Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spring 09 Acrylic and Watercolor Projects

Both classes: Remember you can sign up to follow this blog off to the side <-- so you will get a notice when I update, that way you don’t have to keep checking back in all the time.
Week 1 – Acrylic Project: Green Orchid


I believe this is a first! I usually prepare to give the new students an introductory speech telling them about the class and equipment but because the new students we had join us already had acrylic classes, we were able to jump right in and get started, of course this was also the one time I wasn’t totally prepared to start a project this week but I managed.

I could have started this on a black canvas if I wanted but because I didn’t know if every one had black or black gesso, I started on a primed canvas first drawing my design on with my soft vine charcoal. The reason I use the charcoal is it can be erased with a wet paper towel plus it doesn’t leave any hard line like sketching with a brush can do. The charcoal doesn’t hurt the paint so I can paint right over it and not worry about any unwanted hard lines showing in my final painting.

I am also sorta breaking the rules here because of the nature of this painting, my orchid is almost centered. If you have been in my class before, you have heard me rail about “rule of thirds” and keeping things out of the center, I have also said that there are exceptions to every rule and this is one of them though I did try to slightly move my subject to the left of center so that it wasn’t “dead” center. I also wanted to make sure that I filled the canvas with my subject, to the point that I have 2 petals that go off the canvas. When designing a painting or drawing, you want to make sure that your main subject is prominent enough that your viewers will keep looking at it, this is particularly true when simplifying, like I have done here, to one element. If the negative space it too dominating your viewers will move on to something else so fill up your canvas with your subject. Have your reference picture handy at all times, it holds the answers to your questions.

Once I had my design on my canvas I started painting the 3 petals that are underneath the top 2, those are the top petal and the 2 on the bottom of the flower. Because they are coming from a part of the flower that is a bit further away from the center, the shadows are a bit darker. As painters we need to find those areas where dark meets light so we can use it to create depth and dimension in our paintings. Using my #10 bristle brush (it was an old, well worn brush), I picked up Hooker’s green, ultra marine blue, cad yellow pale and dioxizine purple, I started in the darkest area next to the center and under the 2 top petals to establish my darkest area. I was using a scrubbing type stroke to get the canvas covered but was aware of what I was painting so I followed the form and curves of my petal, this is important because the eye can see the subtle brush strokes so follow the shape of the thing you are painting with your strokes.

Rather than mix on my palette, I chose to brush mix my colors on my canvas. This allows the colors to vary in shade and color as you apply them to the canvas, this is a good thing because it adds interest.

As I moved away from the center, I added more green, yellow and white and less blue and purple. I was careful to blend back into an area I had already painted so there wasn’t a “line of demarcation” between the darker areas and lighter one. This smooth transition will help create a rounded look to your petal.

I continued to add touches of white to the green and yellow to establish my light areas but I also don’t want to get too light just yet so when you are painting your petals keep these underneath petals to the medium light value when you get to the edges. I used this same procedure on the other two lower petals.

I did start one of the upper petals and will finish it in class on Monday, the difference with the top petals is I started several values lighter than I did on the underneath petals. I still used the same colors: green, yellow, blue and a touch of purple but I added white to the mix to lighten the value. I still started near the center and still brush mixing with scrubbing strokes that follow the shape of the petal, it was just my color was lighter to begin with. It you have added enough white your top petal should be 2 – 3 values lighter. As I moved away from the center, I added more white to the green and yellow, I was also looking at my reference picture to see if there were lighter spots than others, while this is just the under painting stage, I am establishing my light and that is always important.

Next week: I will finish the under painting of the petals and start the under painting for the center.

Week 1: Watercolor project – I-Pops


First I want to thank everyone for agreeing to shorten the class by a half hour, I really would have hated to have lost the class because we were short one person and I think this will work out for most of the class since several members leave early to make other appointments. Thank you.

Like my acrylic class, I had al returning students who did not need my opening “welcome to class speech” so, though I wasn’t totally prepared to start the project, we started any way. First we needed to get our drawing on our paper. This is a simple design with only 3 elements – 2 flowers and one bud – but simple doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have areas of concern. I wanted to make sure that these three elements filled the page. Just like in the acrylic project above, the flowers in this project needed to be big enough on the paper to dominate over the negative space, this is important when you are doing a simple design like this, it helps bring the “Wow!” factor into your painting, if they are too small your viewer will ask “What’s the point?”

After I had my drawing on the paper, I wet the flowers with clean water. Since I was using a lighter weight paper than I’m use to using, it dried very quickly so I suggest if you are working in a warm area where your paper will dry quickly, wet areas as you go because at this point the important thing is we don’t want any hard, dark lines.

