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A Gray Day at the Creek

March 17, 2010

11×14 ~ Gouache on cold press Crescent Board

This was another experiment.  I’ve tried “gray day” or foggy scenes before, but have never been very satisfied with the outcome.  So I tried something new.  I was in the mood to just paint a tree.  But I also wanted to try painting on a prepared gray underpainting.

Using ultramarine blue, burnt umber and titanium white, I covered a board entirely with a light gray underpainting, and then painted over that.  Any time one paints over a colored underpainting, the lifting characteristics of gouache really come into play.  Since the dry paint is still “active”, it can be picked up by fresh strokes of wet paint.  When white is used in the underpainting, it is especially prone to lifting.  I found that in areas where I wanted darker values of a different color, I had to avoid using paint that was too wet when stroking over the gray.  Blending becomes a difficult process in this situation.  More premixing was necessary in order to use more opaque strokes rather than my usual transparent wet-over-dry layering process.  Once there was a good layer of color, then I could use a bit of transparent layering.  I could have fixed the gray underpainting with fixative, but the last time I tried that I wasn’t real happy with the surface it produced.  The palette for this was ultramarine blue, burnt umber, yellow ochre, a small bit of medium yellow, and titanium white.

I’ve included some closeup details for this one:

The reference for this painting?  Well, not every painting starts with a scene that evokes emotion.  Sometimes one starts with a subject, and using that subject, creates a scene with the desired atmosphere.  In this case, I started with one my 70mph highway shots:

Then I narrowed it down to the part that interested me, in this case the large tree on the left:

When I started to lay in the initial sketch for the painting, I eliminated the trees on the right.  From there, I invented the new environment, including the little creek and the midground clump of trees.  I wanted to create a foggy, gray atmosphere, but still keep a few touches of warmth in the scene.

This one was fun to do.

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