Gouache and Watercolor Painting, Tangerine Tree

I’m really pleased with this gouache and watercolor painting I did of the tangerine tree that is closest neighbor to the chicken coop. It’s the main scene from my favorite perch, the top stair of my porch. This is about as close to living in a treehouse one can get, without it literally being a tree house! But I digress. My painting:

The palette I like to use for gouache painting is based on my extended primary gouache set, and then some additional colors are there which are actually watercolor. So pretty much all my gouache paintings also have watercolor.

I love gouache for its thick opaque quality, where I can use impasto technique if I like, and layer light colors over dark as one can do with heavy body acrylic and oil paints. It’s also light, can be transparent, and dries quickly like watercolor, so I can work for about 2 hours and have the ability to build up colors as often as I like.

I’ve started to use underpainting more than I used to for these paintings. I love looking at the light, and seeing if I can deduce what color will support the depth and brightness I want to achieve in the top layer. When I worked predominantly with oil paints, I didn’t do this so much, I started with what was grabbing me about the composition, be it a color or line in the scenery, and built the environment around that. But these days I am liking to build up gradually from a base layer. I am finding that my paintings more easily convey the depth of space that I can see in person.

At the time that I painted this, which was mid-afternoon, there was deep shade under the redwoods and oak tree, but the leaves of the tangerine tree and camellias behind took on brilliant swaths of light. This was the “mood” I wanted to convey. I will admit that while I am painting, I almost never like what I am seeing on the paper, I rarely think I am capturing what I set out to paint. There is a thing I’ve learned to do, which is to let go of my expectations for the finished piece, and let the painting tell me what it needs. Usually what it needs is for me to remove the part that is precious to me, as a small detail that I might really like on its own often gets in the way of the whole of the composition. And in this way, and after seeing it again the next day, and the next, I see the painting I wanted to paint. Worthy of a frame, this one.

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