Cows on Zuercher Rd: #4


I painted this one ala prima (which means I didn’t sketch it, and I painted it in one sitting.) I did this because I felt my last attempts were constrained by the sketch, and disjointed by letting the layers sit too long before coming back to it.

I think doing it this way opened me up a bit to try things that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. The trees on the left are a good example. In the source photo, there is only one row of trees. As I painted, I found myself wanting another row of trees a little bit closer to the foreground. Because I didn’t have to worry about the cow being in the way, I was able to just paint. I think those trees are better off for it.

Before I started, I took about a half hour to really clean my palette, and awaken the pigments. I clean the mixing portion of the palette all the time, but I rarely clean the wells. Some of the pigments have been in the well for almost a year now, and these have gradually gotten dirty from mixing paintings. So, before I started, I used clean water, and a mop brush, and just brushed the tops of each color pretty thoroughly to remove the contaminated layer. I then cleaned my brush, got all new water, and moistened every well with a healthy amount of water. By the time I went to paint, it was much easier to get pigment from the wells, so I think this awakening the pigments is something I’ll do more often.

I started with the sky, for which I used some lapis lazuli genuine. I bought that pigment a long time ago, but I almost never use it because it’s rock hard, and I can never seem to get a rich color with it. But, it does granulate a lot, so I tinted it with cobalt, and used it almost like a granulation medium. I was surprised to see that it worked much better this time than it has in the past, which I attribute to getting it thoroughly wet before I started.

I also used yellow ochre to bring the sky to the horizon. I have been afraid of yellow ochre lately because it tends to get things so muddy. I now think this was just because my well was filthy. This time, the yellow ochre worked really well and didn’t muddy anything. I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much easier it is to paint, simply because I wetted the pigments before I started.

After I painted the sky, I again used some light cobalt blue and painted trees into the horizon at T3w. Then, I used some Quin yellow and UM Blue and Raw Umber to paint the distant hill.

As that dried, I painted the trees on the right, still into a wet sky. And then I painted a bright green grassy hill and brought that color all the way down the page.

Once that dried, I began painting the trees on the right using Quin Gold and Sap Green. I let that first layer dry, and then came back into it with some thick Sap Green and Serpentine M2b, and then dappled some very thick Indie blue at R2s into that wash.

This was when I decided I wanted another row of trees, so I painted quick thin strokes of Indie Blue down into the grass, and then a quick stroke horizontally. This defined some trunks, and the crest of the bear hill. Then I dappled some Indie Blue into that area until I had the values I wanted.

At that point the trees on the right felt much too light, so I went back into them with some more Sap Green and Indie Blue.

Here’s what it looked like at that point:

I probably should have just stopped here!

I then went in and painted the cows. I hadn’t saved any white for highlights, but I painted them as if I had at first. The highlights on the cows were all green at that point, which I decided I didn’t like. I really wish I had taken a picture of it at this stage, because I think it was much better there.

Because I wasn’t happy with the green, I opened up my Chinese white and committed the cardinal sin. (I’m not opposed to white at all, and frankly I think it’s stupid that watercolor artists have such a bias against it.)

Unfortunately, adding the Chinese white just basically undid all the painterly effects that I had from painting the cows… so I was pretty disappointed.

Seeing as I hated the way they looked, I went back and just covered up all that Chinese white with some bloodstone. The bloodstone is intensely dark, and very strongly granulating, and pretty damn opaque, so it covered up the sin. Sort of.

I’m disappointed in the cows, but oh well – definitely cant go back.

Once that was all done, I added some thick Indie Blue, Serpentine, and Sap Green in horizontal strokes to the foreground. As it started to dry, I took a fat mop brush, and quickly stroked horizontally to get it to spread a bit more. Then, I turned the painting upside down, and let it dry, spritzing it with some water when it got to the damp stage.

So – there it is. Cows on Zuercher Rd #4. I’m not totally happy with it, but I do think it’s an improvement over the earlier pieces.

I have spent so much time writing about this one that I’m going to stop trying it for now. I think next I’ll try to break out of my comfort zone, and attempt to recreate some landscapes that I like of other artists, in an attempt to learn more and try some new things.

Here are the four paintings in order:

First attempt
Second attempt
Third attempt
Fourth attempt
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