Thursday, November 5, 2015

Montana Big Sky Farmlands Watercolor Painting Part 1

Big Sky Farmlands  No. 1 Watercolor Landscape

This artwork began as a view from the car, on a road traveled often.  There's something about the dramatic clouds that had me in awe.  Living in the rural areas of Montana...well, it's pretty much all rural...there's a lot of driving to and from as a part of everyday life.  If you've never been here, it will be hard to comprehend.  We spend a lot of time in the car on a regular basis.  The views of land and sky go on forever.  Each day holds a new striking view of the surroundings.  My favorite sight is the many strips of green crops against gold stubble fields against bare dirt becoming a great mosaic.

The first photo is the original that I began with and the second shows an HDR filter added.  With the filter applied, I have a greater contrast for values.  I see the light and dark areas clearly.

My sketch is drawn with consideration of the details I want to keep for the final artwork.  The sketch (on tracing paper) is layered over graphite paper and watercolor paper.  A binder clip holds it all firmly in place on a masonite board.  A harder 2H pencil makes the transferring of the sketch more effective.

The pigments are mixed up and sampled on a scrap of  watercolor paper.  The first soft washes are placed into the sky.  Direction and motion are very important.  A barely damp brush lifts color back out to create the light beams breaking through clouds.

The gray shadows of the clouds are the most challenging to capture depth with softness.  Pigments mixed and laid in to the field areas helps balance the sky.  It's hard to judge the balance of color in the sky when the fields have no color to compare.  Patient layering of color washes help build to a much richer result.  It seems unimpressive at this point but I must trust the end result will be what matters.

The green wash in part of this foreground was still wet at the time this photo was taken.  More bold color is coming into play.  This is when I'm excited to see how the individual parts look together.  It's a guessing game to understand how much is the right amount in bold color and energy.  The areas of field seem too simple, as if they need more definition.  I begin to scrape out with a palette knife while the paper is damp.  I have been so excited to find my way with the palette knife and watercolors.  For years, I had no idea palette knives could be so useful this way.  The grain bin has come on the scene with blues and grays that define its shape.

This photo is a bit darker but shows the building contrast between sky and land areas.  I build in an area of color and later come back to define with some scrubbing and lifting.


A view of the work area shows there's plenty of clutter at this point.  So many tools needed close at hand, available to pick up when there's no time to waste.  The painting shows more definition and color in the foreground.  The fields are showing more depth with color and texture applied.

The color mixing grid is my guide to what color mixes I like for greens and browns; like a recipe, they remove the guesswork and save time.  The reference photo reminds me of what I'm most wanting to capture...the major elements.

Here's a much bigger picture of the work table while I'm focused on this painting.  I've taken a few minutes to reorganize and change the rinse water.  The foreground has grown much bolder and darker; my husband's critique leans toward lightening that area.  I'm torn and hesitate to do this.  Perhaps some calculated scrubbing, scraping, and lifting will bring an improved balance.

A side view shows applying varied texture with a natural sponge.  I do believe green is one of my favorite colors.  This area took a bit of time to find the balance of color and texture.  It's a dance to see what will be best against the dramatic sky.

A view of the landscape as it feels very close to completion.  It's time to fine tune the details and look for areas needing more definition.  I feel like there's still room for a little more scraping out in the foreground.  The farm buildings are handled without much clear detail.  They are suggested with color and shadows that describe in a vague way.

These are views shared periodically on social media as the painting takes shape:

Copyright 2015 Christy Sheeler All Rights Reserved.

The finished landscape painting, Big Sky Farmlands No. 1, 8" x 10" on Arches 300 lb. cold press watercolor paper.

Copyright 2015 Christy Sheeler.  All Rights Reserved.

This original watercolor painting will be available in the Etsy shop, ChristySheelerArtist.  It will be packaged with ivory double mat and clear cellophane sleeve.  
To view this listing, click the title, Big Sky Farmlands No. 1 by Christy Sheeler.

I am currently pursuing options for having high quality prints made of this and other artworks.  The learning challenge is improving my photography skills for displaying as above.  In addition, I'm also working to take best quality photos possible for uploading to order prints.  These two tasks have taken a great deal of my time in the past week.  I am making great progress but it's a slow process.

Please continue to return for more progress to be shared on Thursdays.  You may be rewarded by stopping in more frequently...I'm working hard to share more than once a week.

she must make art.

(I have tried for more than two hours to fix the text format to left justified...ugh.  Correcting and saving doesn't make any difference.  I am stumped.  It's stuck with center formatting and my perfection has gotten the better of me.  I quit.  You'll enjoy the writing, regardless.  I just have to let this go. -Christy)

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