Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Winter Semester 2008 - Week 4

Both Classes: I haven’t mentioned it in quite a while because every time I do they change the schedule on me, however, if you can get KOCE Channel 50 out of Orange county (their PBS station), Monday – Thurs there are art programs on at 1 p.m. While I’m not a big fan of Donna Dewberry, you can learn something from every teacher, even the bad ones. The one’s who are scheduled that my students would be most interested in are Jerry Yarnell and Sue Schewee. Yarnell is an acrylic painter and Schewee does a combination of watercolor or acrylic. They do change artists occasionally and have Frank Clarke or Terry Madden, both are watercolorists, the best one, however, is Yarnell. He doesn’t try to finish in 30 minutes and you can see what he is doing when the camera closes in. This is why I do recommend these programs because the camera can get in close so you can see how they are using their brush and how the paint is being applied, something I am at a disadvantage in because you all can’t have your noses up to my canvas or paper :-) So check your listings, cable might be different than broadcast, or check KOCE’s schedule at : it will help you when you come to class.

Week 4 – Winter Morning – Acrylic

This week we continued the highlighting process and started our background trees so you must have your house and distant trees finished at this point because it will be harder to make changes once you start putting things in front of them so get the highlights on the ridge, the trees and the house before moving on.

Once the background is finished, we need to add another layer of highlight to our foreground. As you add highlights, you will be mixing the same colors – white and red with the occasional touch of blue - but you will be using more white (gesso or titanium) and less of the other colors, particularly the blue. That said, you will be adding touches of the red in all the highlighting except for the very final touches.

Again, using a dry brush technique and minding the direction of your brush strokes – they should follow the direction of the terrain- scrub on this new highlight color, it should be at least 2 – 3 shades lighter than the last layer you put on. Remember that dry brush should be done lightly. Don’t press too hard when applying the color and don’t cover up all of the previous work you have done, a lot of the last couple of layers should show through and that is a good thing, it gives texture and substance to your snow and makes it look like there might be things buried under it like bushes, rocks or logs.

Keep in mind that the ridge on the left side of the road has shadows down near the road so don’t take your highlight all the way to the road. Also, the ridge right next to the house can be almost white, you still need to add a touch of the red, but it is going to have trees in front of it by the end of this lesson, so you need to brighten it up more so than the rest of the hill at this point. Put it on just a bit thicker.

When you have finished all your highlighting, you are going to be putting in the pine trees that are in front of your rock cliffs on the right. You might want to take your charcoal and just make a few lines to indicated where you want the trees be sure that you have them at different levels (some forward some back), and different sizes. These are wild trees and not a windrow. Same with the aspen on the other side of the road, don’t line them up like a fence, try to create uneven spaces between them especially the aspen because you won’t have the snow covered branches to hide this problem.

Once you have decided where to put your pine trees, using a flat brush (8 or 10, bristle or sable) – I used a number 8 flat bristle – it should be one that has a good edge to it when you draw it through your paint (one side then the other to create the edge). Mix green (sap or Hooker’s) with blue and a touch of purple, it should be pretty dark and on the bluish/green side, then using the chisel edge you made, touch it to the canvas where you want to start the top of a tree. Move down to the bottom of this mark and touch it a couple more times use the width of the brush to create a fairly straight line, it should be an inch or two long depending on the size of your canvas. With the corner of this same brush and starting about half way down this line you just put on your canvas, touch the line with the corner and give it a quick, short flip. This will start the branching process. Do this on both sides of the line. As you move down the line the strokes become longer but they are still quick. All your pine trees will be made this same way. Be sure to overlap your trees and vary their sizes. Think: Wild Trees!

The aspen on the other side can be painted with any brush you feel confident in using. A bristle brush is good, but you can use a round sable if that feels better to you, for the smaller trees, if you have it, you might want to use a liner brush, the important thing here is to get the size of the trunks right. The closer trees will be thicker than the ones near the house so a larger brush will get them covered quickly. It is your choice here. Color, on-the-other-hand, I will guide you. Aspen, birch and other related type trees have a unique look to them. While their trunks are white, they have these wonderful dark breaks in them so we are going to under paint the trees with a dark paint then add the lighter colors. If you have not done so earlier, use your charcoal to locate where you want to place your aspen. These are tall, thin trees so don’t make the closer one too thick.

With whatever brush you decided to use, mix your blue, purple sienna or umber and just a touch of white to grey it. This should be a dark but warm, sienna-ish color. When you are painting the smaller trees especially the ones in the distance, keep them very thin. As they come closer to you, they can become a bit thicker and a couple of them can go off the top of the page, please remember to very the size. Don’t worry if they are not perfectly straight, natural trees aren’t perfectly straight.

If you are using your liner brush, the secret to this wonderful little brush is how you mix the paint. This is one of the few times when I will ask you to add water and lots of it. The paint should be very ink-like. If you tilt your palette, it will run though it shouldn’t race off your palette. After you have gotten the consistency of ink, roll your brush as you draw it out of the paint. You will hold the brush slightly downward when you are painting your trees, if you press it to the canvas, you will get a thicker line and as you draw it up the canvas lighten the pressure to the canvas and the line will become thinner. You might want to practice on a scrap canvas or paper before you start on your aspen.

In two weeks: We put snow on the trees, bark on our aspen and maybe get our fence started.

Week 4: Fantasy Ireland – Watercolor

This week we finished up this project, it was mostly doing some of the finishing touches and checking to see if there were any areas that needed attention before we called it good.

