New Works: Going for the Glow
Usually my realistic landscapes begin with a full sized pencil drawing of the entire scene, based on one or more reference photos, before I apply paint to paper.
The five northern lake scenes pictured here were created this spring with a different strategy that pushed me out of my comfort zone of colour and composition.
I began all of the paintings at the same time, using combinations of purple and gold paint mixtures.
Each artwork would have serendipitous focal areas of glowing light. The location of the glow would determine the placement of the scene's horizon.
After taping my watercolour paper to rigid supports, I brushed on clear water and applied a layer of rich colour on each piece of paper, allowing the colours to blend on the wet surface. This photo shows the first layer complete. I let the paintings dry overnight, then re-wet the surface and added more colour.
I continued to add one layer per day, building up more intense colour over the course of a week.
Working on wet paper is very unpredictable and risky, since paint moves freely on the moist surface and I never know how successful my attempts will be until all the layers have dried.
When luck is on my side, this process can result in beautiful glowing skies and lake reflections. If not, I can turn over the paper and try again on the other side. (Been there, done that, many times!)
Once the backgrounds were done, I continued work on the paintings one at a time over a six-week period, completing each artwork before proceeding to the next.
The largest piece became Nature's Gift, varnished watercolour on 14 x 11 inch panel.
The inspiration for the sky was a photo by a Facebook friend, Noreen Ebel Luce, of a sunset on Lake of the Woods. She gave me permission to use her photo (shown here) as a painting idea.
Once I was happy with my many-layered watercolour sky and lake, I invented a pine tree for the foreground (work in progress pictured below left).
I saw that the composition was too heavy on the left side. I needed to either make the tree extend to the right, or add a second tree to the right of the first one. Since watercolour is a transparent medium, I knew I only had one shot at fixing this painting.
To help me decide which option would look better, I took a photo of the artwork in progress and printed out two copies on photocopy paper. Then I used coloured markers to 'test drive' my two ideas (pictured above right).
I liked the single large tree better, so I went with that option to complete the watercolour painting.
For more details about Nature's Gift, click here.
I decided to use the two-tree concept in my next painting, Sunset Duet, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.
This pair of windblown pines pays tribute to the many beautifully sculpted trees I have seen in the Georgian Bay region. These steadfast conifers have spent a lifetime together, adorning this rocky shore. Hand in hand, they sing a quiet farewell to the setting sun.
I gathered several reference photos I had taken at Georgian Bay and sketched out an imaginary lake scene (shown here). With a few modifications, these morphed into a finished sunset painting.
Something about islands in a calm northern lake just draws me in. I want to hop in a canoe and get a closer look at the rocks and trees that have found a home there.
This idea resulted in the third painting of the series, Heaven on Earth, varnished watercolour on 10 x 10 inch panel.
Searching through my reference archives, I found these three lake photos taken throughout northern Ontario.
Using them as reference, I sketched a composite scene onto my watercolour background, inserting foreground rocks and canoe. Then I painted all the elements in subdued colours to give a feeling of dusky light to the scene.
Dawn of a New Day, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel, the fourth painting, was taken from my imagination.
Onto my watercolour background I sketched a simple, rocky island and a few trees, with their feet cloaked in a gentle mist.
I made the leafless tree sturdy enough to support a bald eagle, surveying his watery kingdom from a lofty perch. Soft reflections completed the painting.
One Last Look, varnished watercolour on 8 x 8 inch panel was the final painting in the series and the most technically difficult piece.
This scene is Pukaskwa National Park on Lake Superior near Marathon, ON. My husband and I spent a glorious week camping there last summer. Kayaking in Hattie Cove was a special memory of this trip. The surrounding rocky cliffs were so massive and impressive. I didn't want the day to end, and this painting commemorates this special place.
I used these reference photos from our visit, but I took them on a breezy day and my painting had calmer water.
This meant I had to create a whole new set of reflections, based on the physics of how light behaves. I studied a bunch of other reference photos of reflections on waves to understand the concept before completing my painting. I breathed a big sigh of relief when it was done successfully.
I hope you have enjoyed this look 'behind the scenes' of what goes on in my art studio. Determining layout concepts and painting approaches are key steps in creating meaningful, beautiful artwork that conveys authentic emotion.
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