“Mountain Valley”

mv-1Yesterday I decided to tone things down after my busy and bright “Be Fearless” layout. I also wanted to do something that felt pretty non-committal and could be finished fairly quickly with few materials so I went with another watercolor painting.

This is still playing and learning for me. Even down to how I gessoed the page.

I did feel like I needed to glue two of those 138-pound pages together before I began the layout. The “Be Fearless” layout left the single page feeling a bit floppy as my best way to describe it. At one point on that page I had gone over the entire thing with gel medium so I think the weight and flexibility of that lead to that unstable feeling. I will probably glue pages together like that through this entire journal, as well, as in hindsight, I did that with my Moleskine the whole way through and that’s why the pages feel so stable to me. I’m sure if I hadn’t glued pages together they’d possibly be floppy as well. I do think the large 9×12 surface in the Canson increases the potential for floppiness as well.

So for this layout, after I had glued the pages together using Mod Podge, I treated the surface of the page with clear gesso. Of note, the back side of these pages in this Canson sketchbook also do not have the same tooth as the front side, so gessoing was even more necessary.

I will say that my experience with gesso and watercolor is that it feels like the gesso just sucks up all the water so I don’t feel like I get a consistently nice wet surface to work on. In fact today I’m planning to do some more watercolor in my journal and I might experiment with the new page by not treating it with gesso at all. The mixed media pages should have enough tooth on them to support the watercolor. At least that’s my theory.

Regardless, this time when I applied gesso to the page I did it with a palette knife instead of my usual fan brush. It created an interesting plaster-like texture that I enjoyed which you can see really well in the upper left corner. So I liked the texture it provided. I did it in two coats for extra stability.

Gesso applied with a palette knife provided interesting texture for the background.

After the gesso dried I pulled out my little travel kit of Winsor & Newton watercolors. Oh I wish I could afford higher quality watercolors, although these do get good reviews themselves. There is a set of watercolors from Japan that I have my eye on that has great reviews that I may try to purchase in the future. They’re called Kuretake Gansai Tambi. If anyone reading has personal experience with these, let me know.

I chose to use my travel kit instead of my tubes this time around because I want to start going out and doing some field painting while the weather is still beautiful. I’m also planning to tote them along when my family and I go on our 4-wheeling trip next month. Not sure if I’ll have a moment to paint something but I’ll take lots of pictures and perhaps in the evenings when we’re back at home-base relaxing I may wish to paint.

These watercolors did their job, however. I started the painting off thinking I was going to focus mostly on the sky and clouds. However, I was getting frustrated with how quickly the gesso kept sucking up the water I laid out on the page so I decided to throw in the towel and just go for an overall landscape again. I do like how the sky and clouds turned out, however. And I like my decision to take the brush strokes in a sort of diagonal direction. It gives the impression of some possible rain off in the distance.

This time I did not mask out room for the tree – again, thought this was going to be more of a sky layout to start. When I decided to go with adding the tree on the left, I dragged some tissue down in a rough line along the page to lift some of the color off. This set of watercolors comes with a white so after I had removed some of the color from the page, I dried it then painted on the white color. I think it turned out well.

Nice start for my first pine trees.

From there it was just adding shading to the trunk, adding branches, sponging on the leaves in varying colors and then working with the field in the foreground, adding the impression of distant golden aspens and pine forests. I played around with the pine trees in the foreground, as well. My first time painting those. I watched a great demonstration video on YouTube by Angela Fehr. The video was “How to paint lively pine trees in watercolor.” I think today when I practice more watercolor I’ll be following along with her to paint more trees and such.

Not the most exciting, mind-blowing layout I’ve got, but it was a very nice break from the intensity of my last page. I’m sure I’ll get back go wanting to go bright and bold soon enough. I’m thinking I may even spend some time just painting bold backgrounds to use later for tearing up into scraps and using as mock washi tape.

Hope you enjoyed the layout. Thanks for reading. Please like the page and leave any comments.

List of materials:

Canson Mixed Media sketchbook
Mod Podge
Liquitex Clear Gesso
Winsor & Newton Cotman half pan water colors
Natural sponge

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