Now that my Peru series of portraits are over, the next series of paintings in my collection will capture some of my memories from Europe. I did an exchange semester in the Netherlands so I took the opportunity to travel through as much of Europe as possible. Europe for me was more about architecture as it was my first time that and I really wanted to see as many historic landmarks as possible.
The first stop is Germany. I went to Berlin and Potsdam as I didn’t stay very long, about 3 days so I took the opportunity to see the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam. Sanssouci is the summer palace of Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, in Potsdam, near Berlin. It was absolutely gorgeous and it would have been even more so if the garden terraces were fully grown.
After touring the outside of the palace, I explored the gardens and came across this windmill – which I didn’t think I’d see anywhere but the Netherlands (naive I know) and decided to paint it. Doing the wet on wet wash for the sky was tricky but even more challenging was the wood detail. My favourite part was how the light was captured on the fan blades of the windmill.
Let me start off by saying I have to return to Peru! Maybe it will happen sooner rather than later but as I come to an end of the Peruvian leg of my travel memories I did learn a lot along the way which helped me improve my approach to portraits.
This portrait is by far my favourite. I was enthralled by the multitude of colours and the stark contrast between the turquoise background against her red coat. This one took me about 11 days. I think it was because I was so in love with everything about it and didn’t want to take too long to finish so I was excited about seeing the end product and getting it all the way I wanted to.
I did a trial version of the wall background because I needed to have it all perfectly executed and I guess this is where my perfectionist nature emerges! But I’m so pleased with the end result. After completing this piece; I was pretty much an expert with the masking fluid and capturing the details. In my reference photo, she was behind a table so I had to make up her skirt, but in the end all turned out well!
I’m almost at the end of the Peruvian leg of my memories and this one was not as complex – I think subconsciously I needed a break from all the details. I really love how vibrant her hat was against the contrast of the white wall. I’m not sure I captured her the way I really wanted to, and at times I feel like doing it over because the perfectionist in me is coming out, but I still love it.
The subtle shadows on the wall weren’t as difficult to capture as I thought the straps on her hat however, was much more demanding. The biggest lesson from this experience so far has been acquiring patience and trusting the process. Sometimes in the beginning, when just the undertones are laid down, I begin to doubt some decisions and constantly have to remind myself to relax and go with the flow (no pun intended!).
This next piece challenged me in many ways. The first was getting his facial expression right. He wasn’t exactly smiling, and had a small, slightly upturned mouth. I also really wanted to capture the sun-burnt cheeks that most Peruvians have with my paint application. Lastly, the biggest challenge was executing such an intricately designed poncho!
Getting the under-painting down came easier with all those min-portraits I did in the last few months. What took the most time was that poncho! I questioned my decision to do it many times – could I do it? Can I capture the shadow and light within all those patterns? the masking fluid application in itself was a huge task! My last big decision was whether or not to paint the background behind him or do a wash; mostly because I was already overwhelmed by the details of everything else, but I wanted to test my limits and went with the background of the photo. I wanted the multi-coloured clothing to be the thing that drew in the viewer the most so I made the background not appear too prominent with more muted tones utilising more water.
In the end, I”m really happy how he turned out!
As a self-taught artist navigating your medium of interest without the help of classmates can be interesting. I joined one of those Facebook group’s about watercolours to learn and gain some exposure to other artists practicing the medium and someone posted about fugitve colours.
Having never heard of it before, I was intrigued. What is a fugitive colour? Was I using any of those shades? What does it mean for my artwork? So I did some digging and found this post on Artists Network, which helped me out.
After reading up on it, it did make me question the longevity of a watercolour painting, whether fugitive colours are used or not. I haven’t started brushing up on my art history, but I intend to as well as experiment with different brands. Some google research educated me on the longevity of certain paints versus others. In this regard, while I am enjoying the process of using watercolours in my work so far, I can’t wait to explore my other mediums of interest.
One Sunday in Lima some friends and I went to a street festival in the city centre. It was incredibly hot, however we were happy for the break away from our studies. I don’t recall the reason for the festival, but there were a lot of different traditional characters and dances parading along the square. One of which was this guy I painted earlier.
