…. mackerel sky

January 29, 2016

There is an Old English saying about weather which goes:  “Mackerel scales and mare’s tails make tall ships carry low sails”.  ‘Mackerel scales’ refers to Altocumulus clouds which (to some) resemble the markings on the sides of mackerel.  ‘Mare’s tails’ refers to Cirrus uncinus clouds which–according to the saying–must, like mackerel scales, indicate strong winds, though the two types wouldn’t likely appear together in the same sky.

 

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The subject is taken from a view of the British Columbia coast, beaten down by the effects of storm after storm.  Having lived on Vancouver Island at one point, the weather forecast for the most northerly tip seemed to nearly always call for wind and rain which made me thankful we lived on the most southerly end.  We received quite enough rain as it was.  However, seldom was it ever a pelting, all-out soaking torrent–which made local people say to tourists complaining about the constant drizzle, “Yes, but it’s a dry rain.”

This was painted on treated illustration board.

 

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ocean study

August 22, 2015

For many years I lived in Vancouver, B. C., which is considered one of the top 3 ‘most livable’ cities in the world.  One of its best features is being surrounded by water on three sides.  On one occasion I was painting a view from Locarno, one of the many beaches, and was suddenly overcome by a summer storm.  It seemed to descend out of nowhere.

As I was not going to escape getting soaked, I soldiered-on and managed to get as much as I could onto paper without the deluge completely washing away everything while working.

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‘ocean study Locarno Beach‘, Vancouver, 13cm x 18cm (5″ x 7″)

Fortunately I had some sort of makeshift shelter–even so, rain splattered onto the painting as I worked.

Painting on location has its rewards as well as its hazards.  In those years, I wouldn’t paint at all unless it was outdoors. I was something of a purist, and felt watercolour was meant to be done on location–its immediacy and qualities almost demand it being put to use that way. But bad knees are what they are, and now I almost can’t imagine having to go do that again–which is really a shame.  Working from photographs is not my idea of what watercolour should be about.

breakers

July 22, 2015

The depicting of waves in watercolour is particularly challenging when one has decided on being a ‘purist’ by refraining from both opaque white and masking fluid.  Personally speaking, masking fluid has become so offensive in terms of smell (its natural thinner, in case anyone wonders, is ammonia, which is why it smells so awful–but a little ammonia will indeed thin thickened masking fluid, if stirred in slowly), and damaging brushes (even when dipping them in soapy water first), and causing the hardest of edges when removed, that it’s rarely a choice for me.  It does make for quite lovely snow squalls when flicked from a stiff toothbrush, I must say–and great fun, too.

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‘Third Beach, Vancouver’, watercolour, painted on location, 35.5cm x 23cm (14″ x 9″), Arches Hot Press 140lb. Paper

Breaking waves challenge any student of watercolour (and every single person working in this medium will forever be a student) because of having to leave paper white for crest foam, swash, and the receding backwash effects.  This, coupled with understanding which part of the wave receives more or less pigment, not to mention the change of pigmentation if backwash is curling up and drawing in sand at the same time, comes the added realisation that sky is being reflected off top surfaces the further from shore one looks.

There truly is nothing for it but to get right into the actual physics of spilling, surging, plunging, and collapsing breakers, each of which exhibits its own characteristic properties–ones our eyes are very accustomed to and therefore recognize in a flash when viewing surf–properties a viewer expects to be reproduced in paintings (if the painting is trying to conform to the challenges of representational art, that is).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave  Drawing each of these examples over and over again makes wave action less of a mystery and eventually becomes familiar and far less challenging.  However, a single line of waves is always backed by more, multiplying the visual dynamics, adding to the confusion of having to depict row upon row of breakers.  Where does foam end and the gathering wave behind it start?  For this, it is very instructive to carefully observe photographs and again draw over and over how this actually does look.(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breaking_wave)  Only then, personally speaking, do I find painting on location not as daunting, for stopped action is easier to analyze than sitting in front of actual pounding surf.

Painting water is a dedicated pursuit all of its own.  There is a painting friend of mine who includes water in every single piece he does because he is dedicated to the depiction of water, whether in the form of rain, surf, river, lake, stream, waterfall, because in each case there is a lifetime’s worth of challenge.

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