Limited Palette Paintings – Waterlilies and Sunset

Sunset in Winter Mountains
Winter Sunset, watercolor on paper, 7.25″ x 5.25″

This past week I’ve been using a palette with a little more spring potential, with the inclusion of chromium oxide green, but I also wanted to paint some clouds too. This painting above is from a photo I took last winter in the Rocky Mountains.

It was a snowy landscape with little light from the overcast sky late in the day, but then the clouds started to slowly part enough for sunlit clouds to be seen through them in a long rift. Thinking about it now reminds me of this quote I’ve read- “When Satan thrusts his threatenings upon you, turn from them, and comfort your soul with the promises of God. The cloud may be dark in itself, but when filled with the light of heaven, it turns to the brightness of gold; for the glory of God rests upon it.” -Ellen White

Waterlilies, watercolor on paper, 7″ x 5″

Because of the green on the palette I made sure to also paint some plants. This waterlily was painted from a photo I took at the Denver Botanic Gardens. It’s called Black Princess, and apparently has blackish red flowers when they’re blooming.

For the palette this week cobalt blue was a very good, strong blue, but granulated a little too much to get the smoothness of the water. It made nice greys when mixed with the red earth, which was otherwise not used much. The real stand out was the chromium oxide, which is the one that I made myself from dry pigment. It’s very strong and also opaque. About 12 of the 25 mixes above are green because so many of these are either green or combine to make green. Ivory black actually wasn’t used very much, except in the trees of the sunset painting, but I wanted the option of something darker than the grey made from mixing cobalt blue and the red earth.

Front Range Morning

Morning Train
Watercolor and gouache on paper, 6.75″ x 5.75″

This scene is from a few months ago, when I got to see this area at a different time of day than normal because my train was very late due to snow earlier on its route. It’s the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains again. From this point we’re looking south. To the right is the mountains, and just off the paper to the left is a view of the plains and most of the urban corridor that’s up against the mountains.

I used a mix of watercolor and gouache because they were both already on my palette. Most of it was painted with a small flat brush, but I also used a few others. One was a small filbert that was working very well. For watercolor brushes I only have a few filberts but they’re so versatile that I think I should have gotten more filberts instead of mostly rounds. Didn’t go dark enough with a lot of the colors though.

Winter’s End

Snowy Cliffs
Oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

A couple of weeks ago I took the train again to visit family across the mountains and I noticed a distant mountain that still had snow on it. Using a Nikon P900, which zooms really far, I got a photo and then later sketched it before making the painting above.

The reference photo isn’t very clear because of distortions from the train window, which happens with other cameras I’ve tried, but it works for my purposes. The sketch is entirely gel pen a new Stillman and Birn sketchbook. A lot of it was drawn while waiting in the lobby of a tax preparer’s office or while my niece and nephew were getting haircuts while surrounded by the chaos of little kids.

After that I colored it in with some watercolor pencils, which are very useful when traveling, and used a waterbrush to turn the colored pencil into watercolor. A lot of the brown in the foreground is walnut ink that I had loaded into a brushpen with an extra piston ink converter that lets me use any compatible ink in it. For those areas I didn’t use the waterbrush and instead just let the ink hydrate the watercolor pencil if there was any. The shadows in the foreground are actually a regular colored pencil because I accidentally discovered that one pencil in the set, the indigo, is partly water soluble for some reason. A couple of the others were too, but not as much.

The final oil painting is the first finished oil painting that I’ve made in about five months, and it was a nice change of pace from watercolor. Some of the paints used in it are ones I made myself, such as burnt sienna, orange ochre, and one of the white paints. The others were from various brands. For a medium I was mostly using a small amount of safflower oil mixed with odorless mineral spirits.

By the way, lately I’ve been a lot more active on Instagram than here, so if you guys haven’t looked yet there’s a lot of new drawings and paintings posted here.

Materials used (Amazon affiliates links)-

Stillman and Birn gamma series sketchbook, 8.5×5
Derwent watercolor pencils – not the exact ones I used since mine are old, and also I used a couple of Derwent graphitint pencils.
Kuretake no. 8 brush pen
Platinum ink converter
Daniel Smith walnut ink
Pentel large waterbrush
plus various oil paints and brushes on a Dick Blick canvas board

Colorado River Valley

Azure Valley
Watercolor on paper, 11″ x 8.5″

I’ve decided to try selling prints on Fine Art America. I don’t know if I’m doing it right, but this is the first one.