I used a general mix of blue and purple and what ever was on my palette to get a shadow color, I lightly touched the wet areas with the tip of my brush to create shadow lines in the petals. Remember to follow the shape of the petal, these lines will run from the edge to the center of the flower remember, they aren’t straight lines but curved and they aren’t solid but broken and VERY LIGHT. Look at your reference photo to see how the poppies grow, this is what you are trying to re-create. Let your paper dry completely.

Next, with cad yellow light, I painted the areas around the stems on both flowers and also parts of the stems and the casing on the bud. The light is coming from the upper right side so you want to put this “sunshine” color on the right side of your stems. Once that was done, I painted the stems and the bud using sap green with a touch of blue starting at the flower where it is darkest and bringing it down the stem, adding water to lighten the color and to blend it into the yellow. Be careful not to loose the yellow because it is your sunshine, however, if you do get a bit too much green on your yellow you can lift some of the color off or rinse your brush, pick up some yellow and just touch the area where you need to put light back in and let the paint do the work. Same on the bud, the top of the bent stem is darker and in shadow as is the left side of the bud, I will separate the sections of the casing later, right now all I wanted to do was establish light and shadowed sides.

For the yellow poppy I used mostly Indian yellow. If you don’t have Indian yellow, you can add a touch of orange or sienna to your cad yellow or if you have cad yellow med or dark, either will work as well though you will have a slightly different yellow from mine but color is not important because these poppies come in a variety of colors. The orange poppy is a mix of napthol red (Grumbacher or Windsor red), cad orange and cad yellow pale and a lot of water. As I was painting both poppies I was thinking direction of growth so any variation in value or color would look like light or shadow in the petals. The new poppy coming out of the bud was a concentrated mix of the red and the orange. I painted with my brush almost on edge and painted in the direction of the growth, there were some places that didn’t get painted so you see the white of the paper and that is okay, many watercolorists will leave white areas on purpose and on this painting they can look like highlights.

Next week: Adding shadows and background. We could finish this painting on Monday so if you haven’t already, start looking for your next project.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Notice to All My Watercolor Students

I just reacieved notice from my boss that if we can't find 2 more bodies the class will either be reduced in length , by how much I do not know, for the same price or it will be canceled outright.

Please, if you know anyone who has been thinking about taking an art class, get them to sign up tomorrow (Friday) so we can continue our class as normal.

Sign up at: www.Torrnet.com go to classes then to art my class is Exploring Watercolor Techniques. Or call, the number is: 310-618-2720 or go to the office and sign up in person.

Thanks. See you Monday, bring a friend.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring 09 Classes

Both classes: I have posted the drawings and reference for the new semester on the picture page if you want to see what we will be doing. These shouldn't take more than a couple weeks to do so start looking for projects you are interested in doing to have at the ready.

If you haven't done so already, please sign up ASAP for any classes you want to take at Torrance because they will close under filled classes this week. I think we are okay as far as my classes go, but it doesn't hurt to have a few extras. The more the merrier!

<--- Remember, you can sign up on this blog to get notified when it is updated or check back in occasionaly for updates, thanks. See you Monday.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Semester's End

We have reached the end of the Winter 09 semester and will be starting a new one on March 30th so if you are planning on taking classes at Torrance Art Cntr, please get in there now and sign up so your classes aren't closed.

I will post the projects for next semester next week so if you need to look at the pictures for your class project they will still be there for at least another week, after that you will have to go into "my gallery" and click on the album to see them.

We had a great semester and I'm proud of everyone's efforts, so keep up the good work, practice as much as you can at home and I will see you in a couple of weeks.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Acrylic and Watercolor Winter 09

Acrylic and Watercolor Demos

Sorry I didn’t get this posted sooner, I’ve had trouble finding the time to just sit at the computer to write it up. This will cover two weeks of demos in class for both classes. Also for both classes, Monday will be our last class so please bring something to class we can critique, it can be your best piece or your worst, something you did years ago or what you have been doing in class, I don’t care, this is a learning situation and it is always helpful to get feedback on the things we do. Remember to sign up for the Spring classes, my classes start on March 30th.

Weeks 5 – 6: Acrylic Demo

Acrylic is technically a water-based paint or a form of “Watercolor” though there is a lot of debate on the subject. Acrylic is a versatile medium and can be used in many different ways and one of those ways is using it like traditional watercolor.

The demo I started in class was done on 300 lbs cold press watercolor paper. What that means is it was a very heavy paper, I used it because I had it not that there was a reason for it, this technique would work on 140 lbs paper as well, or bristle board, canvas or watercolor cards, however, the heavier the paper the less likely it will buckle when it gets wet. Also, I was using my watercolor brushes because they hold more water and are designed for this technique.

Unlike the way we usually start an acrylic going from a medium dark color to our highlights, when doing it like a watercolor you need to use watercolor rules in this case we will work from out lightest lights to our darkest darks, which means that our whites will be the white of our paper and work down the value scale from there by using thin washes.

