Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Donner Lake, California Plein Air Watercolor Workshop Demonstration

This June 21 to 23, I conducted a plein air watercolor workshop at Donner Lake, California. Yes, the self-same Donner Lake where the Donner Party got stranded in the mid 19th century. The photos here show one of our outings on the Truckee River near Donner Lake. The first photo shows me scouting out our painting location. I was looking for tree shade so we were not having to look at glaring white watercolor paper. One has to be aware of the movement of the sun so as not to loose shade too quickly. The next photo shows the scene I chose to paint looking directly across the Truckee River. I wanted a very simple scene with contrasting values and shapes. I also wanted something that could be completed in about an hour or less. The sunlight within that time frame can substantially change the look of your view as it arcs across the sky. This was in fact an excellent view to show my students how to squint (hard) at a scene to minimize fussy details and to see the darkest darks, lightest lights, and only a few middle values. The painting goal was to render simple dramatic shapes and contrast with a few beautiful colors added to the mix. When outdoors, I work with a very limited palette of Cadmium Red, Crimson Red, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Blue, and Cerulium Blue. I mix all my greens. Who wants to waste time with a lot of color choices? A limited palette allows you to mix hundreds of subtle color hues which is an indispensable way to train the eye to see all the exquisite color variations in nature,. The third photo shows my plein air kit consisting of a light-weight collapsable easel, light-weight plastic palette, folding chair with built in pouches below the seat, collapsable table to hold up my accordion style, collapsable plastic water container. The fifth photo shows me painting in shapes of contrasting value and color or as the American oil painter Kevin MacPheason has described it, "valuehues". Love that word! But before I painted in my "Valhues", I needed to do a quick composition and value pencil study. You can see the study next to the painting. These studies should be very, very simple and showing very little detail. It must show the basic value shapes that one sees while one's eyes are squinting (very hard). Even if the light changes quickly (maybe some clouds pass over the sun), you stick with your original sketch plan. The next three photos show the progression of the watercolor painting. The final photo shows the finished painting with its simple shapes, strong value contrasts, and a few playful color variations. The glints on the Truckee river water were accomplished by picking off little bits of the watercolor paper with the tip of an Exacto knife. Small paintings like I did here are a great way to do quick studies and finish them within an hour or less . . . studies that in the end, may end up framed and in an honored position on the wall!

1 comment:

Roderik Mayne said...

Great work; turning a wall of green into an interesting painting.