Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spring '08 Acrylic and Watercolor Classes

Week 5 – “Homage to Van Gough” – Acrylic

This was our last official day working on this project, it was more refinement than anything else: Finding highlights and shadows; double checking our composition; adding detail – all the things that bring a painting together.

I think that the hardest part of this lesson is it does tend to be random in nature. Most of the rest of a painting can be done is a somewhat logical set of steps: Start with the background, do your under painting, basic shapes, start some detail…However, when you get to finishing a painting some of that logic has to be put aside working in a more “controlled confusion” sort of way. You may start with some highlights but then see that you need to change the shape of something or you are putting in shadows and realize that it is a good place to have some lighter color next to it or you need detail in the area before you go on; this is perfectly normal and may actually be a better way to work because you aren’t concentrating on any one thing but the “whole picture” as-it-were and that will bring a natural conclusion to your painting, it won’t look over worked.

Another thing you really need to get into the habit of when your painting is getting close to finished is to stand back and just look at it often. I can’t stress this enough and just how important it is. When you are right on top of your painting you will literally see every brush hair that is stuck in the paint, every stroke you don’t like, every everything that will play tricks on your mind that this or that needs “fixing”, that is when you need to get up, walk across the room (at least 6 – 10 feet) and look at your painting as a whole, not as parts. More often than not, when you stand back and look at your painting you will see it magically went from a series of less-than-perfect strokes to something that looks pretty darn good to great!

When you are standing back looking at you painting, look for areas where you might need more highlight or shadow. Look for things that catch your eye and ask why they are catching your eye. In a picture like this one, your eye should feel free to move about the painting, stopping here and there but moving none the less. If you find you are looking at one thing or maybe jumping back and forth between the flowers, try to figure out why. One possibility is you may have too many of the flowers facing straight on, those centers will pull you right in and make you feel like they are looking at you or maybe a flower is bigger than the rest, in both cases you may need to change the shape or direction a bloom(s) is facing or make another blossom out of one that is too big.

Highlights for the blossoms start with titanium white (it is your whitest white) with the smallest amount of red to slightly tint it and it goes on the right hand side of your flowers for the most part but may hit some edges on shadowed blooms. Look at your reference photo and see how the natural light hits the blooms. To finish the highlights on the blooms you can use straight titanium white for edges and for some of the brighter petals.

Highlight for the branches is white with a little touch of yellow and orange, this goes on the tops of most of the foreground branches but put it on in “dashes and dots” not a solid line.

There are shadows that need to go under most of the flowers. Use a mix of purple and blue maybe a touch or sienna and under the flowers get some dark shadows on the branch. Remember you need dark to show light. You can even use some of this dark color on the underneath part of the branch but just like the highlight, use dashes and dots not a solid line.

Some finishing details are nice but not absolutely necessary so if at any point you feel that your painting is done, by all means, stop! I will just mention what I did on our project and if you want to include them fine, if not, that’s okay too.

I added some new leaves. There are a few in the reference photo and I like to see a few leaves as they start to emerge, I use a mix of yellow with a touch of sap green and with very quick little strokes put a few of them in, usually either out of the end of a new branch or under a couple of blooms. I highlighted some of them with straight yellow.

I also added a few “wrinkles” and buds by mixing sienna with blue to get a dark brown color for the wrinkles and adding a touch of red to that mix for some buds.

Finally I used yellow and white for the stamens in the centers of the blooms and for that you can use a liner or very small brush, you may even use a toothpick to pull them out if you don’t have a small brush.

Next week have something you want to paint ready for class. I will do some small single subject demos for the rest of the classes and will come around and help you with individual problems. If you have any questions or suggestions for a demo you would like to see you can leave comments here or e-mail me.

Watercolor – Two ways to Paint a Bucket

I like to use old wooden buckets or baskets for demos because they can show several things at one time: Direction of light, creating a three dimensional image on you paper and texture. An awful lot for one bucket so we have two ;-)

The bucket on the left is what I call direct painting, the one on the right I consider value painting (see pictures on the picture page). Neither is better than the other, both have their place, I tend to use them interchangeably some artists prefer one over the other, some use totally different approaches, the point here is to show you that you have options and you don’t need to be caged in to one style of painting. Experimenting is fun and very educational and you just might find something that fits your needs better as an artist.

