Henry Shaw’s Resting Place

I start the week all excited knowing that the weather forecast called for beautiful mild weather, and my calendar is empty – 2 rarities that even more rarely coincide.  On Monday I had to take Andrew to the doctor and had other things to do, so on Tuesday I got all my painting supplies together, and marched over to the Missouri Botanical Garden to paint.  I was feeling very tired that day because I had not slept well the night before.  I decided to paint the mausoleum of Henry Shaw.  The Victorian edifice was truly beautiful that day, with the sun glimmering through the windows and the stained glass, and the dappled sunlight creating a multitude of highlights and shadows on the building. I also loved the twisty tree to the left of the building.

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Henry Shaw’s Resting Place, 16″ x 12″, acrylic on canvas panel

It was a nice quiet day without wind, bugs, or people to interrupt me often.  However, when I paint en plain air I usually do pastels. I’m not used to all the accessories  I have to juggle when painting with wet media like acrylics or oils or watercolor.  Not only that, but about 1.5 hours into the painting, it suddenly got cloudy, and my light completely changed.  I was already quite tired, and having a hard time being able to focus and get in the flow.  So I got quite frustrated and decided to pack up for the day.

I came home, and rested for a few hours.  Fortunately, I had taken a picture, so then I used that to block in the trees and the sky.  Two days after that, I decided to put away the photo, and just go with what I remembered, and used my sense of what would work artistically.  I made a point to create a sense of space by making some of the trees a cooler and grayer green, with less details.  I did this by mixing purple into the green.  I also refined the building by putting in some details of the wrought iron work over the windows, and some flecks of color to suggest the stained glass.  I like how you can see the green trees behind the structure through some of the windows.

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watercolor painting “Garden at Sunset”

I take a walk almost every day.  I’m blessed to live next to a beautiful older neighborhood in south St Louis called Holly Hills.  Leona street runs alongside the western edge of Carondelet Park.  That is where I was walking when I passed a front yard consisting entirely of a flower garden, complete with running fountain.  I was at sunset, and the sun

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Garden at Sunset, watercolor on rag paper, 12″ x 16″

was peeking from between the 2 houses behind the garden.  I loved the way the shaft of golden light was caught and shattered on the flowers and leaves of these echinacea.

The first thing I did was a detailed drawing.  Then, I masked in the foreground, which includes the flowers, leaves, stems, and some of the foliage on the left.  I got thoroughly wet the sheet of paper, then painted in a very soft background in blue-green, violet, and green.  I also included some of the background flowers in violet, orange, and red.  The colors ran into each other and created the soft effect, which gives the illusion of depth.  I also made a point to keep the background cool, because cool colors recede and enhance this 3 dimensional appearance.

When this paint was completely dry, I removed the masking fluid.  I painted in the foreground leaves and stems, and then the flowers.  I’m very grateful to The Mind of Watercolor youtube channel for teaching me the techniques of watercolor.

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