Blank Watercolor paper waiting for an image to be transferred
Watercolor Paper Waiting to start the Big Boy Painting Journey  September 2, 2019

My Big Boy Painting Journey starts with a blank piece of paper, the most fearful stage of the journey.  The idea is in my head, I even have a tiny test painting I laid out to see how it might look, but actually starting a painting is the hardest part.  All my fears of inadequacy come to the surface.  Thoughts like, “Am I good enough; is it too hard; will anyone like it; can I satisfy the viewer, etc”.  The other side is I can’t wait to see how it will look when I am done, but I know it will be a long time until it is complete.  I don’t work fast as a rule because I get a bit bogged down in details.  In this case, the Big Boy Steam Locomotive is an historical engine and there are many people that would look closely and critique my work if I get the detail wrong.  So much angst placed on one piece of paper.

Sketch of the Big Boy Steam Locomotive on Watercolor paper
Big Boy Locomotive Sketch  September 4, 2019

It is time to start.  Most of the time I would draw my image on the paper either free hand, or by using a grid to transfer the image.  In this case, because the details are so well known, I did not want to take a chance, so I did a direct transfer from the image onto the paper.  I caught most of the details that can be seen on the picture.  I have additional historic references that I may visit to highlight some thing that can’t be seen in the shadows of the photo, not sure yet.  It would be easier to let them blend in, but I suspect they would be missed.  

05 Sept 2019 progress on Big Boy painting
Big Boy 05 Sep 2019 progress report

I started to get the background and sky in the first washes.  The trees were giving me a little trouble.  I need to find the right combo of black to paint the train.  It looks like some purple will be involved.

 

Work in progress on Big Boy Train with added detail in engine
Big Boy 06 Sep 2019
Dark values added to the front of the engine
Big Boy 09 Sep 2019

I worked on finding the right combination of colors to make a black or gray that had the right degree of dark, but a little warmth also.  The combination if ultramarine deep (blue) and raw umber (a yellow brown).  I tried Prussian blue, but the gray level turned to green which wasn’t at all what I wanted to accomplish.

I removed the masking fluid that kept some of the areas white.  I am not a masking fluid fan because it leaves harsh edges, but taking it off early I have a chance to soften the edge and leave a highlighted space.

I struggled to get enough detail without too much, but it is very difficult to see the details on a black photo.  I brightened the photo a little to see the details, mostly the shading just gives an allusion of detail, steam trains have a huge amount of pipes and small mechanical stuff on them, just no way to capture all that.  I think the most important part of the train is the X4014, 

Continuing to add more dark values to the Big Boy engine
Big Boy Steam Locomotive 13 Sep 2019

I took this picture outside to show it in a more natural lighting.  The painting always looks different in natural rather than the filtered light inside.  I like the way this is evolving, but still have difficulty deciding on how much detail should bee brought out considering the train is in motion and there would be some blurring of the mechanics of the wheels. 

Big Boy locomotive work in progress with most of the final wash
Big Boy Steam Locomotive 18 Sep 2019

I had some life issues going on, so there was very little progress with the Big Boy Steam Locomotive until the 18 Sep 2019 when I put on the last wash.  Now I need to add some detail and it should be done. 

It may not look too much different, but once I sign my name and take off the green tape, the painting is finished.  Now off to the printer for scanning so it can be reproduced.  

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Horizontal dandelion close up
Macro of dandelion bloom

I am working on a series of paintings I want to call “Undesirable Beauties”.  So what are they?  They are plants most people would refer to as weeds, but when you look close at them they are really quite beautiful.  I have a couple of these already completed; Creeping Charley and Queen Anne’s Lace.  The most obvious of all these beauties would be the dandelion.  I waited until they bloomed this spring to get my own macro photos and decided I like this horizontal image the best.

I consulted with my mentor on approaching this painting and he recommended that I work in more of a “designy” mode.  I am not sure that is a word, but my interpretation was to loosen up a bit, not get involved in the details and get a bit more abstract.  Basically he is tell me to get out of the box, start scratching at the boundaries of my artistic box and break free from control.

Tiny dandelion abstract study
Tiny study painting for a dandelion abstract

I really wasn’t really sure how to start this project, so I approached it by doing a tiny painting (ACEO 2.5 x 3.5 inch).  I sent it off to my mentor and published it online and low and behold people liked it.  Encouraged I moved on to the big paper (11 x 14 inch) and started to lay some paint on the paper.  You see below how I embraced the color red, so it has a dramatic start.

Dandelion Abstract WIP 1
Dandelion Abstract Start Up

I was beginning to like this bold color and added some more to definition to the flower and then I stopped.  I could tell that I was starting to add detail, trying to control the outcome and not letting the water and pigment flow to where it wanted to go.

The best watercolors let the magic of the water and pigment work for you.  Over control can make for a muddy mess.  As I reflect on what is going on with the “out of the box” thinking I think maybe I am getting a little nudge from the Holy Spirit that He is in charge.  I have been given a gift, but He controls the outcome.  I need to hand this over with open hands and trust that all will work together to His glory.  Well, I am sure that is all good in theory, but my nature will surely get in the way again as it always does.  I just hope that somewhere in the process a compromise will be reached.

Stay tuned as I provide more work in process photos.  

Dandelion 06 June
Dandelion 06 June

I was hoping that I would be able to scratch myself out of the box of of artistic styles, but alas, I could not allow the paint to be totally free.  I need to see the detail in the petals to satisfy my sense of organization.  I had to know where the petals started from and where they finish and to see some subtlety.   I feel I compromised and left some of the outlying petals undefined.  In the end, I think I like it, but it is different for me and I would love to see comments on what you think

Below is the final picture.  I am not sure if I will make it available on this website.  I might just take it to shows and see if I can get a response from a general audience.  If you are interested, please send me an email.  I have title this painting “Dandelion Inferno” because of the red hot color below.  Please provide comments to let me know if I should do more of this type of painting.  Thank you

dandelion inferno
Dandelion Inferno

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