50 Watercolor paintings

Some time ago I got the book “Watercolour with Love: 50 modern motifs to paint in 5 easy steps” from the library, I just asked for all books that had “Watercolour” in the title and this came in the pile. Most of these books I just leafed through but this one seemed doable so I grabbed an HB5 Khadi cotton rag paper book I had lying around and went to work. It took me close to two months and ended up with 48 watercolor paintings. Filling a sketchbook with simple paintings is a satisfying thing to do.

Amstelveen tram station

Again in the series of meh-pril where I draw simple stuff to keep going, this is a little success I wanted to share.

Amstelveen station

As part of the Haarlemmermeer spoorlijnen, this station was build in 1915 and operated for 35 years as part of a steam train network for passengers and up until 1970 for cargo.

The super fast painting took no more than 30 minutes including sketch, ink and paint.

The building has a special place in my heart as we held our wedding reception there.

Mehpril, Car

For the 12th of Mehpril the prompt was to draw a car and the quintessential car is the Ford Model T. It came out so nice for a simple drawing of a car, it was rewarded with a post here.

Senju, Musashi But

With this seventh piece, a milestone is met. I drew my first horse and to be honest, it took me almost two weeks to force myself to work on it, not just the horse but the entire piece is something. There are many little details that make this composition work.

Not only the big horse stands out but also the fence in the middle right, the fisher man and his companion, everything is touched by trees and many of the colors are multi layered.

For me the highlight of 武州千住 (Bushū Senju) came in the form of the two distant trees in the middle, rising up from the underbrush. Mount Fuji here plays no role at all, other than reminding us that this is indeed part 7 of 36 views of Mount Fuji.

Trees with Daniel Smith Serpentine Genuine and Jadeite Genuine, otherwise Mijello Mission Gold colors like Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, Van Dyke Brown, Red Brown and Van Dyke Green.

Cushion Pine at Aoyama

This is the sixth piece I did for the 36+10 Views of Mount Fuji series and I must admit it grew on me. The ones I did so far were obviously special to me, for a wide variety of reasons. The “Cushion Pine at Aoyama” ( 青山円座松 Aoyama enza-no-matsu) initially did nothing for me.

Only when I was putting down the color, it became clear this is a very well balanced piece of work. Keep in mind that Japanese writing goes from right to left.

The flow of this piece will naturally go from the people in the bottom right over the high end of the pine trees up to Mt. Fuji and then back down to the houses hidden away behind mist and trees. The horizontal clouds cut the field of view flat through the middle where everything below it is obviously close and that above it is obviously far.

Then from the houses flows the bottom open space back past the shrine to the people where a lot of details make an interesting scene. With the mountain as the biggest part of this piece and right in the middle of the paper, it plays only a background role to the traveller’s picnic and the father walking his child.

Finally, the mist line acts as a mirror across the paper, the trees go down where the mountain goes up forming an elegant negative of each other. The soft background of very light pink in the low mist, the light shading of the mountain and the strong Prussian blue in the high and low sky makes this piece a very special work.

Trees of Daniel Smith Primatek Genuine Jadeite and Serpentite. From Majello Mission Gold Yellow Ochre, Van Dyke Brown, Prussian Blue, Peacock Blue, Light Red and Orange.

Sundai, Edo

Already on the fifth of this series, it is a really enjoyable pastime and creative endeavor. Sundai, Edo (東都駿台, Tōto sundai) seems to be a nondescript picture of a road with travelers, a big pine tree and mount Fuji in the background. While I would love to say it is so much more, sometimes a road is just that. Making more of it would be wrong.

The biggest challenge in this piece is that every color used, touches on of the other colors. There is no escaping drying time per color and care should be taken to indeed fill all the spots where a color is to be used to prevent more drying time.

The paint used is a 36 color palette Mijello Mission Gold, a very nice shaped box that comes with small tubes that you can fill in the palette yourself. Gives you a nice case of the IKEA effect but aside from that the paints are really good. Activate really easy and give a very smooth, even layer of paint. My main gripe about this palette is the high amount of mixed colors but the St. Petersburg paint did worse in that regard.

For the trees I used Hookers Green and that worked out way better than expected. A downside of very fine paint is that to get it to shade well, you cannot escape glazing. With this green however, the paint was heavy enough to stay in place when applied in larger amounts but still giving a smooth gradient.

For the yellow I used Yellow Ocher as I found the other yellows in the palette far too artificial. While it has a tendency to dominate it is balanced out by the green, making this an even work.

Under Mannen Bridge at Fukagawa

So we continue this series with the fourth piece out of 46, a very different setting from the previous three that were all about natural shapes and how nature is kicking ass. In this, the viewer is positioned in such a way as to view Mount Fuji framed and surrounded by all man made structures.

Another thing I noticed while drawing it is the huge amount of geometrical shapes: straight lines in the bridge and background buildings, circles in the hats and umbrella and partial ellipses in the bridge but also in the boats.

The thing that is really astonishing in this piece is the use of vanishing point perspective, a rather new thing in mid-19th century Japan and rather uncommon to see used correctly. This could have been a coincidence tho as some later pieces are wonky in places, when it happens I will point it out but I will follow the artists’ perspective instead of correcting it.

The piece took something of 6 to 8 hours of interrupted work, a full Saturday in fact. Included in that is the waiting time for the various layers of paint that had to dry, something I have a hard time getting used to in watercolor. These complicated pieces teach me patience already. Rough sketch, line work, paint, wait, paint, wait, etc.

Everything considered, it worked out really well. Normally when I do a complicated work by the time the line work is finished and that looks good, I am concerned I will ruin the piece by painting it sloppy or just plain bad. Of course, the color composition was done for me and the block print technique has few blending washes, making it easier to paint. In this case, I went in confident that I could pull it off if I took the time for it. I feel the confidence paid off.

With a range of Daniel Smith paints such as Primatek Serpentine and Jadeite, Janes Grey, Goetite, Burned Sienna and Cerulean Blue. A small amount of St Petersburg Prussian Blue was used at the top banner.

Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit

The composition of this piece is very similar to the previous, in that the mountain is there but now with two more in the background so from another angle. A lightning strike can be seen in the lower half of the painting, the bottom half of the mountain is covered in darkness.

I took care in using Prussian blue this time and decided against going for pure black in the lower mountain for two reasons.

First, Black is not a nice color to use with watercolor, it just adds dull spots to the paper, sucking the light and hurting the transparent effects that are so charming with this medium. Second, It would be way too big to get even. Dark brown, Burned Umber, gives the same feel of darkness without consuming all the light so I went with that.

As a last comment on painting this: those clouds were much harder than they looked.

So while to makes no sense to repeat the wikipedia article about this piece, this part I found very interesting:

In a later impression the publisher introduced some significant changes. The sky is now rendered in purplish greyish with a band of yellow at the top. The flash of the lightning bolt vividly silhouettes a group of pine trees at the foot of the mountain, cut from a new block, making them appear close to the viewer.

So this guy, who was the publisher, decided to make changes and the article does not make it clear if the artist agreed. Looking at the altered version, the changes completely change the feel of whatever it was that Hokusai tried to get across.

Thunderstorm Beneath the Summit By Hokusai, later variation – Public Domain, Link

I think it is obvious why I choose to recreate the original, the gloominess of it is palpable.