Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Cities are a fun place to sketch and paint because of the tall buildings, traffic, pedestrians, and interesting colors. This is 17th Street in Downtown Denver on a busy afternoon. In Downtown Denver some of the older brick buildings have been preserved and they provide interesting shapes surrounded by the tall metal and glass skyscrapers.
This is actually an etching that I hand colored with watercolor. I started with pencil sketches and then was able to stand in the middle of the street to quickly take a few pictures without getting run over. The etching was done in the print studio at the Art Students League of Denver where I teach watercolor classes and then the hand coloring was done in my studio. When you are hand coloring an etching there is always the danger that it will look like something out of a coloring book so I made sure to have some soft edges and unfinished shapes and lines. This allowed me to move in and out of different shapes with paint while mixing colors right on the paper.
While I was painting I thought of the buildings piling up against each other creating a canyon for the traffic to drive through. With this in mind, the buildings became interesting shapes, values, colors, and edges. The traffic adds rhythm and movement and I enhanced this with the tire tracks. The yellow taxi, because of its bright color and location, is the main character in the traffic and, then further up the street, two other yellow taxi's lead you right into the opening between the buildings. Using yellow this way directs the viewer's eye into the painting. My idea was to capture the noise, movement, and rhythm of downtown so there are windows slightly out of alignment, vehicles tilting left and right, buildings leaning against each other, and curvy reflections on the glass buildings. Also, repeating the same colors in different places and strategically placed traffic lights and utility poles helped. For a final touch, I used a lighter value shape in the sky to repeat the shapes of buildings. In my mind this added further depth to the composition. Snow is predicted for Denver this week and, if that happens, I will be heading downtown to gather material to paint snow in the city. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton
In February I am teaching an In-Person class at the Art Students League of Denver titled, "Vehicles in the Watercolor Cityscape." It is a 4 week class on Tuesday nights starting February 7th . There is still room so join me and have fun painting the hustle and bustle of the city. I will lead you step by step as we simplify this interesting subject.