Where watercolor meets pastel. Tom Perkinson has dedicated his life and career to painting. Here’s what decades of this type of dedication to unique ways of working have produced.
Tom Perkinson and the light landscape
Indians have a phrase that I like. Keep your head open. It is an invitation to live every moment and to be open to new possibilities and new solutions. It perfectly describes the perspective Perkinson brings to his work. He paints the enchanting landscape of New Mexico and pushes color into almost otherworldly realms of rich violets, bright yellows, and bright oranges. The resulting pictures revel in the transformative potential of sunrise.
Inspired by a climate that can showcase anything, from the crisp clarity of the mountain air to the sudden storms sweeping through the desert floor to the delicate charm of winter snowfall, Perkinson’s work appears to be the latest tribute to one of the most visually spectacular regions in the United States. It is therefore not surprising that almost all of his images create from his imagination and memory. My color sequences are not in the field of nature because I don’t portray being; I’m a fictional artist. I try to paint a cute girl drawing and feel for the place as if this scene existed.
My collectors have asked me where this scene is, and all I have to do is point my head and say I made it up. So I see my work as romantic realism. I paint a certain reality that I made up and take inspiration from the fascinating and rich landscape of the Southwest.
The real job
The artist notes that although the viewer is generally enthusiastic about color, he pays great attention to the tonal values and notices that color gets all the credit, but it’s the states that do all the tasks.
Start with the washes
I don’t start with the sketches because I want to follow the painting in every direction. I begin with waves of different finishes and colors. Then I start looking for a landscape. At that moment, different directions will appear to me, and therefore I have to choose one of them. The decision is the hardest part of the process for the artist, so he always tries to be open to change.
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Once Perkinson starts to feel for the developing view, he works to get a taste of the range. In those first few moments, I have to determine my way from the picture. Am I a mile or just over the river? It is one of the first steps, and I have to decide before I can proceed. It is important to work out the perspective and how things relate to each other in the picture. Then, as the landscape develops, I look for more images to add to the composition.
After making the watercolor, Perkinson lets it dry late and then works on it the following day with brown pencils and colors. The watercolor penetrates the paper while the pastel is on the surface, enhancing the illusion of depth and space. Perkinson uses the pastel layer to reinforce and dramatize the images created in the watercolor. I often rub in some places and take away others. This technique gives the painting its visual history and its own patina.
Perkinson sometimes practices a bottle of compressed air to create various effects, which he passes through a thin pipe; the air blows the crayon around the surface or away entirely. This method allows the designer to change a passage, add character, or remove most pastel from an operation. The effect I get depends on how far I hold the can from the paper and how far I pull the trigger. It creates effects that I can’t get any other way. Perkinson also uses cardboard tubes or stumps to blend and lift pastel colors from one area to repeat the color in another. It’s a really good technique in terms of the subtlety that I can achieve.
Where watercolor and pastel meet
Using watercolor, I quickly applied the core washes and abstract texture. I then applied hickory ink in the forefront.
I’ve added the rain cloud and mountains in the background. I then covered up some areas to push them back into space.
I’ve added cloud details and more color to the sky.
I’ve produced more detail with watercolor, pastel, and colored pencils, totaling more vivid colors to the sky, trees, history, and prominence.
I added the two geese by the water and the red-winged blackbird in the foreground. I was working on the big rock under the trees on the left.
I added another goose near the water and painted the flying geese Geese in November.
Light and landscape
You can find more exciting instructions on other important aspects of landscapes in Johannes Vloothuis’ monthly Paint Along. You can see all three sessions live with Johannes while painting or whenever you want (sessions will be recorded for you!). That’s over 12 hours of creative fun on one of the most popular subjects in landscape painting. Have fun!
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