Teaching Preparation – High Desert Spring

“High Desert Spring” Watercolor 5.5″x7.5″

This may be my favorite painting of the June 30×30 Direct Watercolor Challenge. I am just thrilled with how perfect the wax resist works for the distant snow on the mountains! I painted this in preparation for a watercolor class with a focus on texture. One of my students, Dee Beardsley, donated the inspiring photo. It feels to me like the scene is from the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, near Mt Whitney and the town of Lone Pine, but Dee is not sure.

“High Desert Spring” Watercolor, image size is 5.5″x7.5″. This was painted directly with no pre-drawing. I applied wax resist stick to save the highlights on the distant mountains, and used masking fluid to preserve the foreground flower.

Stage 1

I started with a flat wash of Ultramarine Light for the sky, and continued the wash right over the wax to make the mountains magically appear. As I continued to pull-the-bead down the paper, I added some cool red (Quinacridone Rose) and Raw Sienna light. I switch completely to the Raw Sienna as I brought the flat wash down to about 3/4 of the paper. I collected the bead of paint, then splattered a bright warm yellow (New Gamboge) along with the blue and Raw Sienna into the foreground.

I combined the Raw Sienna and Quin Rose together and painted the near mountain triangle on the left. I wanted darker paint to make the foreground flowers pop. I touched in some blue to hint at the middle distance trees. I hinted at the green foliage in the lower left foreground using blue, raw sienna, yellow and red. I added sea salt to the wet (but not sopping wet) paint in the middle to foreground on the right. I then put the painting aside and started a second painting, so I would not be tempted to go back in too soon (while it was still too wet).

Stage 2

After the painting was completely dry, I knocked off the sea salt and removed the masking. I used calligraphy strokes to paint in the flowers with the red, blue, saving a white section for some yellow. I painted the petals’ “cradles” with a mixed green (blue, raw sienna, yellow) and hints of red on the stems. I saved some white highlights at the ends of the petals, to make the flowers stand out from the background. After the purple had dried, I touched in the gamboge to hint at the flower centers. I added purple & dark green calligraphy strokes for the foreground foliage. I splattered some more in the right foreground with all the colors, increased the strength of the pigment. I splattered some red and blue in the middle distance to hint at more purple flowers.

Stage 3

I used the back side of Artistico Fabriano 140 cold press. There seemed to be some inconsistent sizing, and a few dark blotches interfered with my flat blue sky, so I added some hints of birds as camouflage.

This painting will be part of my Featured Artist Show at the Artsy Fartsy Art Gallery in July. Artist reception is July 18th from 4-7pm.

Click on images for a larger view. The process photos are process video screenshots, so the quality is not the best.

I appreciate all comments, questions, and suggestions. Thank you for stopping by.

High Desert Spring – Final Painting

If interested in purchasing the painting, click the “Add to Cart” button below or contact the gallery. If purchased through PayPal using the U.S.Postal service for Continental U.S. orders, shipping is $15. Taxes additional for Nevada customers.

“High Desert Spring” $150 (framed/mat to 8×10)


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