08 November 2013

Delayed gratification

It became something of a joke during the week at Bandouille, because every place we went, everything was closed. Especially in the small villages and towns, but also to a certain extent in the big ones, businesses are closed all day Sunday (presumably for religious reasons); they are often closed on Monday (just because); they close for two hours every day at lunch (whereas in many/most other countries, businesses make sure to stay open during lunch so that all the people on their lunch hours can come in!), and then there are "winter hours," which can be whatever they say, and also EVERYTHING is closed in August, when everybody goes somewhere else. (Except I wonder what happens in resort towns--they must stay open for all the city folk coming to vacation there, but maybe not?) The result of this is, it always seems like you are arriving somewhere five minutes after they closed or an hour before they are due to reopen, and it makes you nuts!

So after some of these observations on Sunday and Monday when we kept seeing "fermé" on every hand, on Tuesday we went to Bressuire to draw that hilltop ruin with the chalet in the middle, and after we walk around for awhile, Bixxy says, "We're going to go sit on the patio of a café with the perfect view of the ruins to sketch, and I KNOW they won't be closed, because they're transplanted Brits like us!"

So we arrive at the place and the owner is standing out in his driveway about to drive away in his truck, and Bixxy says hi to him, and that we've come to sketch, and he says "Oh, sorry, we're closed--winter hours!" Bixxy says "Um, WHAT?" and he says "Yeah, we're closed on Mondays AND Tuesdays--in fact, starting today!" But he must have seen our faces, because he relented and let us out onto the patio before he left, and then after we'd been there for half an hour or so, his wife brought out a tray of coffees and "biscuits" for us, so it turned out okay.

Anyway, on Thursday afternoon we went to Saint Loup Lamairé to take more photos of picturesque stuff, and we come around the corner onto the last street and there's a boulangerie. I say "Oh, look, let's go in!" And Bix says, "Nope, it's closed--in fact, in all the times I've been here, on every single day of the week, I've never seen it open!" We all laughed, and I took a picture of the "closed" sign in the window, which turned out well, so I decided I'd paint it and send it to Bix and Drew as a little thank you / joke gift. So I didn't post this one it until after it arrived in France, because I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

I wanted to try out Jane's method of doing an underwash before painting the picture, and that's what I did here, because the sign was a deep green with rust spots and streaks, and the lettering was a pale green, accentuated further by being behind glass, so it lent itself perfectly to this experiment.

I also did some "lifting out," by first painting the wood all one color, then going back in to paint the dark color on the right and lifting out to get a lighter color on the left where the light was falling. After it dried, I also went back in and put in a little more pink in the wood, to counteract the greeny-turquoise underlayer. I also lifted out that little highlight of the reflected rubber stick-on thingy that's holding up the sign.

This was a fun one!

(I signed this picture just before I took it to be matted and mailed, and immediately regretted it. The signature was too careful. The signature was too big. It sticks out like a sore thumb to me. But--people sign their work. How do they ever get past the intrusion this is into the art? Maybe I should have done it in pencil. Maybe I should have just written something on the back and let it go. Too late. Does anybody else get this feeling of inappropriateness when they put their name on their art? It's not that I don't want to own to it, it's just that art to me is visual, and the signature is written and the two don't go together. Ironic in a picture that contains a typeset sign, I guess, but . . . it just feels wrong.)

05 November 2013

Climate and watercolor

On my trip to Bandouille, one thing I learned is that climate plays a huge role in how you paint with watercolor. We did washes there (in damp, cool weather) that took hours, or even overnight, to be ready; but last weekend when I did a couple of underlayer washes here, by the time I had finished the second one, the first one was bone dry! Southern California climate.

So, this weekend, when I went to the farmers' market and bought some flowers, and one of the sunflowers snapped off just a couple of inches below the flower, I put it in a little glass jar of water on my kitchen windowsill and immediately thought, That would make a great Jane Minter-esque painting! My idea was to do the details on the jar first, then paint the sunflower, and while the yellows were still wet, to go around the whole thing with water on the paper, touch into the color (which would, of course still be damp) and bleed a glorious halo out around the sunflower.

If I had done it this weekend, when one day was overcast and cool, it probably would have worked. But I ran out of time, so instead, I got up and did it this morning. I had a 9:00 appointment at the vet for Miniver, but I woke up at 7:00 and thought, Yes! I can do that painting before I have to leave!

In the middle of the night, however, the weather had changed: The Santa Ana winds had blown in, making everything sunny, gusty and dry. It didn't occur to me that this would change my plans, but after painting the glass jar and then the sunflower, I ran the water around the outside of the image, touched into the paint and...nothing. Nothing! The yellow was already dry! No lovely Minter bleed-out of pure beautiful golden color. Phooey.

So, I put some more paint on and dabbed a little out into the background for a paler, less dramatic and definitely less smooth and bloomy version, and here it is. I was at least happy with the weird reflection I managed to duplicate from the early morning sun shining through the jar as it sat on my patio table. I'll have to try Jane's methods another day, when we get one of our rare Seattle-type weekends of rain. (Or sit in the bathroom to paint with the shower going!)

Come to think of it, I used to know a woman in one of my watercolor classes at community college who lived in an apartment with her husband and a couple of almost-grown children, and the only place she had to paint was in the bathroom. She would go in there, sit on the tub and prop her drawing board against the sink, and paint the most glorious, lush, 18x24 landscapes. I felt bad for her that she didn't have some other space in which to work...but maybe she was onto something!