Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter '09 Acrylic and Watercolor Classes

Week 4 – “Dusty” Acrylic

This week was all about finishing touches it also underscores the importance of all the under painting you have been doing to this point. It seems the concept of under painting is what has most of you baffled and what is giving you the most problem so I will try to explain.

My style of painting is more “representational” or “realistic” if you will and I think it is the way most beginning artists want to start out painting: To have their paintings look like something when they are finished. There is nothing wrong with that but you do have to pay closer attention then some one who just throws paint on a canvas. I know I mention this in class all the time that you need to become more observant of the world around you if you want your art to improve. Everything around you has depth and volume, weight and texture, as a painter you have to try and suggest those things on a 2 dimensional surface and the more you can suggest on your canvas the more realistic your painting will become, to what degree of realism depends on you as an artist and your personal taste but it all starts with observation.

When I use the term “under painting” it is not the same as “base coat” like you would put on a wall, under painting is more like the foundation of your painting, it holds your painting together. You build on your under painting but you don’t cover it all up. We start our paintings with a medium dark value, that value becomes shadows, it helps create depth in your painting and you don’t want to loose all of it. That dark is your friend, keep it around and it will work for you.

What I was seeing in class was after all the work you did putting your under painting down, you would cover all of it up with each new layer of paint until when you got to the highlights and there was no place to go with it. You need dark to show light even if you are doing something that is white you need to have a blue grey base so that the white highlights will show up.

Before you try and finish your projects please look at the picture page. I did a step by step study of what the fur should look like close up starting with the under painting to the final highlights. Note that even in the final step you can still see some of the dark under painting, the second, lighter layer of under painting, a layer of highlight that is several shades lighter than the previous layer and the final highlights where I used almost pure white to hit the tops of clumps of fur.

I also want you to notice that when I did the highlight steps, I didn’t take that color and put it on all the fur. My light was coming in from the right so I kept my highlights primarily to the right and faded them out using a lighter touch as I went to the left side. You should also notice that on the left side I put what is call a “reflected highlight”, because of our atmosphere, light tends to scatter and usually what is left is the blue part of the spectrum that shows up in the shadows. I used white, purple and a touch of sienna to make a cool purplish color that was lighter than the previous layer but not as light as the highlight color I used on the right side. The very final highlight was mostly white with just a very small touch of yellow to slightly tint the color and using a small round brush I just highlighted a few of the clumps of fur on the right side where it would be getting the most direct light. Combined, all of these steps end up creating not only dimension (round leg) but also depth and texture in the fur. I hope this helps explain the importance of under painting.

I once heard this analogy used to put into visual terms what you need to keep in mind when you are painting: If you were to buy your paint in bulk you would need a gallon of medium dark, a quart of dark and a pint of highlight. Those medium range colors are the foundation and framework of your painting and they pull and hold your painting together.

That said, I finished the highlight on Dust using white with just a tint of sienna or yellow or orange (I think I used them all at some point) and I was just finding edges and ends of tufts that might be out in the light, not the whole dog. Be sure to follow the direction of the fur.

Before I finished the foreground I decided to add some dirt and a few rocks, you do not have to add them to your painting. The dirt was like a bit of erosion using a #6 bristle brush, sienna, blue and purple and quickly under painting the dirt using little half “U” shaped strokes. The rocks I used the same colors with a touch of white to get a dark gray (you may need more blue) and just “scumbled” in some rock shapes. Be careful not to make them all the same size and shape or you will have what Jerry Yarnell calls a “herd of turtles”. Because I didn’t want to spend too much time on this, I shaped and highlighted while the paint was still wet this is called wet into wet and is a technique that oil painters use all the time. In the dirt I suggested little “flute” edges with orange and in the shadows more blue. On the rocks I used more white with sienna and blue and white for the final highlight (this was done very quickly for the best result).

