The Karmic Grind

Today I got to spend the beautiful Autumn afternoon watercolor painting in the lovely town of Locust Valley. I found @theKarmicGrind coffee shop with the wonderful pale aqua delivery bicycle in front. However, what sealed the deal, was the Long Island Railroad crossing lights. I am a sucker for their form.

What went well….

Here is a close up of where the painting went right. The values are all working together and I managed to maintain a looseness and freshness. I provided important details and left the rest to be supporting players.

Painting without a net or why values are everything.

subtitled: the light is moving, even when you are not looking!

I almost always work without pencil drawing first, going right to the brush but, foolishly, I didn’t stop to do a Notan or a value sketch. I only had about two and a half hours, and I wanted to get the painting down as fast as I could. What a mistake! The sun was moving as fast as the cars! It was frustrating as well as a ridiculous undertaking to paint without having the value sketch to refer to, especially in the late afternoon Autumn light. In this situation, keeping the light and shadows correct is everything.

I persevered and prayed a lot but how many of us I wonder make this same mistake over and over again? The painting came out very well and I am happy with my portrayal of the light. But it is a little too tight, (so many details, so little time!). Much of it could have been eliminated. I think that cute little bicycle was the beginning of my downfall.

The value sketches and Notans would have been a big help with the fleeting light. Having this value sketch would have helped to set the position of the shadows. Once I got the structure and shapes down, the value sketch would have been all I needed to finish. As it was, I had to do quite a bit of guessing. Mind you while I did this sketch from home, It would have taken me the same five minutes on site. Five minutes that would probably have saved quite a bit of headache.

Since I did a value sketch I wondered what would have changed if I had done a Notan as well. Here are two different ones. I think I might have gone with the second one and eliminated the table and chairs in front of the shop. I am not sure about the windows but, it is simplified and more clear, so that the crossing post and the bicycle cart stand out more.

It’s interesting to consider, even after the fact. But it definitely reminds me why I need to do them, BEFORE I paint! I would love to hear whether you have ever done value sketches and/or Notans before you paint? Do you think they help? And, if you don’t do them, why not?

Leave a Comment