Translucent Oil ~ Influences of Watercolor

Translucent Oil

I remember Rodger Bechtold talking about the influence of his early watercolors on his oils. I’d never thought about painting translucently in any medium. Rodger said he liked the resonance of a particular Ultramarine sky in one of his paintings. I liked it too.

Rodger’s gallery talk at Glave Kocen Gallery in Richmond this spring opened my mind.  I have followed his work for many years. Rodger’s paintings have always felt to me like I was seeing myself in the mirror. The opportunity to hear him speak, a magnet to my heart.

Not caught in the details, Bechtold’s paintings speak with clear earthy simplicity. Something I’ve always tasted before I pick up the paint brush.

translucent oil
Sambuca, oil, 11 x 14

Watercolors I began in France two years ago opened a doorway. Light, white paper, white space between colors. Why not white gessoed textured panel peeking through translucent oil paint?

This painting answered my query. Visiting the monastery in Sambuca, I came home with an inspiration to paint the scroll detail, back lit with warm light ~ contrasted by cool light from the open doorway.

Using Venetian Red (which I had just reintroduced into my palette), Ultramarine Blue and Indian Yellow, I limited my palette to just three colors. Cool light from the doorway punctuated by Jim’ figure sitting in darkness of the pew.

I thinned the Venetian Red, a very opaque pigment, with a lot of medium. Without white paint, which would turn the pigment pink, it stayed earthy. It caught in the ridges of heavy-body white gesso I had used to prep the panel, leaving wonderful light and dark patterns in the paint.

Like watercolor, I made it a point to get in and get out without working it to death. A few willow charcoal details, throwbacks to my pastel calligraphy, my connection with earth pigments.

The pediment on the chapel, by the way, read MDII, 1502.

Color Field Watercolor Paintings

The dream about color field paintings, abstract shapes juxtaposed, shifted my gears. For the last three weeks, images of colorful linens strung from balconies and apartment windows captured my imagination. The dream gave me permission to play with them.

color field
Homage to the Sun, watercolor, 8.25 x 11.8″, Handmade Garza Watercolor Paper

Playing with this one granted my wish to play more. Adding the two flower pots to the railing at first felt like a violation. Freed from my landscape palette, I granted freedom to my notion of wrong-doing. I rather think the flower pots make the painting sing!

Bicycle Races in Figline

Wandering into the old part of Figline Valdarno on a Sunday afternoon, we heard quite a commotion coming from the town square. We worked our way through the narrow alleys, a maze of tunnels between buildings from Medieval times. Laundry hanging from windows and flowers spilling over balconies, reminded us that this old village is vibrant and fresh with life.

bicycle races
Figline Gare Ciclistiche (Bicycle Races in Figline), watercolor

Following boisterous  noise, we discovered the square overflowing with children, bicycles, parents and grand parents. The race was about to begin. The youngest group of 8-year-olds lined up under a hot pink banner. Dressed in brilliant racing silks, they looked sophisticated,  serious, and focused.

We found ourselves Snapping photos and counting laps, cheering them on as if we too were proud grandparents.  When the older group made their second lap, we found our way to a cafe in the shade, ordered a drink and sat down to enjoy the festive atmosphere.

I painted the watercolor from memory two days later ~ my first sight of their colorful bicycle race day, embraced by the arms of the whole village.

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