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.

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