of winter skies.

I decided in later October that I was going to write here moreā€”and then promptly October turned into November and November is a month when I do a 50,000 word novel-writing challenge and that consumes hours of my day, each day, and leaves very little time behind for either art or writing about art.

But it’s December now.

And I’m still busy trying to bring that novel from about fifty-eight thousand words to a conclusion at about eighty-thousand words, but December is not about speed writing so much as settling into a winter routine, so I’ve been writing a bit each day and then painting a bit each day and, y’know, living the artsy-fartsy dream.

Plus, I bought a new wide flat brush this month and in just a few days it has proven to be a magical tool for making incredibly vibrant skies of winter and sunlight.

So, in December I expect to do a lot more art. In fact I hope to do so much art that in January I am compelled to restock my watercolour paper.

Now that’s a resolution, huh?

gouache starlight and snowflakes

I had this silly notion in my head of being a watercolour purist, of using strict techniques to paint because I thought, wrongly, that I might get judged for not following the rules of painting, and hey, for all I know I still am following those rules by digging out a tube of titaninium white gouache (instead of proper watercolour paint) and speckling my sky with starlight or snowflakes or lens flares or whatever it is that you want to interpret those little white points in the painting to be, but I like how it looks, and I don't think that rules are meant for anything but a baseline anyhow. I load a bit of wet white gouache onto my brush at a certain point in the painting process, sometimes it's after the sky has dried and sometimes it's after the whole rest of the painting has dried and once it was when things were still a little wet and I wanted to see the effect of the still-wet sky on the drips of white and you know what? it turned out kinda cool, too. So I've been ignoring that silly notion this month and just painting a lot of white dots in the sky, splattering my otherwise flat art with the chaos and randomness of white speckles of starlight or snowflakes, against the rules that might not even exist anywhere but my own head.

I used to make skies an afterthought. In fact, when you are urban sketching (at least I have found) you get so caught up in the urban part, the sketching of buildings and architecture and people, that you tend to get to the end and say to yourself “oh, right, what colour was the sky again… here’s a dab of blue and let’s get on with it.”

But painting imaginary winter scenes I’ve been following the approach modified from what I learned in that class I took last spring which is simply to build up from a sky. The whole thing is a sky. The world is basically just blocking the sky. Even the ground. The ground is just in front of more sky. The whole earth after all is a sphere and if you are on that earth painting a watercolour picture (which I think includes all watercolour pictures ever painted in the history of watercolour) there is a spherical orb of sky surrounding you in all directions and sure… the ground blocks a lot of it, but you really can’t go wrong painting a sky and then just going from there.

So that’s what I have done.

I’ve painted a lot of skies, using lots of deep blues and vibrant oranges and magical yellows and speck of white. And they all turn out in a way that I am starting to love.