I’ll start with the bucket on the left. I under painted it with straight raw sienna, if you don’t have raw sienna you can use yellow with a touch of burnt sienna to get a similar color.

Notice to the right of the paper I put a little sun and the words “light source” in the corner that is to remind you where my light is coming from and where it will hit my subjects. No, I don’t usually put indicators on my paper when I’m painting, I usually have a good idea where I want my light source, this is for your benefit but it may be something you might want to consider doing until you are skilled enough to always have it in mind when you are painting. You can draw a sun or arrows on the tape holding you paper down if you don’t want to draw it on you paper and I have seen other artist who have just gotten into the habit of putting that reminder on their painting so they don’t forget. What ever you do or don’t do, knowing where your light is coming from is very important in creating depth and interest in your painting.

The light is going to hit the right outside of the bucket and the left inside of the bucket. Keeping that in mind, using burnt sienna with a touch of purple plus a little water (it shouldn’t be too dark) and starting on the outside left of the bucket (shadowed side), I painted this color on the wooden slats to about half way, then I rinsed my brush and with a damp brush, diffused this color about another quarter of the way, I want to leave the very right of the bucket unpainted. You should have a graded wash starting dark on the left and blending to the light on the right. You will use this same principle on the inside of the bucket but you will start on the inside right and work left. Let this dry!

The next wash is virtually the same as the last with maybe a bit more paint to water ratio but it is still a wash so it will still be transparent when you apply it. This time however, instead of going over half way from left to right with the dark color only go about a third of the way, rinse your brush and with a damp brush, blend the color out to the half way point. Do a similar treatment on the inside. Each time you are going to paint less and less, as the layers build up, so will the shadows. Let it dry!

You can do as many layers as you want, I’ve heard of artists who do 10, 20, 30 or more layers before they get the look they are going for the key is to build up your colors gradually and not try to do it all at once. Layers build up color intensity as well as shadows so your colors will become richer and more vibrant the more layers you apply. The bands were done similarly but with a mix of sienna and blue to get a grayish brown built up in layers. The dark lines between the slates was a mix of blue, purple and sienna with little water and the wood grain was done with the edge and point of my angle brush using sienna or sienna with a touch of orange.

The second bucket was done in a comparable fashion but instead of using color right away I started with a grey wash which was a mix of blue and orange. This time I painted the whole bucket and didn’t skip over the bands. I have several blues on my palette so I started with my lightest blue which is cerulean blue and orange with lots of water for the first wash; cobalt blue and orange and less water for the second wash and ultra marine blue, burnt sienna (a form of orange) and some water for the last wash before I started to add color. On the sunlit sides of the bucket I used raw sienna and a touch of yellow and for the shadowed side burnt sienna with a touch of purple but when I was adding the color, I only added it to the wooden slats not the bands. The bands were painted with blue and burnt sienna just like the other bucket and were finished just like the other bucket.

One more note: The shadows on the ground for both buckets were a mix of purple and blue applied very dark right under the buckets and as it moved away from the buckets, I rinsed my brush and with just water painted in the rest of the shadows. Shadows are darkest under an object and become lighter because of all the light being scattered in the atmosphere. Also, while the shadow was wet, I dropped just a touch of sienna into it as colors often times reflect into the shadows.

Next week something fun (I hope). Something different.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring 08 Week 3 Projects

Week 3 – “Homage to Van Gough” – Acrylic

This week we started with a short demo on how to bring dimension to limbs and branches. Highlight and brush strokes are critical if you want to give your limbs the appearance of 3 dimensions.

First you determine which direction the light is coming from; if you need to, mark it on your canvas with your charcoal to remind you, you can wipe it off later with a damp towel. Remember to work in layers, this will give depth and texture to your painting as you go from your first under painting to your final highlights.

Using a bristle brush (use one that is as large and you feel comfortable using for the size of our canvas) I mixed sienna, purple and white to make a color a couple shades lighter then my under painting for the demo limb (I under painted in straight burnt umber), using a fairly dry brush technique and a combination of short choppy strokes, especially along the top of a branch or limb, or “C” shaped strokes along the smaller branches and the sides of larger limbs I highlighted my demo branch.

