Small Landscape Study in Watercolor with Colored Pencil

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Small Landscape Study in Watercolor with Colored Pencil

Something about cypress trees makes me want to draw and paint them as small landscape studies. They remind me of giant green pencil leads or verdant paint brush tips pointing at the sky, and I’ve rendered them in watercolor, pencil, and printmaking over the years.

My reference photos are from a magical time spent in Provence, France. (Isn’t it great that you can re-visit a place you traveled to years ago by simply pulling out the photos you took and painting from them? Art making is sheer magic and time travel all stitched together.)

No photos to work from? No problem. It’s easy enough to work from life – even at a kitchen table. A plate, some fruit, and an interesting patterned background fits the bill nicely.

Painting Small Studies from Photos or Life

In the photo below, I used an image on my cell phone as reference (from the same location as the small study in this post) to experiment with expanded scale, and cropping.

I was testing watercolor in a Hahnemuhle Watercolor Sketchbook (this one) that – when opened – measured 16 inches by 5.5 inches. The aspect ratio of the reference photo required a little more room from top to bottom to render the entire image, so I painted only the top half of the scene from the photo. It was a fun exercise in abstraction. And the quality of the Hahnemuhle paper was excellent.

More cypress trees (enlarged and cropped) in watercolor sketchpads.
I got so swept up while making this little landscape study that I forgot to take a single process photo. Oh well. If you work small like this, please share links to your posts about them in the comments.

If I don’t feel inspired to create small studies from photographs, I head to my kitchen. (I rarely work from imagination – I prefer to draw something in front of me.)

The kitchen is an excellent resource for watercolor study subjects (cups, plates, fruit), especially when combined with patterned gift wrap paper. More on using gift wrapping paper for backgrounds in still-life arrangements in this post.)

Still life arrangement after a perusal in the kitchen for fresh subject matter to draw and paint.
This is an older watercolor of cypress trees from my archives. I used this image as a jumping-off point to create a collagraph print (see below).
Adding colored pencils to watercolor can be a meditation in layering color and texture on parts of your painting that need a little fluff and curl. Do you use them? (Here’s a post on using colored pencils over monotype prints.)
Pulling a cypress tree collagraph print, with an added critter in the grass (see that print here).
Palace Gate Guard 8×6 Watercolor with Colored Pencil (Available in my Etsy Shop) BTW – All framed work in my Etsy shop is 25% off/free shipping with code LaborDay2023
  • Mark your calendars for the gel plate summit! 14 different instructors will be sharing pre-recorded demos on some of their favorite approaches to gelli plate printmaking in October. It’s all online, so no travel necessary. Artist Drew Steinbrecher produced the event, and early bird tickets go on sale on September 18th. Get more details here.
  • Danny Gregory of Sketchbook Skool is hosting a drawing-a-day for the month of September. The prompts are below, and you can learn more about how to participate here.
  • Marian Parsons – also known as Miss Mustard Seed – wrote a lovely post with 15 inspiring tips to help you start your own sketchbook practice. Her ideas are thought-provoking and her sketchbook pages are lovely. Check that out here.

Heading Back to the Studio

I’ve been traveling this week to see family and spend a few days hunkered down in a beach house with incredible artist friends. We took turns posing for each other, we painted, sketched, hiked, and talked for hours about all things artsy. We played pickle ball too! The time away re-fluffed my sense of wonder about the power of art, and I can’t wait to get back into the studio.

You don’t have to travel to get an afternoon filled with art talk in order to put the wind back in your sails. Invite a few artist friends over to sketch outdoors or set up a still life for everyone to work from on the dining room table. Or just draw together while you’re all chatting on Zoom.

Spending so much time alone while you’re making is more balanced when you add the sweetness of creative company. Everyone speaks the same creative-person language, and no one will roll their eyes if you talk about art supplies for a whole hour.

Thanks for stopping by today, and I’ll see you in the next post,


P.S. My friend Carol Marine has an excellent new series posted for anyone who feels blocked, called Just Try Sh*t. Check it out.

Art Quote

Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.

~Mary Tyler Moore

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