Hit-and-Miss Painting

Here’s a storm I encountered in Wyoming 6 years ago.

I tried to capture the sky in watercolors.    My first attempt didn’t go so well…I tried to apply multiple layers.  Alternating between wet applications, and the blow-dryer.    But I over-did it and it became mud.


In the next attempt, I lay down the colors one, and only once.

Better than before.  But I still didn’t get the effect I wanted.

The problem with wet-on-wet is it dilutes the pigments, and I find it hard to get the dark shades.

If any watercolorists out there have any suggestions, I’m open to them.
Oh well, the evening wasn’t a total loss.   I finally finished one I’ve been working on for a while.

It’s a scene from Colorado in June.  I forget exactly where.  But there are countless places where you can drive up to 10,000 feet in a Honda Civic and see sights like this.

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18 Comments on “Hit-and-Miss Painting”

  1. steph Says:

    I’m glad to see you’re painting again! My sister, a grad of OCAD, just finished her annual Christmas card and mentioned how hard watercolour is and that she wants to take a course, so I can appreciate the difficulty you feel you’re having. Are you still taking those lessons?

    I like the Colorado painting; I think you did well with the white bits, which I imagine are the hardest because you actually just leave the white, right, and paint around that? You have good depth and perspective in this. You do get a good sense of landscape…

  2. Friar Says:


    I always take the summer off, and stop painting while it’s still daylight outside after work. I get most of my year’s painting from October to May.

    It’s more of a painting group. One of the artists volunteers to teach the beginners. But some of us are quite advanced, we do our own thing.

    I do pick up a few tricks now and then. But what I want is someone WAY better than me, to kick my butt and challenge me. Hard to find good teachers like that, especially where I live.

    I like trying to make the white of the snow contrasts with the dark background. I discovered that you have to make the edges sharp..if you leave them blurry, the contast gets lost.

    PS. I’m waiting for Eyeteaguy to show up and yell at me for posting boring artwork. 😉

  3. Davina Says:

    Your day wouldn’t be complete unless you were yelled at. I’m sure Eyemouthguy will be along soon.

    That’s an awesome photograph — full of promise of yummy weather to come. Did it? The second painting attempt reminds me of an underwater scene, with seaweed growing out of the ocean floor.

  4. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Wee Friar,

    I find the second painting lacks the dramatic cloud effects in your photo. I know nothing about watercolour. Would it have worked better if you used a hair dryer? It would be so much easier with oils.


    Wondering if you’re away searching for that elusive job? Google has posted help-wanted ads for 16 positions in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Waterloo, and wants to take advantage of Canada’s extraordinarily plugged-in Internet users.

  5. Eyeteaguy Says:

    Well well well. As it turns out I don’t even need to show up to make my point any more.

    As for the first 2 paintings, why bother? The picture you took is nice, why paint it?

    And the last one you said was done. Doesn’t look done, still a lot of white spaces left. If you send it to me I’ll get my 5 year old to colour it in for you.


  6. Eyeteaguy Says:

    @ Friar’s Mom

    Didn’t see that but will look it up. Problem is I’m picky. I need to find something close to where I live (i.e. not Toronto). And it has to be long term, non of this “contract hope it will turn into a job” garbage. Until then I’ll keep threatening to quit, they’ll keep paying me more and in 25 years I’ll retire.

    Sad really.


  7. Kelly Says:


    Finally! A painting that doesn’t come out so gorgeous I feel I shouldn’t try it!

    This has the strange effect of making me want to take my watercolors out and see if I can do any better. Normally I look at your work and know I can’t. 🙂

    Intellectually, I still know I can’t. But for once the hope is there, lol.

    Is it too rude to ask what my old painting profs would: Are you painting what you expect to be there, or what you really see? It is too rude, but there, it’s typed. From here, and with no right to say so, that looks like the problem.

    Colorado: Foreground, left third. Stunning. Grabs my eye and holds it.

    I’m with Steph—yay for more Friar-paintings!



  8. Brett Legree Says:

    I won’t critique the paintings because I know dick all about it, other than it’s hard to do.

    Google – yeah.

    I applied for a job there once, they were looking for a person to run the daily operations at their Waterloo facility.

    I figured since I had experience running the daily operations at a *nuclear isotope facility* and I like tech that I might have a shot at it.

    *bzzt* Google prefers to hire Ph.D. grads with no experience so they can indoctrinate them…

    I’m not saying “don’t apply”, just that it seems with them, having a Ph.D. (and knowing someone inside, as always) is what you need.

  9. Friar's Mom Says:


    You don’t have to be an artist to critique a painting. When I took my first art class we were asked to give an honest critique of each others’ work. We stood back, sometimes we were asked to squint, sometimes we framed the painting with our hands and fingers and eliminated surrounding distracions. Then we gave our honest opinion about how we felt about the painting. What does the artist want to say? What does the painting say to you? You’d be surprised what you like or dislike about a painting. It’s quite personal. Later we were taught what to look for, like composition, balance, colour.

