The Ladies’ View at the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor
This is my watercolor of the Ladies’ View. (Half sheet, 15×22″, on 140lb Fabriano, painted in studio).
This is a well-known spot in Ireland, overlooking a series of small lakes leading into the Killarney National Park. As the story goes, Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting arrived at the top of the pass and declared it the best view in Ireland. Maybe they were simply done with the harrowing mountain roads. This was as far from Muckross House as anyone wanted to go:)
Beautiful as it is, there are certainly great spots all over the five peninsulas – most popular being the Iveragh Peninsula (the Ring of Kerry). But to be honest, every high spot has a view, every coast has cliffs, and every valley has misty mountains. The best view in the southwest of Ireland is wherever you’re standing at the golden hour.
I did this quick sketch on location but I don’t really feel it’s a successful piece. We only had a narrow gap between rain, and I got too fixated on the lakes, and somehow lost the sense of scale.
On our return I decided to redo my field sketch in the studio, and it’s a good thing – as it has been accepted in the 2016 Open Water exhibition of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolor, which opened last night at the John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto.
I’m pleased to say, The Ladies’ View has won me the 2016 S.J. Sloan Award, and – (this just in!) – I’ve been elected to lifetime membership in the CSPWC – which is a rather nice bit of encouragement.
I consider myself a beginner when it comes to studio pieces. I haven’t really done that much work at home, being more of a plein air painter. But this is something I’ve been interested in taking more seriously.
Here are a few of the other pieces, done back home in Montreal. These are all warmups for the Ladies’ View. There’s a common theme here – which is, going back for the sketches that I couldn’t get on the spot. Some, like this one, I simply ran out time. The fog closed in and this view across the inlet vanished.
Or, in this case, we were perched dangerously on a curve in the road, looking at the mist rolling down onto a little harbor town, The clouds were moving so fast, and I was a little paranoid about delaying our drive and ending up still on the mountain after dark. So I didn’t sketch on the spot -but I knew I’d be returning to this image.
I rather like the 9×12″ sketch above. It has a lot of dynamic brushwork. But here below is a half sheet, attempting to do a better rendition.
I think the difference between the smaller sketch and this 15×22″ version illustrates exactly where I’m ‘stuck’ with watercolor right now.
You can get very used to the behavior of pigments at a certain size, and on your favorite paper. I have an instinctive feel for how fast to work and how much a given pigment will float. When I scale up, I think I lose that freshness, that ‘untouched’ manipulation that I get from watery blooms and pulling edges.
This is just a temporary problem I’m sure:) Anyone who knows me can guess my feeling about this challenge.
All I need to do is paint 100 half sheets, then a 100 full sheets and I should have learned what I need to along the way :)
Given how these recent experiments turned out, I have a few things on my list to try next, starting with larger brushes. I have some large (1 and 2″) flats that I’ve been wanting to try out. I intend to try mixing in jars, and pouring paint, and doing more work with atomizers. I’m determined to grow the size of my studio paintings, without losing the spontaneity of the watercolor.
This last one here is a great composition found by accident while walking across an un-named field. I’m very happy with this piece – but I feel like I’m looking at the same size of brushstroke as I use on a miniature, simply propagated over a larger sheet. My self-critique is – that is too many strokes! It is in danger of feeling over worked. Watercolor should have an element of controlled accident. I never want it to become labored.
But anyway – we’ll see what happens with these theories soonish. For now, we’re off to Toronto to see the show! If you know anyone in the area, here’s the details:
I just want to also say – it’s neat to see my Urban Sketching co-conspirator Shari Blaukopf’s painting used for the Open Water announcement :) (Well, the sky anyway). Congrats to her for also making it into the show! It’s kind of fun to have both of us in there at the same time.