This is where a new found interest in drawing gets you! I have done line and wash before – in fact there is one in my book “Bridges of Dee” – but such paintings have always been more wash than line as I had no confidence in my line. There are lots of ways of using this method – I have opted for doing all the line in ink before adding the wash, diving in the deep end, so to speak.
You may remember my recent watercolour of Farndon in which this window appears. After all the years of living in the village (38 years to be precise), I became very interested in the window. It’s quite an expensive window, Victorian, red Ruabon brick, if I’m not mistaken, and built around a corner. There are lots of textures and shapes. I think the detail responds well to line, the moulding around the panes of glass, different sorts of brick and paving, the adverts. The drawing is not a howling success, but it’s far better than I could have achieve two months ago. Let’s see what colour does for it.
When I finished the garden, I felt I had to do something to the sky. The grey sky and the grey house next to it looked unfinished to me, but it’s a large area to fill with pencil. At least it seemed so to me. So I tried a cloud. Well, that looked pretty awful. It certainly differentiated the house and sky, but the execution of same cloud is very amateur! No shading – I didn’t have a reference – and I don’t think clouds do that.
In a bit of a panic – I’ve ruined it! – I tried shading the whole sky in white pencil but a blank white sky was even worse. I even contemplated running a wet brush over the area in an attempt to unify it but this is pastel paper and it would cockle.
Then I found I could rub out the white pencil to some extent, though not enough to remove it completely. Something would have to be done. Pastel paper equals pastels? And I different medium may mean adding colour. So I tried a soft graduated mauve. I’m still in two minds about this. I think it’s an improvement on the last two efforts but maybe I should have kept to grey and white.
In the throes of recounting these disasters, I have overlooked the finished garden, and I have to say I am pleased with the way that part has gone. But I am still hovering over changing the sky yet again.
I was looking through my portfolio, searching for paintings I might want to frame, when I came across this unfinished pastel of Carrog Bridge. It was begun as a demonstration piece on using pastels, done about the time I was painting all those bridges of the Dee. This is not the view which made it into the book, but it’s still a good composition.
The tonal blocks were laid in a pleasing (to me!) chunky manner, so that the scene was revealed in its essentials within an hour or so. There is rich colouring in the stonework of the bridge itself, while the pattern of darks and lights in the trees is lively, invigorating even. A sweep of a pastel announced the reflections. With all that in place, I had then started on the details on the houses. I must suppose that time had run out then, but I think there is a good basis for further work should time allow. It will be a new experience to paint a Dee bridge as a stand alone image, and it has encouraged me to re-visit my photographic archive to see what other treasures I can find.
I am finding this a very satisfying project despite the lack of colour. I must admit I am aching to introduce colour but this is a tonal exercise so I’ll stick to black and white.
I have made a bit more of the distant cottage and even more distant trees, so I must concentrate on the garden in the foreground. It’s very dark in the the photo, but I have invested in a very portable LED light so can see more of the subtle shading.
I have pushed those shades to a more extreme point, since I am not yet able to create them as they are. However, I think what I have done is reasonably OK. Choosing when and how to introduce White is exercising my mind somewhat! And the sky as a great blank – is that all right or will I need to add a cloud?
No decision yet so I continued to eat away at the garden to see what happened. This is very uncharted territory for me. I may have overdone the white, so I’ll use it a bit more sparingly now. The bit that’s left is more shadowed anyway.