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A Votre Sante A 20 x 30" Watercolor Painting
Rousillon is a sleepy village in the Luberon region of Provence, well-known for its ochre mines which provided the pigments for the manufacture of paints, including the ones we artists use. On our last workshop painting trip we purchased some ochre pigments from a shop - they can be mixed with oil or gum arabic to make artist-quality oil, watercolor or gouache paints. Those same colors are reflected in the paint colors of the houses and buildings in the village, which glow intensely in the light of dawn or sunset. A Votre Santewas inspired by one of those glorious late afternoons in Rousillon, when the light is just right and the people settle back to enjoy "la belle vie" - the good life - with a glass of wine and a toast, "To Your Health".
This is my 8.5 x 11" sketch in pen made on location, after my thumbnail sketches gave me the best composition to work from. It is so important to do those thumbnails first! I don't always have time to do a larger sketch like this, but if I do, it can really pay off in the accuracy of the information obtained. A sketch like this can be far superior to a photo, and a lot more fun to do.
Step 1.I am fond of using Arches French watercolor paper - here I am working on a 20 x 30" 300# sheet which I have thoroughly wet using my 4" flat wash brush and clean water first. I love the weight of the 300# - it is more like painting on a cotton shirt than paper, and it really soaks up the water, staying damp much longer than you would imagine. I have waited until the paper is just cool to the touch - slightly damp - before laying on my first saturated wash of Naples Yellow (Winsor-Newton), while reserving my whites.Naples Yellow is a sedimentary color, so it goes down first, in this case. The Winsor-Newton version of Naples Yellow has a wonderful color of sunlight to it that is just right for this painting.
Step 2.Now I'm really starting to have fun! I prepared for this step by mixing up large amounts of saturated color on my palette before I began to paint. This is VERY important. We don't want to have to stop this wash process to mix paint. I began by soaking the sheet again, and once the wet shine disappeared, I laid in my wet-on-wet blends, which you can see here. As the paper dried, I worked wet over dry to define my edges. I do not get too precious about my white edges, as speed and freshness are most important at this stage. Any mistakes, like that big drip in the center, can be fixed or absorbed later. Always keep the center of focus in mind as detail is developed in the work.
Step 3. Thisstep is the danger zone where I must be vigilant not to overwork the peripheral parts of the composition, nor should I put too many washes down trying to adjust the painting. I generally get only 3 layers before the light and life goes out of our paintings. It is better to repaint as many new versions as necessary in order to get those troublesome areas just right. That's how Singer-Sargent worked. You can really see how I love to work with saturated colors. This just takes practice and a fearless attitude. After all, it is just a sheet of paper - and it has two sides!Here you can see the development of shapes, figures and deep values in a series of wet over dry washes.
Step 4.In this, the final version ofA Votre Sante, I have toned-down the reds to help balance the color intensities and bring more prominence to the center figure holding the glass in the air. I added just enough detail to create a convincing representation of the scene, without over-doing it. I could have reduced details even further, like those in the roof tiles and probably not lost any of the impact. I'll bear that in mind on the next one.
This is a brief sample of the kind of in-depth articles available to our members. If you like what you find here, won't you consider supporting The Artist's Road educational mission through your membership today?
Want more Provence? Check out our three part series, An Artist's Tour of Provence. Members, click here.
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