Friday, September 26, 2008

Acrylic and Watercolor Fall 08

Fall ’08 Art Projects

Week 1 – Acrylic “Rays”

Optional Texture Version

I suppose that technically for this version it is week 2 however, since those of you who are doing this version just got started on it, I’m going to lump it in with week 1.

If you are doing the textured version you need to finish up putting on the texture because the texture takes several hours to dry, preferable leave it at least over night, because it needs to be completely dry before you start working on it or you run the risk of having it come off.

If you added color to the sand resin, you should have a very dark blue/green sand area. If you didn’t add color, your first step it to under paint the sand area with blue (I used ultra marine blue and unless specified, when I refer to blue I’m referring to the ultra marine), sap and/or Hooker’s green and throw in touches of burnt sienna, purple, orange, red, white, yellow…What ever you have on your palette to give some variety to your sand area, blend it in a bit so it doesn’t stand out but it is okay for there to be variations in your color, actually those variations create interest in your painting so learn to use them to your advantage. The end result should be a dark, mottled blue/green color to your sand and make sure it is covered well, no canvas showing through. Remember, this is only if you didn’t add color to the texture when you put it on your canvas.

If you did add color or once your background sand area is dry the next step it to start the highlighting process. We need to get the sand close to done before we start on the rays the reason being, we don’t need to worry about painting around them, we can just paint over them and not worry about ruining all our hard work.

Always use the largest brush you feel comfortable with that will work with the size canvas you are using, a #10 bristle is what I used and is a good size to use at this point even if you are on a smaller canvas. We need to get the canvas covered quickly and we don’t want to think too much about what we are doing, over-thinking at this point can do more harm than good, the sand isn’t our subject we just need to suggest it. Be quick, to fiddle and it will be okay.

The main color I used for this step was blue mixed with white, I used mostly titanium white but gesso will work as well. I wanted a much lighter color. As I went along, I picked up different colors just like I did in the under painting to add variety. The stroke I used is called “Dry Brush”, it is a very useful stroke to know when working with acrylics, it lets you blend into areas that have dried, add texture and highlights, add dust or mist, it is the only way we have to blend or soften when out paint has dried. Dry brush isn’t hard to do but it does take a little practice and a very light touch.

The first step is to load your brush with color, scrape off the excess on your palette so there are no big lumps and before you go to your canvas, wipe your brush out in a paper towel, you want very little paint on your brush. Using the side of your brush in a scrubbing or scumbling motion, very lightly apply the paint to your canvas. Scumbling is just a mix of strokes going every which way, this is a painting not a wall so we don’t have to be neat about what we are doing. If you have done the stroke correctly, mostly the tops of the resin sand should be getting color, you should be able to see your under painting, if not you either have too much paint on your brush or are pressing too hard or both, it’s okay in spots to have a bit more solid color, it won’t hurt anything just try to lighten your pressure so you can see the under painting. Remember to vary your colors and to add white. Keep the corners darker to help focus the viewer to the center of your painting and don’t worry if you go over all or part of your rays, it is why we are leaving them along at this point.

Acrylics dry darker so we may need to do a bit more highlighting on the sand before moving on to the rays but for this week, this is where I stopped. Be sure that your highlight color is enough to show that it is highlight, this is shallow sand not deep ocean so it will be getting some light.

Next week we will finish any highlighting of the sand and start on the rays.

The non textured version starts out with the under painting of the sand. You don’t need to draw in your rays just yet because we need to get our sand area established first. It is a good idea to start out with the thing furthest away and work your way forward to you don’t have to paint around your subjects, that can leave lines and make your painting look like it has been cut and pasted. For this painting the thing furthest away is the sand that the rays are swimming over so that is where we start.

To prepare my canvas I first sprayed it with a light mist from my water spray bottle, this helps to spread the gesso which is the next step. Still using my #10 bristle brush I put on a light coat of gesso over the whole canvas. It doesn’t take much but it does allow the paint to go on easier and keeps it workable longer because gesso dries slower. Keep in mind that gesso is white so it will lighten the colors you mix it with so don’t put on a heavy layer of it for this painting.

You can rinse your brush if you want or just wipe out the excess gesso before you pick up the colors you will use for the background. While the gesso is still wet, using a scumbling stroke blend your blue and greens into the gesso adding other colors as you go. Just like in the textured version, you want a mostly blue/green mottled background. You also want to use enough color to give you a medium dark color, remember the gesso will lighten your color so add enough to make it darker. It doesn’t need to be as dark as the textured version but it does need to be dark enough so we have some where to go with our highlights or shadows. Keep the corners darker, don’t paint it like a wall and once your canvas is covered, let it dry completely. It may take 20 – 30 minutes to dry because of the gesso.

