On this wintery March day (6-10 inches due), I'm longing for watercolor weather. Let's flashback to September, my favorite month for painting en plein air in Maine. Working outside a studio requires meditative patience and a sense of humor about the hardships. Watercolor is the most challenging of paint media because you can only work darker, not lighter. Wet paper buckles and the paint is hard to control. Mistakes can't be erased. On the plus side, watercolors are portable and dry quickly. The flow of the paint mimics the flow of the water. I enjoy challenges.
Reid State Park in Georgetown is an ideal spot for painting on location. Picnic benches are set to face the spectacular views. They're popular with mosquitoes and green-heads too so I cover up and bring bug repellent. The park is a half hour drive from my house.
After scouting out a location and testing compositions in my sketchbook, I line up my supplies.
The first step is a detailed pencil sketch on heavy weight Arches paper taped to a masonite board.
Then I use liquid masking fluid (the yellow) to preserve the white boulders and surf. After the mask is dry, I block out the base colors in thin washes of watercolor, using sponges and broad brushes. This is a leap of faith. The under drawing vanishes and the painting has to look terrible before it finds focus.
As I work, the tide falls, shadows lengthen and colors intensify. I enjoy the serendipity of working on location, of looking up and seeing kayakers paddle past. Fish jump and birds fly by. This is no still life.
The details are rendered in layers of paint, using finer tipped brushes. The penultimate step is rubbing off the liquid mask. The white areas are paper without paint. The final step is working detail into the white.
I work quickly to capture the grays, browns and blues in the boulders and the turquoise in the water.
Too soon the sun sets and the tide falls. There's not enough light left to finish my painting. Bother.
I pack up my paints and watch the sunset. A camera is best for capturing fleeting images in low light.
I return another clear day with a similar tide to complete the painting. In these two images you can see the differences between a photograph and a watercolor. The photo lacks definition, flattens the perspective and has no movement. This is why I prefer to work from life than from a photo. Once the painting was done, I removed the tape that held the paper to the board. Now the watercolor is ready for framing. I'll be painting more watercolors in summer...after the snow melts. Sigh. Please share your daffodils.