Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bourges Watercolor

We set up our folding stools in the middle of the old section of Bourges, France, yesterday, looking toward the half-timbered houses that were built soon after the great fire of 1487.

I spent the first hour working out the pencil drawing on the 6x8 inch Moleskine watercolor book. I then laid very light washes in gray and brown, leaving the white of the paper only in the far, upper plane of the central building.

Then, starting with the very dark doorway, I painted the structure area-by-area. The whole painting was done with a folding travel brush, a 1/4 inch flat. The flat, chisel shape can be used edge-on for a fine line, or full-width for wider shapes, such as the reddish brown sill piece at the top of the first floor.

In the final painting I lightened the further buildings on the right side, both to vignette the subject and to give a sense of fog.

14 comments:

Erik Bongers said...

Love the fog.
The drawing seems very crude in comparison to the subtle endresult.
I guess this is typical for painters.

Dit said...

I love watching your work in progress, it's a great way to learn from you. We've got plenty of old, timbered buildings here in the UK but I always found them too challenging to draw, they usually end up looking like something from Dr Seuss. Thanks for sharing!

richardrabkin said...

It's really helpful to me to learn the amount of time you're spent on drawing. Somehow I have always assumed I should be able to work faster than is actually possible and then become discouraged.
Richard

Jared Shear said...

Nice one James!

Jon Hrubesch said...

I always love the architectural paintings you make. The fog adds so much atmosphere to the final image.

Kat said...

Your watercolors are positively miraculous.

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Karen Sandstrom at Pen in Hand said...

Ditto what RichardRabkin said.

Arnaud said...

A great painting! It takes a lot of courage to paint in front of people.
Do you happen to come to Paris?

pAT said...

E' bellissimo!!

My Pen Name said...

These are so inspiring James, thanks for sharing!

Casey Crowe said...

These process posts are great, as is the end result. One question: when you do the pencil sketch, do you take any steps to prevent it from smudging when you watercolor over top? I'm thinking some type of spray fix or a certain type of pencil maybe.

James Gurney said...

Erik and Richard, thanks. The preliminary drawing was OK, but on an after-the-fact comparison with a photo taken at the same time, I realized I made quite a few errors. I probably should have spent a little more time on the drawing.

Arnaud: Truly, all the people of Bourges were so kind (despite my disabilities with speaking the language) that I was never bothered in the least by people passing and looking. And I regret that I won't be able to come to Paris this time.

Casey, as long as you use an HB pencil or harder, there shouldn't be any need to use fixative. The watercolor floats quite delicately over the pencil. Fixative might affect how the watercolor washes interact with the surface. You also have to be careful to avoid oily erasers, which can affect the even spread of washes.

Casey Crowe said...

Thanks for the info James! I've tried using fix a on my pencils before watercoloring and the end result was... interesting. Figured there might be a better way. Gonna have to get myself some harder pencils.