Cows on Zuercher Rd: #3

Well, time to try it for real.

First, I sketched it.

I’ve written so much here and here and here about this painting that I’m ok just going for it this time. I’m not going to over think it. I’m not going to stop and photograph every brush stroke. I’m going to try to put into practice what learned in my earlier paintings.

Guess I’ll just have to try really hard to be free when it comes time to paint her.

And I’ve already broken one rule. That cow is so neatly drawn, it’s going to be tough to be lively with it when I go to paint her. But, I need to save whites where she stands, so I kind of need to know where she’ll end up. Guess I’ll just have to try really hard to be free when it comes time to paint her.


First, I’m using cobalt blue for the sky. I just got this tube, and I haven’t used it yet. So far, I really like it.

Also, I have my painting as a very steep angle, about 50 degrees.

I wetted the sky with clean water, then used a large round brush to paint the cobalt blue in the upper left corner, at M3w. I then rinsed my brush, and used clean water to usher that pigment across the sky. I wanted it to be almost white at the right hand side to help with the suggestion of light. This also pushes the right side of the sky backwards, which reinforces the nearness of the cow in the forreground.

With the sky still very wet, I used a small round to dab some neutral grey (cobalt and burnt sienna) at T2w into the horizon, just a thin line, and let that wander upwards to suggest distant trees.

Once the shine was off the page, I added some sap green and Quin Yellow at M3d to my grey, and tapped that into the horizon. Because it wasn’t as wet now, that didn’t wander upwards quite as far.

It’s hard to hold a brush and take a picture with your phone at the same time.

Next I used Sap Green and Quin Gold (no brown to neutralize it) at M3b and painted a wet in wet wash on the left to suggest trees there. After painting a big wet wash, the tops are all very crisp. I wanted some lost edges there, so first I painted clean water into the sky above the trees, being careful to not touch the crisp lines.

Then, I picked a few spots, and used clean water to break the line. This gives some nice lost and found edges.

In general, I think graduated washes come out looking brighter and more clean if I let them dry naturally.

Once that all dried, I painted some graded washes onto the hills in the foreground and midground.

In the foreground, I intentionally left some areas of bare paper by brushing quickly. I then dabbed warm and cool tones around those areas.

Oh, and I had the painting upside down when I painted the foreground, this way the pigments would flow toward the horizon, in the direction that grasses grow.

Now, I’m letting this all dry before I make any changes. I don’t use a hair drier once I’ve spritzed water on it, because the pigments get displaced by the wind from the hair drier. In general, I think graduated washes come out looking brighter and more clean if I let them dry naturally.

To finish the foreground, I reduced the angle of the painting to about 15 degrees, and sprayed water on it.

Looking at it now, the midground is far far far too light in value.

I’ll look at it again tomorrow.

This morning before work, I glazed the midground with some darker values. I ended up then glazing all of the background with a light T3b sap green to pull it all together.

In the midground, on the right, I’ll add some more neutral tones to make the transition to the foreground less abrupt, then I’ll move on to the cows.

I painted in the cows, perhaps a bit too carefully. The problem with sketching this image out so cleanly before painting is that I get tunnel vision when it comes time to paint.

This is finished. But I still have a lot to learn about this composition. I want to try this again, but this time, I want to paint it all without sketching anything first. My hope is that by practicing this image so many times, I have enough of an understanding of the composition that I’ll be able to paint the next one without thinking about it all quite so much.

For my next attempt, I’m not going to document as I go, and I’m going to paint it all in the same sitting. That’s all for now.

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