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.

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