In trying to escape the heat while capturing photos of all the characters I’d never seen before, it reminded me a bit of home and our traditional characters shaped by our local folklore – a series which I have on my to do list of things to paint. But, I digress, while looking around, there was this group of women waiting against a wall in the square seemingly also taking refuge in the shade the buildings provided. I decided to capture that moment and it now features as one of my paintings. I call them the Ladies in Waiting.
The amount of detail required made me feel pretty overwhelmed and it was my first time putting masking fluid to this much use! Trying to find a tool to use with it for tiny areas proved to be a headache and at times I wanted to stop doing it, but I persevered and this is the end result. A part of my wants to attempt it again to fix all the flaws I see and do it on a much larger scale, but I do love many aspects of this, most importantly my dedication to finish!
During my last month in Peru, I decided to see as much as I could in the week or so I had left when school ended. So I decided of all the places I still had on my bucket list in the country, where would I get the best bang for my buck, and decided to return to Cusco. This solo trip was going to be my last hurrah and I wanted to make it count so I pulled up a map and charted out my adventures.
I stayed in Cusco for a couple days and decided to take a bus from there to Puno overnight for one full day of touring Lake Titcaca, the Uros Islands and Taquile Island. My logistics went seamlessly and with my improved Spanish language skills I felt invincible! After our Uros Island tour where I saw this little angel; we went to Taquile Islands where we were hosted by a family who did a traditional dance and received a traditional meal.
In preparation for the dance, I took some photos and there was this musician tuning his guitar. I was drawn to the contrast of their simpler, less colourful costumes overall so there was this stark contrast between his hat and the rest of his outfit, so I decided to capture him on canvas. Also his background made the perfect composition!
Watercolours always seemed so intimidating to me – one wrong move and it’s all ruined compared to other mediums where mistakes can be corrected more easily. I chose it anyway because I realised I subconsciously wanted to rise to that challenge. So I took all my art funds and invested in solely watercolour paints and supplies. I bought Winsor and Newton in a cotman pan set as well as some professional colours. I use the cotman for practice pieces.
Embarking on this journey also led me to rediscover my artistic inspiration which I spoke of in this post and everything made sense.
What brand do you use and what has been your experience in finding the brand you love?
Just before I left Peru for good in December 2016, I decided to return to Cusco on a solo adventure to knock some places off my list. This mission took me to Lake Titcaca – the highest navigable lake in the world with its colony of floating islands complete with families of inhabitants.
On my tour we took a ride on their reed boats which was awesome and learnt about their culture. While on the reed boat a family took us around and I managed to snap a pic of one of the kids in a candid shot. Looking through my pics when I’m being nostalgic, her innocence and demeanor spoke to me enough to want to paint her. I tried once before, and actually failed miserably but I was determined to do her justice.
On my second attempt I enjoyed the process a lot more. I realised I was very impatient in studying proportions, light and shadow and depicting texture. the delicate nature of watercolour – requiring sometimes layers upon layers also reminded me of my digital design work and it helped me understand the process better.
With that said; presenting piece number two in my Painted Memories Collection – the Girl from Lake Titicaca.
Having lived in Peru for about 11 months while going to school it was my first time living outside of my country for such a long period of time. It was definitely an adjustment not hearing your native language 98% of the time but sampling new foods, seeing new locations and making new friends helped with that adjustment. I also managed to learn Spanish along the way; I really had no choice in the matter and I’m glad I did 🙂
Peru for me represents a love/hate relationship. On the one hand, the challenges associated with living in any developing country became quite evident at times(and more so in another language) and on the other, my desire to explore its geography and immerse myself in the culinary world made the challenges (and the extra pounds) worth it!
I am in love with colour. Seeing the indigenous people in all their colourful splendour was a sight to behold – it’s what inspired my first piece in this collection. I actually posted about it before. In this piece, I experimented with a couple watercolour techniques to get it to my liking. I especially love his jacket where I got it to resemble the textured threads of the fabric with some dry brush and lifting of the paint. I wanted a type of 3D effect so I painted his hat outside of the colored background; I was also unaware of the use of painter’s tape for my borders, so this was my attempt at staying within the lines. Almost got it!