Ever since visiting Yosemite National Park this past fall, I've had this image in my mind. I wanted to paint a picture to convey the fabulous slabs of granite that lay in slopes reaching miles toward the wonderful domes of Yosemite Valley. I also wanted to include a raven. We saw so many, and I enjoy painting a representational critter into a fairly abstracted landscape.
After a rough drawing, my first step is applying natural colored rice paper to the lower 3/4 of the paper. I take a putty knife and apply white gesso to the watercolor paper, then put down pieces of rice paper, smoothing the edges down with more gesso on my tool. For this piece I wanted to represent smooth slabs as the painting comes toward the view, so those pieces are large pieces of rice paper. The upper portion, however, I wanted to imply much smaller bits of rock to give the illusion of distance. For that effect, I wrinkle up the rice paper as I apply it.
One of the reasons I like this technique is that transparent watercolor is absorbed in such an interesting way.
The gesso resists the color, while the rice paper absorbs and spreads it. It gives a look I can't get any other way.
So my next step is putting down some background color. The day I want to show is warm and sunny, so that guides my color choices--yellow, gold and orange. I place more orange at the upper left and lower right where my "Trickster" will sit.
I continue to add darker colors to the rocky ledge going away from the viewer. Later I can lift, or use gouache to lighten my foreground. A lot of this color is sitting on top of gesso which is easily removed.
Now is the time to lighten the rocks closer to the viewer, break up the rocks in front in slab-like sections. A purplish brown application of lines in uneven application makes the crevices, and lifting and a lightly tinted gouache lightens the areas at the bottom of the painting. Yay, I'm almost done!
Finishing "Yosemite Trickster" is a matter of painting in trees and shadows on the mountains. I use orange and a subtle blue to reflect the colors I have on and around the raven. I use lines to draw the eyes back, giving the feel of looking into the distance. I also cooled down the mountains with a couple of blue/purple washes. It is a matter of a bit here and there--step back-- a bit of color here to connect the parts of the painting--step back-- reduce this crevice--step back. I continue this dance in my studio until I see nothing that draws my eye to a bothersome point, rather than letting me enjoy the piece as a whole.