Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Desert Giants


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. I am planning a one day online zoom workshop on painting sunsets in watercolor and this is one of the preliminary studies for the workshop. Sunsets with all their fleeting beauty are different every time and exciting subjects. This painting of a desert in the southwest shows how the sunset creates back lighting and casts the cactuses in silhouette.

First, I chose one cactus to be the main character and decided where I wanted it in the composition. Connecting it to the bottom and top borders added to its importance and created a depth of field as it overlapped the foreground, middle ground, and background. Next I decided what it would take to balance the composition and decided to add the cactuses on the left that appear further away because of their size and placement in the middle ground. I felt this was still not enough so I added the lacy plants with their delicate branches. I moved a pencil around on my drawing to help me decide where to put the rest of the cactuses. You can actually see my pencil drawing of some cactuses where I changed my mind once I started painting.

I had definite ideas on what colors I wanted to use for the sunset and I only used a couple pencil lines in the sky area because I knew that I wanted to let the sunset develop as the wet colors moved and ran together on the paper. Starting at the top, I laid down mixtures of rose dore and cobalt violet and capped it off with mineral violet and ultramarine blue. For the hot yellow, I chose transparent yellow because it has a beautiful golden tint that separates it from the other yellows on my palette. I allowed these wet colors to move around on the paper and blend with each other creating soft edges.

I wanted to add a deep blue violet cloud and I knew that if it touched the yellow it would create the color green. As you can see, I let the yellow dry then added a rim of orange between the yellow and blue. The deep blue cloud is a mixture of cerulean blue, ultramarine blue, and mineral violet. Next I added transparent yellow down to the dark land formation and, when it was dry, added the smaller clouds with a mixture of rose dore and cobalt violet. The dark colors of the desert are a mixture of ultramarine blue plus perylene green and the cactuses are a mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. I prefer not to use black because I like the temperature changes that occur in these mixtures. It will be fun to create more sunset paintings for this upcoming workshop. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

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