Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Watercolor Demo Class: Landscape "Ambleside Walk"

Our second class in my three-part demonstration series was on painting the landscape in watercolor.  What a challenging subject!  I purposely kept the term "landscape" very broad, because it is broad, and encompasses so many possibilities!  For the purposes of teaching, I chose reference photos that represented landscape as we usually think of it: distant vistas, atmospheric perspective, sky, trees, perhaps some man-made structures, and perhaps some hills.  Below is the first reference photo I chose to paint:

This is a scene from Cumbria, England, near the quaint town of Ambleside.  Below is a close-up of the stone wall.  Sheep and mountain goats were present in other photos, as well as hikers.  Lots of great material to work from!  Always take more photos than you think you will need, because they might contain additional useful elements.

I made some decisions before starting:
  • that the painting would be very loose and not a direct copy of the photo
  • that I would use a lot of watercolor textures
  • that I would use sumi-e ink to darken some of the colors as an experiment
  • I would film the demonstration with a web cam attached to the ceiling above the painting (see resulting film on the Susan Murphy Channel onYouTube!)

Step 1.  I started with a wet-in-wet background wash and covered a lot of territory with this!  The paper was 140 lb Arches cold press stretched onto a Homasote board.  I did a minimum of drawing just to establish the line of hills and the stone wall.  Then I wet the entire sheet and started with the sky, using cerulean blue plus sumi-e ink and permanent violet for the cloud colors.  For the land I used perylene green, cobalt blue, quinacridone gold, and brown madder.  I spattered the wet surface with verditer blue and permanent magenta, plus salted it and then let it dry.  OK, I threw everything in the book at it!

Step 2.  Since I was filming the process, I did not take many step-by-step photos.  This next picture shows a lot of steps in one:
  • The distant trees:  I re-wet the distant hills and used thick perylene green to suggest the distant trees and shrubs.
  • The foreground grasses: I began to negatively paint around the stone wall with darker colors including brown madder and perylene green mixed with a little black sumi-e ink.  I used a large wolf-hair sumi-e brush to suggest the grasses because the hairs can be splayed out to make an irregular row of sharp points.  Also I softened the overly-strong texture from the salt a little.

Step 3.  This last picture is as far as I have gotten at this point:
  • Re-wetted the distant ground again and inserted more dark trees.
  • Defined the top edge of the stone wall by painting the rising hill behind it a reddish color.  Also painted some of the shadows of the stone wall.
  • Used sumi-e ink mixed with a little permanet violet to paint the cloud shadows right over the distant land.  Perhaps the one of the right is too dark, but the one of the left works nicely.
  • Last but not least, I used drafting tape and a stencil brush to lift out the sun beams!
"Ambleside Walk" almost there!

The painting is about 80% finished at this point.  I am planning to refine some of the shapes and edges, add a little English village in the valley to the left, and add some hikers crossing over the stone wall and walking down into the valley.  But for now I wanted to get this posting out for my students.

Susan Murphy, ARThouse, 5/6/14

1 comment:

  1. A scene like this is so overwhelming and you've "tamed" the process to render it beautifully!!!