Thursday, October 26, 2006

Of Patience and Persistence

We visit Oregon frequently, three or four times a year. Along Highway 5 there is a stretch of land with an excellent view of Shasta. I wanted to paint it when we first began stopping there for a break from the driving, so eventually, I began bringing my watercolors along. The first results were disastrous. The colors were just not what I wanted, so I would get home and toss them in a pile. To be more specific, they weren't timid, but they weren't bold. In my opinion, the colors were not accurate. I define accuracy as the ability to convey the place's "feel" with color. Too often the only thing that saved those watercolors was their composition or range of tonal values.

I have learned that my eyes need some "aclimatizing" before they can attempt to register the full range of color, hue and value in an outdoor scene. I have a hard time describing the process. My color perception appears to be highly correlated to the amount of time spent at a location, whether I'm wearing shades or spend time indoors. So I do not try to paint right after arrival. I wait at least a day or two if I can manage.

But what if I'm just passing by? I was finally able to paint something more satisfactory after the fourth try. In this painting, I got rid of Payne's gray and used purple to define Shasta. The hills are suggested by two baseline transparencies (yellow ocre and a turquoise blue) overlapping at the horizon. But I had the most fun with the bobcat. I love mechanical objects. If you do watercolor, you will notice the sky's wash is quite imperfect. I have stopped trying to create perfect flat areas of color unless the painting calls for it. To me, it is what gives the medium its own vulnerability and appeal, otherwise, little will distinguish it from silkscreen or Flash.

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