I hadn’t worked on the left side of the sandstone in a while, so I thought that it was time to give it some attention. I think I’ve been avoiding it because it’s so complex and hard to see. Below is how it stood at the beginning of the session.

I started by trying to closely observe the cross-shaped dark brown mossy area at the top of the sandstone. First, I mixed up a few colors that I thought I’d need. If I’m reluctant to start painting an area, I’ll often do this, as it eases me into a painting frame of mind. Also, once I start observing, I don’t have to stop to mix colors. Naturally, my pre-mixed colors won’t be exactly right, so I’ll occasionally stop to mix some more. I’ll also use what a teacher of mine used to call the “smooshing” method of color mixing, which is mixing a color with my brush on the palette by dipping into the colors I want to mix and then smooshing them together on the palette. The good thing about this method is that it allows you to quickly mix up just what you need in a very intuitive way. The drawback is that you only end up with a brush-load of paint. If it’s a useful color, you’ll want more of it, and it’s hard to keep re-mixing it. When this happens, I’ll stop and mix up a bigger pile of paint with my palette knife, so that I can have a good supply.

It was very slow-going. I was correcting the drawing at the same time that I was trying to closely observe colors and values. They were such tiny shapes! I couldn’t paint all of the bits, but I wanted to get enough of them to seem convincing. I also worked on the area to the left of the sage leaves and the left-most edge of the sandstone. My constant challenge was not to overstate the darkness or lightness of these details. It’s natural, when trying so hard to observe something, to paint it more clearly than it would actually look if you stepped back and took in the whole painting. Over the years, I’ve gotten better at knowing how to dial these bolder statements back, but the impulse is still there! I kept going back to lighten shadows that I had painted too darkly.

Maybe fortunately, at this point, our power went out and I was in the dark! I was forced to wait until tomorrow to continue. Stay tuned.