If your paint seems to be coming up more than going down, your painting may have dried too much so you will have to let it dry completely before finishing. If you have to stop, when you resume you can use the same colors with a touch of with to cover up any glaring canvas showing thru or you can just cover it up with the next step. Don’t panic, you can fix just about anything in acrylic.

After your background is completely dry, you are going to do a similar thing that was used in the textured version at this step, which is using dry brush. Again the key to doing good dry brush is very little paint on your brush – keep a paper towel handy – and a light touch. I used the same brush and the same technique, though I used a mostly circular motion lightly over the surface. I used white with my blue and greens and added almost all the other colors on my palette in small amounts, you just need to keep it lighter than the background and soften any hard strokes you have in your under painting. When you are done, you should have a soft, blended, mottled background with some of the under painting showing through.

Next week I may do some more highlighting in the sand area before starting the rays then will sketch in my design and start the under painting for the rays.

Week 1: “Bull Fighter” Watercolor

This first stage is just the under painting for this painting, we will be adding more color to intensify and deepen the colors, don’t worry about getting the color “right” the first time in watercolor we work from light to dark so we don’t want to get too dark too soon.

I used a ¾” angle brush to start off painting the cape. It is best to use the biggest brush you can use in a situation especially when you have large areas that need to be covered quickly. I painted this area using a wet on dry technique however, in retrospect, if you have problems painting such a large area and getting it covered quickly, you can pre-wet the area by using clean water and painting the area with water then add the color, that will allow you to cover the area with out worrying about parts of it drying before you can get the whole thing covered. It will give you a smoother blend and help the paint spread faster. When I was painting wet on to dry (my brush was very wet with paint and water the paper was dry), I used a lot of water to move the paint on the paper and didn’t waste much time in any one area. When I got near the end of the cape, I rinsed my brush and with just water bled the paint out until it virtually disappeared. Rinse your brush often and don’t go back into an area with a lot of color or you will find that you are just dragging the color along and not fading it out. This color will be a bit pale but remember, this is just under painting. Watercolor dries lighter.

One of the tricks to painting without stopping every time you put down a color in watercolor is to work in non-adjacent areas, so from the cape, I went to the body of the jacket. The color I leave up to you. In my original I went with a turquoise blue for the class project I’m going with green, the technique will be the same no matter what color you use so if you have a favorite use it or a color you like better than green.

I switched to a smaller angle brush (1/2”) and also for demonstration purposes used a round brush. There is fringe at the bottom of the caplet around his shoulders, to suggest the fringe I negatively painted the fringe. What that means is by using the pointed end of my angle brush I painted little hash marks that would be the green showing between the strands of fringe, I will paint the fringe after the green has dried. I then finished under painting the green part of the jacket with sap green. The tie was painted with the sap green but I added a bit of yellow to it to change the color just a bit. This stage will look a bit flat, dimension will come a bit later.

The hat, hair and pants can be painted next. You won’t hear me say this often but if you have black or Payne’s Grey you can use it here, if you don’t have either of those, to get a dark color that will look black use blue with burnt sienna and a touch of purple. Be careful when using the purple a little will go a long way, this color should be mostly the blue and sienna or if you have another dark brown you can mix that with blue for a dark color. The more water you add the lighter it will become so go easy on the water though you can and should be a bit on the grey side so you can darken it later.

Before you paint in the legs and shoes, feel the cape with the back of your hand to see if it is dry. If it is cool to the touch it is still wet and should be avoided until it is completely dry. Leave this color on you palette so you can use it later.

To under paint the face, you need to mix a couple of unlikely colors together: Alizarin crimson and – if you have it – pthalo yellow green. If you don’t have the pthalo YG use sap green with a touch of cad yellow light. I know it sounds strange, but this is a great base color for most skin types. If it looks too sallow, add a bit more crimson you want this wash pretty light so add water. Apply this color to the face and if the cape is dry, to the hand. While it is still damp (it shouldn’t be real wet), use a dilute solution of crimson and just touch the areas where the cheeks and mouth will be also where the fingers and palms would be on his hands. If you look at most people you will see that these areas have a bit of pink color to them, just go lightly we can add more later if we need it.

