Thursday, November 28, 2013

Noyo Harbor Watercolor Sketch

I'm working on an oil painting of a downtown Sacramento scene.  The focus is strong evening light on a beautiful, very old highrise with lots of deep shadows in the foreground.  I'm trying very hard to maintain the light and the shadows as the star of the painting without getting lost in architectural detail or people in the shadows.  On a couple of occasions, when I've felt the urge to began 'refining' the scene, I've stopped and broken out the watercolors.  With big brushes and washes and very little planning, I dive in.  With only a quarter sheet of watercolor paper and an hour of time at risk, it's easy to just let go.

This quick sketch took about an hour.  I used a plein air oil painting I did a year ago in Noyo Harbor at Fort Bragg, California for the subject matter.  It's obvious I'm still learning watercolor technique.  My washes are overworked and my painting approach is clearly that of an oil painter...strong and even a bit ham-handed...but I really enjoy these little sketches.  In a very short time it's done for better or worse.  I plan to try the same subject on a half sheet next...and with a bit more pre-planning.  Meanwhile, it's back to the shadows and the skyscraper.
Watercolor Study Noyo Harbor, CA   W/C on paper  approx 10"x14"


My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Monday, November 4, 2013

Morning Light on the Jackson Court House

This painting started as a plein air study and ended up being completely repainted in the studio.  My friend Howard Rees and I met in Jackson (Howard's home) and visited the old courthouse, now a museum, to paint.  We both set up in the same location where the morning light coming through the trees and skimming across the side of the building made a striking scene.  (Fortunately I took a picture as I was setting up - the one thing I did right that day!)

I made the classic mistake of 'chasing the light' which very quickly lit up the entire building as the shadows fell away.  Doing that, I lost the very thing that was so appealing earlier in the morning.  On top of that basic error, I had committed a number of drawing mistakes.  My perspective wasn't correct and I had placed the building too far to one side of the composition.  There were a number of simple drawing and relationship errors as well. In short, I had done a very poor job of planning the painting in the beginning and then compounded that mistake with lousy, rushed execution.  Normally I would have wiped the painting down to save the RayMar panel or simply set it aside to join a pile of other failed works.  But I was bothered that I had missed the target so widely on this effort and I decided to try to learn from it.

After the painting was completely dry, I redrew the building directly on the panel with charcoal.  I paid attention to the perspective in particular.  The colors in the original plein air work were dull, particularly in the sunlit areas, including the side of the building.  I pushed the color a bit in some places....or so I thought....but interestingly it turned out much closer to the 'real thing' than I would have guessed.

In the end, I felt good that I had not given up...that instead, I found solutions and worked through the problems.  The next time I go out to paint on location, I'll have this little exercise to fall back on.

Morning Light On The Jackson Courthouse   Oil on 16" x 12" canvas panel

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Exploring Watercolor - New Mexico Ranch House

I had a very short time to paint yesterday afternoon...a good opportunity to continue exploring watercolors while keeping it loose.  It's hard to express the sense of freedom I've enjoyed while painting these small watercolor 'experiments'.   It feels just like what the Doctor ordered.  I have been so bound up, so confused with oils lately.  The watercolors have come along at just the right time. I am aware that I am painting them like an oil painter...and missing the subtle magic inherent in w/c ....but just letting it go and seeing what happens has been a terrific feeling. 

This 1/2 sheet was done in less than an hour....including clean-up, which mercifully is almost non-existent.  I used a photograph and oil painting I had done of an abandoned ranch house on the Acoma Reservation in New Mexico simply because both were right there when I decided I had an hour to "play."  I'm still very much re-learning watercolor process and technique, but for this sketch, I tried not to think too much.  One or two minutes of object placement with a pencil was all that went into the planning.  After that it was placing color with one of those wonderful razor sharp flats...whether that was the right brush or not!  Many mistakes and just a whole lot of FUN!

New Mexico Ranch House   watercolor approx.  14 x 20

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art