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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Aftermath of Snow Storms and Blank Canvas

Post-storm Lovely Ouray is awash in a fresh coating of white. I love the way a blanket of new snow covers mud, dog shit, and some of my winter doldrums. The sun was shining and snow was glistening; it lured us outdoors for a walkabout around our Victorian Village. But first, a new winter scene watercolor of Courthouse and Chimney Rock.

It has been so long since I've held a brush in my hand that I wasn't sure which end to use. Ok, I knew which end to use…but it felt strange in my hand. Arty, my impish little demon that loves to cast doubt, landed on my shoulder and leaned into my ear.

Arty: Eh, What's up Doc? Going to do a little painting?
Me: Arty, long time no see. Why don't you go back to hell where you belong and leave me the fuck alone.
Arty: I see you missed me. 
Me: Like the Plague…
Arty: I heard you been sick.
Me: Yeah, you might sat that…got a hernia, blood clots, and a few other things going on.
Arty: And you think painting is going to make you feel better?
Me: I got a lot of time to kill.
Arty: Mind if I watch?
Me: Yes, I do mind. Go away!
Arty: You know, you haven't painted in a long time.
Me: Yes Arty, I know.
Arty: So why are your going to punish yourself with failure again?
Me: Because I can't go do what I want to do…what I was made to do, so I might as well use this down time as an opportunity.
Arty: You make me laugh. 
Me: Don't you have someone else you can bother besides me? I've got enough shit going on without you looking over my shoulder.
Arty: Hey, you're the guy with all the impossible dreams ambition, Mister Big Shot writer who thinks he's going to write a book and suddenly become an Artist too... without practicing. Don't blame me if you fail, loser. You are just wasting time like every other dreamer in the world with big plans. Tell me about the book? What makes you think you will will finish it? What the hell is it about? Do you even know?
Me: It's none of your business.
Arty: You haven't even started yet, have you?
Me: I'm working on the outline.
Arty: You and a million other losers. Good luck. Why do you punish yourself this way? Just kickback and do your time.
Me: I can't. I need to keep trying to do the things I want to do.
Arty: And how's that working out for ya? Face it, you suck; you are average at best and you can't deny it, can you? Can you?
Me: You are missing the point, asshole. 
Arty: Your art sucks and you know it.
Me: Doesn't matter. I'll get better.
Arty: Sure you will…right after you finish your book. Ha! You humans take the fun out of living… gotta have a goal, gotta do this and gotta do that, go here, go there. Relax, dude. Leave the writing and art to the pros who know what they're doing.
Me: Fuck you. Get out of my ear.
Arty: Fuck you. I got better things to do.
Me: Good. Leave then.

Sorry about Arty stopping by. He's my Art nemesis…Mr "Can't Do."
So, here goes...

I decided to paint on cloth board. It is a little more forgiving than paper in that you can lift some of the color back out with a damp brush. Think of it as a "Safety Net."

I sketched in the major skyline of Chimney and Courthouse with a pencil and dropped some blues and reds into a pre wetted sky in order to allow colors to drift, mix, and hopefully have end up with a stormy atmospheric look. 

Then I did the same thing to the non sky portion to give the painting some "unity" of color.

Using a reference photo I began to drop in some darks to make the mountains stand out against the sky.

I'm pretty close to done here. I'll look at it for a few days and decide if I want some foreground other than snow. I'm disappointed in some respects, but hey…I got the first one. It could, and should, have been a lot worse :))

Now for a walk after the storm...

Below are a couple paintings done in Zion a few years back. It always motivates me to want to paint, but it's so big and powerful I it can be intimidating. Who cares, it's fun to try. Go buy a set of cheap watercolors and 3 by 5 inch watercolor blocks of paper and have some fun. Wet the entire paper and drop in some colors with a brush and let them mingle…tilt the paper this way and that to help the mixing process. After it dries look at what's on the paper…it will remind you of something. It may be a good sky…if so, use it. Pencil in a simple landscape under the sky, nothing complicated, just a few distant mountains that are darker than the sky. You might surprise yourself. Keep it up…just play. When you have the hang of wet in wet atmospheric scenes, try watching a few youtube demonstration videos like this one…
There are hundred of free demos on you tube…or you can buy a book or DVD to help get started. A small painting, no matter how good or bad, every day for 30 days and you will be on your way.


  1. I HAVE tried this, Mark, and it is NOT as easy as you make it sound. Well...maybe you don't want to publish this comment so people will at least try. I can do the washes...but then the penciling in part is what gets goofy. You "pencil in" like a true artist, with that eye hand thing that sees it and draws it. makes a BIG difference in the outcome. but thanks for the lesson and the encouragement/

  2. You and Bobbie both inspire me to want to try painting, but my Arty voice says I'm below average, so I think I'll stick with trying to learn Italian.
    Ouray is picture perfect covered In snow!

  3. The paintings are just beautiful! Love the colors.

    Your photos are so clear, I feel like I can reach in and touch the snow.

  4. Glad you finally got rid of Arty....He was a pain in the ass. You take amazing photo's and as I all to well know it is difficult to adjust to a 'different' life than the one we plan. Your watercolor paintings are a great way to heal. You have an amazing collection of photo's for inspiration.... You will be out there again snapping those photos and living the good life!!

  5. Like the paintings Mark. Good stuff for sure:))

  6. Great work (despite that asshole Arty in your ear)! Thanks for the tips about watercolor. The freeform-ness of it appeals to me.

    Ouray sure is purdy in the snow!

  7. Oh, I love those paintings! And I also love how you are breaking it down, as it now makes more sense. Like the guy in the video making "clouds." I would have drawn a pencil-shaped cloud and tried to paint around it. LOL!

    Before, I just looked at the subject matter, and didn't really stop to think how it was created, but I am enjoying the phases. Is the photo of Chimney and Courthouse that inspired the painting posted on the blog somewhere?

    Tell Arty to "Get lost!! We're busy here!"

  8. Fun look at the step-by-step process of watercolors. As long as you enjoy it, Mark, it's all worth the effort!

  9. Love the paintings. Whatever happened to the beach scene you were going to do? I'd still like to see your treatment of it.... especially now that I've seen what you can do! :)


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