West Texas Driveway Demo
This is a painting that was partly done as a gouache painting demonstration for the Palette of Roses Art League of Tyler, Texas. For those who don’t want to wade through the step-by-step, there’s a larger version on my showcase blog.
I did a demo for this group last year, and we spent so much time talking about gouache that I didn’t get much painting done. I felt really bad about that, so was determined that this time, by the time we stopped, the audience would at least be able to see something resembling a painting.
This time, instead of 16×20, I chose a 12×16 format. Smaller painting, less paint to spread. I think the size worked fine for a room of about 30 people. I also painted the sky ahead of time. These turned out to be good decisions, since the club had business to deal with at the beginning of the meeting. That, combined with a break part way through, left me with a little over an hour for the demo. Well over half the audience had been at last year’s presentation, so we could skip over a lot of gouache details and I got down to painting without too much delay.
The image at the left (below the shot of me painting) is where the session ended.
Since I took a couple of photos at the very beginning of this painting, I’ve decided to make it a sort of step-by-step demonstration here on the blog. I’m painting on cold press Crescent illustration board. I left a one inch border around the actual painting area to allow me to clip the board onto a stiff backing of foamcoare board. The illustration board will warp from the wet paint, and clipping to a backing keeps warping to a minimum.
The color palette for this painting is ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, a small amount of yellow medium, and titanium white. The ultra/ochre/sienna palette works well for a west Texas scene.
Painting the sky almost completely at the beginning is, I believe, a first for me. But I felt it was a good idea, in the interest of time, to have it pretty much done before the demo. I started with a very faint pencil sketch of the scene, then blocked in the blue of the sky, working around the cloud formations. The sky color at this point was done with ultramarine, burnt sienna and titanium white.
I threw a mixture of yellow ochre and white into the clouds to pick up a little sunlight, and began working in some grays using ultramarine, burnt sienna and white. Using all these colors, I worked some form into the cloud formations.
This was my starting point for the live demonstration. Attached to the easel above the painting are my original reference photo on the right, and a little 5×7 color study on the left. The reference photo was there simply for conversation purposes, noting that I used it primarily for composition purposes. My reference during the demonstration was the little color study.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any intermediate photos of this part of the process. The time went by very quickly. The image below is where the painting was when my time was up.
I put in the few dark areas first, then started working over the area with combinations of color. My basic approach was to mix up a gray, using ultramarine, burnt sienna and white, then add varying amounts of yellow ochre. Some of the greens were created simply from yellow ochre and ultramarine, and toward the end, I added a touch of yellow medium to the greens in a few spots. The idea was to create this pattern of dry scrub brush along both sides of an old dirt road, with a couple of scrubby juniper-type trees toward the top of the hill. But I wanted plenty of color in the painting as well.
Back in the studio, the first order of business was to deal with a couple of major changes. This side-by-side comparison shows the changes. The trees were much too large. I wanted to retain the low, scrubby feel of the landscape, so the trees got trimmed down considerably. The road was also much too wide as it went away toward the crest of the hill, so that was reworked as well.
I could have (probably should have) removed most of the paint in those trees with a wet brush and paper towel (or Q-tip). Instead, I jumped right in and painted over those areas. You can still see where the darker paint lifted into the new light color. I’ll touch these spots up as the painting progress, since I know I’ll want to touch up a few things in the sky and clouds anyway.
After dealing with the major corrections, I began pulling more of the neutral palette into the entire painting, leaving portions of the brighter color in places.
As a side note… with a couple of very small exceptions, everything up to this point has been painted entirely with two brushes. The larger one is a #8 bristle filbert. The printing on the handle of the other one is almost completely worn off, but I believe it started out as a #6 filbert. As I’ve said before, gouache on any textured surface wears brushes down quickly, and the way I paint is hard on them as well. I don’t use expensive brushes. Some of my favorite ‘old standby’s’ are cheap craft brushes.
At this point, the really fun part begins. Smaller brushes will come into play as I work on the road surface, the scraggly grass in the foreground and along the edges of the road. This is also the most dangerous part for me. I really like the looseness of the brushwork and color application in this so far, and don’t want to lose that as I continue to pull the foreground forward, push the crest of the hill back, and try to put together a hot, dusty road through the west Texas scrub.
Here’s the finished 12×16 painting:
And again, there’s a larger version on my showcase blog.