British Columbia, Canada, Rivers Light, watercolor, 28 x 21" (71 x 53 cm)
Second Prize is a two-page editorial feature in American Art Collector magazine
The natural beauty of the environment in which I live is almost all the inspiration that I need; however, I also draw from vague distant memories and apply that to the subject being painted. Early morning and evening light provides the best conditions in which to convey what I am feeling. I want my paintings to live somewhere between a realistic present and a past memory. Warm light catching rising mist and particles in the air would be the strongest influence in my work. I love thick, warm atmosphere even if it’s a cold winter day.
My Design Strategy
Most often I will use many photos to bring a final piece together. When in the field gathering reference, I prefer to take a larger overall shot of what caught my interest and crop into the scene for the painting rather than trying to compose a finished design in the camera. This is much more freeing and allows one to see the environment that will affect the subject. You could say the photo is really just an inspiration, as I will change virtually every aspect at least a little or a lot as in Rivers Light where the large foreground rocks were specifically placed. I always freehand my compositions on the paper to further the feeling in design and try to draw the viewer from the foreground details to the background mystery.
My Working Process
Thumbnail sketches are used to redesign the subject, and then I like to do a small pre-study to work out the colour and mood. For me, paintings are very controlled but should not look that way in the end. I will then draw the composition as lightly and with as few lines as possible with a 4h pencil, as I do not want to see pencil lines in the end. White is never used in my watercolour paintings, so I mask or omit lighter areas in multiple stages. The tree line in Rivers Light was created by negatively painting liquid mask over the sky to reveal the profile of the positive trees. This is one of my favourite techniques, which allows the freedom of multiple blended layers with soft paint removal to create glowing light. Once all things are masked, like the rocks above water, I can be very creative and fluid with the paint knowing certain light areas are safe. Sometimes masking has to go on and off in stages, like the small background trees and the refracted light on the rocks. Once it’s at around 90 percent, the masking comes off and I finish the rocks and generally tie everything together.
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