The Donkey and Two Burros
Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. One of my fondest memories is of traveling through Mexico with my mentor Lowell Ellsworth Smith. Watercolor is an excellent medium for recording your travels because it is so portable and you are mixing your paints with water instead of oils. Also, the drying time is convenient because the painting is dry as soon as you finish. We painted in small towns that always had a place in the shade where vendors and workers tied up their donkeys and burrows that were used to transport merchandise. Sadly for artists, many of these animals have now been replaced by motorized vehicles.
As artists, we were always chasing the bright sunlight and colorful shadows that make Mexico so captivating. It was that dappled sunlight and shadow that attracted me to this subject. When the sunlight is this bright, the shadows and cast shadows are full of color and temperature changes that the camera doesn't capture. This is something to keep in mind when painting from photo's because pictures never seem to record the subtle color and value changes that exist in shadows and cast shadows.
It was the dappled sunlight and cast shadows on the adobe wall and the donkeys head and neck that made this such an extraordinary subject. The rich colors in the blanket and ropes, which are in direct sunlight, added to the strong effect. Odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye and that is why I decided to include three animals. Each one is different in size, color, gesture, and one is barely visible. Choosing one animal to be the star of the show was important and this one was an obvious choice because of the light and shadow and rich colors in the ropes and blanket.
For the adobe wall, I mixed grays with cerulean blue and red and changed the values to indicate light and shadow. The animals were painted with burnt sienna, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, and raw umber and the dirt road was painted with the same colors. The blanket is cerulean blue, cadmium red and ultramarine blue with bits of unpainted white paper. Plein air painting allows artists to immerse themselves in their subjects in a way that is hard to replicate in the studio and, in my opinion, paintings capture memories better that photo's. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton