“A Course in Pink”

"A Course in Pink", by Robert Leedy, watercolor on Arches 300 lb. Cold Press paper, 18" x 12", Collection of The Wine Cellar, Jacksonville, Florida.

“A Course in Pink”, by Robert Leedy, watercolor on Arches 300 lb. Cold Press paper, 18″ x 12″, Collection of The Wine Cellar, Jacksonville, Florida.

I love Champagne. The Champagne House of Laurent-Perrier has a special connection as it was our go to Champagne for special events, wine tastings & dinners at Plaza Cellars, a fine wines distributor where I worked years ago in Puerto Rico. David Cimino, my good friend and President of the company, once worked in Paris for Laurent-Perrier as a young man and still maintains a close relationship with the Champagne firm.

I was recently commissioned by the Wine Cellar, a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, for wine paintings for several of their dining rooms. One room would have a theme of red, white and rosé which, Vicki Dugan, the owner, thought Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé, ironically, was the appropriate choice for the pink. All three paintings were still life paintings; the previous two I created on my own in the studio; for the Laurent-Perrier painting, I decided to take my lights, camera and tripod to the restaurant where Vicki and Chef Enver Stermilli helped me create a wonderful display of wine and food that I would photograph and create a watercolor painting from. One thing I really wanted was to have a view of the cork and its muselet, the wire cage that holds the cork in place. It meant opening the bottle of Champagne. “Well,” Vicki sighed, “I can’t think of anything worse than having to drink an entire bottle of Laurent-Perrier Brut Rosé.”

As I normally do in most other paintings, I try to tackle the difficult things first: the Champagne bottle, its reflections and label. Photography is a big help while painting glass and glass reflections. So much can be seen from a frozen image – things that the naked eye doesn’t always see at first glance. Painting these minute details sort of throw you into an abstract mode though it is still representational subject matter and the wonderful shapes and colors must still adhere to the form of the bottle.

The subject matter is basically warm, orange, pinkish colors which I balance with grayed down blues in the background. It is always good to strive for a nice balance of temperatures, that is, warm and cool colors. The background also gave me an opportunity to play with interesting negative shapes. Since there was a lot of pink in the mix of warm colors, I felt a little bit of green would balance nicely which I found in the bottle color and the foliage in the background.

I continued with the Champagne flutes. Painting bubbles is the big challenge here though if you carefully look at what is going on in the image, it’s not a big deal. The bubbles were essentially bits of yellow highlights within the pink mass. There were also finer bubbles that were more of a discoloring or graying of swirling sections of the pink wine. I found a cool trick – I used a bit of Daniel Smith’s Lunar Black watercolor to drop into the wet pink; the black pigment separates and is quite granular giving a sense of small bubbles…

Working with 300 lb. Arches Cold Press paper, I did a lot of glazing and re-saturation of color. The subsequent glazed layers of color add a richness to the painting. As always, I look for every opportunity to introduce little surprises of color otherwise the painting is too literal of a translation and often dull.

It is important to monitor the balance of color, temperature, lights & darks and shapes throughout a painting. The final phase of a painting for me is sort of that last pass through where everything is checked for balance. As for detail, some areas will have more detail than others. A uniform blanket of detail (or anything else for that matter) is not good. Notice how I left some untouched whites in the background: I felt they were essential for the balance of light throughout the painting.  Once I am visually satisfied with my work, I call it quits and the painting is finished.

Here is the progressive video I created of the painting:

To learn more about the Wine Cellar, go to http://www.winecellarjax.com

Robert Leedy's watercolor, "A Course in Pink", in its new home at The Wine Cellar.

Robert Leedy’s watercolor, “A Course in Pink”, in its new home at The Wine Cellar.

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