24 July 2019

Nostalgia, light

I haven't been inspired by anything in particular lately, so I decided to click through my "Reference Photos" folder on my computer to see what goodies I had saved to paint when nothing was demanding attention.

I came across a rather unassuming photo—it was from my trip to France in 2013, but it contained no monuments or fancy architecture or cafés, nothing quintessentially French. It did, however, have a wonderful light direction that I thought I could capture, and reminded me of more peaceful moments from the trip, when we watercolor students sat in the back yard at Bandouille (a beautiful monastery/country house near Bressuire and Chiché) and painted, talked, and ate our mid-morning snack. Someone has just arisen from the table, leaving their paints, brush, and water jar behind (and their cigarettes).

Sadly, Bix and Drew are no longer hosting painting holidays there; they intend to sell the property if/when they find the right buyer. But they are still in residence at the moment, and I'm sure Bixxy will recognize her little outpost behind the studio.

I had some trouble with this; I painted it on watercolor paper just so I could mess about with the layering of paint a bit more than I can in my sketchbook. But although my base painting was pretty flawless, once I got all the elements painted their respective colors, it became clear that I hadn't gone near dark enough with the background. I went over it once, and then again, and encountered some "fingerprint" spots where the paint just wouldn't stay where I put it. So the wall behind the table, which initially reflected its rough plastered texture and had a nice yellow glow reflected in the center from the tablecloth, is now a bit splotchy. I guess only more experience will prevent me from overworking.

I was, however, happy with the whites and lights I saved. The vinyl tablecloth had an over-all pattern of fruits and veg and mason jars, but I decided it was more dramatic to just let the yellow tablecloth be (and wasn't confident I could pull off the patterning and make it look real, to be honest).

"Sunny Umbrella"
About 8x13 inches
Fluid watercolor paper, Paul Jackson signature watercolors (made by Da Vinci)

Yesterday, I did a quick, small (7x7) painting of a closeup of some lavender, with a ladybug attached. My intent was to work on my wet-in-wet technique, but I went in too dark with my initial wet washes, and since the purple I was using was a "staining" color, I ended up with virtually no whites left to save! I went back over it and did some detail, but my sense for when to paint again (at what stage of wetness) is not accurate yet, so I got more blurring and it wasn't too attractive. I finally did what many watercolorists refuse to do (and I have been one of them in the past): I mixed up some lighter purple with some white, and put in some highlights at the end to compensate for no whites. It's dark and blurry and overworked, but here it is, for the record.

"Wet Lavender"
About 7x7 inches
Fluid watercolor paper, Paul Jackson watercolors

21 July 2019

Fantasy for one's 30s

For some time now, I've had my eye on Sequim, Washington (see previous post, here), and this past week, on a whim, I went on Zillow to look at real estate prospects in that small town on the Olympic Peninsula.

One of the reasons I was initially so interested in Sequim was because of its reputation as the "lavender capitol of North America," so imagine my disbelief (and initial delight) when I saw that Purple Haze—one of the primary lavender farms in Sequim—was listed for sale! It's one of the most beautiful show places in the town, and apparently a thriving business. When I examined the listing more thoroughly, however, I saw that it has been listed for more than two years, so apparently people who want to take on a farm and two gift shops are few and far between.

I sent the listing to my cousin Kirsten (I keep trying to involve her in my retirement plans), who said to me, This needs people with a lot more energy (and money) than we have! and opined that a nice couple in their 30s with some kids to raise would be the perfect proprietors. I reluctantly conceded that she was right, so I contented myself with painting a picture of part of the farm instead. I borrowed a reference photo off the Sequim Outdoors Facebook page; I did message the photographer to ask permission, but never heard from her, so I went ahead. It's only painted in my sketchbook, so it's for me (and my blog), not to be used for profit.

It was challenging to paint, because of the need to convey the 3-D effect of the mounded rows of lavender, and also to get the feel for the far-away rows vs. the close-up disintegration into individual sprays of flowers and stems. I simplified parts of the background, leaving out other buildings and details, and had a lot of fun gradating the pink and purple in each row.

Apparently other people are as romanced by the idea of a lavender farm as I am; I received the most "likes" and comments on Facebook that I have for anything I have ever posted! I hope the photographer, Johnna Anzures, will forgive me for using her photo without waiting for her go-ahead.

In the sketchbook

Pencil and Paul Jackson watercolors by Da Vinci