Friday, February 29, 2008


A lot more work has been done at this point, mostly darkening the walls with washes of Sepia with some Raw Sienna. The darker washes on the smooth paper has resulted in some interesting textures but I'll be creating more. The tones of the window and bars are about correct at this point and I have started to work on the shadows on the inside sill. Other areas of reflected light get more washes of the same mix and also some darker strokes for visual interest. I'm careful to not make it look too dirty though as although the window is very old, I still want a clean and clear look to the painting. If the washes are not left to dry properly, the result can be a muddy look which is obviously something to avoid. I still haven't decided on the bottle yet, usually at this point I would have done quite a bit of work to it bringing it along with the rest of the painting. With the darker washes added, there is an even greater impression of strong light outside the window which will be toned down a little later on as I add some barely visible tree branches and leaves.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


After yet more washes, I am feeling a little happier with the direction this painting is going. Adding more color has served to deepen the tones further and create more depth. There is certainly more of a sense of 'looking in' to the painting at this stage although the scene itself is pretty much two-dimensional. I don't plan on adding a landscape outside the window as this I feel would be a distraction - there will be plenty going on as it is. The sense that the painting is lit from the outside is becoming more apparent also and this is mainly due to the reflected light, the shadows (more obviously) and also light falling on some of the smaller objects such as the spider webs etc. I have continued to deepen the green of the window frames and bars which has also brought up the highlights of direct sunlight. Shadows are subtly diffuse as the window panes are slightly opaque and cut down on the sun's intensity. I'm still not decided about the bottle at this point so try to ignore the white space as I look a the painting from time to time while I go about other things in my studio. I am enjoying the painting process so far but don't want to rush it at this point and have to try to undo any mistakes.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Here I have continued by adding more washes of the same colors slowly building up tonal values taking care not to go too dark as it is very difficult to lighten up a watercolor without damaging the purity of previous washes. Quite a lot of time has been spent working on the window frames and the bars, again taking care with the tones as this area will be the center of interest. The sun highlights on the sill are becoming more apparent now along with more of the reflected light and further washes on the inside wall have created more contrast and depth. The sun-lit webs and other highlights are beginning to take on the correct intensity without detracting from the main focus of the painting. I have also started working on the shadow on the right that is cast from the central bar but realise at this time that it has to go quite a lot darker (as has the whole painting). By working slowly and adding many thin washes as opposed to heavier ones, I am more in control to orchestrate the painting the way that I want. It also saves time as it enables me to work without creating too many problems along the way. All along, I keep looking at the painting from time to time searching for problems that may develop and the odd tone out of place. There will not be a lot of color in this work so I'm mainly concerned at this point with getting the values correct. There is also not much texture either but I'll be working on that closer to the completion of the painting.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Here you can see the first of the washes applied, mostly I have used Raw Sienna and a touch of Sepia for the wall, trying to keep the washes nice and transparent and light to start with. One disturbing fact that I found out when using a new tube of Windsor & Newton Raw Sienna was that the color had changed slightly from old and is now more yellowy (is that a word?). Also to make things worse, there was more opaque white added to the mix. This didn't make me happy as I am generally a 'pure' watercolorist, that is to say that I don't usually use any gouache or Chinese White in my paintings preferring instead to paint around the light areas. Over the years, I have become very used to the hues of my palette and know what to expect when using a certain colour. Well, I'll suppose that I will get used to the 'new' color but will in the meantime try a few different manufacturers and see if I can't find a Raw Sienna more to my liking.
In the painting, I have left the bottle shape plain white paper because at this point, I am still in two minds about adding the bottle or to leave it out. I'll postpone this decision until very near the end. More slightly darker washes define the shadowed areas and I go even darker on the internal wall which will have no reflected light. I mix up a muted green from Viridian and a touch of Burnt Sienna then lay in some washes onto the window frames and the bars. I again leave white paper for some of the lightest areas such as where the sunlight hits the sides of the bars and on the cobwebs etc. At this point, the general washes are not that precise as I am still getting a feel for the painting - I'll tidy them up as I go along.............