The key here was to give the impression of direction and where the branches were coming out of the main limb (see picture on picture page). Often I see my students sticking the branches of their trees and plants in the sides of a branch or trunk, giving the resulting tree/plant a “coat rack” appearance. In reality, if you look at trees and plants with branches, they come out from all sides of a trunk or branch as do the leaves and flowers. As an artist, this is a very important thing to be aware of especially if you are going for a more realistic look. Even an impressionistic approach needs to be aware how things grow. Look at the example on the picture page and note how I created the look of branches coming out from different directions and even crossing over other limbs bringing a more realistic look to the branch.

Back to our project, we began the highlighting in earnest. Have your reference picture handy at all times so you can look at it if you have to, to see where you need to go with a color.

The first thing we did this week was to establish the centers on some of the closer blossoms, not all of them because some may be turned away from the viewer or seen from behind. We just need to do enough of them to give the impression of blossoms. Vary the shapes on these and the directions just like you did in the background blooms. I used crimson but you can use the red with a touch of purple or blue to get a wine color.

Next, we did some more highlighting on the branches using yellow, orange and a touch of white. Using a dry brush stroke put this color on top of the previous layer of highlight but not covering everything we did before, remember these layers give us depth and texture so don’t cover all of your under painting.

One thing I noticed about my painting that I wasn’t real happy with, was I had made the background flowers too bright and the sky didn’t seem blue enough so I stopped the highlighting and went over the whole background with a very thin wash of blue. This is a good thing to remember when you need to push your background back, however, you need to be sure that you have a thin wash of color – very transparent a lot of water and little paint – and build up this color in thin layers, it should be very transparent, let it dry and see if it is okay (acrylics dry darker) or if you need another thin wash. I let that wash dry completely before continuing.

I started highlighting the blossoms using white with just a touch of red in it to give me a very light pink color (pinker blossoms are okay, they can be peach or nectarine blossoms, the photo is of apricot blooms), I was using a filbert bristle brush, but sable might work better for this step, and I started on the outside right edge of a blossom petal (remember where the light is coming from) and with a quick “flip” of the brush, started painting the first layer of highlights for my foreground blooms. When you are painting a flower it is always a good idea to work towards the center of the flower, either from the outside to the center (easiest) or from the center to the out side, that said, this color should stop about ¾ of the way to the center so you don’t cover up all the dark under painting which will be the shadows for the center of your blooms.

Not all of your blooms will be looking at you – at least they shouldn’t so some of this highlight will just be edges or light shapes that could be flowers you only see part of. You really only have to make a few actually look like blooms to trick the viewer into thinking that all that color is more blooms.

We did a similar thing on the shadowed side of the blooms but with a different color. This time we took white with a touch of blue to get a light baby blue. This color needs to be lighter than your sky and was the reason I did a wash over my background to make the sky darker. Remember we need to have dark to show light.

The reference photo will give you a good idea where both the light color and the cool color need to go, so look at it often as you paint these blooms.

The cooler side of the blooms is painted the same way as the light side. Again, that dark under painting is your friend you don’t want to cover all of it because it becomes the dark shadows and creases of the blooms and separates one petal from another. This cool color can also go near some of the centers that were left unpainted on the highlighted petals. Don’t spend too much time in any one place when doing the blooms either the highlights of the cool color, move around your painting, switch from one color to the other, you can always come back to a section but by moving around your painting it keeps any one area from looking over worked.

Often times when I come home and start to write these notes for the blog, I look at my painting and think “What the heck are you doing?” Talking and painting from the side has its disadvantage and I don’t necessarily see problems until I get home as was the case this week. I added another wash of blue to the background, re-established some of the background blooms with some light touches of highlight and repainted highlights and reflected light on my blossoms, just in case you were wondering why it looks a bit different. This is more what I thought I was doing in class. I will go over it on Monday.

Next week: Finishing touches.

Week 3 Reprise – Sunflower – Watercolor

This was the last week for the Sunflower project so have something you want to paint ready for Monday.

I know that it is hard to see what I’m doing when what I’m working on is small so I did a demo on how to get veins into the leaves of the Sunflower. Though the actual leaves on the project don’t require much detail, it is a good thing to see in case it comes up in a future project either mine or yours.

There are several ways to paint veins into a leaf. You can lift them out, paint them negatively, positively paint them, mask them out or scratch them in either wet or dry paper, either by themselves of in combination with each other. Three of the ways are shown on the example on the picture page, I did not do a positive painting or masking example this time.

Negative painting and lifting are probably going to be the most common to use in this situation, so this would be a good practice to do separately to get the feel of the brush and the way the paint goes on. If you need to, you can sketch on your veins so you know where you want to put them, but it is not necessary.

