Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cold Water Diversion

Sometimes when I know that I won't really have more than 30 minutes or so to devote to a painting I flip through the many bird photos I've taken and something will strike my fancy. I don't yet have enough field studies to do the same with them but I hope that will happen soon.

This sometimes results in surprising subject choices. Today's painting is a sunset, something I've never liked, even when I lived on the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco. I'm not fond of sunsets or artworks based on them though for different reasons. In nature I find sunsets somewhat melancholy. In art they're most often cliched, or at least they strike me that way.

Nonetheless a sunset photo of one of the ponds at 'The Meadows' at Cape May caught my eye a few days ago. We often visit Cape May in October and by the time the sun sets at The Meadows it's pretty cool. Often the water just looks plain cold! But since I've been veering off from birds a bit recently I decided to use it as a subject. There are Mute Swans and Great Egrets in the picture as well as a few unidentified ducks. But the subject is really water, light and sky.

These are all parts of the environment of many bird scenes so I decided to go ahead and try to paint them, just as with the trees, mountains and sky of my last post. I continue to try to learn more about painting in watercolor, both in technique and in subject matter.

So that's the explanation of my 'sunset painting', probably the first I've ever done in my long career. As I did it I was reminded of an event when I was probably 10-12 years old. I'd been doing art for awhile and thought I had some talent. Then I visited an older cousin who showed me his painting of a sailboat in the water at sunset, complete with reflection, blues, pinks, yellows. I was devastated. I knew I had never done anything that good and probably never would. The illusion of light was a revelation! I doubt I'd feel that way now. More likely I'd just say: 'Oh, another formulaic sunset. Look at those predictable pink highlights.' But at the time it indicated a level of sophistication in art I never even thought possible.

So there you have it: my first sunset. More than a sunset though I'm trying to capture some sense of the coldness of that scene. It was beautiful in its way, but really more a scene of hard coldness than anything else. I think this gets some of that. I also have to give credit to Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchpad here. It's really not meant for developed watercolors. But I worked for three days on this and it's still in one piece, though a bit warped.

One more thought: you might ask why a 30 minute painting took 3 days to complete? Well I didn't expect that it would. But once I started I decided that I didn't want to use broad brushstrokes for either the water or the hills. So they were done slowly with many small strokes. As the painting developed I then used a broader brush to unite some areas. But everything began with the slow work of small brushes. I have tendency to use a 'broad brush'. But sometimes I regret the lack of detail. So I started with a small brush and many brushstrokes on this one.

Below is another photo of the watercolor. It's off center but the colors are a bit truer.


Pam Johnson Brickell said...

Oh, la, la! Yes, the second image really has the feel of cold! Well done!

Ken Januski said...

Thanks Pam,

I'm happy that it comes across as cold. This section of the walk at 'The Meadows' is near the very end. By the time we get to it, after a 12-hour day of birding, this cold scene says: go home and have supper! Get warm! Your day is done!