My first wash of color on the flower, was a very watered down purple with a touch of blue. You want your color very watery at this stage. I went over the entire flower not worrying about individual petals at this time; I painted around the yellow center leaving it white for now. On the large leaves I used a mix of sap green and yellow with a lot of water and painted both at the same time with this first wash, separating them will come later. On the small brown leaf and the stem, I used a very light wash of sienna and orange, however, while it was still wet I picked up blue on the tip of my brush and just touched a few areas on the leaf to indicate spots. You want to do this while the area is wet so the paint will spread.

The second wash on the petals was with the same thin mix of purple and blue, painting each petal individually starting in the center coming about half way up, rinsing the brush and with just water, spreading the color up the rest of the petal. While it was still wet, I picked up a touch of pure color on the tip of my brush (I was using an angled shader) and lightly touched it to the wet area and drew line up the petal like the veins. The color should spread. If it is too dark, lightly touch it with a clean paper towel. I used a similar technique on the lily pads working darker color into a wet wash, drawing that color to the center of the pad.

When the paint is wet – this is what I love about watercolor – you can do a lot with it and it will help you paint if you don’t fight it. However, acrylics have their limits when because unlike watercolor pigment that you can activate with water years after you have painted it, once acrylic is dry, it is dry forever so you need to work while it is still wet. For example, if you happen to get a drop of paint somewhere where you don’t want it, rinse you brush and “lift” the paint off the paper. With watercolor you could go back after it was dry, re-wet the area and lift it with a brush or paper towel, it the acrylic dries, the best you can do is use a bit of white paint to cover the spot but the paint seals the paper and could cause other problems.

Many watercolor techniques will work with wet acrylic, things like lifting, salt, wet into wet blending, it you are interested read the watercolor part of the blog for other ideas and techniques.

Each layer of this will be practically the same as the one before it. Watercolor gets its change of value and depth of color by a series of thin washes. This is only a demo to show other ways to use acrylics.

The demo from last Monday was one of how to use the different brushes and to encourage you to practice on a scrape canvas, or paper so when you are working on your “masterpiece” you don’t have to stop to figure it out. I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important knowing your equipment and how it works can be when you are painting a picture. Just like with any other job, you need to know your tools so you can get the job done.

Practice with each brush. Try using different pressure and see what happens. If it is a flat brush, use all sides of it from the flat side to the thin edge to the end of the bristles. Use it with a chiseled edge, the smash it up to spread it out and see what you get. Try stippling, scumbling, patting…hold the brush in different positions, it’s not a pencil don’t be afraid of “holding it wrong” you hold it what ever way you need to, to get the effect you want. Try working wet into wet. See what happens when you lightly go over a wet area with your blender. Try bristle brushes vs sable brushes to see how different the strokes look. Practice and experiment. The more you know about your paint and brushes, the better off you will be.

Remember, if you are working with your liner brush you need to uses enough water to get an ink-like consistency so the paint will flow off it, beyond that, you are on your own.

Week 5 – 6: Watercolor Demo

I wanted to show the class that you can start out totally different subjects in similar ways. The examples I used were from photos I took one of the Fish Market in San Pedro and the other of lemons on my counter (See picture page).

The first thing I decide when I start a painting using this technique is where is my lightest area? In the Fish Market picture is was behind and slightly to the right of the tower, in the one with the lemons it was between the cut lemon and the whole lemon that would be the lightest.

Next, I first wet the paper then I started with my lightest yellow, cad yellow light and a lot of water in this light area, working in out in a circle from the center of my light, added a bit more yellow, then orange then red… sienna and finally a bit of purple in the sienna when I was in the corners. You need to work fast enough so the paper doesn’t dry because you want the colors to blend without blooms or hard lines, rewet with your brush or spray bottle if necessary.

Once my graded under painting was dry, I proceeded to paint the rest of the picture as I normally would. In the Fish Market picture, I left the graded color as the color of my sky, in the one with the lemons, the under painting affects set the tone for the final picture.

Just as I did in my acrylic class, the demo last Monday was on how to use your brushes. Though watercolor brushes are a bit different than the bristle brushes we use in acrylics, each brush can create many different types of strokes depending on what you are trying to accomplish. Practice making grass not only with the liner but also the flat of angled brush or make leaves of all sizes and shapes. Rocks, water, sky, clouds…the more you practice these things on cards or practice paper the easier it will be to do when you are working on a painting. Practice lifting or dry brush, long strokes or short ones, flat vs round brush, wet into wet or wet into dry, dropping one color into another. The more you know how all these things work, the better you will understand what watercolor will do for you and how you can get it to do your bidding and not create mud. You’ve heard me say it in class that watercolor will help you paint your painting it you let it or it will win the battle every time if you fight it so the only way you will know how it works is through trial and error, but the end result will be rewarding. Good luck.