Thursday, February 7, 2008

Because there was a major parking problem on Monday due to an event held at the Armstrong, I didn’t do too much to the Acrylic project so for that those who weren’t there or couldn’t find parking, you won’t be too far behind next week.

Week 3: Winter Morning – Acrylic.

First we sketched in where our house will be. When placing your house or any other important subject matter in your painting, it is important where you place it. The general rule is “the Rule of Thirds”. Divide you canvas into thirds both vertically and horizontally (you can do this with your charcoal). The places where these lines intersect are called “crash points” and are the ideal places to locate subject matter, though anywhere near along the “thirds” lines will also be good places to locate your subject(s). This rule applies to all of our art work including photography. Things that are dead center in your lens or on your canvas kills the flow of your composition, keep things away from the center and your composition will improve.

Remember that this house is over that ridge on the left side so it is pretty far back visually in our painting, meaning that it will be fairly small with minimal detail, so don’t make it too big. If you want to put in something besides a house, say, a barn or a church, it is up to you, find something for reference if you need to get the shape correct. The shape will tell the viewer what it is.

First you need to under paint your house. Use a brush that is a comfortable size for your painting, I used a No. 4 bristle brush because I needed the control; you can use a small sable also if you want. On the side that would be closest to me, I used sienna, a touch each of orange, white and purple. Be very careful when using the purple it can over power almost any other color you have and all we want to do here is slightly grey the color while keeping it a warm reddish color. This is the light side of the house.

On what would be the front of the house, I used a combination of sienna and purple. This will be a dark color because this is on the shadowed side. You can also use this color to under paint a chimney if you want.

Under painting the roof of your house you will use a similar color to that you used to under paint the snow on the ridge in front of it. This is a combination of blue, purple, a touch of sienna to grey it slightly and white. Remember that the snow piles up and makes the edges of your roof rounded.

While your house is drying, you can start the snow highlighting process. Please keep in mind that this is not done all at once, it may take three or more layers of dry brush to get the highlights where we want them so don’t try to go to light too fast.

I used a No 10 bristle brush, mixed white with a touch of red (napthol or alizarin) and touch of blue or purple. This should be 2 shades lighter than the under painting for your snow and should be on the pinkish side. Using the dry brush technique and a light touch, apply this color to the top of the ridge that runs behind the house and under the trees. It should be fairly light on the top of the ridge then fade into shadow as it goes down the ridge. Once again be mindful of your strokes, they should follow the terrain that you are painting so use a long inverted “U” type stroke and leaving some of your under painting show through. Come forward on the hill on the right with this color covering all the foreground snow. If you have to remix, don’t worry if it doesn’t match, that is actually a good thing but do try to keep the value the same.

When you get to the road, remember to flatten your strokes out and blend the transition area between the road and the hill on the right and blend it into the left side. The left side is in shadow so we won’t do as much highlighting on this side. You can use a touch more white when you paint the road, though again, do not get too light or there will be no room for your highlights when we get to that point.

On the top of the ridge in front of your house, use the same highlight color but don’t go all the way down to the road with it, only go about half way down the ridge so we can keep the shadows near the road. After you are done with the left ridge, switch back to the brush you were using to paint the house. Again with this same color, highlight some of the trees on the ridge opposite from the house and the tops of some of the trees behind the house. The sun is coming from the left side so highlight the left sides of the trees this will help give the viewer a sense of light direction. If the roof is dry at this point, you can dry brush this color also on the roof, if not wait until it is dry.

On the wall of the house closest to you (side with light hitting it), with orange and a touch of sienna, dry brush the wall again and also paint the same side of the chimney, leave some dark on the right side of the chimney to indicate the shadowed side. (See detailed picture on the photo page.)

For this next step, you might want to use a small round brush (No.2 or 3) if you have it or just the corner of your flat brush. Pick up a small dab of white (titanium or gesso), then, where the top of your chimney is, place this dab at the opening of the chimney and with your finger smear it upward. This will give the appearance of smoke.

With the same brush, pick up a small dab of orange and/or yellow to paint a couple of windows on your house. These are quick strokes and don’t have to be exact, remember your house is too small for any more detail but the addition of lit windows will give the feeling that some one is home. (See detail photo.)

If your roof is dry, you may highlight it again with white and a touch or red. This color should be mostly white but still needs to be on the pinkish side. Add just a touch of blue if it is too light, but it should be a couple shades lighter than the last layer you put on. Once again, use the dry brush technique to put this layer of snow on, leaving some of the other layers showing through. This will give depth and texture to your painting.

Next week: More highlighting and possibly some trees!

Week 3: Fantasy Ireland – Watercolor

Because there were several absences, we didn’t do a lot on our project. You should be able to catch up following the instructions here.

