Awakening to The Light

Watercolor 22 x 15 inches

May 23 was the date of my last post.   It was the day before my wife and I left on a fabulous road trip, from which I only just returned, which included lots of painting.

We drove south down the eastern side of California after crossing the Sierras over a 9900 foot elevation pass which is only open three to four months of the year (lotsa snow!)   One of the great parts of the trip was to meet with several other painters in Santa Fe, New Mexico then on to a wonderful three days of continuous painting together at Ghost Ranch . . . .the famous retreat of Georgia O'Keeffe.

I learned something on this trip.   To get out of bed before sun up and get outdoors just as the sun is coming over the horizon.   I know that sounds rather silly to be blogging about, but I must say that there are paintings everywhere at that time of the day . . . . .the light is coming in horizontally with  a golden hue that seems to make everything glow.   Mind you, I would much rather sit about in a leisurely way drinking my morning coffee and begin the days operations around 8 to 9 AM.   Shadows are so very dramatic at that time of day which set up completely unique value schemes for dramatic compositions that I could never have imagined.

The painting above of a baker taking a break at that time of day was but a single incident caught on my camera on one of those days.   There are few people out at that time, but those who are are usually "interesting" in some unique way.   If you are wondering why I found this time of day so special, I can explain easily . . . . . .I live in a part of the world where fog is the order of nearly every day in the early mornings.   Being close to the edge of the ocean has its pleasures, but golden sunny mornings are somewhat rare.   Early risers face cool gray, overcast mornings where there is little shadow.    Being in the southwest was a glorious change for me as a painter.

By the way, this painting, like most all of my paintings, was an experiment.   The challenge with this painting was to make the figure on the hydrant appear to be close to the viewer without using some absurd dramatic effect.   If you can imagine him to be in the foreground while all else in the picture space to be in the "background" (a term I rarely use), you will quickly understand my painting strategy as I explain it here:   To use all transparent watercolor on the entire background and to push the colors there toward cool, neutral grays.   If there was color there, the intention was to take the "edge" of the color saturation and press it toward cool.   Additionally, to reduce the amount of contrast in the back ground so there would not be attention grabbing distractions there.   To bring the subject forward and to have him appear closer, I painted him entirely with gouache . . . .very opaque watercolor . . . . . his opacity versus the transparency of the background brings him forward in the picture space almost to the extent that the viewer has a sense of wanting to touch the figure.

I have been playing with this strategy for some time and find the different opaqueness of the parts of the paintings to be a most valuable tool.   I am using it more and more in my work.

Thanks to digital cameras, I came home with virtually hundreds of reference photos with some very dramatic scenery full of amazing light and shadow.   And, since being home, I have been stowed away in my studio furiously slobbering paint on various surfaces.   A most exciting time!!