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Day 15 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Hump Day

June 15, 2019

Day 15. The mid-point.

We’ve made it halfway. The early excitement is burning off. Now we’re reaching into our reserves.

Starting to get tired maybe? Projects that seemed fascinating at the beginning might be wearing thin?

The big gains that we were expecting might not be visible yet. Because it doesn’t work that way. The leaps in skill are going to happen after it’s all over. After your brain has had time to write new pathways etched by your practice.

You don’t get a big reward in the middle of the race.


This is when you will be most tempted to cheese out a few easy sketches. And if you have to – if you need a break, to get a second wind – then you have to. Take a few days off. Or paint some flowers. Or an empty seascape. Or some clouds. Something where there’s nothing to stress over.

Or spread out everything you’ve done so far and post a snapshot of that. It’s probably looking pretty good if you step back :)

Day 14 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : The Long Walk

June 14, 2019

“I Need a Good Long Walk”, 18×18″ watercolor on paper

Usually, I go back and forth about which I like better – the digital sketch or the watercolor. I think here, the watercolor is the better version.

Though…no…I can still go back and forth. The digital sketch looks like it’s pre-dawn. Where the watercolor is just an overcast day. I’ll have to try a version that’s a real effort at a nocturnal painting.

It’s all going to depend a bit on your monitor. And the lighting in your room. Things that look dark, but still visible, on an iPad can be pitch black on a PC monitor. Its a thing called ‘gamma’ – sort of a contrast setting in the different operating systems. IOS devices have a truly bright screen. And they’re often higher resolution than a laptop or this – my desktop.

That’s one thing about painting irl (in real life). You see, what you see. No wondering what the other person is viewing it on.




Day 13 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Shots From Above

June 13, 2019

I was looking at the work of Chris Dahl-Bredine. He’s a photographer, and the pilot of some kind of odd-looking ultralight aircraft. His Instagram is full of fantastic shots – similar to what we’re becoming used to from drones – but he gets himself up there and sees it first hand.

This one is inspired by one of Chris’ photos. (Unfortunately, I’ve lost the link to the actual shot, but his whole page is worth a look – or a follow!).

I’m not sure why I’ve deviated today from my process – painting from my own sketches.

I suppose the issue is – I’ve never seen this myself, and the moment I did, I wished I had!

My sketches all come from my memory. What else? So – if never seen it, how can I paint it? And if I have seen it, how can I not paint it?

Other people’s work is sometimes an important launching point.

These days, the practice of painting from photos goes somewhat against the grain. We’re told by the art-zeitgeist that every work should be entirely our own creation. As if that was possible. There’s rather too much concern about copyright violations if you ask me. (Which you didn’t). Not that I feel people shouldn’t own their own work, of course, I do. Entirely so, when it comes to commercial use. But I feel – on the other hand – that artists should be able to use anything they see as inspiration. Anything and everything. All of history, and certainly all of the ocean of images that we call the internet. To do otherwise is to ignore the culture we live in.

I wrote about the practicalities of copyright-and-painting at greater length over here.

But! This goes against the grains of my goals for #30×30 – so – I’ll be back to working from my sketches tomorrow :)

Day 12 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Seascapes

June 12, 2019

“The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer”

“The Blood-Dimmed Tide is Loosened”

Day 11 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Wet-in-Wetlands

June 11, 2019

The sketch for this – just something that appeared – ended up feeling oddly specific to me. I think it’s a recasting of an oil painting I did last year. But its also a memory of a visit to the nearby Coopers Marsh. Though it doesn’t look anything like the work I did on location.

Of note to watercolorists: these paintings – the whole series – use a fair bit of white pigment. Both Titanium White, and a mix from Holbein called Grey of Grey – which is just a dirty white. I’m not even sure why they make it – but I find it attractive so I guess that’s why. A cool grey mix that explodes nicely when placed into wet. If you had to make it from black and white, I suppose you’d be hard pressed to get it as pale as it is.

I know many people don’t use white in their watercolor paintings. Our national watercolor society doesn’t even allow any significant use of opaque pigments in the competition entries. They used to have an arbitrary rule of only 10% opaque pigment allowed. Lately they’ve been saying, opaque pigment must not be a “significant portion of the work”.

Whatever that means.

But of course, the use of mixed whites is completely different than reserving paper. Mixed pigment can bloom and float, and it takes on the color of nearby wet areas. Reserved white will always be hard-edged and overly brilliant.

So, if it’s mist, weather effects, frost or seafoam – or returning white glints to a dark passage – I think watercolorists should reconsider the old-school mentality forbidding white. Just the same as banning black. Nothing should be off limits if it gives you the results you’re looking for.

Day 10 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Wreckers’ Beach

June 10, 2019

I have this theory that landscape paintings are a kind of magic teleporter.

When I look at a great painting, I feel like I’m actually there – traveling into the picture plane.

I’m telling myself a little story about wandering down this path towards the seashore, early morning mist sparkling on the water. It’s cold out, and the land is back-lit, pushing everything into shadow. I can see the path wind out of sight, off the edge of the painting and into the dunes. There’s a little inlet here, with the sea out in the distance.

You can create a whole novel imaging yourself traveling through the image.

Perhaps, this was the goal of all the plein air painting I’ve done. To build up a mental library of scenery for future-me to draw upon. Except, I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually been to this place.


Day Nine : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Apocalypse Now

June 9, 2019

I wonder if this one didn’t capture the mood of the sketch? Maybe…maybe not…still debating with myself.

In my mind, looking at the black and white, I was seeing a great green slow-moving river surrounded by jungle, something like the Amazon. Seen from the point of view of a boat drifting downstream. Made me think of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. For me, first encountered as a teenager through the Coppola film Apocalypse Now.

I did a couple more tries, but – ultimately I think this one still has potential that I haven’t captured. Something about it isn’t black and glossy enough for this series.

No worries, there’s always other go.