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Along the San Gabriel

July 6, 2011

Along the San Gabriel, 16x20, Gouache (Click image for a larger version)

I love a good river scene.

This is a spot on the San Gabriel River, where it passes through Round Rock, Texas.  Any Texas landscape painter worth his or her salt has painted a river somewhere in the Hill Country… or plans to.  This place is special simply because of the company I had that day.  It was December, and we were in Austin to celebrate the first birthday of our newest grandson.  We were there for several days, and my daughter and grandson took me out scouting for reference material.  She suggested Round Rock, and I’m glad she did.  I’ve gotten several smaller paintings out of that few hours of roaming around, and was in the mood to paint a larger interpretation of the place.

This is painted on Crescent cold press illustration board, my surface of choice.  The palette is pretty much my usual: yellow ochre, burnt umber, yellow medium, ultramarine blue and titanium white.  I used DaVinci Gouache, and pulled just about every brush I have out of the cans for this one.  I did take a couple of photos at the start:

On many of my smaller paintings, I might start out by simply drawing the scene directly with a brush and a light washy touch of yellow ochre.  In this case, because of the size, I elected to do at least a minimal pencil sketch, just to get the composition laid out close to what I wanted.  Then, I continued with very thin paint…

This, then, was the starting point.  I’ve kept the view back a bit to show the illustration board on the easel.  To minimize warping, the board is clipped to a piece of foamcore board at the sides.  Those clips get moved around a lot as I work my way around them with paint.  The board is held at the top by the easel itself.  The bottom tray is presumably sized for stretched canvas, so it allows the board to warp a bit at the bottom.  I manage to avoid this in a very ingenious way.  The space is a perfect match for an old domino.  I keep several of them handy.  If I’m working really wet, I may use two or three dominoes to hold the board in place.

If you compare this image with the finished painting, you can see that some changes took place along the way.  First, what you don’t see is the apartment building that peeked over the treeline on left.  It had to go immediately.  The trees you see scattered around on the left and right were sketched in pretty close to the way they appeared in the reference photograph.  As the painting developed, artist license came into play, and those trees got moved around, eliminated, or replaced by different trees.  Their locations and the direction they were leaning was just too much of a distraction.

Hopefully, what I ended up with is an impression of another peaceful spot that invites one to stop and linger.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2011 7:40 pm

    I LOVE this one!!! Beautiful!!

    • July 7, 2011 9:14 am

      Thanks Margaret! Next time I see you out, I’ll show you the original. I think it’s better than this image indicates.

  2. July 7, 2011 1:32 am

    Love this. I feel like I’m there. Very nice.

  3. Victor Errington permalink
    July 7, 2011 4:30 am

    Brilliant painting Ralph. So much detail without spoiling it. In other words, for me at least, is that their is a touch of looseness to really satisfy me. All the best Ralph.

    • July 7, 2011 9:12 am

      Thanks Vic. Finding that balance between looseness and detail is always a challenge. I’m glad you think it works.

  4. July 7, 2011 12:16 pm

    This is amazing! When I hit the lottery the first thing I’m going to buy is one of your paintings. I have been following your blog for a while. LOVE your work.

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