What Makes A Painting Work Art Blog
Dirt, rocks, gravel, clay, silt, stone: these words usually call to mind tones of brown and gray but the earth often contains tones of vibrant color. Light them with sun, split them open with nature's own violent disruptions, wash them with water, or polish them, and how they sparkle.
I know many water colorists who avoid the earth pigments for more transparent choices, but traditionally the two sources of color were earth and plant dyes, with plants most often ephemeral. Of course there might be the occasional beetle thrown in! Certainly the earth colors: the ochres, umbers, siennas, for example, are ideal on the palette when painting rocks. In this painting "Color in the Rocks", which was just in the regional juried Golden Jubilee Lodi Spring Art Annual at Woodbridge Winery on March 20 and 21, I have also used yellow ochre and raw umber in the dry leaves. There is burnt sienna as well as alizarin red in the bits of bark and twig.
In painting rocks in watercolor, the challenge is to create the sense of a dense heavy object with transparent and translucent colors. Shadow is powerful in doing this. Here the shadow from the rock itself is dark, while the rocks have a lighter value contrast where sun either slips through leaves above or is muted by leaf shadow. When painting rocks is also not a bad time to experiment with color mixes and include some "mud". You will never find a better place for those dull flat bits that say "this is not a living thing" and also contrast in a way that makes the vibrant bits of color in your rocks really glow. The more somber tones, including the browns of the dry, fallen leaves, are essential to appreciation of the surprising brilliant orange found in those rocks.