Take the time to “See” your subject

goosexing11DSC_0055_259                                                      “Goose Xing”                     Watercolor                                              30″ x 22″

I make no excuse for the fact that at times I slow down and work very slowly. I think all of us need to find our own rhythm. Some subjects develop quickly; others need to be savored like a fine wine. At least that is my philosophy. I have been working or perhaps I should say thinking on a subject for a few years now. It is a common ordinary neighborhood street. A tree lined street that is traveled regularly by a lot of friends and neighbors. The two lane street weaves its way past a golf course on one side and a pleasant lake on the left. In the spring and summer months the lake has more visitors than in the winter.  Regardless, it is a local gathering place for young and old, walkers, joggers and moms and dads with strollers. Usually they are carrying lots of stale bread for the feathered inhabitants.

Nearly 35 years ago we began to receive new neighbors….Canada geese.  If you don’t live on the edge of the lake perhaps you find them more enchanting.  If they are overrunning your yard and your deck you may not feel so charitable. None the less they are now permanent residents.  Since their presence is firmly established they even have their own traffic signs.   It seems that the local human population has learned to adapt.  It is not uncommon to see joggers take to the street to avoid a collision when the local goose population calls for a congregational meeting on the side walk.  At times the group will choose to slowly move across one of the streets to a feeding spot in a nearby yard or return from their foray heading back to the lake.  Whenever they cross, motorists  slow down or come to a complete stop to allow the feathered residents to parade across the road. To human credit I see little sign of injury to any of the feathered pedestrians.

Earlier, I mentioned tree lined streets. At the edge of the golf course there are groups of ornamental fruit trees marking the boundaries of the course. Over the years I have painted several of these trees and incorporated some of their characteristics into sketches as well as paintings. I am greatly intrigued with their shape, color and texture. They have a presence that begs to be painted.  I have indulged my passion for several years in that regard.  I have tons of sketches and planned paintings that have not yet  matured to the point of becoming paint.

Preparation:

In this case the sign haunted me for several months. I had never seen such a sign warning of a Goose Crossing.  I am very familiar with Deer signs and have seen my share of Elk and Moose signs in my travels.  However, a Goose Crossing was a new element.  I though about it.  I stared at it. I would drive by slowly and just look at it. Finally, I began to sketch it and some of the local feathered actors.

Sketching: 

It is impossible for me to separate the process of thinking and sketching. However, for clarity I have broken these two elements into preparation and sketching. Preparation= contemplation.  Sketching= bringing that contemplation into form. My personal taste is drawn to more direct observation and sketching with less photography.  Don’t misunderstand, I own a great Nikon and I use it.  However,  I am more in tune with my own perceptions. In too many cases I find the photos don’t “see” or record the subject the same way my eyes and my memory does. As I have gotten older I have become less dependent upon the photo. Naturally there are times when the camera is absolutely essential. I’m merely trying to convey that I’m more concerned with my personal vision.

I fill up a lot of sketchbooks and I must confess that I often pick up one or the other when I need one. This has resulted in a group of sketches that are in no chronological order. In some cases there may be sketches on facing pages that are years apart in execution. No doubt that will disturb the neat and orderly ones. However, it is what it is.  Lately I have had a couple of art dealers who have admonished me to become more orderly. I am making progress I now have a fairly accurate inventory listing of paintings along with where they reside. At this time my sketchbooks  are still a bit of a chronological disaster!

Sketching tools:

Most of the time I use a refillable TomBow pen with black ink. Several years ago a dear colleague gave me one as a present. Since that time I have gone through about three or four.  I tend to lose them and later find them in a jacket or pants pocket. I also use markers of varying widths.  I find pencils to be messy and somewhat wimpy when I am in the field. I do own quite a few and use them regularly in the studio. Outdoors I like an  instrument that is devoid of an eraser. It helps keep me focused.

goosexingsketcheDSC_0060_260                                          Some of the sketches for Goose Xing

Color:

Color is personal.  As I began this piece I wanted to keep it low key but I wanted color. I chose to work with complementary combinations. Red and green were the primary agents  I paired colors like Perylene Maroon with Permanent Sap Green and Hookers Green.  Holbein’s leaf green with American Journey Copper Kettle.  Other colors included Transparent Oxide Yellow, Gamboge, Andrews Turquoise and Joe’s Blue another American Journey color.

Why?

As stated earlier, color is personal. I paint in summer as well as winter. I love the cloak of muted colors as the plant world slumbers awaiting spring.  When I look at the fungus on an old growth tree I see a riot of color, I also see silvery greys and tawny muted ochres.  I try to create these colors with color combinations rather than using dull faded color. Experiment with the quinacridones.  They are extremely transparent and can be manipulated in mixed combinations placed directly on the paper or they can be used in glazes to create vibrant jewel tones as  well as lively yet subdued winter color.

FUTURE RELEASE: 

The painting Goose Xing has been recorded for instructional purposes. It is under going final editing.  It will probably be several hours of demonstration.  At this time the final cut is uncertain. It was painted in real time and will be available in a few weeks.

Want to know more about Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor tutorials Check out,

https://www.udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor,  Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin is available direct at

Http://www.Createspace.com/3657628

The Antique Shop DVD, a remastered classic of the watercolor glazing technique featuring Don Rankin   

Http://www.Createspace.com/350893

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About masteringglazingtechniquesinwatercolor

Watercolor painter and author of several watercolor books on painting technique.

Posted on September 18, 2014, in Don Rankin watercolors, quinacridone colors, Sketching from life, watercolor glazing techniques, Watercolor painting and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Good material Don,

    I remember years ago working with a fellow that had studied traditional Japanese and central Asian art practices. He spent a good amount of time sketching and planning … and that seemed sensible to me having studied watercolor with Joe Pember at VSC.

    But what was new to me, he also allotted time to watch, ruminate, actually meditate on the subject. He was looking and meditating … attempting to feel/sense the “essence” of the subject.

    Somewhat like your experience of looking at the subject for a few years before you decided to work on it.

    • John,
      Interesting that you should mention the Japanese, east Asian practices. I spent 25 years in traditional full-contact Japanese karate under the teaching of Saiko Shihan Oyama who was a student of Mas Oyama. I also spent a number of years with Sensei Obata in Shinkendo. I am quite familiar with Sumi-e techniques and I find that many of those aspects do guide my observation and execution.

  1. Pingback: Take the time to “See” your subject | Don Rankin's Watercolor Studio

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