Thursday, October 9, 2014

Painting a Street Scene in Watercolor

Here's a video that I made while painting a row of shopfronts in Huntington, Indiana. (Direct link to video)


My first step is to first measure out a reasonably accurate perspective drawing in pencil. I cover the surface with a light ghost wash.

Then I place the watercolor tones with a flat brush. I start with the idea of doing a sepia sketch, but decide to bring in a cerulean/light red combination.


As time runs out, I switch to a brown fountain pen to describe the small, fine linear accents.

Since the fountain pen is water soluble, I can't add further watercolor washes without dissolving the lines. The reason for adding the penwork at the end of the process is that I was more interested in using the pen for selective small accents rather than for boundary lines.
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Materials:
Homemade sketchbook pochade easel using adjustable torque hinges
Waterman Phileas fountain pen with brown ink

72- Minute Instructional Video: "Watercolor in the Wild"
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20 comments:

Jacob A Stevens said...

Hi James, great video! I've never seen you use the clear plastic sheet with grid lines on it before. In this video you used it as a straightedge, but it looks like you might use it for a grid system to help with proportion, or something like that?

James Gurney said...

Jacob, Good eye. You're right--I made it as a sight-size grid. But so far have found it more of a hassle to use than other measuring methods, mainly because of the requirement to hold my head in one exact position. I'll keep experimenting with it.

Mitch said...

Love the video, James! You are so generous in sharing your knowledge, and I hope you understand how much people appreciate it. I discovered your site only a few months ago, but it has been a daily must see for me since then. I've also enjoyed your book, Color and Light. I think your style of presentation is one of the most engaging, non-threatening and helpful I have ever seen.
Please keep up the good work.
Thanks,
Mitch

Glenn said...

Another great study, What I appreciated most about this video was the pairing of the palette and sketchbook in many of the shots. This really showcased the practical side of your working methods – I learned a lot from this one. Thanks.

Dan said...

The grid reminds me of the recommendation in Harold Speed's The Practice and Science of Drawing, if I'm remembering rightly. I'd be very interested in whether you find this technique useful in the long run, and really any tips you might have on measurement, sight size or relative.

I also want to echo what Mitch said. I've learned a lot from your blog, books, and videos, and I'm grateful that you continue to share your knowledge here so generously!

Cedar Bylard said...

I love the dry brushed brick. What a great idea.

Nathaniel Gold said...

I noticed your not using a moleskin sketchbook is there a specific reason for the switch.

James Gurney said...

Nathaniel, I still like the Moleskine, but am trying out the Pentalic, which has thicker paper, which I want lately for doing more gouache and casein. The Moleskine watercolor book is totally fine, too, especially for watercolor pencils and light washes.

NovaBiscuit said...

Great video! I noticed that you use brown fountain pen ink, is that because black would be too much contrast? Do you look for a more red-brown brown or a more green-brown brown?

James Gurney said...

Nova, good question. Yes, I feel the brown harmonizes better with the watercolors. I wish the brown were a little lighter. I added some water to it for next time. I wish the commercial brown inks were more toward the raw umber (greenish side) rather than red brown.

Steve said...

I, too, echo Mitch's thoughts. I recently read a quotation on another artist's website (Peter Huntoon's) that seemed to express the essence of Gurney Journey: "The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give it away. " -- David Viscott

Abigail Platter said...

Thanks for posting this, James. It really gave me hope for the watercolor I'm working on right now. I saw the large flat washes as good friends, not boring adversaries. ;)

Joan Tavolott said...

Great video, James. I often do old buildings and it was good to see how you approached giving the buildings that aged look as well as hear your thoughts about what you were doing at the time. You showed your pochade for the sketchbook, but not close enough to see how it was constructed and attached to what I assume must be a tripod.

Thanks for sharing so much information.

James Gurney said...

Thanks, everyone. Joan, the new sketchbook pochade is a more compact, lightweight version of the black sketchbook pochade I showed earlier: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2014/08/your-questions-about-gear.html
and you're right, it attaches to a tripod.

Steve, Mitch, You're welcome....and thank you! You guys give back as much as I give you. A good example is what I learned from all of your DIY watercolor pochades: http://gurneyjourney.blogspot.com/2013/09/your-diy-watercolor-pochades.html

Glenn, glad you liked the pairing of the palette and sketchbook. That's one of the reasons I built the pochade to have the palette directly below the book. Everything's easier when you don't have to reach far from the palette to the work.

Dan, I'll keep experimenting with sight-size methods. I recommend everyone take a look at Marc Dallessio's great short video about it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0QeUviRgqY

Tom Hart said...

I used to use Higgins Sepia ink, with a dip pen, with watercolors. I don't even know if it's still made, but I wonder if you've tried it, James. I don't recall it being waterproof (because it used to bleed a bit under washes, which I didn't mind). But I don't think it was technically water soluble, either. (I'm not sure whether or not it would be advisable to use in a fountain pen, come to think of it.)

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, thanks for mentioning Higgins Sepia, which I use also. From my experience, it's water soluble and works fine in fountain pens. It's a very nice brown.

Tom Hart said...

Oops! Now that I pull out that old bottle of ink (still not dried out!), I see that it's Pelikan Sepia Drawing Ink. The bottle doesn't indicate water soluble or waterproof, but my memory is that it behaved somewhere in between, but not very soluble. A quick web search suggests that it may not be available, or at best difficult to find.

Nancy said...

There's an insanely thorough comparison of many sepia-toned inks at the following links (hoping they post):

http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php/topic/209494-sepia-toned-ink-comparison-32-inks/

http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?/topic/209498-sepia-toned-ink-comparison-32-inks/?&pid=217647

Thanks for sharing your expertise!

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Nancy. That's an incredibly thorough report on sepia inks.

Tom, yes, usually the convention is to use the term drawing inks or India inks for ones that are not water soluble.

Robert Trujillo/Tres said...

Wow, i just stumbled onto your blog while doing research for a bk project. Im comfortable using watercolor for portraits and characters, but i want to get better at painting scenery and locations. Your work is Amazing!!!