Monday, December 8, 2008

Minaret in Tunis

I try not to get nervous when a soldier with a machine gun watches me paint. But this guy in the medina of Tunis was very cool. There was a language barrier, so after I exhausted my pleasantries in French and Arabic, he just quietly watched.

I actually spent two sessions to capture this watercolor of the minaret at the Sidi Youssef mosque in Tunis. The sun was rapidly setting and the moon rising, while the light of the souq was brightening. I used gouache on this one just for the sky, because I couldn't capture the even gradation in transparent watercolor.

Here's the narrow street where I was painting (photo courtesy Alan Dean Foster). The loudspeakers from the minaret resounded with the call to prayer, and behind me in the government square, a brass band accompanied the daily flag ceremony.


Erik Bongers said...

The light is wonderfull.
The opaque sky indeed does it.

Daroo said...

Another great little painting! All of the sketches from your trip are really strong in drawing, design and execution. You really seem to be "in the zone" while traveling.

You sound as if your apologizing for the use of gouache, while I agree you can't beat the sparkle of a 100% transparent painting (and there is a certain tour de force aspect to creating one)-- I happen to be a fan of the watercolor/gouache combo paintings. It seems like there is a stigma attached to using gouache in the watercolor community.

Did you use a blue gouache or combine white gouache with a transparent blue watercolor?

Thanks for sharing the great work.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Erik and Daroo...Along with the transparent watercolor in the Schmicke set, I brought a tube of white, ultra blue, raw sienna, and light red gouache, and used a tint of the blue for the sky.

I use oil in the same way, mixing opaque and transparent throughout, but oddly more often opaques in the distant passages because of the control of value that opacity affords.

I agree that there shouldn't be a stigma to using "body color" with watercolor. Trost Richards is one of my heroes for mixed technique.

The minaret looks like the "Leaning Tower of Tunis," but that's because I took the photo at a weird slant.

Daroo said...

Thanks for the color info -- I've also heard of people supplementing their transparent colors with Naples Yellow gouache (kind of a cad yellow pale).

I checked out the schmincke set -- it looks like the perfect travel rig ( not too big -- but plenty of room for mixing) but it is a bit pricey and I like to pick my own palette.

Here's some Flicker links of people converting old cigarette boxes and such into small travel rigs:

I use a small butcher tray (10"x7") and two of those weekly vitamin holders filled up with my transparent tube colors - then I put a small amount of white gouache directly in the tray to mix as needed. The vitamin bins happened to come with magnets on the bottom (I guess so you can stick them to your fridge)so they stick to the butcher tray. Its a little too big for travel but its nice because I can just pop out the vitamin color trays and wash out all the hardened gouache.
Do you have any links to Trost Richards' work? I hunted around a bit and could only find oil paintings. Perhaps a future post?

James Gurney said...

Daroo, Thanks for the link to that Flickr set, and what a great idea to use those vitamin holders.

I'll put a couple of Trost Richards images on the blog for you tomorrow.

Nick said...

Great James, you seem to have adapted to that Southern light really well. It's a pleasure to be viewing your trip this way.