This scene in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is another one that I photographed from the train. It’s much larger than I normally paint, but still small. Maybe from now on I’ll start trying to make larger paintings again.

The paper used is one of the last pieces of an old sheet of 300 lb soft press paper from Frabiano. Because it’s old and the sizing seemed to have weakened a bit the paint wanted to soak in and dry very quickly, making blending and lifting difficult. Still, it’s a very robust paper, and I actually kind of liked how it absorbed the paint.

The first step, after editing the reference photo, was to test out various paints on a trimming of the same paper that I was going to use. The four final paints were a dark reddish brown (imidazolone brown PBr25) that I got a couple of weeks ago and have been wanting to use on something, synthetic indigo (PB66), a yellow iron oxide recovered from mine water (PBr6), and zinc white (Chinese white PW4). This combination produced all of the various browns and greys of the original scene. The other paints that where tested but not included were ivory black, raw umber, and quinacridone burnt orange. Including the raw umber probably would have made some of the color mixing faster.

Normally I don’t draw so much on the watercolor paper before painting, and I used to never draw at all out of concern that pencil lines might show. There are a few lines showing here, especially around snow, but it’s really not much. I was even shading some with the pencil, but when the paint goes over it most of the lines vanish, so it’s nothing to worry about.

The palette was just a small porcelain dish that I sometimes use and it’s very convenient because if there’s some clutter around it doesn’t take much space.  The small flat brush that was used for most of the painting was very nice. It’s about the size of a pencil, but thinner.

Most watercolorist either avoid white, saying that the paper with little or no paint on it should be the white, or they only use white in thick dabs at the end for glistening highlights. Here, because the paper was so absorbent and I wanted to avoid overlapping edges of separate strokes that couldn’t be easily blended, I added a lot of white into the paint for the mountains, sky, and water. The opacity of the white also helped to give a sense of the clouds and snow beginning to obscure the mountains.

Mountain Crossing

Descending Deer
Watercolor on paper, 7″ x 5″

When planning this painting I knew that I wanted to paint a deer again. The first idea to be sketched was a closeup of a buck facing the viewer with the far distant mountains and the eastern sky with the reddish belt of Venus behind it at twilight.

Mountain Crossing sketch

In the second sketch I replaced that one with three deer. The composition wasn’t working well because the deer were all facing the same direction and getting progressively smaller in that same direction, so the viewer’s attention would just follow that path straight into the bottom left corner. I took a photo of it and in Photoshop tried switching the places of the two left deer, which helped interrupt that progression. Then, just in pencil on the sketch, I tried drawing the mountains closer and with more size variation. By putting the larger mountain on the left it helped to balance the composition more, as the silhouette of its ridge slopes down to the right.

Mountain Crossing ref

The deer used in the second sketch and final painting are from a photo I took through the front window of my old house several years ago, with a few adjustments.

Snowy River Landscape

Colorado River in Winter
Watercolor on paper, 5″ x 7″

Here’s another painting of a scene photographed from the train I take to visit family across the mountains. I’ve been photographing this same view for a few years now, but this is the first time painting it.

Mostly it’s painted with manganese blue (genuine, from an old tube) mixed with a little charcoal black. The browns are a mix of brown ochre, Indian red, and ultramarine pink, because those were the other three paints I had decided to use as the palette for this week.

The paper is from a sheet I’ve been storing for a few years and is really nice, but I don’t recognize the watermark logo and there’s no name on it.

watermark-1

It lifted fairly well, is a bit smooth but still allows granulation, and the paint went on easily.

Azure Valley 2

Colorado Mountain Valley
Ink on printmaking paper, 3″ x 4″

This is the same valley in the Rocky Mountains seen in this post a couple of weeks ago. The brown is walnut ink from a fountain pen, which is not waterproof and in some places I used a wet brush to blend it. The black is from a Micron brush pen.

Mostly I just started drawing this to try out the combination of tools. I haven’t used this brush pen for a long time and wanted practice making something with the tools that I’m planning on taking on a trip. It was kind of tedious doing all of the shading though. Getting some grey ink might have been better than crosshatching with the very tip of the brush pen.