Finally we have the yellow of the jacket. Yellow is the only color that really can’t get darker in value, it can become more intense in color but straight out of the tube is as dark as it will ever be. We want this color to be fairly intense not pale so use more paint than water to paint the areas of yellow. It won’t hurt the green under the fringe if you paint over it with the yellow; we are going to make the green darker there anyway.

Double check to see if you have everything except his shirt under painted and that is where we stopped for the day.

Next week we will add more color and detail. Any questions between now and then my e-mail is

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall Art Projects '08

Acrylic Fall ’08 Project

“Rays” alternative beginning. To see project pictures use this link:

The project for this semester will have two variations: One with texture and one without. It is not necessary to go out and buy texture mediums if you don’t think you will ever use them again, I just want to show the class that there are a lot of alternatives out there that can be fun both literally and figuratively to give a different dimension to your painting, this is only an option, I will be doing a demo in a more “traditional” style for those who don’t want to venture into unknown territory.

There are a lot of ways to create texture in your painting from using the heavy bodied paints that are now available to all the different modeling pastes, and various things like sand and chunks of crushed rock or glass, if it can be suspended into a medium, it seems it is available. Artists have been making their own textures in much the same way, the pre-made versions are a time saver.

Because of the time it takes for the texture medium to dry, I wanted to start my painting on the first day. The two textures I used to start the painting were light modeling paste and resin sand. Both can be mixed with water and paint to get the desired consistency and can be applied to the canvas with palette knives, brushes or fingers, you may need to experiment to see what works best for you.

I started out by drawing my rays on my canvas with my soft vine charcoal. The charcoal lets me change or correct my drawing with just a wet paper towel and it will not interfere with the paint or the texture mediums.

Once I had my drawing the way I wanted, using my palette knife to scoop out about a heaping tablespoon of the texture, I mixed the resin sand texture with ultra marine blue and Hooker’s green as my base color, it will be very dark, I also added white and yellow to my palette to have available to change the color in places if I wanted.

Using the palette knife and picking up big gobs (technical term) of my base mixture I began to apply it to my canvas avoiding the area where my rays will be. I wanted to get the canvas well covered with this dark color and texture, I also wanted to change the color in places so occasionally I would pick up small amounts of white or yellow, more blue or green to give the background sand some variation which will give it more interest. This is not the final application of paint this is just the under painting. Under painting is like the foundation of your painting and it needs to be strong so you can build on it.

In some of the areas around the rays where I needed more control, I switched to a flat bristle brush. The whole background can be done with a brush, just be sure you are using a bristle brush because the resin sand is very hard on your brushes.

When I was done with the sand area, I used the light modeling paste to build up my rays. The resin sand created a feeling of depth, if I didn’t put something on the rays to give them some dimension, they would look like they were swimming in the sand not the water, so the modeling paste lifts them out of the sand. If I were doing this at home, I would have let the resin sand dry completely before applying the modeling paste to the rays to avoid mixing the two together, it doesn’t hurt to mix them I just don’t want my rays to have warts. Don’t worry if you mix the modeling paste with some of the color of the sand, it is not going to hurt the final painting, we are going to paint over all of this a few times as we build our painting. I let this dry for a couple of days – it was still wet in a few places 3 hours after class depending on how thick it was – and I applied more modeling paste to give my rays even more dimension. I tried to show which rays were closer to the surface by making the paste thicker and those that were deeper I left the original paste I did in class. This is where I will leave it until we resume class on Monday.

Remember, this is just an option; I will start the other traditional one in class.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fall Projects 08

I hope that everyone has had a nice break and that you have signed up for the classes you want. Remember that you need to sing up before Wednesday so any classes you want to take don't get closed.

If you are new to my classes, check the archives and you will find a list of materials needed for the classes, many things are basic to both classes but I have noted the differences between watercolor and acrylic equipment. I will go over supplies the first day so if you have any questions or if you have some equipment already and want to know if it is okay we can discuss it at that time.

I have posted the drawing for the class projects on the picture page. (click on the Fall Projects 08 above or click here to go to the picture page:

Because I have used reference photos I took from newspapers and magazines I cannot post the reference photos on the picture page. The drawing should be all that you need and I will have the photos I used available in class, but we are going to be "doing our own thing" for the most part not a rendering of the photos. Trust me :-)

If you have any questions you can e-mail me at I look forward to seeing all of you in about a week.