Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring 09 Acrylic and Watercolor Classes

Week 3: Acrylic Project – “Green Orchid

There is more to this green project than meets the eye. Of all the colors on the color wheel, green is considered one of the toughest to use. I’m not quite sure why that is, maybe because it is an “in between” color in that it is a transition color between the warm and the cool colors, or if there is something inherently problematic about green, I’ve not heard an explanation beyond “green is a tough color to work with”. I consider it just another color and deal with it like I would any other color.

The biggest problem I am finding in class isn’t so much working with green, it just seems like half of you are using other variations of green besides the sap and Hooker’s that I am using and it is causing you a lot of headaches. In the previous post, I mentioned this and said that you will not get the same results I get because the colors mix different. The problem is compounded if you are using different colors to my blues, reds and yellows than I have listed, it’s like making substitutions in a recipe and expecting it to turn out the way you hoped. You can’t substitute salt for sugar or lard for butter, grape juice for wine and expect miracles to happen in the cooking process, you will even get different results with close substitutes like Equal for sugar or margarine for butter or white for red wine, it might be close but it just won’t be the same. Even different brands of ingredients can make or break a recipe. The same happens when you use a different palette from someone else: The end results are going to be different, there is just no getting around it.

However, you can learn to work with what you have but you are going to need to do a bit of experimenting. If you have an old canvas you can gesso out or a small canvas you don’t mind using for this purpose, you can create a color chart using the colors you have and mixing them with the other colors on your palette then painting little patches to show the end results. Label them so you know what you mixed with what and keep it with you as a reference. Include a patch with white to see the lighter color variation. Until you know your palette in your sleep, the time you take to make this color chart will pay for itself. Often time artists will do this as a matter of course so if they need to change their palette they know what the colors will do if they ad them to their palette. I’ll talk more in class on this subject.

This week was starting the detailing of these petals. Using a lighter version of the sap green (white with sap) and dry brushing (make sure your brush is very dry before picking up paint), I looked at my reference photo to find where the light areas on each petal were and scrubbed in following the way the petal would grow. Many of you are still “painting walls” in that your strokes all go in one direction – usually horizontal – learn to see and feel the 3-D object you are painting with you brush strokes. If an object is rounded, follow the curves, rough, scumble or chop the strokes. Think about what you are painting and try to create its essence on your canvas.

I highlighted all the petals but was careful not to paint over all of my under painting, just ‘cause it is called “Under” doesn’t mean we are going to cover it all up, it just means it was first and our foundation to build upon, it becomes texture and shadow, gives depth and substance to the painting, use it to your advantage.

The last thing I did was start to highlight the center part of the flower. I’m still not concerned with the red spots at this point, all I want to do is establish highlights and shadows, the spots will come last. Using white with a touch of blue and purple to get a cool white on the blue side and dry brush, I scrubbed in the first highlights starting at the end of the center petal and working towards the throat but lightening the pressure on my brush so it would blend in to the darker gray under painting near the throat. Please study the photo carefully, I know it is hard to see but there are subtle changes in shade on the white to suggest a curve and crinkles also, don’t worry about the yellow pollen areas, just worry about the lights and shadows on the center section.

Most important, don’t get discouraged if this isn’t turning out the way you would like, something about a lot of lemons and lemonade. You are all in a learning process, if it has been years since you have had any art training or maybe you haven’t had any art since grade school, where ever you stopped learning is where you have to start right now. This will come if you are patient with yourself and with the process. I’m proud of all of you for the efforts you are putting in, I just wish I could transfer what I know directly into your heads along with the understanding of the medium I have. Until such time I can learn the Vulcan Mind Meld, we will all have to struggle along and hope for the best.

Next week: More highlights and maybe some spots! Start looking for your next project.

Week 3: Watercolor Project – I-Pops

This was the final week for this project, be prepared next week to start you own project. I will show next week how I would put on some of the “fuzzy” stuff on the poppies, but it really isn’t necessary if you don’t want to do it but if you do…

The only thing I showed in class to finish this pict is how to do the background using a wet into wet technique. Many of you don’t like the brush strokes you get doing wet on dry, using wet into wet will eliminate some of that problem, but can create others so it is 6 of one, half dozen of another, nothing is fool proof in art so it is best to learn to accept that there will be “imperfections” in the final product. You want perfect, take a photo, even photography is an art and some are better photographers than others.

With the wet into wet technique, you want to wet “doable” areas at a time. For instance, because this painting already has objects we need to paint around, just start with one section at a time. It won’t do you any good to wet all the areas you want to paint at once because by the time you get done with one section, the rest of the paper will be dry. In lager areas, break it down into workable areas, wetting a part of it, painting the wet area, wetting the next area, etc, working your way around the painting. Turn the painting if you have to but watch out for “blooms” or “run backs” from the excess water that may be hiding under your tape.

First I painted an area with just water to wet the section of the paper I wanted to paint. I was painting over last week’s previous wash so I was careful not to lift the color that was already there. Next I took my blue with a touch of purple in a concentrated form – I.E. very little water, mostly paint – and painted the area. Because the area was wet, the paint spread out and did a lot of the painting for me. I moved on to the next section repeating this process all the way around my flowers.

My other demo was on a variation of this technique. By wetting small areas of a painting – in this case individual petals on a flower – and dropping paint into the wet or gently guiding the paint, you can get some beautiful soft blends of color. The key is to let the paint do most of the work. If you drop one color into another, LEAVE IT ALONE! If you start messing with it, you will loose the battle. I’ve said this before if you try to force watercolor to do your bidding, you will loose. The paint always wins. Don’t get carried away with this either just because it feels good doesn’t mean more is better, reread the under lined above, you will not win until you learn to let the paint do some of the work. Learn how the paper accepts the paint at different points in its drying. How does it react when it is real wet vs just damp to the touch? These are your tools along with your brushes and paints, don’t be afraid to just take a few pieces of paper or get some watercolor cards and experiment, it will only make you a better artist. Not everything is going to be a masterpiece nor should you always just paint a picture. Learning is experience. Experience becomes knowledge and knowledge becomes skill. You can’t skip from learning to skill anymore than you can force watercolor to your will, just not gonna happen.

I hope that my watercolor students will experiment with different techniques or seeing how what you already know can be used in different situations. Remember: It’s just a piece of paper! You are all still learning and the best thing you can do for yourselves is to not be afraid to experiment, this is how you learn.

Next week: Continue on your own projects and making a color chart.

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