This can be done with either a round, flat or angle brush, as you know, I use an angle brush most of the time. A flat will work comparatively to the angle brush, the round requires an extra step but is no less affective. For this purpose, I will be referring to an angle brush unless otherwise noted.

I started with an example of a leaf I had already under painted with a light wash of sap green over a cad yellow background and it was completely dry, important if you want to get sharp lines. I loaded the tip of my brush with a combination of sap green and blue then gently mixed them on my palette so they would combine but not so much that the color spread to the rest of the brush. You can mix a batch of this dark green and blue color on your palette so you don’t have to keep re-mixing too often, but if you do, rinse your brush out thoroughly, dry it off and load only the tip. There is very little water n this mixture so it will be dark.

When you start a vein, place the tip of the brush on what will be the outside edge of the vein and the rest of the edge of the brush in towards the space between the veins. This is negative painting so what you will be painting will be what is around the vein. Keep your brush’s edge flat on the paper and out line one side of the vein, you should get a graded color (dark at the tip, light to almost nothing at the heel). It is important not to take the vein all the way to the edge of the leaf, let it fade out before you get there, it will look more natural. If you are using a rounded brush, paint the line of the out side of the vein, rinse your brush and dry it, then with the damp brush, touch the outside edge of the line you just painted and bleed it out into the space between the veins. Repeat on the other side and remember that the veins get smaller as the go to the edge of the leaf. Using just water with maybe a bit of the same color fill in some of the space between the veins to get rid of any hard lines where you may not want them. It can be as detailed as you want or don’t want, the choice is yours.

Lifting is probably the easiest if you have both paper and an under paint that will cooperate, some papers and paints work better than others so you will have to test yours to see if it will lift. In a sense, lifting out a vein is positive painting because you are using water instead of color to make the vein appear, the trick is in the brush. Make sure that your brush is clean and just barely damp before you start, nothing is more frustrating than starting to lift a color but instead you put down bright red, so be sure that you have all the paint out of your brush as well as most of the water. Using the very edge of your brush, lightly draw in your veins. You may have to go over the same area a couple times before you see a change, just be sure to not be too heavy handed when lifting or you might damage your paper. Wipe your brush on a paper towel each time to get rid of extra paint you are lifting and occasionally re-rinse your brush and dry it to get it clean again. Pat your paper dry as well to lift paint and excess water. You can use lifting to give a negative painted vein a bit of a highlight, experiment to see what you like best.

On the example, I also scratched in some veins on what would be the top of the demo leaf (we’ve been painting the underneath of the leaf thus far). Tops of leaves are generally darker and shiner then the under parts of a leaf. I painted a darker blue green color and while it was still wet, I took a sharp exacto knife and scraped in a few veins, there wasn’t enough showing on the project to do this.

On the project, I made sure that where the leaves and stems went behind the sunflower I got the color fairly dark. Please note that there is a stalk that is holding the flower behind the right petal that is hanging down, it is important to show what is supporting that heavy flower.

Little extras is did was I took orange and/or sienna on the tip of my brush and ran it along the outside edge of my leaves to make them look like they were dying back and maybe had bug bites, I also use a bit of burnt umber in certain parts as well. I also took some sienna with purple to make a dark color to paint the head and stripes of a bee, yellow with a touch of orange for the yellow stripes and lifted the wings with a damp brush. Done!

I will try to have demos that show individual subjects like wood, skies or water in the coming weeks but the next project is your own so have something ready.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spring 08 Week 2

Week 2 – “Homage' to Van Gough” – Acrylic
Picture page:

This week we worked on some background detail and started some of the foreground branch’s detail. The first part of this process is to determine where the light source is so we know where the highlights and shadows are going to fall. For this painting the light will be coming from the top right of the picture. If it helps you to remember where the light is coming from, you can draw and arrow or sun on your canvas with your charcoal, it will wipe off with a damp paper towel later. (Note the arrow and small sun on the top right of this week’s picture on the picture page.)

You will be using a small sable brush to this step (a relief for many of you ;-) , it can be either a #4 flat or round brush, I was using a #4 flat brush.

On your palette, mix white – I used gesso mostly because I already had it on my palette – a little touch or yellow and orange. If you don’t have orange you can use a small touch of red with the yellow you are looking for a pale – almost white - peachy color, this will be the highlight for our background blooms.

