Painting the Deckle Edge

“Delta Sunrise” is inspired from a photo I took while flying over the Sacramento River in a 1940’s Piper Cub.  It was an amazing ride, as the pilot had the window open so I could hang out and get photos.  We were so low it felt as though I could almost touch the tree tops!  The passenger sits in front with the instruments, while the pilot sits in back.  It was an odd feeling that left me wondering who was flying the plane.  We took off and then landed in a bumpy field.  I took over 500 photos to paint from and the trip has been my most memorable flight yet.  Many of my recent aerial paintings have been from those photos.
Step 1

You can see that I started with a wash in the river and the sky.  While the sky is still wet I dab tissue to pick up the paint and create the clouds.  Since I don’t stretch my paper and I like to paint to the deckled edge, it is very difficult to do a wash in the sky and river.  I have to be careful not to rest the edge of the paper on the table or it will cause a bloom or backwash where the paper dries at a different rate.  In this painting I had a very difficult time because half the paper was wet and flimsy around the lower three edges.  Typically I pick up the paper and manipulate the wash by moving it around in different directions and upside down, but that was impossible with half the paper dripping wet and flopping!  I hadn’t planned ahead and almost lost the painting because there was no where to hold it as the washes blended and dried.  The lesson learned was to tape my paper on the underside to a piece of foam core board just smaller than my paper, but with an area that I can hold so that the paper can be manipulated while wet.  I also learned to use some small wooden blocks to set under the edges of the paper as it dried to hold it away from the table.

Step 2

I started adding the landscape washes and building up the layers.  I still wasn’t sure if I wanted another wash on the water, so I waited until there were more washes and details in place.

Step 3

I added in more details and started painting the reflections.

Delta Sunrise

In the completed painting you can see where the shadows and reflections really bring out the depth of the painting and ground the viewer.  I love placing the shadows last as the finishing touch.  I was happy that I kept the lower half of the painting all water without the river bank, as I think it really draws the viewer in and gives the feeling I had while I was flying.  I hope it conveys this to the viewer.

“Delta Sunrise” is my painting that was selected for the 148th American Watercolor Society International Exhibition in New York and will be showing at the Salmagundi Club in April.  There are over 1600 entries every year from around the world and only about 150 are chosen by the jury, which consists of five judges that must concur on the selections.  Entries are submitted digitally and each artist is only allowed one entry.  It’s a rigorous process that doesn’t allow the judges to discuss the entries until after the selections have been chosen.  They continue to go through the entries until all the judges concur on the total paintings needed.  After the selection, entries are then shipped to AWS and judged for awards by three additional jurors.  I have entered this competition numerous times and have lost count of the number of times I’ve been rejected.  Then in 2013 I was thrilled to get a call that not only was I accepted, but I won a top award!  It was very exciting!  I kept expecting to get another call saying it was all a mistake!  So imagine my excitement when I was notified that I was selected to be in the show this year.  No award, but getting into this prestigious show again is a thrill!  I hope if you are in New York in April you will stop in to see this amazing watercolor show.  It will then travel around the US to several cities in the next year.
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