Friday, August 15, 2008

Week 6 Final Touches

Acrylic and Watercolor classes:
This is for both classes we only have two weeks left for this semester and I would like to have a critique on our last day. If you have any paintings you have you want to bring in for critique whether they are ones you have done in class or home or from years ago and just want some help or suggestions, a critique is a good place to find out what you have done right and where you need to make some improvements. It is a place where someone else might be able to see what is bugging you but you can’t see it. You learn more from paintings with problems than the ones you like so please bring in things to share, these classes are very supportive and good for the ego.

Acrylic Project Final Touches

Sorry I didn’t get a chance to update the class blog while on my trip, best laid plans and all. Haven’t been on a road trip for some time and didn’t remember the drive being so tiring ;-) Anyway, this week’s demo was just a continuation of what I was doing before I left on my trip so what I will mention here will apply to the previous lesson.

Basically, we are down to nit-picky things as we finish up and a lot of this process is going to be up to your personal tastes: You can go with simple or detailed I tend to be in the middle someplace but that’s me, you have to decide what works best for you. Learning to stop is sometimes the hardest lesson, but it is a critical one.

First, stand back and look at your painting. Do you have all the elements in that you want? Things like the lighthouse, trees on the bluff, rocks in the water or on the shore? If you have everything you want in your painting, you need to decide where to put your highlights, for this it helps to look at your painting through squinted eyes. What this does is equalize the values of your painting so you can see if the important elements stand out from the rest of your painting. For instance, when you are squinting at your painting do the cliffs stand out from the background water? If not, this is a good place to start your highlighting.

In my painting I wanted the viewer to get a sense of early evening light that is rich and warm when I put on my highlights. I used orange with touches of yellow and white even a bit of red now and then to give it that warm glow. I applied the color to the right, outside parts of the flutes created by the erosion because that is where the sun is most likely to hit the cliffs. I did work the color over a little bit more in some spots and less in others to give form to the rocks and dirt that make up the cliffs but I didn’t go back into my shadows I need those darks to show the lights. Notice how bright the edges of the flutes look when they are next to a dark shadow, even those which aren’t as bright as the very end of the cliffs, this is how you can create depth in your painting by playing light against dark. Acrylics dry darker so you may need to touch up the highlights again in spots just remember to leave a bit of your previous application showing.

I painted the trees on the top of the cliff before I left as well as highlighted the grass on the cliffs, the general trees are easy because the are created by just lightly stippling (tapping straight on with a bristle brush) a tree shape with a dark color (I used green, blue and purple), the palms take a bit more time, but they are easy if you don’t panic. All these things are so far in the distance you only need to show a basic shape and your viewer will know what you are trying to say so don’t worry about the palms being perfect because it really doesn’t matter, you just need to be close.

I used a #4 flat sable brush, the sable will give you a bit more control. First I mixed a dark color, it doesn’t matter what dark color because these trees are in shadow, I used the mix above with maybe a touch of sienna. Drag your brush through your paint to not only load it, but the bring the end to a flat edge, this is important for your first step of your palm. Using this flat edge in a vertical position, lightly touch your canvas with the whole edge to create the trunk of the palm starting at the base. You may need to lightly touch it again to make it tall enough just remember that this is a delicate procedure, don’t get too heavy handed.

After you have your trunk in, reload you brush and re-sharpen the edge. Place the whole edge of the brush at the top of the trunk and with a quick, light “flick”, move your brush down. You might want to try this on a separate canvas or piece of paper before you try it on your picture just remember that these are quick short moves. Palm fronds radiate out from the trunk so start the rest of your fronds in the same place don’t waste time fiddling with this or it will look over worked. Also, look at the reference pict and notice that some of the palms overlap, this is a good element for your picture.

To highlight the grass on the top of the cliffs use a small bristle brush with a mix of yellow with a touch of sap green tapping the end of the brush to mix the color and to spread the bristles just a bit. Again, you need to use a light touch so only little dabs of this colors comes off your brush and you will use it straight on just barely touching the canvas to highlight the top edges of the grass.