Try not to labor over these next strokes, they are quick strokes some are only “dashes and dots” to suggest that there is sun light hitting the blooms in this tree. They will mostly be on the top, right hand side of the blooms, starting at the outside edge of the petal(s) and a quick “flick” towards the center where you want to suggest a whole petal, dashes and dots where you are showing just the highlighted edges or partial petals. Move quickly, don’t belabor this process or your background will look too over worked.

The centers of the blooms are just as quick and you can use the same brush. Mix a touch of red or alizarin chrisom with white, you want a dark pink color. On SOME, not all, of the blooms touch this color where you think the center of a bloom might be. Vary the size and shape of these touches, i.e. some round some dashes or oval, some large some small, some close together some single… This will give the illusion of lots of flowers facing many directions.

To highlight the background branches mix the same peachy color you did before but this time it can be a little more intense in color. It will still be very pale but will look more peach than white. This color goes on the top of the branches, be careful not to have a hard line in the background you may have to blend it in with your finger or a clean, dry brush. Again, work quickly, this is the background it doesn’t need much detail, just enough to support the main foreground branch.

When you have finished highlighting your background blooms and branches, it is time to start the highlighting of the foreground branch, we should be done with the background, so don’t go back to it concentrate your efforts to the “star of the show”.

I went back to using a bristle brush, a #6 bright (short bristles). I mixed the yellow and orange with just a little white and a touch of sienna, it was a dull rusty looking orange. We want to build to the final highlight so don’t get too light too fast, this color should just be a shade or two lighter that what is already on your branch.

Starting at the top of the branch, placing the whole edge of my brush on the canvas, I made a series of quick “C” shapes as I painted this color with a dry brush (clean damp dry brush with very little paint). Be aware of your brush strokes, they can give the viewer a sense of shape and direction which is why I used a “C” shaped stroke in stead of a straight vertical or horizontal line. The branch is round and your strokes should reflect this. Also, this color only goes approximately half way around the branch so stop before you get to the bottom, that said you may need to use your finger to soften the bottom edge because you don’t want a hard line. If some of your under painting shows through, all the better! This will give your branch some texture, this is a good thing and the reason we do an under painting.

We also put on a reflected highlight on our branch. This represents the scattered light that appears in the shadows and will give your painting more dimension. Using the same bristle brush, mix a touch of blue and purple and a slight touch of white to get a dark lavender color and with the same dry brush “C” stroke, starting at the bottom of the branch this time, apply this color to the underside and shadowed sides to your branches. I think I got my reflected light too dark, I will correct it in class on Monday.

Next week: More highlights and details on the branch, maybe start on the blooms.

Sunflower – Watercolor

Because I only had 2 people who were working on the project in class on Monday, we really didn’t work on the sunflower other than more of the same as we had done the week before: Intensifying the color on the petals (getting the yellow more saturate) making the folds stand out if needed, but not much more. I didn’t want to get so far ahead that those who weren’t there had trouble catching up; I hope everyone can make it to class on Monday ready to work, we probably only have another week or two and we will be finished.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Spring '08 Acrylic and Watercolor Projects

I changed the look a little, seems a bit more artsy ;-)

Week 1: Homage to Van Gough - Acrylic Project
Picture Page:

To start this project you will need a canvas or canvas board, gesso, ultra marine blue, dioxizine purple, burnt sienna, napthol or cadmium red, a large brush – 2” blender or hake brush if you have it or a #12 flat bristle brush - a smaller flat brush - #8 or #10 – soft vine charcoal or charcoal pencil and your spray bottle. We will be painting in a landscape or horizontal format.

First, lightly spray your canvas with water from your spray bottle. It doesn’t take much, just a couple of squirts from your spray bottle, we just want to dampen the surface of the canvas. If your spray bottle isn’t one with a fine mist, you can use your large brush to even the water out after spraying or just use the brush with water instead, the main thing is to moisten the surface of your canvas to help spread the gesso on the canvas.

You might find it more convenient to put some gesso out on your palette or if it is runny, in a separate small container, you don’t want to be opening jars or pouring out more once you have started this process.

After you have moistened your canvas, using your large brush, cover the entire canvas with gesso. You just need a thin layer of gesso so don’t get it too thick, it won’t hurt what we are going to do next, but you will need to use more color to get the same results and you also don’t want the gesso to form runs on your canvas if it is the thin kind.

