In mid November I took part in a 3 day plein air watercolor workshop with renown painter Steve Rogers. He specializes in paintings of boats and reflections in water, along with other landscapes and abstractions. Boats aren’t really my ideal subject matter, but I’m always willing to learn from others. I have never attempted to work in plein air so I wanted to try.
The supply list was a little overwhelming considering I had already purchased 95% of my watercolor materials and supplies in the past nine months, and that was quite an expenditure. Ah well, what’s a few more tubes of paint and one more sable brush? I was crafty enough to create a plein air easel out of an old camera tripod (a hand-me-down from my dad) and a beat up masonite board. I still possessed my Office Depot rolling cart from my English teacher days; it held all my supplies nicely and acted as a table with the lid in place.
The first day of the workshop we were stuck working inside due to inclement weather. I’m not even going to post what I worked on, as it was a spectacular failure. I worked too small, included too much detail, tried to replicate a photograph instead of create a painting. Fortunately we had presentations to watch. Steve demonstrated his technique and preferred materials for our group, and I picked up quite a few tips. I’ve been struggling with skies, and it was enlightening to watch him create visual interest in the sky by using cobalt and cerulean blue with yellow ochre and a little quinacridone gold. Of course the more varied a sky the more leeway one has with color, but I had some paintings in progress with clear blue skies that were just boring. After this lesson I went home and reworked one of these paintings to much better effect.
The next day was sunny and calm so we carpooled to a local marina and set up our easels. I was glad my easel went up easily and remained stable in the breezes that came up around lunchtime. I discovered that several of the other painters were well versed with sailboats and knew what all the bits and bobs were on these vessels. I drew what I saw the best I could, but boy it gets confusing looking at all that information. I chose a close up view of a boat that I thought was particularly charming.
The process of painting outdoors went smoothly. A bee or two showed interest in my honey-based paint (M.Graham), but otherwise I worked for most of the morning with no problems. I took breaks and walked around to see what others were creating. It was fun to see the different viewpoints and applications. There were also some cool old boats at this marina; wooden boats with character are getting harder to find, as is access to places like this without a membership. It was a lovely morning, until the shade I was sitting in gave way to hot Florida sunshine. I endured it a little while longer, then we packed up and headed back to our indoor studio. I wasn’t totally in love with my painting, but I think for a first effort I did all right.
I might try to paint it again from my photo. I find my phone takes better pictures sometimes than I see in front of me IRL.
The third day we were stuck inside again. Frustrated with my lack of personal boat pictures, I went online and found a photo with bright color, nice reflections, and strong lines. I can’t use my final painting for anything except a demo or a gift, as I have no idea of the source of my image and I am sensitive to using uncredited imagery. But it was a challenging exercise to apply some of the workshop techniques into final form.
I have a looooong way to go learning watercolor. I love working with it so much, however, that the journey should be fun and rewarding. Just no more boats with oodles of rigging…