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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Simplicity


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Happy New Year everyone! As we venture into 2024, I am thinking how much I enjoy painting and how much I love being an artist. That old saying "Do something you love and it will never seem like work" certainly applies to the life of an artist.

 

Today I want to talk about something I had to learn through trial and error and that is simplicity. So many times I see an artist, myself included, get excited about a subject and then try to take on to much which is often a recipe for failure. If this sounds familiar then ask yourself what attracted you to the subject in the first place and then try to paint that one idea. Only paint what is necessary to capture that original excitement.

 

I'll use this painting as an example. I was wandering around Santa Fe with my painting gear looking at all the historical architecture and feeling a bit overwhelmed. I turned up a little alley and and found these sunflowers hanging over a coyote fence and knew it was something I wanted to paint. Now imagine this, there were other windows, an interesting roof line. a beautiful blue sky, wild flowers growing at the bottom of the coyote fence, more sunflowers, etc. etc. I asked myself what caught my eye in the first place and narrowed my subject down to only two sunflowers, the window and the top of the coyote fence. What I left out was just as important as what I included.

 

Ask yourself, if I had included anything else would it have been a better painting? By simplifying my subject I was able to concentrate on the three elements and enjoy plein air painting without feeling overwhelmed. For me, this little painting really speaks of Santa Fe and it brings back the memory of a fun day of painting. John Singer Sargent said "I don't paint views, I paint things" and I think about that when I study his watercolors.

 

The window was painted with cerulean blue and the adobe wall is a mixture of yellow ochre, cobalt violet, and mineral violet. Warm and cool grays mixed with cerulean blue, cadmium red, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue were used for the coyote fence and the sunflowers were painted with lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, cobalt violet, and burnt sienna. Take another look at something you have painted in the past and see if you can simplify it into only what attracted you to the subject in the first place. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

 

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