On a recent trip to Colorado, I painted at Lily Lake near Estes Park.
I’ve been trying to loosen up my watercolor landscapes; normally I make a tight pencil drawing on the paper before I start applying water and pigment. But I’m not liking the results. The image is too tight, much like a cartoon.
Watercolor landscape painter Jonathan Pitts advises starting out with a 5-minute sketch before launching into a longer painting. In 5 minutes there’s only so much you can do. You have to rely on simple shapes, colors, and brush strokes.
At Lily Lake, I couldn’t quite restrict myself to 5 minutes. I gave myself a 15 minute time limit for an initial sketch on a 3.5″ x 5″ piece of watercolor paper, set the timer, and painted.
15 minute study
Next I worked for a couple of hours on a larger piece of paper. It was late afternoon, and the light and sky was changing every few minutes.
2 hour study
I like the quick study much better. Making quick decisions forces me to work rapidly in bold patterns and simple color. Such “thin-slicing” is not my normal state of affairs; I usually mull things over until they are thoroughly mushed and muddy. I’m searching for clarity in many things. Funny that it should sometime come as a result of flash decisions.