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  • Writer's pictureCathy Carey

Watercolor Sketches and the Oil Paintings They Inspired

This group of pictures is going to show how I use my watercolor sketches to create a large more detailed oil painting. In the watercolor sketch I am working fast, completing it in a less than an hour usually.In the oil painting it can take several weeks to a month depending on the size. I am using ideas I “noted” in my sketch and playing them out more fully. Here are some examples!

Let the Sun Shine In oil 24″ x 30″ ©Cathy Carey

Let the Sun Shine I - oil 24" x 30" ©Cathy Carey SOLD

Let the Sun Shine I – oil 24″ x 30″ ©Cathy Carey SOLD

Watercolor sketch for Let the Sun Shine In

Santa Fe 2004/2005 p1 by Cathy Carey

Santa Fe 2004/2005 p1 by Cathy Carey

As you can see from the sketch to the oil translation I greatly enhanced the description of flowers. I did several other studies of the hollyhocks for the background. What was the most interesting to me as I did this plein air watercolor was the shapes of the gate pattern in the shadows on the ground. I also like the way the light made the black metal look blue in the highlight. My notes to myself about this was to vary the amount of water in the  watercolor to show the variety of grays and black the light caused. I decided to crop the chairs out – it took away from the flowers and gate shadow. I created the “L” shape the gate and wall made, to emphasize the idea of letting the light in, across the patio.

Solitude 36″ x 48″ oil

Solitude by Cathy Carey 36" x 48" oil SOLD

Solitude by Cathy Carey 36″ x 48″ oil SOLD

Watercolor sketch for Solitude

Santa Fe 2004/2005 p12 by Cathy Carey

Santa Fe 2004/2005 p12 by Cathy Carey

I painted this watercolor at night in a canopied tent by a pool at the Casa Del Zorro in Anza Borrego desert outside San Diego, CA. It was hard to see the colors, but it was easy to see the moon glow on the trees outside the canopy. I wanted to emphasize the chair by itself outside the canopy, and the moon hanging in the sky. In the oil, I decided to make the painting much larger and used photos I had taken during the day to add more of the background, to give the chair a sense of being a small being in a large world. In my paintings chairs often represent a person – as the viewer – looking at the scene. In this case the canopy represented your group or family, your tribe or sense of group identity and the chair was your personal or private self, alone with your thoughts. I did this during a time when the war in the Middle east was polarizing people as to which side the were ideologically on. In the oil painting the palm trees are the fears growing fast in the night, looming over you. They could be weapons or anything that can sneak up and over power you, as you are alone in the moonlight with your fears.

In the watercolor I had a short time to capture the way the moonlight played in the shadows of the white tent. In the oil I spent a month doing layers of lavender over a yellow painting of the tent, to show the moon glow coming through the fabric. I love the colors in pool water, so I painted the cushions on the lounge chairs to be the colors of pool water. I also changed the crescent moon to glowing full moon, to pull they eye out of the tent, across the chair and into the sky with the towering red tipped palms.

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