Kauai Clouds and Sea, pt. 3


Yep, I'm still here in Hawaii, painting away.  Last week, after a series of days painting plein air, I stayed in the house for a few days, opened up the lab again, and did some experiments.  I've been trying to mix orange clouds with blue skies, and have been getting a bit of green where they merge.  ARGH! 

Eventually, I came to a few conclusions- 1) if I'm going to use a true blue like Pthalo Blue, I have to do it paler, so the mixes are more mellow, or 2) preserve my whites where the clouds meet the sky, so the colors never mix, or 3) I need to use a violet-blue instead (like Ultramarine Blue or Pthalo + Diox Purple), because it makes a grey when mixed with orange.  As you can see in the photo at the top of the blog, I went with #1 and #2.  The blues are very pale down below, so the orange-browns become dominant, and the purple-blue up top is really only against the white of the preserved cloud.  This approach led to much better success color-wise.

I tried to do the billowing white clouds again, but they sort of ended up looking like Alf, or something.  LOL!  Can't win 'em all, eh?

That's ok.  The next few I've rolled out have been ok.  Both of these feel like something I'd like to do again back home, but on a larger scale.

Lets take a look at how I worked out these Taro fields in Hanalei.  First, I did the sky and the water.  That's the easy part.  I lay down water for the sky, daub out some sections with a tissue, and then play with values and warm/cool options for cloud forms.

Once it dried, I rewet the top half, and laid in the base values for the mountains and the plains. I was trying to keep things soft along the top, where the clouds were brushing up against the mountains.

Now it got tricky.  As things dried a bit, I laid in a darker value for the foreground mountains, and then, as it dried too, I daubed brighter, more watery greens into those shadows, and let it bleed and bloom downwards.  You can see on the ridges how I took advantage of the dry upper edge.  I would run the brush, full of bright pale green, along the top edge, and it only moves downwards.  Slowly, as things began to dry, I put in the darker tones along the bottom left, where there was a closer ridge.  The goal is to wait long enough that it doesn't just bloom right back up the page, but not wait so long that you get a hard edge.  Part of it is how wet the paper is, and part of it is how thick the mixture on your brush is.  This takes practice for sure- that's when the laboratory is helpful.  I would never teach myself a skill like this while painting an image I was excited about- better to test it out on scraps and sheets to get the hang of it, and then apply it to a painting. 

Something that really struck me, as I did these mountains, was how a set of skills I learned in a series of paintings from back in the winter came around to me and proved unexpectedly useful. I did a series of paintings of green, grassy California winter fields, but I was never quite satisfied with the results.  I was aiming for something I couldn't quite achieve.  But there's a lot of similarity in the wet into wet work between the two compositions.  So who knows when all that time you spent on old paintings you didn't like will come in handy some day?  :)

Anyways, back to those taro fields!  Now, I went in with my darks and carved out the mid and foreground.  I've finally got a clean horizon line!

Here at the end, I went back in with both some pale, opaque higlights (the yellow-white Jaune Brilliant No. 2 mixed with a bit of green), and some darker darks in the deepest shadows.  I also decided that both my water in the foreground, and the mountains in the distance, needed to be darker, and so I did a glaze for them both.  And for now, this is done.  I might try it again, larger, with a stronger, textured foreground- there are a bunch of taro plants not included in this composition that might help push the distance back more.