05 November 2013

Climate and watercolor

On my trip to Bandouille, one thing I learned is that climate plays a huge role in how you paint with watercolor. We did washes there (in damp, cool weather) that took hours, or even overnight, to be ready; but last weekend when I did a couple of underlayer washes here, by the time I had finished the second one, the first one was bone dry! Southern California climate.

So, this weekend, when I went to the farmers' market and bought some flowers, and one of the sunflowers snapped off just a couple of inches below the flower, I put it in a little glass jar of water on my kitchen windowsill and immediately thought, That would make a great Jane Minter-esque painting! My idea was to do the details on the jar first, then paint the sunflower, and while the yellows were still wet, to go around the whole thing with water on the paper, touch into the color (which would, of course still be damp) and bleed a glorious halo out around the sunflower.

If I had done it this weekend, when one day was overcast and cool, it probably would have worked. But I ran out of time, so instead, I got up and did it this morning. I had a 9:00 appointment at the vet for Miniver, but I woke up at 7:00 and thought, Yes! I can do that painting before I have to leave!

In the middle of the night, however, the weather had changed: The Santa Ana winds had blown in, making everything sunny, gusty and dry. It didn't occur to me that this would change my plans, but after painting the glass jar and then the sunflower, I ran the water around the outside of the image, touched into the paint and...nothing. Nothing! The yellow was already dry! No lovely Minter bleed-out of pure beautiful golden color. Phooey.



So, I put some more paint on and dabbed a little out into the background for a paler, less dramatic and definitely less smooth and bloomy version, and here it is. I was at least happy with the weird reflection I managed to duplicate from the early morning sun shining through the jar as it sat on my patio table. I'll have to try Jane's methods another day, when we get one of our rare Seattle-type weekends of rain. (Or sit in the bathroom to paint with the shower going!)

Come to think of it, I used to know a woman in one of my watercolor classes at community college who lived in an apartment with her husband and a couple of almost-grown children, and the only place she had to paint was in the bathroom. She would go in there, sit on the tub and prop her drawing board against the sink, and paint the most glorious, lush, 18x24 landscapes. I felt bad for her that she didn't have some other space in which to work...but maybe she was onto something!

4 comments:

  1. Still a very nice painting. Many times I think, "Well, that was not what I expected but I like what I got." Great job on the glass.

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    1. That's often what happens to me! Thanks.

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  2. Yes stil a lovely painting! I gave up watercolour this summer it was drying within minutes in our heat, We have nice damp winters though ;-)

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    1. I got a whole raft of advice after this on how to keep the paper wet longer while I work--I'll share some with you if you like!

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