Mark the calendar. Today is the first time since I started painting (seven months ago) that I am happy with the end result. There are still things I would change, but I am proud of this one.
This is another exercise from Ron Hazell’s Painting Water with Watercolor, so I can’t take credit for the painting really – the composition isn’t mine. But painting this required a lot of the techniques I’ve learned, and I’m happy with the end result, which feels really good.
The sky was really simple, and this required discipline to use the first, most important technique – stopping. I overwork everything. I’m a tinkerer, and because I’m just learning I constantly want to try new things. I painted this sky very simply because this painting is all about the sea spray, I didn’t want to bring the sky forward and push the spray back. So I wetted the sky, and dabbed in some Ultramarine blue. Then, I sprayed the right edge of the foam to soften the edge, and lifted some clouds out with a flat brush. There were a lot of places I could have gone wrong, I could have used too rich a blue to start. I could have painted too straight of lines into the spray on the right. I could have lifted the clouds too late and caused blooms. I could have added more color and brought the sky forward. I could have added clouds and busied it up. By not doing these things, I ended up with a sky I’m happy with. It’s a very simple sky, but getting it right isn’t simple – It took me painting for several hours almost every single day for seven months to finally be able to paint that incredibly simple sky.
When I was done with the sky, I painted the ocean water. I started with the curl of the wave. Here I painted some light ultramarine blue, and darkened the underside of the foam with Indie Blue and then dabbed some Hansa Yellow on the left edge. Again, there were a lot of things I could have done wrong. I could have used too much water, which would have caused the ultramarine to granulate. I could have used my favorite yellow – Quin Gold, which would have made a brownish green instead of a bright green. I could have used a non- staining blue for the darker value, which would have come away when I went back to add more dark tones later. Again, painting that simple curl took a lot of training.
Then, I painted the sea behind the wave. I started with ultramarine blue again and left white highlights. I also tried to be cautious to drag a ragged edge on the top of the sea spray. I could have gone in with some raw umber to grey it a bit and push it back, but the sky is already quite grey so I knew it would need to be a bit darker in order to keep the sky back.
I then painted the rocks. I wanted the rock on the left to be a bit warmer, and the rocks on the right to be cooler. I used raw umber as the base color for the primary wash, and dabbed some Quin purple, yellow ochre, and perinone orange to give it some depth. I knew not to use too much perinone because it’s so heavily staining and really bossy. And I knew not to mix the yellow ochre too much because it so quickly turns to mud – because it’s nearly opaque. Then, I let them dry and added a darker wash of raw umber and a convenience violet I made a while back. When the sheen was off, I knifed out some highlights. The technique that I hated before has become a favorite now that I finally know how to do it, and when to use it. The whole time I had to be careful to preserve a ragged edge at the base of the rocks, but a crisp edge at the top.
While that dried, I went into the water with a 0 Rigger and painted in some greens and blues. The rigger is working well for dragging ragged lines, the bristles are long and soft so it doesn’t fall into the valleys of the paper easily. This could have gone wrong if I had used the wrong brush, or used too much water, or if I had gone back in too many times. But again I’m learning that most important lesson – stop.
When that was done I painted some lines on the rocks – and stopped. Then some quick lines for birds – and stopped.
Then, I painted some very light shadows in the foam to give the bare paper a touch of depth – and stopped.
Then I stopped for good. I am not happy with the curl – but I didn’t try to fix it. I wanted an angrier sky, but I didn’t try to fix it. I wanted the foam to be softer in some spots, but I didn’t try to fix it. I wanted the sky darker behind the right hand rocks to make the spray stand out more – but I didn’t try to fix it. And that – not trying to fix all those things – that’s the hardest and the most important lesson.