Week 4: Acrylic Project – P.V Lighthouse on Cliffs
I started the demo by adding a suggestion of a light source behind the right hand side of the island. Using a flat bristle brush with white and little touches of yellow and orange I first loaded my brush then wiped out most of the paint. This has to be very dry brush to get the effect correct so be sure to wipe your brush before going to the canvas also, start out with a very light touch as the paint comes off the brush you can press harder to find more paint but start out using very little pressure on your brush.
Since light beams are straight, I picked a central point where I wanted to suggest the light was coming from and pulled “rays” from that point. This helped to show where the sun might be but it also softened the end of the island and the horizon line of the water. I also took some of that color and danced it down the water from the light source. I may do more of that later.
Looking at my reference picture, I took my dark mix – blue, sienna and purple - and created the rocks in the water. I varied the size and shape of the rocks and tried to make them as random as possible I didn’t want to create what Jerry Yarnell calls a “herd of turtles” which is extremely easy to do if you aren’t careful. Most of my strokes were not much more than dashes or dots, some were longer or taller; there were groups and singles a lot of over lapping rocks especially on or near the shore. Look at the picture and see how the rocks near the water and in the water are scattered, the more the merrier by the shore then fewer as the go into the water until all you see are the tops of big ones. Be sure to make rocks up on the shore as well. These are the wet rocks that might be getting spray from breaking waves so they will be dark.
Once the rocks are in you can start adding some spray and foam, this will be dry brush again and if you want you can use a smaller – 4 or 6 – bristle brush starting with white (I used gesso) with either some of the mud on your palette or a touch of blue and sienna to grey the color, you want a dirty white color for the under painting. Wipe out most of the paint and with small circular strokes base in some spray hitting some of the rocks especially the larger ones but don’t do what I did and get carried away (I will have to fix it next time). Keep in mind the direction the waves are coming from, the splashes and sprays will be at the back or the rocks where the waves first hit, not the front of the rocks.
With that same dirty white color, dry brush some foam in around some to the shore rocks. Look at your reference photo for suggestions where to place the foam.
Add some touches of blue and/or green to your dirty white so you get a light color, again with a dry brush along the bottom edge of all the rocks in the water using the long “U” type stroke, straighten out the bottom edge of your rocks, you can even pull this color up along some of the sides of the rocks – don’t get carried away – so it looks like the water is piling up against the rocks. This is very effective around the rocks that are near the shore.
I needed to put a highlight on my rocks before I did any more work on the spray. This color needs to be dark because the rocks are wet but just a bit lighter to help show the form of the rocks. I used mostly sienna with just touches of blue and purple and even a little white or occasional touch of orange. Just like I did with the underlying rocks, the highlights are just quick little smudges and dots, keeping in mind the light is coming from the right. These are quick strokes, not labored ones, don’t get out your one haired brushes and try to paint every grain of sand, it isn’t necessary and will do more harm than good.
To suggest some waves in the foreground I used a darker water color in the “trough” and added white to make a lighter color at the “crest” of the waves. A series of waves from the side look a bit like a tilde (~) the crest is going to be in the light and the trough is going to be in shadow. Remember that the waves are following the shape of the land under the water so will curve depending on the shape of the bay. Curves are also better visually so don’t have your wave line come straight down or your water will look like it is standing on end. Remember as well to keep your brush strokes parallel to the bottom of the canvas using the “U” stroke so you water still looks like water: Regular “U” shapes for the trough and inverted “U” shapes for the crest. The more pronounced these shapes the rougher your ocean will look, I kept mine fairly flat to suggest a calmer sea.
If you want to create an “eye” to a wave where it might be breaking, use a little bit of yellow and white, maybe a touch of green and right next to the foam of your breaking wave, dry brush in this color using little circles and working your way out just a little. Use your finger to blend the edges into the surrounding water. Repeat if necessary.
You can highlight the foam a bit now, or you can wait until the end, it doesn’t really matter, if you do highlight use a smaller bristle brush with white and a very tiny amount of yellow to warm it up a little. This color should still look white but it will have a warmer glow. Load your brush by tapping it straight down on your palette, this accomplishes a couple things: It loads your brush and it separates the bristles into a more random pattern, a good thing.
