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Watercolor Workshop-Finishing the Osprey Painting

Saturday, February 25, 2017

This is the second part of a two-part post, a step-by-step of a scene depicting a Scottish osprey spending his winter in Senegal. It’s for an upcoming book by Alan Poole.  

Here is an ultra close up of the beach and wave interface. You can see the masking fluid, dried, still adhering to the paper. You can also see that I’ve sprinkled kosher salt into the dark wet wash. Salt is hydrophilic; it attracts water. With the water travels the granules of pigment, and as the water dries around the salt crystals, wonderful things happen. The salt grain resists the pigment, so there’s a little star or snowflake effect around each grain. The bigger the grain, the bigger the salt snowflake it makes. For some applications I use table salt; for this I wanted kosher (larger grain). I keep kosher salt around in a shallow dish on my stovetop. I like to pick it up in my fingers and throw it in whatever I’m cooking. My fingers are extraordinarily good at knowing just how much salt I’m using; it’s a lot less work and has less uncertainty than a shaker.

 Time for that masking fluid to come off. I peel it off with my thumb. I’ve really gone crazy on these waves, leaving myself a lot of work to integrate the masked areas into the painting. The hard-edged crests will soon be softened by scrubbing with a wet brush and clear water.
Some nice cloud shadow action here. I use the same colors I used in the water and sand, because the clouds are bouncing light from the water. So their bellies will be ocean-colored. Just for fun, I masked the upper edges of the clouds, to give that hard silver lining you see in backlit clouds. 


 All that foreground trash waits to be painted. I’m leaving the horsecarts and the bird for dessert!

 Dune grass, and I’m beginning work on the wave crests. The painting is beginning to come together. My favorite part is still the water/sky interface.

That is, until I get to the horsecarts! Oops, I’ve done it again—painted without shooting progress photos. Got a lot done, too! You’ll notice how much softer those wave crests look. I’ve busily scrubbed them out with a clean wet brush. And suddenly, it’s a whole lot windier—the brilliantly lit clouds, the smeared wave crests, and the diagonal directionality in the sky wash all work together to evoke high winds, typical of coastal areas. I’m pleased about that. Of course, painting the horsecarts is the most fun of all. I manange to discern some of the crops—onions and turnips, maybe? I have a guy in close who’s already headed back from market, perhaps having sold out early. I turn his head so he seems to be looking at this exotic visitor from Scotland.

The finished painting. I’ve used the foreground trash to echo the colors of the pony carts and the sea, to lead the eye toward the main subjects of the painting. Now I can hear the surf pounding. I can feel the wind and taste the salt. I can hear the shouts of the vendors. And through it all the osprey sits, pleasantly phlegmatic, unperturbed, spending his winter dining on fresh catch of the day in a place entirely unlike Scotland.


Love the details. Clicked on the photo of the complete scene. I'm there! Exquisite. Kim in PA

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