Watercolor class #6 – daily prep #1

May 28, 2013


For the last few weeks, I’ve been working on watercolor almost every day. It’s maddening, frustrating, disappointing and debilitating, but I was the only student to turn up with “homework” at the last class, attempts done between classes, and I’m keen to keep up the momentum till at least the end of the eight-week course. I’m determined to turn up to class with seven A3 plastic files, one for each day of the week. How masochistic I’ll be after the course is yet to be seen, lol!

First day after class #5 and I thought I’d re-visit the principles behind the quick, location sketch. I’ve assembled reference photos relatively simple urban landscapes/buildings, the sort I’d tackle routinely as part of my urban sketching.  Seven photos, one for every day of the week. If I can apply the principles in this drawn-out studio work, then I can apply them on location later on.

My tiny effort today is but 6x14cm, taking two hours rather than the recommended fifteen minutes. It was done on 185gsm cold-pressed Canson watercolor paper and I’m noticing not much difference between 150, 185, 200 and 300gsm paper, given these quick sketches don’t involve either pre-wetting or elaborate glazes. I’m sticking to medium texture paper for the moment, with smooth and rough to be experimented with down the track.

The original reference photo is very small which forces me not to get involved in too much detail. It’s also in a very high key, which suits my style, though the last class represented a break-through in terms of using dry paint with a dry brush. I kept away from the heavy darks at the base of the painting because my teacher talks about the top being “strong” and the bottom being “weaker”.

Have I achieved the desired “atomic bomb effect”? Is there an exaggerated flash of light on the building facade, as if an atomic bomb has just gone off nearby? Sort of.

I left the cobalt sky till last and ended up cutting it out, replacing it gray card of an appropriate tonality. My Winsor & Newton cobalt is so volatile and unpredictable in terms of plain washes, and so limited in terms of its saturation for scanning purposes, that I’m banishing it, along with White and Sap Green, to my secondary palette, away from my location sketching W&N fieldset. The Sap Green has gone, replaced by a dark olive green more appropriate to Australian vegetation, the White will be replaced by a Black and the Cobalt will be replaced by a Payne’s Gray. In terms of scanability, only half of the flat-brush samples have shown up in today’s scan.


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