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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Vanishing History

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This old ramshackle barn is on one of my favorite ranches in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and I actually painted it from a photo in an online zoom class that I teach at the Art Students League of Denver. I have painted on the ranch many times and painting it in class brought back some fond memories. Steamboat Springs was a ranch and mining town before becoming a ski resort and there are still many working ranches like this one with old barns, sheds and ranch houses that are wonderful subjects for plein air painters.

We worked through our paintings step by step starting with the cerulean blue sky. The clouds were lifted out with a tissue and then gray was added to create volume. On the left corner behind the barn, the tree is a mixture of olive green and ultramarine blue put down with a half round brush. Next, we moved onto the roof with a light mixture of yellow ochre and cadmium red and then added drybrush with a darker value of the same mixture. To capture the sunlight we painted the shadow side of the barn with raw umber mixed with ultramarine blue. We painted the sun struck side with lighter values of burnt sienna and ultramarine along with gray mixed with cerulean blue and cadmium red. The darkest places between the collapsing boards and openings is a dark mixture of burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

Each one of us decided whether or not to include the utility pole and I did so that I could tilt it to the right and create tension with the barn leaning to the left. I also liked that it came out of the middle ground and overlapped the background. Burnt sienna was used for the tanks and we talked about including all three because odd numbers are pleasing to the eye. The distant mountain is a mixture of olive green and ultramarine blue.

Simplifying the foreground was next and I worked quickly starting with olive green for the tall grass and a crazy mixture of cerulean blue, raw umber, and cobalt violet for the dirt road. Three color mixtures can be tricky and, by not stirring the colors up but rather just gently pushing them together, they are not as likely to turn muddy. Also you can see the different components of the mixture on the paper which is an effect that I like. At the end of the class, I talk about checking our values, shapes, colors, and edges. During the week the school sends out the recording of the class for the students and then we look at their finished paintings the next week. I have already seen a couple of the paintings and, as usual, I am delighted with the results and the progress.

On July 28, 29, & 30 this summer I am teaching a plein air watercolor workshop in Steamboat Springs and we will be painting scenes like this, as well as mountain vistas, aspen trees and other subjects in this charming mountain town. For information and to sign up for the workshop go to the Steamboat Art Museum website and, if you have any questions, send me an email to Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton


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