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Day Two: #30x30DirectWatercolor : The VIP

June 2, 2020

Day two takes us back to Havana. A popular holiday destination for Montrealers.

Here’s my first try at this motorcycle rider, and my re-do below. I lost all of the reserved highlights in my effort to make a dark shadowy form. Drawing motorcycles is difficult enough in the first place, never mind trying to build one out of lost and found edges.

Much better! What a difference hey? Suddenly this bike is all shiny chrome.

This was a fascinating real-life situation. We’re walking around the tourist district in Havana, when suddenly two police roar up on their bikes. They close off either end of the street and a shiny new sedan glides up, letting out a loud group of drunken VIPs.

In the midst of all the visible poverty in Havana, this was a striking turn. I guess it’s the same all over. The haves, and the have-nots.

I wanted to capture the tone of that event by making the motorcycle cop into an ominous figure.

I love the way his helmet gleams, but his face is lost in shadow. And there are some great compositional lines in the photo. The way his head is right in the cross hairs of the action. Overlapping the car and the VIPs, bracketed by all the on-lookers.

Here you can see the truth – that my final version is a photoshop effect. Curves correction and desaturation, vs. the actual painting on the right.

In some ways, I’d be fine if all watercolors required digital retouches. I used to do it constantly – trying to train my self to hit the values I wanted. It’s no less artistic than Ansel Adams’ darkroom technique. And, being a work on paper, you can make a print that uses the same paper – and the new archival inks are probably better than some artist’s pigments.

But of course, my goal is to get it on the page.

Today, I couldn’t achieve the darks I needed. I was experiencing a classic mistake – too much water, not enough pigment. I was being shy with the black, and stingy with the fresh paint – rewetting what was in my palette. This happens every time I’ve been away for a while. I should know better, but – there you go.

I could have tried to push the darks back with glazes – but I was afraid of smearing the drawing, or leaving a chalky buildup. I feel, you really shouldn’t touch a wash twice, and never more than three times.

In any case – digital fixes like this? I think of it like a coach watching a re-play, correcting bad form or poor strategy.

Next time – I’ll be more on target!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 2, 2020 12:49 PM

    Simply beautiful work. Citizen Sketcher is a bit of an understatement.

  2. June 2, 2020 1:49 PM

    Beautiful work, Marc, I am in awe.

  3. Sue permalink
    June 7, 2020 5:33 AM

    I loved reading your description of the background behind the piece and how you struggled with certain aspects. It’s so insightful, especially for someone like me who is so new to watercolour painting. Thank you for talking about it, your experience of painting it. I have just found your work and I love it.

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