Monday, September 1, 2014

Update on Painting of New Orleans Musicians

Back to the second New Orleans painting that I started writing about on July 16, 2014.

While we were away in mid-August I was able to do a little work on it:

The colors are washes I laid down to begin to define the background.  Oh, and I should say that the yellowish outline on the figures is a masking fluid that keeps the watercolors from flowing into places it's not welcome.

I took this preliminary work in to class last week thinking I might be able to start on the figures or the musicians; actually my fingers were itching to start on them - there was no brain involved at all.  It's obvious that the background needs more work.  See the big blank space behind the tuba?  That's a store window, and that's what Sharon told me needed work before I went on to anything else.    As usual I had no idea how to approach that window - complete with a reflected figure.

After Sharon gave me some ideas how to paint the window, I took out a piece of scrap paper and began.

This is what I had at the end of class.  Strangely enough, I liked it even though I knew I was far from being ready to add something like the above as the window in the painting.  I had let the water control me rather than the other way around! My  plan was to continue with that freedom while painting another three or four practice passes before the next class.

Three or four?  Try one. It's all I had time for.  However, this sketch is better than the first attempt.  The colors are more subdued, objects in the shop are more clearly items on shelves, but the reflected light isn't there at all as I inadvertently painted right over the blank areas I initially left for reflections.  Sigh another note to self.  The big white area on the left is where the real tuba is (check the first painting), and I just realized that instrument might be the reflection in the lower right hand side of the window!  I  had thought it might be another hat on a stand on the window sill inside the shop, but now . . . .  What do you think?

Things need to be corrected and practiced a few more times.  Here's what I know I need to do:
  • enlarge this area of the photograph in order to help me see what's in the shop if at all possible.  Tuba or hat or???  Items on the shelves? 
  • make the size of the window the correct shape instead of just dividing my practice paper into sections that have no real relation to the window I'm sketching
  • use the same watercolor paper I'm using for the "real" painting for the practice sketches - I just forgot to do that today.  Different papers and water interact differently.
  • turn off the overhead fan!  While I felt much more comfortable ceding control to the water (I knew the items seen through a window would be indistinct), but due to the fan, it dried too quickly.  Even though more water can be added, it stops the rhythm of the work. 
  • practice


  1. seems to me that painting takes a lot of thought, practice and work. It will be worth it when you're done!

  2. I think I would have completed the musicians before working on the windows behind them. For me it would be important to get the musicians strong and dominant and have the window behind them subdued, yet complementary. I probably would cut out a shape the size of the window and work out various possibilities in water color sketches to test behind the musicians. But maybe that'a because I don't necessarily know beforehand where a piece is taking me..