The mess and the makings

A new painting is taking shape, which means I’m making lots of color sketches at my little art desk. This is a shot of the mess and the makings.

I use a metal palette for nearly all my watercolor paintings, although sometimes I dip into a round plastic palette when I need a color that’s not in my metal palette. You can see by the stacks of yogurt containers that I eat a lot of Pavel’s yogurt.

These are a few of the studies I’ve made for this painting. The earlier ones don’t really look like anything, just blobs of color.  You can see that the Space Shuttle Endeavor is going to be part of this painting.

Don’t worry, the stained paper towel on the table has been used to mop up cadmium red and burnt sienna. It just looks like blood in the photo. Well, it looks like blood in real life too. While painting, I go through a lot of paper towels—Viva brand is my favorite—and they litter the floor around the easel. When I’m working on a particularly red-heavy painting, the drifts of  red-covered paper towels make the studio look like a scene from a Stephen King novel.

These two studies are my favorites. They will go together somehow. I’m still working that out.

And this is part of the final drawing. I spend a stupid amount of time on drawing—nearly 12 hours for this piece. But while I’m drawing, I’m also planning the painting, thinking about what I want to do. Where will I lose edges, where will I find them? How will I place the value pattern? How will I apply the paint?

I paint in my head many times before I ever put paintbrush to paper. I often dream about it in the early morning hours when I’m in that half-sleep waiting for the alarm to go off. Those are pleasant dreams, mostly, because watercolor wipes off easily in dreams.