Now that you have your canvas covered in gesso, using the same large brush – you don’t even need to clean it – pick up a good portion of blue on one corner, about a quarter as much sienna on the other corner and a small touch of purple (either corner), streak those colors across the top of your canvas, then with big “X” strokes, blend those colors into the gesso already on your canvas. This is called brush blending and is very effective because it gives irregularities to the color and that is a good thing. If you need more color to cover your canvas, pick up your paint in the same way and start near the top and work your way down, the top should be just slightly darker than the bottom if you need to darken the top just add some more blue and a touch of purple apply this to the corners and work it in. If as you are working, you feel your brush start to drag or stick, it means that your paint is starting to set up and you will have to add a bit more water to keep it workable, you can do the but using your spray bottle, holding it back from your canvas at least 10” and giving it one or two squirts, then with your big brush, quickly work the water into the paint and you should be good for a couple more minutes. Repeat if necessary but be warned, there does come a point where the paint will not take any more water, it your paint starts to lift instead of mixing with the water, you will have to let it dry completely and then do what is called “dry brush blending” I will demo that in class on Monday.

When you have covered your canvas with this color and while it is still wet, first, rinse your brush and squeegee the excess water out of your blender. This next technique won’t really work with other brushes so if you are using a bristle brush expect to see brush marks but make those marks look like you meant them to be there by doing a series of small “X” strokes over the whole canvas to give it a more uniform look if you want. If you have a blender and you like nice smooth seamless skies, once you get this technique down, you will create beautiful skies with this brush, it will take some practice and some patience on your part but it is well worth the effort. With your clean dry brush, start up at the top of the canvas and with very light “X” strokes, gently blend the colors together working first across then down – from the dark part of the sky to the lighter part.

This is where most students have problems with this stroke because they are way too heavy handed and wonder why they are picking up paint instead of blending it. To quote the late Bob Ross this stroke is “2 hairs and some air” when it is done correctly. The bristles of your brush should hardly bend if at all, it is a very light touch like feathers across the surface. You will know if you have done it right because you won’t see any brush strokes and you should have a nice seamless blend.

After your sky is to your liking or at least acceptable, we need to put in the background limbs and flowers. Please keep in mind that these are in the background they are not where you want your viewer to focus they are there as supporting players to you main subject. So often, especially when you are learning to paint or draw, an artist will put as much or more effort into other parts of a painting that should just be supporting areas that the finished piece looks overworked or too busy, it is also hard for the viewer to know what is important if everything is so detailed. This part should be very impressionistic, we just want to suggest branches and flowers.

I used a #10 bristle brush for this next step. Try to get into the habit of using the largest brush you can and still accomplish your mission and leave the little brushes for last, this will also help keep your painting from looking overworked.

Using the same colors but this time more sienna, we want to mix on your palette a warm blue-grey that is slightly darker than the sky; this will be for our branches.

When painting things like branches remember that they are not phone poles! The more twists and turns the better. Look at the branches of trees or bushes and just see how irregular they grow. If you have a bit of a shaky hand, you are ahead of the game. If your sky is still wet it is okay to do the branches before it dries, just start the branches on the left side of the canvas and pull several branches across your canvas. Avoid starting a branch in a corner as it will act like an arrow pointing the viewer out of the picture. Remember to also put some smaller twigs coming off the branches.

When you are done with the branches the next step is to put in the background blossoms. Using the same brush without cleaning it pick up some white either the titanium or the gesso and a very small touch of your red and mix it together on your palette. You want a color that is lighter than your sky and is a slightly grayed pink color. Don’t use pure white at this point; we may use it for some very final highlights but not here and not now.

It is okay to occasionally make some of these shapes look like flowers, it is more important to create interesting shapes that could resemble blossoms. Look at your reference picture: The blooms are usually in clusters and many of them will over lap each other. This is what you are trying to accomplish when painting these blooms. Spread them out, clump some together and overlap the branches. Avoid placing them just along the tops of the branches, think of it as more an explosion of flowers and they are everywhere!

Once that is done, you might want to wait until your painting has had a chance to dry completely before starting the next step. Once your painting is dry if you need to, use your soft vine charcoal or charcoal pencil and sketch in where your main branch and flowers are going to be use either the pattern of the photo for reference. Notice that the branch and blossoms are larger than the background branches and a bit more detailed.