Once my rocks were in, I pulled up grasses around Dusty’s feet, around the base of the rocks and along the top of the dirt to settle them down into the painting. I used a #10 bristle with sap green, yellow, orange, occasionally sienna – all the colors I have previously used in this area. Quick, upward dry brush strokes gives you the look of clumps of grass, lightly tapping suggests things with leaves or flowers.

Next I used many of the same colors but this time I switched to my liner brush. This is a tricky little brush so you might want to practice with it but it is great when you get to the detail. Loading this brush is key to getting any of the following techniques to work for you, this is the exception to the “don’t use too much water” rule. Your paint should be very ink-like, so you will need to add enough water so it will flow off you brush. When you have the right consistency, load your brush well and roll it as you lift it out of the paint so it has a nice point and hold the point slightly down so the paint will flow out of your brush and hold the brush near the back.

For grass use a circular motion, taller grass bigger circles, then as you are making the circles, touch the canvas on the up stroke. For weeds with seed pods, it is more of a flicking motion so you have a stem with a little “blip” at the end.

This little brush is really great for trees and bushes, again it takes practice. Near the base, if you press hard you will get a thicker line as you move away from the base, lift, twist and wiggle your brush (go out and look at trees or bushes to see how they grow). When you want to start another branch/twig off a branch, follow the original branch a little way then take the new branch in a different direction.

I added some flowers to my branches and also in the grasses. I used yellow, reds, pinks blues and purples as accents. Red is a good color to use with all that green because red is its compliment.

Next week – We are done with this painting but I will show you how to finish a painting with varnish and I will also show you other ways you can use your acrylics. Also have something of your own to paint.

Week 4 - “Tiger” Watercolor

So I don’t have to type it all again, I hope that you will read the part about under painting above but instead of dark paint, think of light colors or of saving light areas as you build into the dark ones.

As watercolorists we save our light colors starting with white for our brightest highlights and work our way to our darkest shadows. Many of you forget this aspect and tend to paint over something you should have left light then you struggle to get it light again. You need to think about what you are doing, keep your reference picture in front of you and refer to it often. I can’t stress this enough. You get into trouble because it feels so good to paint you forget where you are going. Watercolor doesn’t forgive easily, if at all if you used a staining paint.

We paint in layers – or washes – for a purpose so we can approach our painting gradually. Watercolor is transparent so every wash will deepen an area, enrich the color and increase the contrast so long as we remember our light areas. We too need to have dark areas to show light, we just need to remember to save them in some manner.

This was also a week of final touches for our kitty. I finished the detail on the basket and added a darker shadow right under the rim of the basket. Using an angle brush, I used purple with a touch of blue on the point and ran it right under the rim, then quickly rinsed my brush and with just water, lightly bled the color down to suggest a shadow.

On the rim of the basket I used my small angle brush to suggest the wrapped texture of it. As you paint, think of what you are painting and the direction: On the top of the rim it is a short across stroke, skip a bit, then a longer down stroke for the front. Overlap your strokes, change the color from orangish to more sienna. As you come to the front the top stroke is shorter and directly at the viewer as it goes to the sides they angle off towards the sides but the down strokes are always straight down, they just get closer together as the move away from the viewer. It you want, you can add a bit of shadowing between the bands but it isn’t necessary.

I also added the stripes to my kitty. If you need to, use your pencil to lightly draw in the stripes. Note where they start and stop, their shape and thickness. They are not one size and they aren’t perfect, so don’t make them all the same.

I used my small angle brush but a small round will work. Dipping the end into my sienna with very little water in my brush, I wanted a very dry brush for this and pure color so it will be dark enough without using another color. Remember this is short fur so your strokes are short, quick strokes along the lines for the stripes which are mostly on the head.

Check to make sure that you have enough shadows in the right places like under the paw, on his back where it goes down into the basket…Any place you think you could use a bit more shading.

Last but not least, I took my 1” brush with a light mix of blue and purple and washed over the bottom of the basket to blur the sides and vignette the bottom. This concentrates the detail near Tiger’s face to keep the viewer looking at the kitty.

Next week – Have your own projects ready I will do a demo on other ways to start a painting.

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