Monday, February 24, 2014

Harmonious Color and Moody Neutrals

In my two recent watercolor paintings "Good Morning Beautiful!" and "Waiting for Spring" I am working with a limited palette. Both paintings were begun in my watercolor class at the Y Arts Studio, with the intention of using each as part of my lesson plan on limiting your palette. But each painting is quite different in subject matter and mood.

"Good Morning Beautiful! started with a simple arrangement of three objects: two eggs and a lemon. The composition is simple and follows the rule of thirds grid and all three shapes are similar in that they are ovals. The colors I chose are cheery shades of yellow, orange and a very pale red with accents of white. Yellow, orange and red are analogous colors, which means they all lie next to each other on the color wheel creating a harmonious composition.

I began the painting by sketching the three objects, then painting the perimeter of the eggs and a small area on top of the lemon with masking fluid. After the masking fluid dried I painted a very light wash of yellow and orange across the paper. After the wash dried, I peeled off the masking fluid and began laying in washes of color on the lemon and the eggs building up shadows and creating depth through successive washes of color.

The grid pattern was a afterthought. I had started the painting with the intention of using it as a study rather than a finished painting. But as I worked on the painting I became more interested in developing a finished piece, rather than just a study. So the grid pattern evolved as a way to unite the elements in the composition. Because geometric patterns are visually strong they can distract the viewer from the focal point. For this reason I kept the pattern light and somewhat fragmented.

My end result is a cheery good morning in the kitchen type of painting, hence the name "Good Morning Beautiful".

"Waiting for Spring" has a more subdued palette dictated by subject matter and time of year. The lighthouse at Tibbett's Point stands bathed in washes of pale neutrals; the February sun tries to peek through the clouds, bits of mist rise off the icy water. This painting is all about that time of year when winter has worn out its welcome: the sky, water and snow often seem to be the same color. Spring is still several weeks away.

This painting began with a light sketch. I masked one side of the lighthouse, the other two buildings and part of the snow to keep the color pure white. The sky, water and snow were created with a sloppy wet-on-wet wash of blues and greens mixed with Payne's Gray. Bits of pale red and yellow were added to create depth. As warm colors come forward and the cooler colors recede (push/pull) we create a sense of space and depth within the painting. All colors, warm and cool, were kept very light, very subdued to lend to that bleak end of winter atmosphere. The addition of Payne's Gray to the greens and blues created a series of moody neutrals perfect for a February sky in Northern New York.

The only spot of color is in the red roofs on two of the buildings and the top of the lighthouse. I tried to carry bits of the red through the painting, so that the viewer would not fixate on the red roofs. There is a light red in the shadows on the snow and a bit in the sky to carry our eyes across the painting. I added a darker wash of Payne's Gray mixed with blues and greens to the water to indicate areas where the ice is melting. Details were kept to a minimum lending a somewhat dreamy atmosphere to the painting. Perhaps to keep the viewer dreaming of Spring.

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