Keep Out

I passed this bizarre decaying building on a little-travelled rural backroad and was happy to have my camera. It was a sunny morning and the front of the building was bathed in light. If only this place could tell me its story, sitting close to the road in the middle of nowhere, with bars over the windows. Had it served as a small community jail? I loved its quirks - the weathered siding, the red stains at the top of the door, the rusty metal, and the panes of glass slipped out of the window frame. I yearned to do a painting, but struggled with how to make it interesting.

I remembered an old "Keep Out" sign in my photo reference files, which appealed to me because the black letters had worn away but the sign was still readable. This sign could add a humorous irony to the building, I thought, so I decided to incorporate it into my design. I chose a front-on view, primarily featuring the old window, and placed the sign in the upper third, off center.

I used masking fluid to preserve the sign shape and a few highlights on the broken glass, which show up as grey areas in the photo below of the early painting steps. In keeping with my technique of painting watercolors with just 3 primary colors, I set out to create a colorful underpainting. I spattered the paints onto the 300lb Arches CP paper, directing warmer red-yellow mixtures on the door and blue-red at the top. Clean water was sprayed over the colors, and I blended the wet surface with my fingers to cover most of the paper. The rest of the painting was done with the same 3 primary colors, but mixed together in my palette for grey tones. The greys were applied as glazes, so the bright colors of the underpainting could still show through. The rich black in the empty window panes and shadow areas was also created by mixing all three colors, keeping them very saturated with minimal water to dilute them.

I'm doing a lot of painting lately, and this was one of my resolutions for New Year's - the other is to get rid of accumulated junk, but that's not as fun! I won't continue at this pace, however… my 'discretionary' time is more available currently, since I'm not gardening at this time of year, I've put my fiddle playing on hold, my husband Rick is busy in a training program to join the sheriff's auxiliary, and we are both working on firming up our bodies so I'm not cooking so much. Voila, time for painting!! My other motivation is a looming deadline for entries into the 2018 TN Watercolor Society Exhibition on February 10th, so I'm scrambling to create two show-quality watercolor paintings to enter. Wish me luck!

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