October 20, 2008
Cabuya Water Color
I just returned from my honeymoon in Cabuya Costa Rica.
We were there for a month and, as I had limited luggage space, I took the opportunity to do some work on paper. ( Something I have put on the back burner for the past six months or so with my return to oil painting.)
This piece is 11" x 14" on Fabriano 113 pound paper. Pretty lightweight stuff that comes hundred sheets to the block. Great for sketching but a little thin for really washy work.
After doing some really gestural sketching in a diluted yellow line, I finalized my line work with a more saturated mixture of earth tones. ( I tend to do all my design and drawing work with a brush rather than a pencil. The water color moves more fluidly than graphite and I am less likely with a brush to get lost in minutia. And, when it comes time to apply color, I need only to repeat the brush moves I used in the underpainting.)
Quickly, a note on the drawing itself:
In making this composition I began with the central image of the two men unloading the back of a truck. I hadn't intended it to be anything more than a monochromatic study of this little scene, so I worked out all the line work here before even moving on the the other elements in the composition. This approach is not recommended as it often leads to inconsistencies in perspective. To incorporate the rest of the elements, I first read the placement of my figures to determine the pitch of the plane below their feet. As long as all the other elements seemed to be lying on the same plane, more or less, the sense of space in the piece would be consistent. Outside of that, composition decisions were mainly a matter of filling the space without distracting from what I felt was my subject, my two guys.
After the drawing stage I knew I wanted to get to a point where the line work would not be neccessary in order to read the image. I work from drawings alot, and this is my primary criteria for determining whether a painting is finished. My first step was to lay down a consistent underwash of color for the two largest areas in my compostion, the ground and the foliage. This serves two purposes: It quickly distinguished my figure ground relationship ( all the unpainted elements stood out against the darker background), and in later stages when I wanted to create some variety in the tone and hue of the foliage or ground, I would have the connective tissue of underpainting to knit these areas together.
In the last stage the smaller areas of color are addressed. As a rule of thumb I tend to work from largest to smallest shapes, and do all areas with the same color at once. So in this case, I first addressed the foliage, bringing greater definition to both the large areas and the smaller patches gradually and leaving anything resembling detail or outlining for a later, then moved to the blues of the sky, truck and house, and finally, with everything else more or less finished, addressed the figures, leaving them light enough in value to stand out against the background.
After a few levels of washes all of my colors were where I wanted them to be. At this point I used a folded napkin and a clean, water loaded brush to do a little erasure. I had erred on the side of over saturation in my color, which gave me the ability to clean up areas where I wanted to make highlights, or set one element off from the element beside it.