Barn: #1


December is nuts. Thanksgiving, then three birthdays, then Christmas… it’s busy. And my favorite time of year. But that means I don’t have much time to dedicate to writing these posts.

Tonight, I finished a painting I’m pretty proud of, so I figured I would post it.

This is my attempt to put into practice the things I have learned from Texture Techniques for Winning Watercolors, and the perspective studies I’ve been doing, with a scene in my mind inspired by the roof tops of the houses in my neighborhood this winter. There is something mesmerizing about the angular triangles of rooftops that cut through the black tangle of bare branches scratching at a cold blue sky.

I didn’t want to paint a photo, I wanted to paint the image in my mind. So, I sat down and I painted this.

I was about halfway through when I had to break for work, and when I got back I realized my half-assed attempt at perspective made the building look like it was falling over. At that point, I knew the painting was doomed, but I used it as an opportunity to try some things.

I was going to leave the trees as a textured brown bloom, but I decided to try to represent the branches.

Here it is before the branches. Now that I look at it again, I think I might like it better like this.

I like how they came out, but I want more variation in edges, and tone. So I learned that the next version needed to be a bit more free in that regard.

At the same time, the undisciplined perspective on the house broke the entire image, so as loose as I need to be on the trees, I want to be that much tighter on the building. I don’t want to rely on poker straight lines, but I do want the perspective to be accurate.

So I flipped the paper over, and tried again.

I didn’t take many photos in progress, but I did snap this image before I painted the branches… I’m going to try this painting again, and more I’m not sure if I should paint the branches in next time, or leave the trees as soft-edged shapes like this… maybe I’ll try this on the next version, but with a much lighter value so the barn is more clearly separated from the trees.

One thing I really like is the door. I tried to imagine a person using the door over years and years, and figured it would show the most signs of wear. So I tried to represent that with ragged edges to indicate flaking paint, or scratched wood.

I also looked around at photos of barn doors, (there are many types) and I noticed that the barn doors tend to have a white trim, or the door is contrasted from the rest of the barn. I wondered why, and the only conclusion I could come to was that this helps farmers see the door in low light of early morning or late evening – the times when they are letting cows in, or out. I don’t know if that’s why they pushing the trim white, but it made sense. Regardless, I decided to imagine that this door has been painted at one point, and now it was flaking off after years of use.

The thing I’m most proud of in this painting is actually the sky. Which is funny because it’s the part that requires the least amount of effort. This is a good reminder that I need to try to trust myself more. I have such a bad habit of overworking my paintings, and everything it’s because I’m not sure things will look ok in the end. Rather than just trusting my instincts, and the magic of watercolor, I try to force something, and it never works. Never. Ever. Ever.

That’s really all I have to say on this one. Here are some of the other paintings I have made recently. These don’t deserve full write ups (well, the rainbow leaves do, becauseI made it for my daughter, but I’ll do that later.)

Again, I’m not showing these because they are good… this is me trying to be transparent about all the awful garbage You need to paint on your way to being a better artist. There is a LOT of wasted paper in this endeavor to put the grandeur I feel when I look at nature into a painting. I’m no where near where I want to be, but I am improving, and that’s good.

This was actually kind of good.

Then I “fixed” it. Now it’s garbage.

Here are some random rocks, I was practicing using a palette knife to scratch highlights – I always try it too soon, or too late… it’s hard for me to find that magic sweet spot. I’ll have to try this more.
This one is neat, and weird.

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