Saturday, March 15, 2008

Winter Morning – Final Touches

If you have not done so already, you will need to put the bark on your nearer aspen. See last week’s entry for details on how to do this.

To finish this project you are going to be adding a few details and adding your final highlights, so first, stand back and look at your painting. Sometimes squinting or turning it upside down will help with this process. What you are looking for are areas that could be darker such as the shadowed side of the fence or to make sure that the two sides of the fence are nearly equal in size by checking the posts that are opposite each other. That was a problem for several class members: On one side of the road the posts were the right size to appear to be tall enough to hold in livestock but the other side of the road the fence was so small it couldn’t keep out rabbits :-)You can use the handle of a brush or a ruler and hold it horizontally from the bottom of one post to the bottom of a post on the other side of the road directly across from it (this is so you know which post you are measuring) then do the same thing with the top of the post. If one side is shorter, you will need to add some height to it.

This problem seemed to happen more on the right side of the road than the left probably because of the foreshortened aspect of the fence (it appears to be coming directly toward the viewer) but it is critical to make the two sides look the same in height. If the left side of your fence appears to be slightly uphill as mine does, then measure the length of the post and then measure the post directly across from it. This not only gets the height right, it also adds to the illusion that the left side is slightly uphill.

You will also be looking for areas that can stand more highlight, another problem I noticed around the class. Remember, we are illusionists. We try to convince our viewers that there is a 3-dimentional image on our canvas and the only thing we have to convince them of that fact is contrast – light and dark. The areas that need the most attention for highlights are the road, top of the left ridge and the hillside on the right. If you need to add more highlight to these areas, use the dry brush technique and mix the tiniest amount of red into your white. If you have already painted shadows, you can paint around them just remember not to create a hard line.

While you are waiting for all this to dry, you can mix up a dark color – blue, purple and sienna and/or burnt umber – with your liner to create a color for the branches on the aspen on the right side. Remember to mix enough water in your paint mixture to it has an ink-like consistency and rolling all of the length of the bristles in the paint before starting on the branches. These branches are a bit closer so they can start out a bit thicker – more pressure on the brush – just remember to start up on the trunk and overlap the branches. If you want, while you have this color handy, you can add a sapling or two. Don’t get carried away with this, just one or two to add some interest is all you need. Let all this dry.

The snow on the fence starts out just like all the snow we have done to this point: A bluish under painting. If you have reference material handy, look at how snow piles up before you start painting, especially the snow right after a snow storm. It isn’t just a flat-topped pile, it has lumps and bumps, it piles higher in some places than in others, thicker, thinner, you name it, it is very inconsistent and that is how it needs to be painted both in the under painting stage and especially in the highlighting stage. It may pile up to the top of some fence posts but not on others and there will probably be a bit more of a pile where the posts and rails connect, keep this in mind as you lay in the snow on your fence. Let this dry.

If your branches and saplings are dry, you can add this blue color into some of the crooks of the branches, again, just cause it feels good, don’t get carried away. Also, if you need to add more shadows (I added a shadow of a tree that isn’t in the picture to give a bit more interest to my road) add more water to this color to thin it down and add the shadows. You may also want to add a bit more blue and purple to this color and dry brush this color into the shadow of your fence. It is optional but it will give your shadows more life.

Here is something else I don’t say very often, but in this case it is an exception, when you are putting on your final highlights, you can use straight white (titanium white is best for this). The snow on the left side of the fence is backlit so the white only goes along the top of the snow. Remember your sun direction. It will be on most of the snow on the right side because that is where the sun is hitting directly. The same goes with the snow in the branches, just don’t cover up all your under painting when you are at this stage. These are just highlights, don’t get carried away. Where the snow touches the fence use the dark color you mixed and paint a shadow under the snow. This will give more depth to your snow and settle it down on the fence.

Before the final step, stand back from your painting and look at it. See if there is anything major you have missed. If it is just little nit-picky stuff, it is done! If you are fiddling with your painting trying to make it “perfect” you are done with it. Stop! Go to the final touches. Do not pick up the one haired brush! It is so tempting the try and finagle every little aspect of a painting, but you need to learn to stop when you are actively looking for something else to put paint on, that is when your painting starts to look over worked and it is so easy to do, just stop before you think you are done and you should be alright.

Get out your tooth brush and wet it. Pick up some white and work it into the tooth brush. The paint should be a bit wetter than we usually use it but not as dilute as when we are using the script brush (liner). Holding the brush head down and several inches away from your canvas, run your thumb across the bristles causing it to splatter the paint on the canvas. You might want to test this out on another canvas or piece of paper before you do it on your painting because you do not want big blobs, keep a wet paper towel handy to quickly wipe away overly large specks, it should look like snow falling. Be sure to do this over all your painting, it gives the effect of the snow falling from all the trees.

Also, if you want, you can use your liner to make a few birds flying in the sky though it isn’t necessary. If you come to the next session, I will show how I varnished the painting and added some extra sparkle to the painting.

It was a great class, I appreciate all of you sticking with it, you are all are doing great. Look for things to paint, gather that reference material and keep painting! See ya soon.

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