Saturday, February 23, 2008


For those who are interested in such things, I thought a series of posts of how I create a watercolor would be a good idea. Although artists paint in many different styles and methods, generally most watercolors are started in the same way. Since it is difficult to change a watercolor painting half-way through or fix mistakes without damaging the paper's surface, a careful drawing is a good way to start. It also pays to have a general idea on how one wants the painting to proceed as well as an image in one's mind (or perhaps a pre-study in a sketchbook) of the finished work. For more difficult compositions, I paint a small study first but most often, I jump straight in and begin work right away. I was very happy with an earlier painting that I had done of a window inside an abandoned Chinese house (see earlier post) so I wanted to continue with the series and do a different window from a slightly changed viewpoint. The lighty-toned drawing shown above is how I started this one and was done on a piece of stretched Fabriano watercolor paper. I usually use Arches but wanted to try a slightly smoother paper this time. I was careful to pay attention to the correct perspective especially in relation to the old bottle on the right of the sill. I also took some care with the accuracy of the bars and frame making sure the window panes were all the same size. With an idea of the first color washes to follow, I could hardly wait for the drawing stage to be completed but this is perhaps the most important part to get right. Next, the first general color layers.........

Friday, February 22, 2008


I live reasonably close to the Eastern Shore and am able to travel there often. The area is busy with wildlife, especially birds and this is one of the major attractions for me. I have spent many hours watching eagles, shorebirds and the scores of geese that make this place their home. I prefer fall and winter when there is an influx of birds seeking a safe wintering area and I can find a quiet place to watch and to paint. A lot of my landscape paintings have come from my time spent there and 'Evening at Chincoteague' was one of them. Although the grass in this scene still retains some green of summer, the time is late fall and the water in the flooded field has frozen after a cold snap. The evening light is subdued since the sun has already set but light from the sky is reflected in the strip of distant water and also on the thin ice. The somewhat abstract patterns of the ice amongst the darkened field are what first attracted me to the scene. And I remember coots slipping and sliding somewhat comically along the ice nearby as I worked on this painting as scores of snow geese spiraled down to their evening roost site in the larger lake off to my left. It was an evening worthy of remembrance and these sights and sounds were the inspiration behind the painting. The watercolor is 11" x 7".

Friday, February 15, 2008


A few years ago, I was invited on a trip to the desert regions of California and Arizona. This type of environment was new to me and I became fascinated with the changing landscape. I prefer heat to cold so the high temperatures didn't bother me in the least and I felt quite at home. I have many wonderful memories of my time there exploring the region and discovering the fauna and flora along the way. This trip has led to many paintings of the region and also to a few different works in a series. The 'Morning in the Desert' series is one that I am still working on today and I am sure will continue with for many more years. I have a lot of different paintings planned in both oil and watercolor, some very large, others only small studies. Living in America has opened me up to color in a way that I didn't think possible and now a lot of my paintings feature color that I wouldn't have dreamed of using years ago. The painting above was difficult to do in watercolor but I got a warm sense of completion then it was finished. Fortunately I had done a larger version similar to this one in oils so that painting became a kind of pre-study and this helped enormously. In the scene, I was concious of the way that the early morning light was raking across the scene creating a wonderful contrast of light and shadow and this is what I tried to capture in pure transparent watercolor. The size of the painting is 8" X 30".

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


There have not been any blogs for awhile since I have been on holiday but now that I am back working in the studio again, I hope to publish more regularly. The painting above was completed just before I left but I didn't have time to post it.
During the many trips I have taken to different places around the world, I have always tried to get the most out of each. This has meant much exploring and taking the path least travelled. I have had some amazing experiences along the way and also plenty of new reference and ideas for paintings. Abandoned Barn though came out of a short walk I took near my home in an area that I had passed but not realised was accessible. It certainly pays to explore and frankly, I was astounded when I came across this barn as this was something that I had long been looking for. I started this painting the same day and the scene is pretty much just as I saw it. I didn't even have to set anything up - everything was there with the old bucket in the upper level and the amazing abstract areas of light and dark. The white winged shape in the board just inside the lower doorway seemed to somehow lift the painting as it seems to fly into the shadows. This painting has inspired a number of others of the same barn - one of which I have just finished and I'll feature it here later on. This watercolor is 22" X 15".