, however I did make use of paper towels to blot back areas of a dark wash, like in the soft dappled light on the tree or foreground on the left.

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Circle Game or Homage to the Circle

I returned to Ruskin’s “The Elements of Drawing” this summer. (It’s always good to start anew and never assume that you know whatever you think you know – because most likely, you don’t) So as I was playing around with watercolours, Ruskin suggested creating shapes and filling them in, beginning with the most basic of shapes, the circle. I was creating these sun-like shapes on a landscape oriented pad, 6″ x 12″ and immediately wanted to superimpose a real landscape over it. So I did.

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

The Schipdonk Canal. Watercolour (Burnt Sienna and Thalo Blue) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The first in the series, was of a scene along the Schipdonk canal somewhere around Eeklo. Since I thought it turned out rather well, I thought, hmmmm…., this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship? I liked the serendipitous contribution of the sun-like circle, compositionally and chromatically, enhancing its one-point perspective. I also liked the idea of doing the landscape in a simplified colour scheme  of two complimentary colors. I began to imagine doing more, particularly of my favourite scenes around here.

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Farm on the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Alizarine Crimson and Thalo Green Light) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

The second in the series then is of a farm along the Damse Vaart that I have painted in the past. I really like the sweet, afternoon light on the farm buildings in the middle ground but have struggled to make it an interesting composition. Would this circle approach help? I decided to try it with a green/red palette, The result was OK, but compositionally, still rather static, so I enhanced the golden circle with an external wash of purple. It felt pretty rad. 🙂

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6" x 12"

Bend in the Damme Vaart. Watercolour (Thalo Blue and Burnt Sienna) on cold pressed paper. 6″ x 12″

Well, OK, what’s next? I have plenty of favourite spots around here, so I chose another one further along the Damse Vaart, this time at its bend (which I have also painted in the past). I ended up doing three different versions of it: the first in a ‘normal’ colour scheme’ (boring!); the second in Thalo Blue/Burnt Sienna but with a horizon line that was about a 1/2″ too high (ugh!, toss); and the last one (pictured here) with the Blue/Sienna colour scheme but a lowered horizon line ( it finally felt right chromatically and compositionally).

Luckily these small experiments are easy to do so there’s more to come. Stay tuned…