Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The fields are awash in brilliant yellow. This photo pales before the reality.

I was stalling, I realized, making one excuse after another. Then I knew: The beauty of all this was beyond my little skills. I was overwhelmed. I was too much of a beginner to try to do this. And yet I felt I had to capture it because soon it would fade away. Only weeks ago the landscape was fringed with a lovely white flower; and while I pondered over how to express it in watercolor the flowers faded away. Hadn't I learned? Now was the time to capture the yellow. Now!

Go back to the basics, I told myself: Walk the roads, pick the scene, stop and study it and sketch it. Just that much. That's all for now. And so I did. The sketch below is basically of the area where the photo was taken.

Upper left on the sketch pad is the initial sketch. Lower left the shapes of the values. To the right the lines and textures are indicated. Lots of notes. In the studio I used colored pencils to lay out the colors.

So then what watercolor paper would I use? Rather than stall again by preparing the paper I chose a watercolor block. By then it was nearing mid-day so I told myself to just do an initial wash of two main colors. I could then take a lunch break and come back with more courage.

I didn't come back. In this not-climate controlled place that I call my "studio" the paper had buckled. I knew the uneven surface would get in my way and cause all kinds of mishaps. So there it sits: The buckled paper with the first wash, the carefully done sketch propped up for reference, the big brush I used for the wash, the colored pencils I used to lightly sketch out the basic shapes and of course the bucket of water to the right.

Days later it continues to sit there just like that. Many other things compete for my time. I knew I would have to work for the time to paint. I knew that learning to watercolor would not be easy. I will have to make some decisions. Can I find I way forward or will I allow distractions of one kind or another to allow me to stay stalled?

These brilliant flowers: Some call them bitterweed--they say that cows won't eat them. If they do they make the milk bitter. The locals shrug their shoulders. They're just a weed, they say. The severe drought has caused these fields to "go to ruin." They say that with some good soaking rains and proper attention these weeds won't take over like this again. This bittersweet beauty blazes across the fields only this season, they hope. I must hurry, I know, if this scene is to be captured on watercolor. Yet, there's more at work here. In the taste of next season's local honey might be a blazing hint of yellow.

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