I went to my brother’s birthday party today, and my Aunt Virginia asked about my paintings. I mentioned that I’ve been doing a lot of fishing lately, and haven’t been painting as much. I am going fishing tomorrow, from sun up to sun down (cross my fingers that this rain passes.) So, when I got home at 9, I went to bed so I could get up early.
I never go to sleep before midnight, so 9 was much too early for me. I started watching a video of one of my favorite watercolorists, Rick Surowicz, in which he painted a barn.
Here’s the video: he’s a great teacher. Rick Surowicz, Watercolor Tutorial: Roadside
While watching his tutorial, I realized that in my past attempts at this barn, (#1 here and #2 here) I used flat washes of a single color on all of the faces, which left them feeling dull. I got the itch (which always happens when I watch his videos) and got out of bed to try that barn again.
My goals this time were to paint the barn using variegated washes, and to force myself to paint it all in as few strokes as possible. I really wanted to try my damndest to avoid overworking anything.
Step 1: Sketch and Sky
I started by sketching out the major shapes. The horizon line, the road, the barn, and the main branches of the tree. I also sketched the puddle in the road to remind myself to leave white for it.
When I sketched the road, I tried a lot of different angles. I wanted to give the road a fairly flat perspective, and still lead the viewer into the painting toward the horizon. In order to do that better, and help add interest, I modified the road from the photo to add an S curve. This helped me find a low spot for the puddle, and added the depth I was looking for.
I then painted the sky using some UM Blue and left over pigment that was on the palette from my last painting. Using a touch of that left over pigment helped me to desaturate that UM Blue without creating mud. First, I prewetted the sky, and then quickly painted that blue/grey into the wet paper, more concentrated at the top right, away from the light source.
I used clean water to pull that down around the barn and to the horizon. Then, I added a bit of Prussian Blue and painted a quick line of trees at the horizon while the sky was still wet, so they would have soft edges.
Step 2: Grass and Barn
For the grass I painted a warmer yellow grey toward the horizon, dabbing some cooler tones near the barn to help the lit side of the barn to stand out from the distant grass. As I brought the grass forward, I gradually added blues the give the impression of a low area near the tree, and warmed it up with red toward the bottom to make that come forward.
Then I painted the shadowed side of the barn with a cool neutral, very light in value, using ragged vertical strokes. I used violet tones near the roof lines, and warmer tones opposite them, to reinforce the fact that there would be shadows in those areas, and light hitting the barn where there were no shadows.
Then, I used a very very watered down warm neutral to paint the lit side of the barn, again in ragged vertical strokes.
When that was done, I painted the road using cool pigments at the foreground, and bringing it up to the horizon with clean water. The grasses were still a little wet, which gave me some minimal wet in wet lost and found edges where the road met the grass. That was pretty much exactly what I wanted. I also was careful to not paint over the puddle, preserving a lot of white there for a glare.
The roof of the barn was painted with cool neutrals toward the front, and warmer neutrals in the distance. The tree will be casting shadows on the front of the roof, and this should help with that illusion.
Step 3: Tree and Reflections
For the leaves on the tree, I used a medium round brush with a very warm yellow to define the structure of the canopy. I didn’t want to paint a lollipop tree, so I tried to stick the the main branches, just smearing a bit to get the leaves to wander around them. Then, I came back and dabbed at the bottom and right edges of those warm spots to add shadows, and increase the size of the canopy a bit. I then mixed a deep value cool color by adding some Quin Purple, cad yellow, and UM Blue to the tree color, and used a fine rigger to suggest some whisky branches, and dappled a few shadows of leaves on the undersides of the main branches. I really do like the effect I got with this approach.
I then painted some reflections into the road to help the puddle read as a puddle, and not just an unpainted part of the road. I also used some warm neutrals to paint the reflection of the barn in the road.
I started feeling like I was about to overwork it, so I took a quick break.
Step 4: Jewelry
For the final step, I mixed some dark values for shadows and used a very fine tipped round to add the “jewelry.” This is the stage at which I tend to ruin paintings by either going too dark, or adding too much. It was very important to me to add enough of this value to bring things forward, to give the road some more contrast and enhance the impression of glare on the wet asphalt, and to add a few shadows to the cladding on the barn. I also used these darker values to paint a few birds, and watered it down to add a touch of structure in the distance. Often when I’m at this stage, I paint all of the dark values with the same color, which flattens things out. So this time, I tried warming and cooling the dark colors as I added lines here and there. Just before I felt like it was finished, I stopped. If I go any further, I’ll just ruin it.
So, there it is. The last painting of my first year with Watercolor.
Next, I’m going to go back to paint that old Farm Road painting, to see how I’ve improved over the course of a year. I’m pretty excited about that.
But first, I hope to catch a whole mess of crappie.