Getting Loose

Pushing Forward
Excited by the idea of pushing my darks and midtones together—both in how I see the work and how I paint it—I decided to re-create Portside, Ilwaco in that style. I began by wetting both the front and back of the paper, then towel drying the excess water from the front. Starting at the top of the paper and working my way down, I allowed all the color changes to bleed into one another and I focused on painting around my lights. I effectively painted through all the objects and disregarded individual boundaries.

Over the Hump
I resisted the temptation to gray my colors because I wanted a strong impact of warm against cool. As I worked toward the bottom of the paper it became too dry. I feared back-runs could result if I dampened it, but I took the risk anyway and used a spray bottle. It worked; the paper had enough internal moisture to maintain gradation. Continuing to the bottom, I used my own color sense and disregarded any realistic color (if it even could be determined), and I looked at the figures as shapes rather than humans at this point.

The Way It Was
This version of Portside, Ilwaco (watercolor, 22×17) is an example of the way I’d always painted, which was to separate out the lights, darks and midtones. Note how the darks and midtones are each fully sculpted. Also, you can clearly see how the figures were painted in a separate step—they’re fairly hard-edged and distinct. Using the white of the paper to represent the water here makes the boat stand out because of the stark change in value.

A Whole New Look
I used the heel of the brush to scrape out the line work, then began to bring out my area of dominance—the boat’s cabin and the figures—with calligraphy and by defining forms. Detail was added with a No. 6 rigger, using lines of both dark colors and Chinese white. Because I was careful not to separate the figures from the cabin structure, the passages of connection make the figures a natural part of the environment. Also, whereas in the older version I relied on a change in value to make the boat stand out from the water, here I used a change in color, forcing intense color saturation into the dark ranges and playing vibrant complements against each other.

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