Study – Water: #4

Tonight I tried to get a bit closer to the water to try to define the shapes of the ripples a little more. I see a lot here that I like. Primarily the dip in the third wave up on the left. Compositionally, that wave should be more to the right and I should have highlights on the left side of the wave at the bottom right. 

I also like the way the second wave at the bottom left hugs the wave next to it. That C shaped highlight makes this composition as good as it can be. 

When I started the painting, the surface of the water was pretty calm. As I worked on the painting, I wanted to bring the eye level closer to the surface of the water. In order to do so, I had to increase the size of the closest waves dramatically, and also force the perspective to small waves very quickly. 

Unfortunately, the modifications muddied the depths of the waves a bit, so that’s something to work on as I keep trying. 

When I started, I stretched the paper. I have been skipping this step recently because a number of the artists I watch on YouTube mention that they don’t find it necessary. Unfortunately, it seems I do need to stretch the paper because it tends to cockle a lot if I don’t. I think maybe it’s because there is very little humidity right now due to the cold winter weather. I like the ease of painting without stretching the paper, but the cockles are really getting in the way lately.

There are two main reasons I don’t like to stretch paper. 1) It takes a long time. 2) I am not always successful.

The thing that takes the longest is soaking the paper. In the past, I have filled my sink and soaked the paper for five minutes. Then, I transfer to my board, measure and wet the gum tape, blah blah blah. Once it’s all down, the gum tape invariably pulls away, and I have to start over. Soaking a second time means almost all the sizing gets rinsed away, and when I put down pigment, it gets sucked into the depths of the paper, making the colors dull and desaturates, which quickly results in me creating mud as I try to saturate the colors.

This time, I didn’t soak the paper in the sink. Instead, I just painted clean water all over the back and front, and then carefully laid it down on the board to make sure there were no air bubbles. Then, I used the edge of the board to cut the gum tape, and wetted it with the brush. Then, I pressed the gum tape down and sealed the edge. This held firm, I didn’t get any cockling, and the whole process only took me fifteen minutes. Sure, that about fifteen minutes longer than just using masking tape, but stretching really does make it easier to paint, so it’s worth it for me. 

The only thing I don’t like is I can’t get the white border that I used to get with the masking tape. But, that just gets covered when it gets framed anyway so I don’t think it’s worth keeping.

After stretching, I laid down a strip of masking tape to create a crisp horizon line, and painted the sky. I used straight Indanthrone Blue and Phthalo Blue. (More Indanthrone at the top right, more Phthalo at the bottom right.) I tried to water down the pigments very quickly to create the impression of clouds at the horizon. I like how this worked. In the past I’ve tried to get soft and crisp edges on the clouds. But here, I didn’t want to draw attention to the sky, so I just left the clouds with soft edges only. I really like the way this resulted in a sky that’s neither dead and boring, nor bossy and distracting.

I also left the land at the horizon very grey and blurry in an attempt to give a sense of atmosphere. This worked well, and was achieved by painting the land mass with a light wet in wet grey.

I also brought the horizon way up in the painting. This really helped in reducing the weight of the sky, which made the undefined clouds work well. Unfortunately, when I later decided to bring the eye level closer to the water, suddenly the higher horizon level wasn’t quite right. By then it was far too late to fix it, so I tried to resolve it by making those foreground waves really huge, and quickly cutting to tiny waves in the midground.

Most of the waves were painted while the paper was too damp, so I still need to find that magical point on the paper. It seems the brush needs to be really dry, and the paper should be a hot minute from dry. Finding that spot is going to take a while.

I just got Ron Hazell’s book on painting water in watercolor, so I’m going to get my reading on. Hopefully the next one will be another step forward.

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