After each week in class, I bring my paintings home, put them up on my easel and just look at them. What I’m looking for are areas that don’t “feel” quite right. It could be something in the composition, the color I’ve used, maybe the separation of objects in the painting isn’t as much as I think it should be. Sometimes it is just “something” that bothers me and I need to figure it out. It is hard to paint and talk at the same time so I don’t see these things in class because my mind is some place else. Also, after a watercolor has dried completely, it does look different because watercolor dries lighter. This is a good thing to remember.

When I set “Ireland” up on the easel, I realized that I didn’t have enough separation between the different cliffs and I needed to bring the base color up just a bit so the first thing we did was to add another layer of color to our cliffs. It was done in the same way we did the previous layer using a slightly darker version of the cliff color (sienna, yellow and a touch of purple). Starting in the area near the land using either the wet into wet or wet on dry method I added this new layer. As I worked my way out to the edge of each cliff, I rinsed my brush and with a clean, damp brush blended the color out to the edge of the cliff I was working on with just water. I did this on each of the cliffs, however, on the closest cliff I added a bit more sienna to my color, but that is the only difference.

Next I mixed the sap green with a touch of blue to cool it down to use on the foreground grass. I was using my angled shader and a dry brush technique. This is a bit more of a challenge for watercolorists to do than other media but it can be use very effectively for many situations so if you need to, practice on another piece of paper. Essentially, after you have rinsed your brush, you must dry it very well, there should be no excess water in the bristles. The only water in your brush will be what you pick up when you load paint onto your brush but even after you have loaded your brush use a paper towel and touch the heel of the brush (near the metal ferrule) to soak up any excess water.

To paint the grass, use quick, light, short up or down strokes (think grass). This is the shadowed side of the hill so it will be cooler in color, however, if you leave some of the first layer of paint showing through – and there should be a lot if you are doing the dry brush correctly – that is a good thing, it shows the texture of the grass and suggests grass. As always, this color shouldn’t be too dark so we have some place to go with it. Watercolor is worked from light to dark so don’t loose all your light areas.

As you come forward with the grass, the stroke changes when you get around the post, these become long grass blades. Because they are in the foreground, they have a bit more detail than the grass behind them.

The wall seems to be giving everyone problems, so I hope I can explain here what the goal is. We are seeing the top and the side of the wall until it goes over the crest of the hill. The top of the wall is getting more light so it is lighter and the side is a bit darker, I think most of you understand that aspect however, it gets tricky when you try to paint it to make it look like a rock wall. Again, have some reference or go look at a wall, even a brick one, and try to figure out why it appears the way it does. What you will see is on the sides, you are seeing the full shapes of the bricks or rocks, when you look at the top of the wall you are seeing a “foreshortened” version. What this means is that because of the angle to the wall you are seeing a compressed image of the top of the rock or brick. If you were looking down on the top of the wall, this phenomenon would be reversed. Also note the angles of the spaces between the bricks or rocks: On the sides they look vertical and maybe a bit wider but as they go over the top, the spaces become more horizontal and narrower, again foreshortened.

This next point is an aspect of all art that most people – beginner to advanced – have a difficult time understanding EVERYTHING is just a SHAPE. When you are painting the rocks in the wall, they are just shapes of light and dark of various colors. If you think more about shape than worrying about if it looks like a rock, the rocks will take care of themselves. Look at the detail photo of the cliffs and wall. I just painted some dark shapes. Rocks are usually angular so I tried to keep my brush strokes angular. I also over lapped some of those shapes with previous shapes. As I went back into the painting with the wall, I lightened the color by adding water to lighten it and my shapes became less distinct. Another thing to keep in mind when you are trying to create distance in your painting is that as things go off into the distance, they become greyer in color and loose detail as well as becoming smaller and closer together such as a fence line. Here the lines of our wall become small and almost converge as they go back to the crest of the hill.

These ideas will take some time to understand, but it is important for you to work on these, look for them in real life situations so you can create the illusions on your paper that will give depth, distance and substance to your painting.

We added another layer of color to our road as well. Using sienna, orange and a touch of yellow, we added the color again using the long, flat “U” shape that we used before on the road. Use a more concentrated color in the foreground and dilute it as you go back. Don’t cover everything you did before, just add some more color.

Lastly, we painted the dark lines of the cliffs. You can use either a round or flat brush (I demoed with both) for this, what ever is most comfortable for you. Mix your blue, sienna and a touch of purple to get a warm dark grey. I mixed right down in some previous mix I had on my palette so there was also a bit of green in it too, it doesn’t matter, value is what matters here. Lighter value on the distant cliffs, darker values in the closer ones.

Before you start painting, look at the detail picture again. Note the difference between the near cliffs and the far cliffs and the shapes of the lines on each. On the far cliffs the dark layers are lighter, smaller and closer together than they are on the near cliff. Also note that while they are generally horizontal, they are not perfectly flat lines. They are jagged and broken. Some are thinner, some fatter. Some converge with others. Some have more green others have more sienna or blue or ? This is Nature and Nature can be messy, She has fun with her colors and so should you. Just mind your shapes and your values and all will be well.

Next week: Depending on the class progress, we may finish this up!

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