I highlighted the lighthouse with white with a tiny touch of yellow along the right side and dry brushing back into the shadows to create a round look. You may need to do this a couple times to get it bright enough. I also added some windows with some dark color and highlighted the top with yellow and orange. Don’t forget to highlight the thing at the end of the cliffs with a bit of your white mixture.

The rocks along the shore should be done quickly as well. I say this so you don’t over think this process which translates into over working your painting; the rocks are too far away to have much detail it just needs to look like a pile of rocks. I used my #4 flat sable brush and my toothbrush to make my rocks and their highlights.

You might want to practice with the toothbrush before you use it on your canvas because it can get messy, also, you might want to have a paper towel in your hand to protect areas you don’t want splattered or to wipe away stray spots.

You can use any and all of your colors in this area with your toothbrush if you want. I used several different colors like orange, red and yellow as well as a couple shades of grey (blue, sienna, white and a touch of purple) and splattered the rocky area. Because you have to use a lot of water to make the paint come off the toothbrush even the bright colors dull down but they do add some color into a dull area.

Mix the color you are going to use with your toothbrush with a lot of water then turn the bristles down and next to your area you want to splatter, and with your thumb, rack across the bristles to splatter. It is messy but effective. Try it on your scrap canvas first.

For the closer rocks and to make some of the rocks bigger used the sable brush. A sable gives you a smoother look and a bit more control over your paint. One thing to avoid is making these rocks too bright, which is what I did prior to my trip, when I worked on it again, I toned down the highlights, did some more splattering and I liked it a lot better.

Distant rocks are just dashes, dibs and dabs to represent the different sizes and shapes of the rocks, learn to do this quickly whether it is the under painting or the highlights and shadows and your rocks will look more natural. Best advice here is to keep the highlight colors to the top right and shadows to the left and ground areas. You don’t need to go all the way around to the end of the cliffs because of the distance, just some of the rocks nearest the foreground.

The foreground bushes and grasses where done with a #10 bristle brush and brush mixing the colors on the canvas using my greens, orange, yellow, sienna, blue purple…. You get the idea, I just used the brush end into the canvas using it fairly hard at times except when I got to the top edges I lightened the pressure to create broken dots that represent leaves or groups of leaves, I will do more of that when I highlight, and I also at times just flicked the brush up to suggest grasses. I will add more detail when I highlight. I took these weeds almost all the way across my canvas to suggest the area where the viewer is standing.

To highlight the plants on the distant cliff I used yellow with touches of green and orange mixing slightly on the palette by smashing the bristle brush straight up and down to spread the bristles, then just tapping the splayed end in the areas I wanted some highlight. You don’t need to go over all of the bushes and don’t loose your dark areas, the light is coming in from the right and is hitting the tops of the plants, that is all you need to suggest.

When your foreground is dry, using the same technique you just used on the distant plants, highlight your foreground. Think about what you are painting, these are weeds, they grow in uneven clumps there may be some grass growing in between them, there may be new growth or there may be dead plants so don’t be afraid to throw some oranges, yellows, sienna or reds in there in their pure form. Remember to flick your brush as well as tapping it and keep these brighter colors to the top right, remember this is highlight.

The rest of this is just some fine tuning you may want to do to finish your painting though, if you want, you can stop once you have highlighted your foreground, this is how I finished mine.

In the foreground I took my small round sable with yellow and a very small amount of green and suggested leaves on some of the top most plants. These are just quick little dots not labored leaves, they are only suggestions. Notice on the left how I used the dark in the background and the light color on in the foreground – light against dark. With my #3 liner I used several colors such as a grey to make the suggestion of some twigs scattered in the bushes also to create grasses using yellows and oranges.

Even though the P.V. lighthouse doesn’t use its light any more, I did suggest a light with a bit of yellow and white and quick straight dry brush strokes starting at the light house and fading out. You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to. I also took my small brush and using straight red, white and blue, suggested the flag that flies there and a bit of sienna and purple for the pole that holds it and I think I’m done! I will live with this for a while before finishing it with varnish, just in case I see something else I need to do, but I need to say enough and just quit. You can nit pick a painting to death and ruin what you had so stop before you think you are done, leave it for a couple days and look at it again, it will probably be fine. Sign it, varnish it and put it in a frame.

You are on your own next week though I might show how to apply the varnish to this painting.

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