The stroke you will use is called “stippling”, you might want to test out this technique on your palette or piece of paper because it you do it too hard – like crushing a bug – you will not get the desired effect. This is a very light, gentle touching of the canvas, you only want the very ends of the bristles to touch so you see the individual dots left by the bristles, it you do this with too much force, you will defeat you purpose which is highlighting the foam. Again, look where your light source is and think about where the light will hit your foam. It will hit the top and backs of the foam but not the front or the underside. Apply accordingly.
Finish up your rocks near the water and your water. Check your values in your water, the distance should be softer and greyer near the foreground it should be more intense in color, deeper water is bluer and darker water near the shore is lighter in color. See that your rocks appear to be in the water and not floating on top.
Next week: Highlights on the cliffs, palms around the lighthouse, maybe finish up.
Week 4: Watercolor Project – Merging Piers
This week I finished the “Merging Piers” project. There really wasn’t a lot left to do except the water and looking for places I could intensify shadows or colors or places that I missed putting some detail. The purpose of this lesson was to show you that even if you have a complicated scene, you can paint large areas with a series of neutral washes to increase the density of your subject creating highlights and shadows long before you get into detail. It is the contrast that between light and dark that gives shape and form to your subject matter the detail and color are like the frosting the highlights and shadows are the cake, without the cake, your details will look flat and cartoon-ish and that is only good if you are actually doing cartoons.
In the water I used several different colors working them interchangeably so it doesn’t matter what color you use or what color is dominant it is the stroke here that matters most. I used any of the blues I had on my palette and I have several plus a “cool” palette with blues I don’t normally use, I also used most of the greens I had on my palette, like I said, it really doesn’t matter choose colors you like and those are the right ones to use.
I always use the largest brush I can use in this case I was using my ½” brush, loading it with paint with some water but not dripping and using long overlapping “U” strokes and using mostly the end of my brush, added color to my water. I kept it darker under the piers and lighter as it got to the middle. When I noticed that the paper had become wet enough that my strokes were blending together rather then holding their form, I let the water dry then repeated this step until the water was the intensity I wanted. You want to have movement in your water so don’t paint it solid, let there be brush stokes and different colors playing against each other and keep some light in the center between the piers.
Some finishing details on the building included adding suggestions of shingles to Tony’s and some shadows to the ridges of the roof. Using a slightly darker color that is already there and my small – ¼” brush – and just touching it to the roof, I suggested some roofing shingles but I didn’t paint in everyone I saw. Mixing a shadow color – blue, purple and sienna - and water, I lined the ribs on Tony’s roof, then rinsed my brush and with a clean damp brush ran it along the outside edge of the shadow to soften it.
Using this same shadow color I also deepened shadows under roof eves, added windows by negative painting the frames (you are painting the window panes), deepening the darks in some of the windows and using the very end of the brush with the shadow color touched the edges of the posts that hold the rails on both sides of the pier. Adding a bit of water, I looked for a few places where there may be a shadow cast from a building or object next to it such as the sky lights on the roof on the right, there is a bit of a shadow cast on that same roof from the building next to it and there is a cast shadow on the other side where that one part sticks out from the rest.
I also lifted some light back into the windows on the shadowed building on the right, not on all but a few to suggest that there may be windows on the other side of the building and I went over the very light roof on the right with a very light mix of mud from my palette using a lot of water to tint the roof slightly.
We also talked about cast shadows vs form shadows. If you can place an object like a round vase on a table with a strong light source such as a sunlit window or a lamp, look at the object carefully. Where the light is hitting it, it is very light/bright, as you move away from the light source the object becomes cooler and darker as it goes into shadow, this is your “form” shadow. Now look on the table at the shadow created by the object blocking the light source and notice the difference, it should appear darker than the shadows on the object especially near where the object sits on the table, this is a “cast: shadow. Both of these types of shadows are important one show the shape of the object and the other shows direction of light. Understand them and don’t forget them.
You can finish this project to your own satisfaction and start looking for a project of your own. I will be out of town on the 4th but there will be a teacher taking my place so there will be class. If there are any subjects you would like to have a demo on or technique, let me know as my demos until the end of the session will deal with individual subjects and not a full project.
Next time: Brush strokes.