Here is a painting I completed in my studio over the weekend. Included in this posting are some of the steps along the way. I have been asked to do a number of watercolour demos lately so I have looked at this scene from the point of view of starting and completing a finished work in about an hour.
More recently I have created a presentation in which I do a painting and relate the insights on what makes good watercolours to what it takes to successfully discuss, design and implement an effective team strategy.
I have included some of the steps in the process in this posting.
This painting was done on a 560×380 mm sheet of Arches 300gm Cold Pressed.
I have done this scene many times now, on site, in the studio and in demonstrations. It is easy to do when I have the time to paint all of the details in the rocks. Easy but quite boring and very time consuming. Not as you can imagine, a recipe for a compelling demonstration.
So I have been considering how to do the scene in less time with enough detail to capture the heart of this favourite place of mine, but without spelling it out. Leaving enough out to create some mystery. Bather on the rocks painting I did was turned down at a gallery for exactly this reason. It was all too blatant. The similarity with the work I do is so compelling. I do an exercise with teams in which I help them to define their core concept. No-one can be all things to everyone else so I help them with the tools to choose and prioritise what they will do and what they will leave out. And to plan these decisions in watercolours I do a value sketch. A plan. How do you plan? (OK lets not go there now). Here is my value sketch for this painting:
I wanted the spit of grey shales, going out to sea, to be the centre of attention, resonating with the mountains. I also wanted to have the darker shadows in the quartzite boulders leading our eyes to the shales. That was the plan. I used the plan, with the photo from which I was working, to transfer the shapes to the watercolour paper:
Following the advice of Charles Reid I put in the darkest darks first, to create the dark end of the scale.
Here is the first boulder, in alla prima style; I applied one layer of watercolour and that was it. Doesn’t sparkle. I like this boulder.
Here is the lead into the painting. Well I liked these as well but my colours were not dark enough. The painting was working well though.
OK – here I put in some background that I could have left out, or at least kept even lighter. I could have done without this step I think. But I pushed on to do the other big quartzite boulder:
The dark of the boulder balances the painting. However, technically, it is overworked. I got a little put off by the intricacies of the shape of the boulder and had to build it up. With this approach to watercolour I have to go in BOLD! Bold bold bold. In for a penny in for a pound. And yet, this is not all bad as it allows the eye to move past to the rest of the painting. Then I reached the end:
This is where I thought I would stop. I put the painting aside and looked at it through the next day. I felt that the rocks on the shore did not balance the rocks in the sea. So I made them darker. And that is what you see at the top of this posting.
So here is a painting about which I am well pleased. There have been some lessons on the way. I am not wild about the green in the headland and I would like to do a more simple sea. And I like that too. I am ready to give it another go. Failure? I don’t enjoy failing. But it doesn’t scare me. Charles Reid says “I am supposed to be good. And I fail. You too will fail”. Or words to that effect. I like that. And this is one painting. This does not sum up everything I am and ever will be as an artist. I like that too.