"Because seeing and sketching are so interdependant, it is difficult to learn to see before beginning to sketch, and vice versa. Drawing is the key to effective seeing, and seeing is the key to effective drawing."- Paul Laseau from FREEHAND SKETCHING

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January 15, 2013

Country Lane Watercolor...from Start to Finish

In my ongoing attempt to explore the watercolor medium, I decided to once and for all take a very "thought out" and methodical approach to a painting.  My normal approach is less methodical.  My natural instinct is to just jump in with no real idea of where I'm heading and hope for the best.  Sometimes this can result in some success and interesting work, but more often than not, It results in a poorly executed piece that I'm really not happy with.  So this time I decided plan ahead, take a little more time and photograph the process.

I started with a pencil sketch.
This is the most important step.

The sketch becomes the "road map" for where the painting will go.  It is only 5x7" and was done quickly(15 minutes or so) with a soft-leaded pencil.  This is the most critical step in any work of art.  At this stage I worked out the composition, how the scene would appear in its final form.  I also worked out the values, the darkest darks and the lightest lights and where they will appear.  You'll hear this called a "value sketch" many times.  You can see that this little fast and loose sketch becomes invaluable when you begin painting the sky, hills, trees and structures.  Hopefully this little sketch will help to identify the focal point of the work.

Normally at this point I would loosely sketch the composition on my watercolor paper.  I got in a hurry and skipped this step.  Not ideal but it worked out for me.  My next step was to roughly block in my background washes...hills, sky and clouds.

I confess that there was a lot of "experimenting" going on here.  I dropped in some purple, yellow and pink into the wash just to see what I could do with it.

After letting the wash dry completely, I sketched in the composition in pencil and began defining it with hard edges.

You can begin to see the composition taking shape.  The structures are carefully blocked in and the tree locations are penciled in.  

At this point I simply began to paint the scene beginning with the dark trees.  Their location, general shape and value were already determined in the sketch...I simply needed to paint them.

Continuing with painting the trees.

 As I'm continuing to work on the trees, I begin to work in the background dark foliage areas as identified in the sketch.

 As I begin to bring this thing in for a landing(knowing when to quit is the hardest part for me), I begin to add foregound people, shade and shadows.  Shadows are very important!  Everything casts a shadow, even on cloudy days and at night! 

Finishing trees, adding more branches and twigs(till it feels right), adding fence(afterthought), adding a spray of water to the tree canopies to encourage a small amount of "bleed"(just because it's cool)....

At this point I paint in the saturated hues of the barn and houses.  I also decide to deepen the shades across the road, add some fence shadows, add some wisps of grass here and there and spatter a little of my dark color to add a little atmosphere...

Final touches...dark green conifers around the houses, deeper shadows....then...sign it and don't go back to it!

Country Lane- ©2013 Tim Oliver

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