|"Snow and Aspens"|
10" x 20" Watercolor
In late September I attended a plein air workshop given by Stephen Quiller, a noted watermedia artist from Creede, Colorado, known as a color specialist who has authored books and DVDs. The workshop was held at beautiful 4UR Ranch near Stephen's home. I went with an artist friend who had attended this same workshop with me in 2015. Again, we were amazed by the beauty of this ranch in the San Juan Mountains. We were treated to beautiful meals, a lovely workshop space, and several fun events.
The weather in 2015 was consistently sunny warm days with very cold nights. This year we had entirely different weather, ranging from sunny and cool, to rain, to snow. We found this a benefit, allowing us to learn some new techniques. Steven makes use of acrylics, watercolors, and gouache to interpret the landscape in an artistically unique fashion. His approach to color uses complimentary or near complimentary colors to make colors glow. By mixing these colors, an artist can "neutralize" or "grey down" colors. By surrounding pure color with neutralized colors, I can enhance the effects of the pure color. Additionally, Steven uses thick, dark mixtures next to pure color to make it "sing."
Steven also emphasizes using granulating colors in neutral areas and often starts a painting with neutralized, granulating colors[. These colors do not sink into the sized paper, so it easy to lift areas back to almost pure white, as I did in "Snow and Aspens," to add the golden foliage. In other paintings, many of the white aspen trunks and branches were lifted from the background. Acrylics make a good underpainting as it will not lift when watercolor is applied over it and one can lift back to the underpainting very easily.
He also makes use of gouache and casein with his watercolors to achieve certain effects. In the above painting, done on Day 4 after snow had fallen in the night, I used gouache under the background mountains to achieve the swirling fog and obscure mountain tops. The white gouache mixed nicely with the cerulean blue of the sky.
Sometimes Steven uses dry bush techniques, other times he paints wet into wet. He emphasizes how you control the paint application with the ratio of water to paint. When painting into the wet surface, use a dryer brush with lots of pigment. That is how I created the trees in the foreground. As most instructors will tell you don't mess around after applying the paint. "Let it do what it will do" and "It is what it is." Steven uses the landscape for inspiration, but is not a slave to the scene. He told us "listen to the painting." He always approaches each stroke with a designer's eye. He also completes the last 15% of his plein air paintings in the studios so he can "listen to the painting."
The next post will show you how we began the workshop and other works created plein air with very stunning vistas.