Plants and Stone for California Gardens


Watercolor Interlude

I’ve been watercoloring quite a few of my evenings lately. It’s been fun; there’s improvement, though watercolor’s definitely one of those things that takes a minute to learn and a lot more than a twelve week class to master. The sketch above is from the class field trip to the Legion of Honor Museum. We were there to draw from the artwork, but I thought the building itself was impressive, as if it were waiting for Stanley Kubrick to come do one of his slow tracking shots through the enfilade. I’m learning watercolor for loction sketching and possibly for the drawings we do for clients, but this is one of the only location watercolors I’ve made so far. Most of what I have done in the class is working off black and white photos.

The ones below are all adapted from photos by Wilfred Thesiger. A little random, but I had to choose something to paint and I’ve loved his photos for years. He was the last of the old-school desert explorers and one of the all-time great travelers. Arabian Sands about his explorations of the Empty Quarter of Saudia Arabia is one of the great books of travel literature; The Marsh Arabs, about his years living in the marshes of Iraq is also great; and the compilation, The Last Nomad, is one of my all time favorite books. His writing describes the landscapes and cultures with an amazing clarity, and the photos are powerfully evocative and certainly don’t need any coloring efforts by me. There’s a selection of photos here, but really his work is best appreciated in an old-fashioned, dead-tree book with text and images together. Both his photos and the writing have an unsurpassed stark black and white expressiveness.

I confess I don’t know a whole lot about the places I was drawing. The town above is named Shibam, in Yemen. Below is a place called Liwa Oasis, showing that ‘oasis’ is very much a relative term.

The others are scenes from the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world.

The masked woman is from Oman.

We’ll see how much watercolor I do going forward. I did feel like it got its hooks into me, so these probably, hopefully, won’t be my last.

2 Responses to “Watercolor Interlude”

  1. May 8th, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    James says:

    Nice work. Watercolor can be pretty unforgiving. I think I tend to work too spastically to ever be much good at it. Maybe it helps to have a photo to work from so you know where you’re going with the image? The idea of presenting clients a watercolor sounds terrific. It would project an expectation that the project would be more hand-crafted and not spat out of a CAD program. People want gardens as humanizing spaces.

  2. May 12th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    ryan says:

    Yeah, I’m pretty spastic with the watercolor whenever I don’t have a plan. The black and whites have been good for learning, because I know the forms and tonal values ahead of time so I can focus the colors and techniques. And watercolor is, like you said, so much more evocative and humanizing than CAD drawings. All the hand graphics seem to be making a big comeback lately for that reason.

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