Gila Discovery


Gila Discovery. 5.25″ x 10.25″ watercolor based on a photo of my daughter at a younger age investigating nature at the Gila Cliff Dwellings in New Mexico

I fixed this up a bit, now that I have it home, and I wanted to talk about it a bit.

If you notice the photo this is based on, in an earlier post, you will see there is no distant mesa or mountains to the left, and that in reality, there was a tree there.  I took out the tree because it didn’t help the story I was telling, and Michael suggested the distant area to give a background and it works well.  The middle ground is the rock/mountain and figure, the foreground the steps.

One key that he emphasized in his style of painting was to mingle paint on the paper and get in, do what you need when it’s wet and then don’t go back in.  When the bead of paint is still on the paper, the paint is wet enough to keep putting in thicker mixtures of pigments, and this makes them come alive.  Doing this keeps the luminosity of the paper and isn’t deadened with thicker layers of darks on top of other layers. It’s hard to see on the monitor, but the darkest area behind the girl kind of glows. It’s done with indanthrone blue, quin burn scarlet, ultramarine and quin burnt orange. I put the thickest amount of pigment in the middle bottom with less on the side where the light would illuminate into the interior more.

Painting the figure was a lot easier than I thought it would be. That gives me confidence to add figures to other landscapes, when I do them which isn’t often so far, but the figures help show the scale of mountains or rocks.

We talked a bunch, in our critiques, about cropping to make a painting or a sketch better before painting. When I sketched this one, I had it on a paper that was closer to  8″ x 10″ and the focal point (white against darkest dark) was almost smack in the middle of the page. Wow! big faux pas of course because it makes a static composition, not interesting… but then it makes the painting not a standard size…it ended up 5.25″ x 10.25″.

SOOO….I’m seeing a mat cutter on my Christmas list! Big Smile!

12 thoughts on “Gila Discovery

  1. Oh, yes – cropping is as important in painting as it is in photography. I love what you say about going in wet and not going back. On the one hand, I like layers and on the other hand I don’t like mud! Anyway, good choice for Xmas list and lovely workshop piece you created. Well done!


  2. Nice. Stay dry today! Who expects this much rain in our high desert? BTW I can see the glow…very nice,

    Sent from my iPad



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