This is an experiment I’m working on. I’ve taken attempted watercolors of Euphorbia rigida, or spurge, entangled in a cluster of prickly pear cactus, and cut shapes from all of them and put them together in a collage. Nothing is glued yet but I’m pretty excited about the prospect of putting this all together, adding final details and shape defining darks and framing it in a shadowbox.
Over the past several weeks I’ve painted multiple versions from this photograph, trying different styles than my norm which is loose and free. I’ve tried a limited palette and using masking fluid to preserve the whites of the leaves in the sun, and I’ve been frustrated and in a bit of a slump.
So I’m playing this by ear as I go, keeping in mind design elements and composition, cooler bluer colors receding, warmer colors up front, and soft and hard edges. For the cactus pads I’ve ripped the edges by softening the paper and either tearing it front to back so white shows, or tearing it the opposite direction to have the white torn edge be on the back. I’m keeping in mind the watercolor principle that you save the whites and can always paint over them if they are distracting. I’ve done the same with the flower heads and arranged them to have the most detailed one at the focal point. I’m doing multiple levels of the flower bracts to create dimension.
The sky background is streaked because I am (so far) using a multimedia paper I painted rather than watercolor paper for the background, so I’ll have to decide if I need to replace it or if I can live with the streaks.
Below is my first attempt at painting this scene, and it will be on display in July at the Cottonwood Gallery of the Southwest Environmental Center in Las Cruces at the corner of Main and Las Cruces streets. The Southern Chapter of the NM Watercolor Society is hosting a show there with the theme of Nature, and there will be a lot of beautiful watercolors on display to enjoy in the coolness of air conditioning on a summer day. I hope you can make it!
Regarding painting this again, or other pieces, I’ve decided to go back to my normal loose and free style. For this view I’ll wipe out the leaves from a rich dark puddle, but that’s for another day and another post.