Defining Moments in My Watercolor Journey
A Morning Drive In the Spring
It was early spring and I was noticing the fields all golden with color in my recent drives around Bloomington, Indiana. The color was from some kind of crop that had been seeded in winter. The morning sun made for a spectacular display of brilliance both in the fields and in the surrounding trees and vegetation. And then there was this puddle of still water left over from a spring rain the day before, right in front of me as I rounded a bend in the road. The reflection of the trees, darkened in the foreground because they were backlit by the sun, caught my eye. I was totally mesmerized.
I knew I had to paint this scene, but I wasn't sure I could do it. Still, I parked the car on the side of the road, and grabbed my gear. I knew this opportunity wouldn't last long. The sun was rising quickly. The light was changing fast. It was time to paint or go home.
I pulled out my pigments and made quick decisions. What colors I would use would depend on my own eye. That was scary. What if my eyes deceived me at this most important moment? But then I realized that even if I failed at the painting I wanted to create, I could still call it another practice piece. And so I began.
Quick and Steady, Simple Palette, and Perseverance
I have heard it said that when you go outside to paint (otherwise known as plein air painting), that you need to paint really fast. The actual saying goes something like this, "paint like the devil is after you." And so I did. I grabbed some lemon yellow, cad yellow, cerulean blue, paynes grey, and raw umber to paint out the composition. At the end I used a touch of red in the second painting with the barns. Keeping my palette simple made it easier on me since I didn't have to make a lot of color choices, and it made my painting more harmonious. Painting quickly, gave me two watercolor pieces which is always a plus. Whoohoo!
The part that was most defining for me was the water and the reflection of the trees, in the first painting. I didn't think I could do it. In the end, all of my practice trying to paint water and reflections (I had stacks of paintings that went into the garbage bin), allowed me to accomplish the very thing I had hoped for. Perseverance is half the battle.
It was a joyful moment for me, one of the special defining moments in my watercolor journey (and it truly is a journey). I also realized at that moment that my eye would not deceive me if I knew my color palette and kept it simple. I now know what my springtime palette will include. Those yellows were perfect. They mixed with the blue nicely. The raw umber and paynes grey gave me my darkest darks which really worked for those trees. I'll carry this palette with me on my drives around the countryside. And, the next time I'm presented with a scene like this, I'm going to stop and paint without hesitation. One never knows when those defining moments will come, but come they will.