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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Spring In Arroyo Seco


Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. Another page in my sketchbook! This is in the little town of Arroyo Seco just outside of Taos, New Mexico. I found an old photograph of this charming adobe home and realized I had never painted it. My sketchbook was perfect for trying out ideas like how to represent all the flowers in the yard and the spring colors in the tree leaves. There was a lot more going on in the yard like more rocks, flowers. a wooden gate covered with vines, and wooden chairs on the porch. Thinking back, I was a little intimidated with all this going on and only took photo's. Now that I have worked out a composition, along with what details to include, I can't wait for my Taos Watercolor Workshop in May so I can revisit this house and paint it in plein air.

I tried out seven different green mixtures, and while they still aren't exactly what I want, I am much more confident about painting this on my next visit. This is one way a sketchbook is so helpful, trying out ideas without worrying about the finished product. I thought of Claude Monet who said "painting is just putting bits of color next to other bits of color." Using that Impressionistic approach was fun and I worked through the painting putting bits of color next to other bits of color without worrying much about the subject matter. For example, as I painted the dark colors next to the side of the adobe house, they turned into the coyote fence that settled into the grass. I was so engrossed in the painting technique, I honestly didn't realize it was a fence until most of it was painted.

The twisting tree was another example. I started with the dark colors of the trunk and branches then added bits of different greens and yellows, leaving visible brush strokes, until I decided it looked like the spring colors I remembered. Because lemon yellow and cadmium yellow are very opaque I was able to add a little blue to make yellow-green and paint leaves right over the dark trunk and branches. As I added red and blue flowers in the yard, I spattered Chinese white on top of the darker greens to represent the white flowers. The adobe color is a mixture of yellow ochre and cobalt violet with some mineral violet in the shadow areas. The window frames are cerulean blue, also know as Taos Blue, and the rocks are different grays mixed with cerulean blue and cadmium red.

The coyote fence was painted with burnt sienna and raw umber mixed with ultramarine blue. I also added a mixture of burnt sienna and perylene green to see if it would work. Look at the temperature change between the warm colors in the coyote fence compared with the cooler colors in the tree trunk and branches. That is exactly the sort of thing I like to work out in a sketchbook in case I decide to turn this into a larger studio painting.

The warm sunny Spring weather is finally here to stay in Denver and I am headed out to my favorite walking trail with my sketchbook and paints. I can still see snow on the distant mountains which will make an interesting backdrop for the spring colors. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton

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