First, I added a few more dark shapes to my wall mostly in the foreground area of the wall. This gave some depth to the rocks and made it look like there were some gaps. I also made a thin wash using what was on the warm side of my palette to apply to the top of the wall. I didn’t like the stark white on the top of the rocks and this toned it down a bit and made it seem a bit warmer. If you need to mix a wash, use your yellow and sienna but water it down so that it is very pale.

We also painted in the grasses next to the wall using sap green with yellow and the dry brush technique, dry brush the grass in at the bottom of the wall.

On the other side of the road, use the same dry brush stroke with green and blue to add another layer of color to the grasses behind the post. Please don’t cover everything you did before, this is to help create the illusion of grasses so you need the variety of colors. It can be a bit darker right next to the road and get lighter as it goes up the hill.

On your road, you are going to be adding some more color using sienna and orange. You can use either a round or flat brush for this, just like you have done previously. Remember to use the flattened “U” strokes for your road. Again, don’t cover everything you did before, just add to it. As you go back into the distance, thin the color with water.

While your road is drying, and it will need to be dry for the next step. You can add some detail to the castle. Keep in mind that it is in the distance and all you need to do is suggest detail, do try to paint in every stone or crack in it.

I used a small angled brush but a small round or flat brush will also work. I planned that the sun would be coming in from the right of the picture so I need to place my shadows on the left sides of things, in this case the castle. Using a dark mix of blue, purple and sienna with water so it looks like a charcoal grey, I painted in the shadows behind the turrets on the wall of the castle and the left sides of some of the battlements, under the walk on the center tower and the roof inside the castle (see detail on photo page). Next I made a thicker mix of those same color but no water this time (if you have Payne’s grey, indigo or black, you may use it for this if you don’t want to mix) to make a very dark color to paint in a few windows on the tower and the turrets. These windows are long and narrow so don’t make them like modern windows you look out of, these were designed to shoot arrows from and to keep from getting hit by incoming arrows. These are all simple quick touches of color; you are only suggesting shadow and windows. I use a little straight red to make a flag flying.

Last week I mentioned that I bring these paintings home and look at them trying to see what I need to do next or if there are any corrections I need to make, well, the second cliff back and the area across the road from it didn’t seem to connect and it bothered me. I decided to add another hill to the area on the inland side of the road by using a dark blue/green mix, wet on dry to negatively paint the new hill by painting shadows behind it. I like it better now.

Back to the road: You can mix in that same area of dark paint if you want (I sometimes just mix up what ever is on my palette and add what I need to make it dark) just add some sienna and purple to make a medium dark mixture of color. You can use either a round or flat brush for this step, I use my small angled brush (1/4”) because that is what I’m use to.

We are going to be painting in the ruts of the road with this color and this is where perspective is very important to make your road look like it is going back in space. If you need to draw some light lines to help you get the perspective that is okay, as you draw or paint the ruts, keep in mind that they will appear to get closer together as they go back. I started my ruts about a ¼ the way in from each side, they appear to keep the same place on the road as they go back, but they get closer together as the road narrows. If you start your ruts too close together in the foreground and keep that same space between that as you go back, the road will look like it is standing up, these perspective lines are critical to your road. (Look at the picture page)

Starting in the foreground with this medium dark sienna/purple color, using small, flattened “U” shaped strokes, paint the ruts. These strokes can be uneven and some can connect and some can be disconnected from each other the important thing is, as they go into the background, the strokes become smaller and lighter (more water) until they are just an uneven broken line when they go over the hill. Do this for both ruts.

You can use the same color to add more shadow to your fence post. I used the edge of my brush to make short, vertical choppy strokes to show a bit of texture to the post.

When your ruts have dried, take a small dab of blue or purple on the tip of your brush, right off your palette. No need to add water we want this very dark. If you have indigo you can use it instead. Don’t use black, however, it won’t give you the right effect. On the very right side of each of the ruts, just touch this dark color to that right edge. You are not lining the rut, just putting it in a few places to help give it some depth and only got about half way back on the road with this dark color.

With the blue and purple and just a little water, right under the grasses on the right, next to the road, paint some of this dark color something like we did on the cliffs to show that they are over-hanging the cliffs, these grasses are over-hanging the road.

Using the same color, only adding more water to make it a wash, we will use it for the shadows on the right side of the road. Remember that the shadows being cast are from grasses and they are being cast on an uneven surface so the shadows will be uneven.

If you feel confident enough to use your liner brush, there are a couple of details you can add at this point, they are some individual grass blades along the side of the road by the wall and also around the post. I also added some dead bushes and a wire on the post.

Something I didn’t see before people were already leaving was I had forgotten to finish the water! Very simply, you use a wash of blue and starting close to the cliffs, make a series of uneven, horizontal lines that get further apart and lighter until they almost disappear into the distance.

The End

Post Script: One of the biggest problems I see my students struggle with has nothing to do with painting and has everything to do with knowing the basics of drawing. If you don’t know what perspective is, or how angles affect the object, or how the size of an object is relative to everything around it, or just plain seeing these things along with other basics you would have learned in drawing, you are going to have trouble painting. It is not too late to learn. Torrance has a drawing class you can take or as you have probably heard me mention before, get Betty Edwards’ book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain”, start at the beginning and do the exercises, and it will help you in you painting efforts. I do try to point out some of the basics in class, but I have a big enough job teaching the painting part, drawing is a class by its self and I don’t have time to cover it all. I hope that my students who want to improve their paintings will take a class or get a book – Ms. Edwards or someone else’s – and brush up those drawing skills, those who do will see their paintings improve dramatically.

When we come back you are on your own, we will have 3 more classes. Last class is March 10.

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