Afraid of the darkPosted: May 25, 2013
Painting large dark areas in watercolour is difficult. If you go too dark there’s no turning back and if the paint goes on too dry those areas can often look lifeless. I think knowing this holds me back from painting as dark as I should sometimes. But seeing the John Singer Sargent exhibition made me realize that you can go really dark. You should see how much paint is on his paintings. It’s almost impasto in places.
The other night on my way to downtown Montreal I drove along an industrial street that I had never seen before and made a mental note to come back one day to sketch. Despite the pouring rain and unseasonably cold temperatures I went back today and found a place to park facing these two big industrial sheds, one with a gaping hole of darkness — perfect subject to help me overcome my fear of the dark. I painted the first image, on my lap, in the car, which is no easy feat since this is on a quarter sheet of paper (15″ x 11″) so there’s no chance to step back and check how things are going.
It’s always good to let the work sit awhile and then go back and have another look. When I scanned the painting I realized that the foliage at the left was too light so I wet the area and added some more darks. Re-wetting with clear water and dropping pigment into the wet areas prevents the darks from going dead.
I took a picture of my car studio today because people are always asking me what the setup is. I know it’s a bit hard to see the inside of the car but my water is in a Nalgene bottle in the cup holder between the seats, my palette is on the passenger seat propped up on my brush holder, and my value sketch is next to me for easy reference.