Week 4: “Rays” – Acrylic
I really don’t have a lot to add to last weeks write up. Finishing a painting becomes a personal thing, if you like the way it looks and you haven’t “finished” it with all the detail, it is perfectly okay to stop and call it good. I don’t want you to end up a clone of me, I want you to find your own style and do what feel right to you. This is art and it is very subjective and since you are doing this for yourself, you need to finish your paintings to suit your own needs as an artist, not mine.
That said, I finished up the regular canvas by doing more of the same from the previous week: Looking for places where I could highlight or shadow to get some depth and dimension into the rays. I saved the brightest highlights for the tips of the wings of the ray whose wings are coming out of the water, water distorts shape and color so to suggest that the tips are out of the water on a two dimensional surface, I need to visually convey that to the view by using more intense colors.
I also suggested eyes on the side of the head. Key word here is “suggested”. Most of the eyes are just loose backwards “C’s” with a dot quick and loose. I used a small detail brush with a dark color I had on my palette probably what I was using as shadows. I also used this same dark color to paint in the long whip-like tails on the rays.
On the water above the ray that is breaking the surface, I used white on a small brush to suggest some ripples trailing from his wing tips along with some darker blue next to the water highlights. When I thought I had finished what I needed to finish. I let it dry completely.
Once it was totally dry, I took my #12 bristle brush and some white with a little touch of blue in it and a lot of water to make a very thin wash. I wiped my brush before touching my canvas the with long, slightly wiggle-ly, horizontal strokes, I streaked this color across the entire canvas except over the wing tips sticking out of the water. This puts a slight shimmer on the water and again creates some depth.
I stepped back and assessed my painting and one thing struck me was the background did nothing to keep my eye in my painting. Since there are no rocks or weed or some other way to keep the eye from leaving the painting, I needed to do something so I choose to darken the corners a bit. I did this by using a wash again but this time I used blue with a touch of purple and a lot of water, wiped my brush out and with a circular motion, dry brushed this color into the corner areas of my background. This is a very light, dry brush stroke you just want to barely hit the surface of the canvas and work your way out from the corners until it blends in with the lighter center. Let it dry before adding more because it looks different when it dries than when it is wet.
After it had dried and I was satisfied that it was dark enough, I lightly went over the areas I just darkened with some of the white wash to put the shimmer back on the water. This is a very light, dry wash, it should not changed the value of the dark color underneath it just adds a bit of “wet” to the water.
Next week I will show how to finish our painting with a varnish. Last class is Nov.3rd and we will have a critique. Bring in anything you want whether it is your “masterpiece” or something you need help with and we will talk about it in class.
Many beginning watercolor artists do not know about or know how to handle full sheets of watercolor paper so they buy their paper in tablets or blocks. While there is nothing wrong with tablets or blocks, buying paper in full sheets can save you money plus give you the option of painting bigger pictures without having to buy several different sizes of tablets or blocks which can be expensive especially if you don’t want to do larger paintings all the time, you can cut them down as well but that defeats the purpose of buying them in the first place.
Anyway, I brought in a half sheet of 300lb W/C paper to show how easy it is to make the size you want using full sheets of paper.
First off, I will explain weight of paper for those who don’t know. The weight of the paper is what a ream of paper weighs. A ream of paper is 500 sheets of 22” x 30” paper. If 500 sheets weights 300 lbs then it is 300 lb paper; 140 lbs equals 140 lb paper. In theory, the heavier paper is suppose to be more resistant to buckling than lighter weight papers and better to work on but each manufacturer makes their paper a bit different so if you can get sample pieces or one sheet at a time to test them to find the one you like best, it would be better than buying several sheet and find you don’t like the paper (been there done that).
Most full sheets of W/C paper have what are called “deckled edges”. Those are the rough, uncut edges that are usually found on most full sheets. Many w/c artists like these edges and work to preserve them along with using them when framing their w/c by “floating” their paintings on a mat rather than hiding the edges behind a mat. It is an option you might want to keep in mind.
Saving or creating these edges becomes a challenge when you want to cut down a full sheet of paper. You can buy yard sticks that have specially created “deckled” edges or you can use one of the methods I will explain here. First you fold the sheet to the size you want. I usually just start by folding it in half but if you wanted to make a 16 x 20 for instance, you will need to measure it first and fold your paper along the measure marks.
Once you have folded it, fold it back the other way. Do this several times to break down the fibers in the paper, then using a paper towel or a clean brush with clean water, wet the break in the fold on both sides of the paper. I showed how you can tear the paper apart carefully to create an edge similar to the deckle. You can also use a serrated knife to tear the edge if that is easier. This works well on both 300 lb and 140 lb paper.
The second demo I used a piece of the paper I just divided to show how to start a painting using splatter. I first lightly sprayed my paper with my water spray bottle. What I may not have made clear was the fact that I did not spray the whole surface. I want some dry areas on the paper so I only sprayed a few times and did not go over the paper with a brush to spread it out.
Next I picked up some very runny color on my 1” brush. This part is messy so you need to be where you can create a mess, maybe out doors or in the bath tub. I splattered and dripped color onto my paper. Color doesn’t really matter here, I do have an idea in mind so I was choosing colors that I thought I wanted in certain areas but if they got into areas I hadn’t planned, well that is a good thing for this project.
I left a lot of white showing and I also added salt and crumpled plastic wrap then let it dry. I will have a drawing on it next week that will incorporate leaves is some fashion, but this technique is not exclusive to leaves, it can be used to start all kinds of subject matter, I will bring examples next week.
Next week: Using negative painting to your advantage.
Our classes will be over on Nov. 3rd so start thinking of what you want to bring to our last class for critique. I will try to make it as painless as possible. :-)