Using exactly the same brush and colors only this time they will be darker – more color less white - mix up a foreground branch on your palette. If you have some red out, you might also want to add touches of red especially if you are at the end of a small twig, however, it is not necessary. Paint in your branches. If you have to remix don’t worry if the color isn’t exact value is more important here.

The flowers, even though you think they are white, start out as a grey-blue color. Again, do not use pure white at this point; we will save that for final highlights. Just as you did in the background blooms, you will do with these foreground blooms: The shape and placement of the clusters is more important than painting individual blooms at this time we will start that process next time.

Next lesson: adding some sunshine.

Week 2: Sunflower – Watercolor
Picture page:

This week we started bringing up the color and adding some detail to the flower.

Because of the transparent nature of watercolor the order of how you do particular steps isn’t as important as the steps themselves. I did some steps first in class but then changed and did it different as I worked on my sunflower, here I will try to explain in a more sequential order what I did and how I did it.

It is important to look at your reference photo. Notice that near the bottom of the petals it is more of an orange-red color. This is actually shadows as the petals curve into the center of the flower. Also notice that on the upper petals this color goes up almost a third of the way of most the petals but on the ones at the bottom, that color is much shorter staying near the base. The reason for this is what is called “foreshortening”. The petals on the bottom are coming at an angle that is more towards the viewer than the ones at the top or sides. If you want to get dimension into your painting, you must be aware of what is going on with your subject and this applies to everything not just this flower.

To paint this color you will need to mix on your palette your cad yellow light, cad orange and a touch of napthol red and water to create a wash. Just as we did with the first layer of color we put on our flower, we can paint this shadow color without regard to the individual petals at this time, just be aware that as you get to the bottom petals that color is mostly around the bottom areas of the petals and in some of the centers (look at your reference picture so you know where this color is placed). Start at the bottom of the petals with this color, paint up to almost where it stops, rinse your brush and with just a damp brush – it should not be dripping – blend the color up into the rest of the petals. You should have a gradual blend, no hard lines.

While that area is drying, you can add another layer of yellow to your petals to bring up the intensity of the color. Yellow is a strange color because it never gets really very dark like other colors can, what comes out of the tube is as dark as yellow is ever going to get. However, you can bring up the intensity of the color to make it more vibrant by adding more layers until it is intense enough for your purposes. So while I was waiting for the interior parts of the petals to dry, I added another layer of yellow to the outer parts of my sunflower to brighten the color. LET YOU PAINTING DRY.

I did a separate demo where I enlarged a section of the flower so it would be easier to see what I was doing in class. Look at the photo of the flower then to the detail on the picture page (see link above). The petals have folds and curl backs especially near the bottom where they attach. Also notice that there is a slight greenish tint to the petals near the bottom as well, this is what we will be working on now.

I use angular brushes almost exclusively but other brushes will work if you don’t have an angular brush. I also use the largest brush I feel comfortable using in an area, in this case, I used my ½” angle brush. Using a larger brush keeps you painting from looking too busy or overworked plus it gets the job done faster.

Using sap green with a touch of ultra marine blue, I mixed on my palette a dark green color. I rinsed and dried my brush then loaded this color on the tip. I then placed the tip where I wanted the darkest part of the fold to start and negatively painted the parts of the petal that are turning in. Rinsed my brush again and dried it and using a damp brush blended this color up the inside of the flower about a quarter way up.

Negative painting is a mainstay in watercolor and it is a must if you want to take your painting to the next level. By negative painting I mean instead of painting the thing itself, we paint the area around the thing; in this case, the curl backs and folds. We are painting the shadows and in doing so the curl backs appear.

Follow the reference photo so you know where to place this color and work all the petals. Because this is a bit more detailed step, by the time you finish this step the areas where you started should be dry enough to add some more shadows without causing problems. If you feel that your painting is still too wet you can use a hair dryer or let it dry for a few minutes before proceeding. The one thing I see a lot of my students do is try to continue painting when their paper is still wet and this will cause problems like blooms or lifting of the layer underneath or damaging the paper’s surface. When in doubt: LET IT DRY!

On your palette mix a small amount of blue and purple with a lot of water. If you look again at the photo you will see that the shadows on the petals are very light and kind of grayish. That is why it is important to mix this shadow color very thin, if it needs to get darker you can add more of this color where you need it but you don’t want to get too dark too fast or you will have problems.