    Friar Mom’s comment: I love the contrast of the blue sky at top left. Foreground is non-comitted, a work in progress.

    So here you go. Maybe we should all give an honest critique of Friar’s work. Then he can glean something from each of us, whether positive or negative.

  10. Brett Legree Says:

    @Friar’s Mom,

    That’s true, you don’t, but my own personal choice is often to reserve critical feedback for subjects that I do understand fully.

    Call it a “learned experience” from my current workplace, some senior management (who are no longer here, I might add) believed that one did not need to fully understand a subject in order to provide critical feedback to those who do understand something.

    May I present a reactor that is currently on extended shutdown 🙂

  11. Friar Says:

    That was a pretty cool storm..lots of violent lightning bolts crashing down. Too bad there wasnt’ a tornado.

    Hate to pop your bubble, but the third painting is also based from a photograph.

    I paint, because it makes my brain feel good when I do.

    You just don’t get the same feeling from the 1/60th of a second it takes to capture the photo.

    Some painting instructors are too afraid to show any failures. I don’t know what the point of that is…it just intimidates students into not wanting to try, like you said.

    Whether painters paint what the see, or expect to see..hmm. Interesting question.

    If I see a scene that’s not exactly how I want it, I’ll “edit” it. Add some color…enhance certain things…remove others.

    But sometimes I like the subject so much, I WANT to make it look exactly how it is. But often, things don’t turn out like that. I either don’t have the skills to do it…the paint runs away from you. Or I make mistakes that I can’t fix.

    Sometimes the mistakes are “fortunate”. They actually make the painting look better than you intended.

    Of course, you don’t tell your audience that. You just keep quiet, and act like you MEANT that to happen. 🙂

  12. Friar Says:


    At least you admit it. Seems the harshness of the criticism is indirectly proporptional to the critics’ ability to paint.

    I have had more than a couple of painting critics. My solution is just to avoid showing them my work.

    Problem solved. 🙂

    @Friar’s Mom

    It was a 10 minute sketch. Give me a break. 😉

  13. hannah78 Says:

    I’ve never really tried watercolour, but painting in general can be difficult and very tricky. One wrong step and you end up either spending hours trying to fix your mistake or scraping the painting altogether!

    The one you finished is beautiful! 🙂

  14. Friar Says:


    At least with oils or acyrlic, you have the option of painting over and fixing your mistakes.

    But with watercolors, you can ruin it for good, in one fell swoop. Drives me nuts sometimes.

    The last painting was starting to make me nervous in the end, for especially that reason. I was starting to fiddle around too much…I needed to be able to “let go” and step away from it, lest I ruin it.

    Seems I stepped away at the right moment. I’m glad I did! (because that’s not always the case!):-)

  15. Davina Says:

    I was reading your reply to Hannah and was about to ask why you chose water colours if they are so difficult to work with and where there is a higher risk of ruining a painting. Then it hit me. You like living on that edge of uncertainty about how it will turn out. Then, when it turns out; when you have “mastered it”, there is a huge sense of satisfaction — and gratefulness — can I used that word on your blog? ;-)… kinda like catching that big fish.

  16. Friar Says:


    I know…Friar’s Mom is amazed at why I chose watercolors, given my Type-A personality.

    Laziness/Convenience has a lot to do with it.

    To set up watercolors, you need a yogurt-cotainer full of water, and some toilet paper. And you can start. Clothes dont’ get ruined. And clean up consists of wiping your pallette with tissue.

    Oils are smelly and messy. Clean up’s a bitch. And when your painting gets too wet, you have to put it away for days at a time, before it’s dry enough to work with.

    I tried oils again, a few years ago. Realized it’s a whole other medium and it will take a huge time committment to master them.

    Given the limited ammount of hours in a day, I’d rather invest that time at getting even BETTER with just the watercolors.

  17. Wendi Kelly Says:

    Hey there, don’t be hard on yourself, for ten minutes its pretty darn good.

    I’ll give you my two cents, but that’s all it worth. The person you need is Janice.Get Janice to answer your question. She is our resident expert on all things art.

    So, I do wet on wet wash first, let it completely dry as in…don’t touch it and have this odd thing called patience…then come back and add in the contrasts with mediums and darks with and wet on dry technique.

    Thats my two cents. Go find Janice for the real answer. Only one person has bought any of my paintings and I didn’t pay the mortgage with the money. I think I bought Ice cream or something…:)

  18. Friar Says:


    I did 2 wet-on-wet layers. They were okay. But everything went to hell-in-a-handbasket on the 3rd one.

    You’re right. Janice would know. Will be interesting to see what she thinks.

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