Grand Tetons and Clouds

Mountains and Clouds
Oil on canvas, 9″ x 12″

Finally a new post. I’ve been active on Instagram but haven’t felt like I had something substantial enough to put here. This new painting was an experiment using oil paint on a watercolor canvas because I liked its fine weave. The photo reference is from Nancy Winn on Paint my Photo.

I think the package said it was acrylic primed for all media, but to be sure that it was sealed well enough for oil paint I applied an extra coat of gesso. Mixed in with that gesso was a little grey acrylic paint that was leftover from an attempt at a different painting. Immediately after I roughly sketched the scene with diluted black acrylic and a small synthetic dagger brush.

Before beginning with oil paint I let acrylic gesso dry for at least four hours, or until it’s no longer cool to the touch, to be sure that it’s finished whatever mysterious chemical processes are happening as it dries. Since it was late, this was left overnight before starting the next day.

I tried roughly blocking in different areas slowly and at the same time so I’d be able to see how their color was affecting each other. Adjustments needed to be made, such as the lower clouds needing more warmth in their subtle highlights and the sky just not actually having the faint blue that I originally put there. I guess it was a diffuse warm light from a cloud behind the mountains rather than seeing all the way through to the sky. That’s the sort of thing you may not notice at first and at a glance until you’re actually painting a scene and purposefully examining each component of it, so I had just assumed the gap in the clouds was showing all the way through.

This watercolor canvas turned out to be really nice to paint on. It has enough texture that it’s not a slick surface the way some gesso boards can be, but it’s fine enough to allow for much more control of details and for the paint to glide across it more smoothly than it would on a heavier weave canvas. I wouldn’t say the quality control is especially high though, since there’s a lot of little knots and dents in the canvas, but it was good to work on.

If you haven’t check out my Instagram, here, there’s a lot of sketches and paintings there that aren’t posted on this blog.

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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.

Winter River

Colorado River
Watercolor on 140lb paper, 3.75″ x 5.75″

This scene is copied from a photo I took of the Colorado River in the Rocky Mountains. I think it was a little east of the Upper Gore Canyon, after the canyon opens up into a relatively broad expanse.

The five paints used on this were made from scratch with dry pigments. The palette can be seen on Instagram here. The yellow and ultramarine were only used a little. Mostly it’s zirconium cerulean, red ochre, and mars black. Because the cerulean was weak in mixes, mixing a large amount of it to the mars black produced a useful cool black that was easy to handle and wasn’t overpowering. The granulation from both of those and the red ochre did make it a little difficult to really get the smoothness of the water or the ice in the foreground. This was painted on the back of a piece of 140 lb cold press Arches paper, which I’m starting to prefer over using the front of the paper.

Winter Lookout

Two Deer in Snow
Watercolor on 140 lb paper, 4.25″ x 6″

The setting for this painting is in the same Azure Valley as in the last post, and because I’ve passed through there many times I have many photos from different times of year. One of them had a buck walking through an open area of snow with some scrubby brush and low trees around. It seemed like a good start for a scene, but he was too small and the brush too far away, so I made a few edits to the photo.

Winter Lookout 1 ref 1

After cutting the buck away from the snowy background and positioning him closer to the darker and more interesting shapes of the trees and brush it still seemed too minimal. I did like the contrast of the brown against the cooler background colors, but the lighting on that cloudy day wasn’t very interesting.

Winter Lookout 1 ref 2

These two deer were in that same area, maybe even the same field, but on a different day. I liked their different poses, but they didn’t fit into the vertical format I was planning. By cutting out and repositioning the deer on the right to be next to the deer on the left it helped them fit and also changed the dynamic between them. Now their closeness might better emphasize a sense of togetherness and mutual trust.

Winter Lookout 1 wip

I then drew everything with the lead holder, seen on the far right, with a 7H lead in it. Everything was painted in sections, with each section being mostly finished before moving on. There were a couple of other small brushes used after this photo. The palette for everything was the five color palette I posted on Instagram a few days ago here.

Old Snowy Tree

Snowy Snag
Watercolor on paper, 4.75″ x 6.25″

The palette for this painting is the same as for the last sunrise painting, with all of the same colors being used. There wasn’t a black or grey on the palette, so I made a black by mixing the Prussian blue with the sicklerite (brown) and a more opaque grey using cerulean with sicklerite. For the browns of the tree I mixed quinacridone red, new gamboge (yellow), and more sicklerite. The base coat for the tree was painted using that warm orangish brown mix, and then on top of that some of the black mix was painted in various amounts for the shadows and details.

Blue Evening Forest

Year's End
Watercolor on sketch paper, 8.5″ x 5.25″

Here’s the last post for the year. It’s from a combination of a few photos I took of these trees.

So looking back on this past year’s posts it looks like I’ve been more productive and I hope to keep the pace up in 2017. I wanted to thank all of you guys for your encouragement. Some of you have been following my posts for years now, which I think is amazing, and although I’m not very good at responding I do notice.

Next year less than two days away now. Some of you might be thinking about a New Year’s Resolution. A few might even keep theirs. Positive change really is possible though. You probably can’t tell from looking at my art now, but many years ago before I became a Christian the things I drew were much different and had a lot of blood and gore. God can help make lasting changes in people.