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As avid campers, we travel with our smallish RV in search of beautiful geological areas to hike and photograph. This is a photo I took of Dingmans Falls, in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area of Pennsylvania. As the weather turns cool, then cold, our camping ends for the season.
In search of my next painting inspiration, I looked back over my photos from past trips and came across this one- time to memory hike!
I sketched my image, then in an effort to preserve the clear whites of the falls, the sun rays, the mist of water vapor, I used liquid frisket before painting.
I draw a line of wax around the edges of the paper to keep the very wet paint contained. Then I wet the whole paper down with a plant mister, and dropped and splattered concentrated watercolor in.
Dry now, here is what I had to work with after removing the frisket. Lots of hard edges around the preserved whites of the paper. I went to work, shading, texturing, working toward my ideas. Then it was time to tackle the hard edges.
I had used staining watercolor: paint that was brilliant in concentration but would stain the actual fibers of the paper permanently. It would not soften at the edges of the whites by gentle scrubbing with a wet brush, blotting with a paper towel. The fight began.
My first weapon was a stiff brush and water. I attacked the white edges I wished to soften. The paint did not budge. In fact the paper started to wear before the paint would soften.
Next I got out some fine sandpaper and went to war on the edges. With very careful control the I was able to remove some of the hard edges. Too much pressure would damage the paper, too little did no good.
Too much- of the wrong colors. Back to work.
I painted and softened, deepened the water, shaded the falls more, finally added diluted white gouache paint to the sun rays.
Too much white paint- now the colors were too light, faded. The darks did not show enough. Hours into this work, I needed a break from it, so I set it aside and began another idea in a new painting.
The critique of a couple of friends led me back to my work, and I added subtle colors, more darkness, and subdued the falls waters with shadows. Some more greens into the water to reflect the trees, and more blue mist around the falls, and it was right.
Dingmans Falls, Afternoon.
Some paintings flow together in an effortless way; this one fought me throughout. Maybe the amazing beauty of the place demanded to be respected by hard work to convey it. And I learned about my materials, my approaches to painting, and how to convey light rays more carefully and truer to my own vision. And maybe next time I will not use staining paints when I need subtle shading.
This painting became a teacher.
I wish you many good teachers in your own journeys- and a happy week.