This is a little 5×7 invented river scene. I did a very quick pencil sketch directly onto cold press Crescent board, then laid some light transparent watercolor washes into the sky and water, using ultramarine blue. Without touching the water again, except for the reflections of trees, I worked over the shoreline and trees with gouache. The scanner really doesn’t do the water justice. In the actual piece, the transparent watercolor really works well as a reflected sky.
The little 5×7 village study was an experiment with the painting surface itself. When I was in Gadsden, Alabama for the Southeastern Plein Air Invitational, my friend Craig Reynolds gave me a couple of masonite panels to try out. They were prepped with Diamond Tooth primer and gesso. Diamond Tooth is a super adhesive primer that has a lime base that gives it somewhat of a sand texture. The texture in return creates a “tooth” for other paints that are applied to it. I fell in love with the stuff, and recently, Craig recently sent me a can from his limited supply. Yesterday, I finally applied a light coat of the primer to some 5×7 Crescent illustration board. This stuff is intended to be a sealer, but heck, I love it for the texture. Once the primer was dry (on the absorbent board, outside in 100 degree heat, it dried in minutes), I applied a thin coat of Liquitex gesso to the boards. Then I did a simple little pencil sketch directly onto the gesso.
While I have a feeling this stuff will wear brushes down bigtime, the surface is a real joy to work on. It takes the gouache beautifully, both in washes and with opaque strokes with more paint on the brush. I could have used more paint on the little village scene, I think. The scanner picked up a lot of the texture, but not so much of the brushstrokes.
Another note about this little study. As I’m casting about, experimenting with small work, and trying to be a tad more creative, I took a page from Kevin McPherson’s book “Painting the Landscape, Inside and Out”. I put one tube of each color of gouache that I own into a small plastic tub. Then, without looking, I stirred the tubes and selected two colors, plus white. I did several little studies with colors selected this way. For the village scene, the colors were burnt sienna and payne’s grey. Along with white, it was a nice combination that I’ll use again. Since I selected a reference photo before pulling the colors out of the tub, this exercise didn’t always work for me. My imagination just couldn’t make a river scene work with venetian red, yellow ochre and white.
Doing these little exercises is a great way to work your way out of a slump, try things out of your normal comfort zone… and discover some new methods.