The Making of 'Guardians of the Bay'

28 January, 2024 0 comments Leave a comment

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour by Karen Richardson In my last post, I told the story behind my painting Yesterday's Dreams, which was inspired by a vintage gas pump we saw on our last trip to Newfoundland.

Today I am sharing the creation story of another painting inspired by the same trip.

I took some artistic licence and combined two scenes into one that celebrates the beauty and grandeur of the rugged west coast of Newfoundland.

Reference photos and drawing by Karen RichardsonMy photo of a tree growing from a rocky cliff was taken on the Port au Port peninsula near Stephenville, and my photo of large boulders was from Gros Morne National Park.

My painting began with a detailed pencil drawing on 300 lb watercolour paper.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I did some colour test swatches and selected four Sennelier paints for this project: Sennelier Red, Sennelier Yellow Deep, Phthalocyanine Blue, and Ultramarine Light. Every colour in the painting was mixed from these pigments.

With clear water, I dampened the watercolour paper where the sky would be, working right through the trees on the cliff and the mountains on the far shore. Then I painted horizontal strokes of greys and blues to simulate clouds with a bit of blue sky peeking through.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Once the sky dried, I mixed a neutral grey and painted the shadows on the cliff while I could see my pencil lines clearly. (Many artists would paint the rock colours first and the shadows second but I do the reverse.) I blurred the paint lines where needed with a second brush loaded with clear water. 

I wet each boulder, one at a time, and painted graduated shadows to give the effect of spherical volume.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

Using three different green mixtures, I painted the tree foliage, paying attention to placement of the light and dark shapes. This section turned out better than I hoped. I used to find general foliage masses exceedingly difficult, but I kept observing trees and practising painting them... for a few decades... and they gradually began to look more realistic.😁

Then I painted the tree trunks and golden tones of the cliff.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I added more tans and browns to the rock face, sprinkling some table salt on the larger masses to create a mineral effect. I did the same on the boulders. Once the salt dried I brushed it off.

I used a dull navy blue to paint the mountains on the far shore, making sure to keep the horizon (the top of the water) straight and level. Then I added the purple-grey undersides of the waves and let everything dry fully.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

I added another layer of colour to deepen the mountains on the far shore. After that dried, I carefully placed the colours of the ocean in horizontal bands of blues and tans, in between the white foam tops of the waves (which were left the colour of the paper).

More details of cracks and shadows were added to the cliff face.

Once the ocean section was dry, I added the brown reflections in the lower right.

Guardians of the Bay, watercolour by Karen Richardson

To complete the painting, I added more colour and texture to the cliff face, and painted stripes and deeper shadows on the boulders.

I titled the painting Guardians of the Bay (varnished watercolour on 12 x 12 inch panel). It took me six days to paint this scene, and it was acquired by a collector of my work before the paint was dry.

I always will have a soft spot for this artwork, as it captures wonderful memories of the summer we spent in Newfoundland.

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