Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Birth of Art Spirit


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Years ago when I was working in a print shop doing monotypes I decided to try working with some of the ancient paintings that I had studied in art history. This inspired me to go back and study the cave paintings in Southern France, some of which have been carbon dated back as far as 32,000 years. Done by the Cro-Magnon people for reasons that can only be speculated, they represent the birth of the art spirit. Using only a few colors that they could make from things like charcoal and blood, the Cro-Magnon people depicted the animals of their era running, swimming, fighting and hunting. Rock formations were often used as part of the anatomy giving the paintings a three dimensional quality.

Trying to depict the cave walls is as interesting to me as the animals and I developed a technique where I start with printers ink, ran the paper through the press, then work with watercolor and finally pastel to get the effects I want. Also, I work on textured handmade paper that includes things like flecks of gold and silver leaf, pine needles, leaves, and pieces of fabric. This painting represents a rhinoceros that is now extinct and yet it is obvious that through evolution we have the present day rhinoceros in Africa.

The gray on the cave wall is a watercolor mixture of cerulean blue and cadmium red. The darker areas consist of burnt sienna, yellow ochre, and burnt umber. For the black outlines, I used charcoal along with a mixture of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue. The design, meaning how the animals appear on the textured cave wall, is of great interest to me as I work back and forth between the three mediums. As a result, you can see cracks in the stone that run through the animals and chipped paint.

Because of this on going series I have actually visited some of the caves in Southern France and seen paintings dated back 18,000 years. Also it has been my privilege to meet and talk with the french gentleman whose job it was to authenticate the cave paintings when they were discovered. He is retired now and has written several books on the subject. Because this series is ongoing, I return to the print shop once or twice a year with new ideas for depicting these historic paintings, some of which are shown on my website under ancient images. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

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