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Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Watercolor

Judy’s House – A Watercolor Dilemma

Judy's House - A Dilemma

Watercolor on Arches paper 15 x 22″
Click here to see large version

This was a painting that was going well–it was commissioned by a friend as a gift for her husband for their anniversary. She wanted me to paint their home and cats in their favorite spot at the front window with their tulip tree in bloom.

As a first step I’d done a perfect flat wash for the sky. Then I did the cats in the window since that was a key feature and moved the rest of the painting along, blocking in the shadows, doing the shrubbery and the other other windows, and the details. Then disaster….

I had a latte sitting on a tall table in the studio. The painting was taped to a drawing board that was sitting on the floor leaning against the table. The next thing I knew the cup was knocked over and coffee was dripping off the table, down the sky in the area to the left of the chimney. I quickly blotted the painting and used a sponge to successfully remove the coffee before it stained. It left that area looking slightly lighter. I tried to ignore it, but today, when the rest of the painting was finished I decided to go over the sky with another wash of blue. But by now the paper was wrinkled and the paint sunk into the valleys, creating anything but a flat wash. So, I tried another wash, which just exaggerated the valleys. Then I tried removing paint with a tissue to give the effect of wispy clouds but that didn’t look right either. So I wiped off as much as I could, waited for it to dry and painted another glaze of blue which not only did the same thing, but also got a little splotchy on the right side.

I’m going to flatten the painting by pressing it under tissue paper and a pile of books for a few days and then maybe try again to glaze the sky. I have this awful feeling that I’ve ruined the painting, not just the sky but many other areas too, and that I should probably start it over again, which I really don’t feel like doing at this point … or maybe it will look better after I don’t see it for a few days.

What do you think?

UPDATE: Here’s the finished painting

judy-final-p1010478.jpg

19 replies on “Judy’s House – A Watercolor Dilemma”

Jana, I wouldn’t have seen all these problems if you hadn’t pointed them out. I don’t have any knowledge about these things, as you probably know, but just a couple of thoughts – could you wet or dampen the paper from the back to then try and flatten it? Or perhaps take out some of the colour in the valleys with a sponge? Personally I think the sky looks fine. On my monitor, the darker lines seem to draw the eye into the house. I’ll be interested to hear any answers and how you resolve it to your satisfaction.

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Oh, Jana! I agree with Felicity! If you hadn’t mentioned your problems and hard work I would not even have thought about the color gradations in the sky. They look ABSOLUTELY FINE to me! In fact, I just came over from your Flickr page because I liked the painting so much and wanted to learn more about it (I don’t alwys come to visit at your blog :~).
Imagine my surprise when I found out you were thinking of redoing this!!
I think it is just PERFECT as it is. The sky looks GREAT to me, I wouldn’t do another thing to it! And I definitely think it is a keeper!

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I think if this is infact how the painting looks today, you have no porblem … I wouldn’t have known anything was remotely wrong had you not told me. Give it to them with no explaination’s or appologies, it’s great as it is.

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I, also, like it as is and don’t see it as a problem. The sky actually looks quite natural and it’s a very lovely home!! I have done what Felicity suggested and it works great–spray a fine mist on the back side and place it face down on a blank sheet of paper (just regular copier paper) and then place another sheet of paper on the dampened backside and then stack with heavy books, let dry completely for HOURS!

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Jana, It looks lovely on my monitor. What you are seeing in the original painting that worries you– does it show up on your monitor, also? If our monitors show the painting clearly then I think you have a winner.

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Jana I hadnt read what you said about the disaster when i first saw your painting and like the others, i thought there was nothing wrong with your sky, it looked quite natural, are you seeing something we are not or are you being hyper critical because you know what happened?

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Jana, I don’t see the problem in the scan you have – the slightly mottled look just seems to suggest a lively sky. However if you wanted to distract a bit of attention from the sky, I’d darken a bit underneath the bushes in the shadow area, because now the eye goes to the darkest dark against the lightest light – which is the uppermost shadows under the eaves – and that’s adjacent to the sky. A little bit of sleight-of-brush and intensifying the color of the tulips would misdirect the eye away from the sky. But really, it’s not as big a problem as you see it. Good job!

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I have to agree with everyone above, Jana- from here it looks great. Apparently your “mistakes” are going to look like lucky accidents once you’ve flattened the paper.

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Obviously we can’t see what you can, Jana. I think Karen’s suggestion sounds the most reasonable if the problem isn’t any worst than it show on our monitors. See how it looks after you flatten it out, maybe that will be all it really needs. I LOVE the cats in the window!!!

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I think Karen’s suggestion is perfect. That’s exactly what I would do if the painting were mine. I don’t see any problem with the rest of it–I bet the house owner will be thrilled with this painting. (It IS made by hand, so one would expect a perfect photo finish!)

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Hi!!! I don’t think it looks bad at all. The part by the chimney only looks a little dark, but it is in no way ruined. maybe try to blend the sky a bit, or just leave it, but I think it looks fabulous!!

xoxoxoxoxoxox

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I can’t see any problem on my screen. I have just done 6 copies each of two recipe cards for Melissa’s exchange. Despite trying to improve with each one, I think the originals are the best – well, they were done from the food which then had to be eaten before I could do the others. Starting over can be very vexing.

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I too think you should just flatten and leave it……trying to “fix” what nobody else can see will prob’ly just make it……..worse………;)

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I love the fenetic energy of the sky. A smooth wash wouldn’t have the same feeling.
On one hand, yes, another wash will even it out, but then you might get that weird pooling of darker pigment around the house. You would have to put the wash on top of the tree, and roof. I wouldn’t bother. It looks great. Just don’t tell your friend about the accident.

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Thanks so much everyone. I feel reassured and I think with everyone’s good advice I know what to do with the painting–flatten it, add a little dark to bring the eye down to bushes and the window and relax and let it go!

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Hi,

This is a nice painting. I love it for the colors, the light and the shadows, especially the windows. My only nit is the front lawn and the path on the right do not appear so neat, atleast on my monitor.
As for the problems you have pointed out, they are not visible to me at all. If any, it has added some good effect to the sky!
Raghu

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I’ve recently done something similar in a painting that I’ve been working on. It’s watercolor and pen and ink, and I was completely done inking it when a single drop of water that had collected on the edge from darkening the background a hair more dripped across the main subject of the painting carrying the black ink with it. I had to start over, and now can’t seem to get the girl’s eye right. Oh well, if at first you don’t succeed try try again right?

I can’t even tell where the problem on yours happened, and it’s a beautiful painting, and It has a great homey feel to it.

Hi Caroline,
I know that feeling so well! Fortunately that painting turned out ok. The family wanted a minor change I was able to make and they bought it and framed it and everyone lived happily ever after. But there were definitely some tense moments! I definitely am known for trying again and again and again until I get it. I think a watercolor painter needs to be determined and enjoy emergencies and solving problems! ~Jana

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