Use this shadow color in the same areas that you just painted but it can be used to add shadows or create curl backs further up each petal. When there is a petal that is behind another, use this color next to the petal in front to separate the two petals. Don’t take it to the very end of a petal unless a curl back starts at the end. Refer to you photo often. Also use a clean damp brush to blend shadows out.

I used a #8 round brush to do the center. I remixed the orange shadow color I started with and added a touch of sienna, and then with a stippling stroke (lots of little dots using the end of the round brush) I painted the outside part of the center disk of the sunflower. I varied this color by adding touches of orange, yellow or burnt sienna. Where the edges went in-between the petals I used more sienna to make it appear it is going into shadow and I also used more yellow in the upper right to look like sun hitting it. In the very center I first used a watered down sap green and applied it in the same way, then went back in with a more concentrated (less water) application of sap green in the very center. Notice just on the upper, mostly, right hand side of the center of the seed head I added some of the sienna, this creates some depth to the area above it.

Next week: more flower details and bringing some life to the leaves.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Blog Update

I think we have worked out the problems with this blog. You should be able to get to the archives and back with no problems but it you had bookmarked the blog before, go back thru my web site and click on the blog link and then book mark what comes up, that should solve the problem.

Let me know if there is anything else causing problems. - Thanks.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring Classes Begin

Spring 08 – Week 1

Usually the first week of class is dedicated to going over the equipment lists and general class info. Many of the new students do not have their supplies on the first day so the real work starts on the second week. This was true of my morning acrylic class but in my watercolor class in the afternoon, I only had one new person and she came prepared so we did get started on the watercolor project. I will include details of what we did later on this blog.

I know that some of you are having trouble getting this blog and that you end up on my nephew’s blog, we are trying to correct the problem so please bear with us. There is also a problem accessing archived entries which kinda defeats the purpose of the blog, we are working on that as well, hopefully we can get the bugs worked out, this is a new area for both of us so it is a learn as we go situation. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Watercolor – Sunflower Week 1

The important part and probably the most challenging aspect of this painting is the drawing. If you are not real sure of your drawing skills you might want to draw your pattern onto a piece of tracing or drawing paper that is about the size of the watercolor paper you will be working on so if you have to erase, you won’t damage the watercolor paper. Transfer the pattern using graphite paper or by rubbing a pencil over the line on the back of the paper then laying on your watercolor paper. There are also programs like that will enlarge an image to the size you need and print it out on multiple sheets of standard 8 ½” x 11” paper. Remember: It does not have to be exact. If you don’t have as many petals as the photo, no one is going to notice unless they have the picture in hand and count each and every petal. This is art, not a photograph. Just do the best you can and fill up the paper with the image.

After you have your drawing on you are going to need to have your Cadmium Yellow light (pale) and it you have Indian Yellow or Cad orange or some other yellow, we will be using those as well, though it is not necessary. You will also need sap green for this step.

Wet your paper thoroughly. You may start by spraying the paper with your spray bottle but you will need the largest brush you have to spread the water around and to add more, the surface will be very shiny from the water.

Using the same large brush pick up some yellow (any of the above) and mix it on your palette with plenty of water. This is going to be a very pale wash for the background. Apply this to your paper. If you pick up more color than you intended, just use water to thin it on your paper. It WILL NOT MATTER if this first layer has a mottled look that would actually be a good thing. As you cover your paper with color use the other colors of yellow or orange, the important thing here is to keep this first wash very light. While the paper is still wet, you can if you want, drop a bit of your sap green into the center of the sunflower, though this can be done later if you forget. Let this dry.

When your paper has completely dried, you will be using the same colors you have just used except you will be using them a little bit more concentrated (less water) but still very pale. Paint all the petals of the flower with your yellows, since they are all being painted as once you do not need to paint them individually, they can be painted “en mass” varying the yellows as you paint. For the leaves and stems use a dilute wash of sap green.

The important aspect to all watercolor is layers or washes so don’t get too dark too fast or you will have no place to go. Because watercolor dries lighter, you really need to wait for your painting to dry to know exactly what you painting looks like before proceeding. I see many students try to correct something on their painting without waiting for it to dry and this not only over works an area but the constant rubbing of the brush damages the paper which in turn makes the colors darker and all other manner of problems can happen. You must be patient with watercolor and let it dry before proceeding.

Next week we start to add detail and more color.