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Making a Bayou, 2

Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Painting a forest is really hard. You have to simplify it enough so you don't go mad, while still giving the impression that the detail is there. As soon as you start putting in every little leaf and branch, it stops looking like a painting and the detail overwhelms the composition. A lot of the nature art painted in the heyday of wildlife prints (the early 70's) did just that--included every little detail. That stuff just drives me nuts. I suppose it has its place, but I'd so much rather look at a painting that looks like it was done with paint.
Don't pay attention to the differences in brightness and color here--just different lighting regimes. Often by the time I photographed the day's work, it was nighttime, and the incandescent light makes for a yellowish hue in the jpeg.
I couldn't wait to get out of the leaves and into the tree trunks, which I could paint wet-on-wet. Then, I could have fun with grays and browns, those most malleable of pigments. You can push grays and browns around and blend them forever, unlike, say, yellows. The difference is that grays and browns sit atop the paper until they dry, while most yellows are stains--they soak right in and you can't push them around without getting muddy.
You can see the bird's shape here, and see me thinking about how to make it stand out against the heavy trunks. I still haven't stuck my brush in the water, save to put in a yellow leaf reflection. I'm a little scared of that water. I'll have to paint the same forest upside down, and then smear it over so it looks like a reflection. That's a little nervy, so I'm working up to it. Fear is the watercolorist's constant companion. We're about two days into painting now, and I'm having a lot of fun building a bayou.


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