This past Saturday was a test of fortitude for me and about a dozen painters. We painted at Camp El Tesoro - a Campfire Girls retreat - on the banks of Fall Creek near Granbury, Texas. I'm not sure, but I think Fall Creek is a branch off the Brazos River which was only a short distance away. Temperatures hovering around 35 degrees at 10:00 am, I wore 3 layers of clothing, gloves with the fingertips cut away, ear muffs & a hat. It wasn't too cold as long as I was out of the wind; it was out of the north about 20 mph.
I set my easel close to the water's edge to get a good view up-creek. There was very little color along the banks so I added some warm yellow and oranges to "liven it up" a bit....truth be known, I was so cold I tried to imagine that it was an 80 degree October day.
As is my usual practice, I began the painting by working the background first and wet the paper with clear water. Then onto the damp surface, I added various shades of ultramarine blue with burnt sienna to grey it down a bit. As the paper begins to dry, I finish the background by putting in a few dark accents close to the bank using a darker value of my ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. Moving forward into mid-ground, I add yellow ochre, pyrrol orange and new gamboge to the "puddle" I used for the background. Once again, I wet the area I'm going to paint with clear water, then add the colors at random & allow them mix together on the paper. While I wait for that passage to dry, I paint the creek and use the same color mixture I used for the riverbank to make the reflections. By the time I've finished painting the reflections, the trees on the riverbank are ready for some additional dark values and at the same time, I lift & scrape out highlights. I saved the waterfall in the foreground for last; perserving the white of the paper.& This area is also worked "wet into wet" to maintain soft edges where the water is falling to a lower level. In just a few minutes, the waterfall has dried enough to I can add some dark accents using gestural downstrokes - again to give the illusion of motion.
From start to finish, the painting took about 90 minutes. That seems awfully fast, but that's the nature of watercolor; it's a "fast" medium. Through experience, there's confidence in every stroke I make - without hesitation.
Several of my most recent paintings have water themes....and I do love to paint water; whether it's a lazy river or raging white water...or a seashore. Water creates a wide range of emotions; from calmness to excitement...and I try to capture that emotion in my painting.