This is the largest painting I have done in many  years. Getting back into watercolour after a longish break was a step-by-step process for me. When I started drawing again 15 months ago, my first sketches were in a 5″ x 3″ Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, then I  graduated to a 8″ x 5″ book, moved up to an eighth and then a quarter sheet of watercolour paper and now to this, which is a half sheet (15″ x 22″) of Fabriano 300 lb cold-press paper. I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I need a studio to do these paintings so I can use an easel and stand back from time to time to see the work in progress. I often turn the paintings upside down as well because that helps me to see if the value plan is working. I know it seems odd, but if it works upside down it will work right side up. Try it with your paintings and see for yourself. And let me know if it works for you!



27 Comments on “Henryville”

  1. Shari,
    Wonderful composition. Painting large is so different. But I have slowly graduated to large format as well. It gives a bit more freedom.

    • Thanks Gail. Yes, it felt really great to work large and use the big brushes. When you are working large you can also get some really nice washes going. Do you find that as well?

  2. Julie Gomez says:

    Hi, Shari! Your painting of Henryville is lovely. Thank you for sharing it. I remember getting the oddest looks from people when I’d turn my paintings/drawings upside down to view them for accuracy. It’s a technique I’ve been using for years, and it really does work!

  3. Lee Kline says:

    Beautiful! Shari, I appreciate the “plan” you included for your move from sketchbook to painting. Upside-down is great. Have you ever held your work up to a mirror? That can be an eye-opener. I guess anything that help an artist to have an instant of objectivity is helpful.

    • Thanks Lee. I don’t know why each step was so hard for me and why this took so long. I am still trying to figure it out. I guess it’s because I worked small for so many days in a row and it was really hard to make the transition. It has caused me no end of grief.

      I am pretty sure I tried the mirror thing a long time ago but not recently. I seem to remember that it makes your work look really horrible and then you just want to throw it in the trash.

  4. Jane Hannah says:

    Hi Shari,

    the combination of cold and warm colors are very nice.. and the composition is wonderful. Made me want to take my car and go see that farm 😉 Yes upside down works for me too, this was a big thing in my graphic design school years way back then. Must be nice to paint on big sizes… one of these days, I will try it out too. Thanks for sharing Shari 😉

    • Thanks Jane. I think you’ll have to try big size sheets one of these days. I know you bought some paper in the summer. You might like working bigger.

      • Jane Hannah says:

        Hi Shari,

        I am waiting to finish the Larolan sketchbook and then I will try bigger sheets… I only have tiny brushes, except for one. Guess I will have to buy bigger brushes. Do you have any recommendations? Should I buy a flat? What size about?

      • Hi Jane. I have flat brushes of the following sizes: 1/2 in, 1 in, 2 in and 3 in. And the rounds that I use most often are no. 8 and no 14 (12 is good too). You can certainly get by with synthetic brushes. My flats are all synthetic. So just buy a cheaper brush to try out something bigger. I have never bought sable brushes of that size. If you like painting larger you can always get a better quality brush at a later time.

  5. Ross C says:

    Looks great Shari! I am glad to see that you kept some to the looseness of the sketch, particularly in the foreground. Are you happy with the result?
    The mirror thing is interesting… years ago I had a print made from a 35mm colour slide of some rusty farm implements which I thought would make an interesting drawing. I really liked the composition… but they accidently printed it in reverse and there was just no compositional value left… I never did figure out why.

  6. kestrelart says:

    I really love the composition: the industrial components juxtaposed with the rural setting.

  7. John Wright says:

    I must start keeping notes of the gems you throw out Shari. I’m very interested in your observations about working larger. I love big work, but have retreated to small sketchbooks for speed and portability and have been wondering what the implications of this practice will be to stepping up in size. So from you, I note : bigger tools and rotate 180 degrees.

    Nice to have you ahead of me blazing the trail Shari!

    • Jane Hannah says:

      John :: I totally agree with you… she is opening the path and we tread after her — LOL 😉

    • I will sharpen my scythe to stay ahead of you John!
      When I work big like this I really thing differently about the composition. It is not line-based, as some of my sketches are. I really have to think about the full composition and that is when the value sketch comes in handy because it is really all about the shapes on the paper. In this one it is a series of repeating triangles of different sizes.

  8. Debra Ganong says:

    Hi Shari
    Loved the recent paintings of Ville St-Pierre and Henryville, both of which hark back to my early days with Jean. We lived in VSP at the time and when I was going back and forth from school in Vermont I would pass through Henryville on the 133. You have captured both places so well! I used to do the mirror thing with my drawings and rather that want to throw them in the trash, i found I could assess the balance of colour and composition really well. It gives a perspective at a remove that allows you to see things you might not have otherwise. Never tried the upside down technique, though!
    Happy New Year and I am glad to have you back in my email.

    • Happy New Year to you too Deb. Of course you would know both of those areas well. The road between Montreal and the border is really interesting and there are lots of scenes I could have photographed but didn’t. There are all those little antique shops and there is even “Le Géant” that could have been interesting to sketch.
      I think I could find a lot more to sketch in Ville St Pierre as well. Montreal is full of places I want to paint, and sketching is really helping me discover my city.
      As for the mirror technique, so many people use it and I think I will have to try it.

  9. Katrin says:

    Very nice painting, Shari!! Your subtle colours do work on big sheets, too. Turning upside down is a common technique for me, too!

  10. Evie Macdonald says:


  11. Jane Hannah says:

    Thank you for the info Shari — will do 😉

  12. Great balance of painterly brush washes and tight detail on the industrial section, in addition to the overall balance of relatively contrasting colors. BTW, do you work on loose or stretched paper? Back in my watercolor days, I would stretch my paper over wooden canvas stretchers.

    • Thanks Jason. I always work on loose paper, never stretched. This was done on 300 lb so I just taped it to a plexiglass. Even when I work dry on 140 lb paper I just tape it down. Sometimes I work on soaked paper but then I just hold it down with bulldog clips. I have only stretched paper a few times but it is a tedious process that I tend to avoid because I am always so excited to get the painting started.

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