Week 2 – Acrylic Project: Green Orchid
Mostly what I need to discuss here is technique and being observant. As artists and, in practically, painters, we have to create miracles on our canvases to create an image that appears to have depth and dimension on a 2 dimensional surface, that requires you as the artist and interpreter of the material to figure out how to accomplish the task. What do we have to in our tool box to create a 3D image? Basically, we have very few things, but it is enough.
We have color. We have values. We have contrast. That’s really about it, it’s how we use these things that create a sense of depth and dimension, the problem is when you are starting out, your biggest objective is to get it done. When you are learning to do anything, you need to have patience with yourself and the process, speed will come in time as you learn how these things are used to create the form but first they need to become ingrained into your thought process so they become automatic.
What I saw as I went around the room was students trying to get caught up to where I am and not really paying attention to HOW I got to where I was in my painting. This is not a race; we will take all the time we need to finish a project, the important thing is learning the techniques.
A common problem I saw was not understanding about how contrast works. You need to have dark to show light but you also need it to show depth. Look at the reference pict and focus in the area where the petals go behind the center of the flower. Notice how the top and lower petals are darker near the center than are the two side petals. By working one petal at a time and focusing on creating that contrast in this under painting stage, you will have a lot less work for yourself in later stages. I started with the top and lower petals blending as I went (see previous post) so I could make sure they were below the top petals. Don’t be so restrained by your drawing that it looks like “paint by numbers”, another thing I saw several students doing, work one color into another so it looks like a natural progression of dark to light.
I was asked why we need to do an under painting. Even if you are doing something in a more impressionistic way, like I did my parrot, the under painting is important, it is the foundation of your painting if it is weak, you painting will not stand up. Just think of what would happen to your house without a good foundation and frame, how could you put up drywall or a roof without the supporting structure to hold it up? This is how important an under painting is to any painting so it is not a step to skip.
Another problem I saw was with the application of the paint and some of the brushes. Please make sure that you have bristle brushes, they are cheap for a reason, they are designed to take a lot of abuse. The bristlettes or sables have their purpose but aren’t designed with all the scrubbing in mind plus one brush costs as much or more than a whole tube of bristle brushes.
When I use my brushes, after I rinse them I dry them thoroughly before I pick up paint, many of you had way too much water on your brushes and that waters down the paint causing the paint to run, become more transparent and it doesn’t cover well. Dry your brushes as best you can with a paper towel and make sure you squeeze up near the metal part (feral) of the brush where water can hide. Then when you pick up your paint you don’t need to pick up big gobs. Most of you are working on smaller canvases so pick up just enough to cover a couple inches by scrubbing then reload. This will give you some variation in color that will help your painting.
While it is not written in stone that you should have the exact same colors as I have, it will cause less confusion especially for beginners. Every color has its own properties and when mixed with other colors will give different results. Mixing sap green with sienna is going to give you an entirely different blend then pthalo green with sienna. Sap is a more earthy, yellow green, pthalo is what I call an chemical green, not one usually found in nature, it has its uses but it is hard to use without getting a chemical color. As long as you understand that and also the fact that if you are using different colors from the ones I am using you will get different results, go a head and use them but you may have to experiment to find out what your colors will do, the end result will not be wrong, it will just be different.
About the only thing I did paint new that wasn’t a continuation of last week was the under painting for the white center of the flower. Remember, we need dark to show light so we can’t just paint the center with white and expect it to have depth, we start in the darkest area which is the throat of the flower and work out. Don’t worry about the red spots, that will come later, for now just worry about under painting the center with shades of grey.
I mixed white with touches of blue, sienna and purple to get a fairly dark gray color. Look at the reference photo and the throat of the flower, see how dark it is? This is where I started as I moved out from the center, I added more white to my brush, following the growth of the center with my strokes and lightening it as I went. My strokes on the front part of the center as it came out from the throat were curved as if they were coming up from the center then down the front. Think about what you are painting, think about its shape, what is it doing how can you reflect that in your strokes? Think direction of how it is growing, that is how your strokes should go.
When you are done, the center should be various shades of gray, this will allow you to have some place to go with your highlights when we get to that point. Remember, take your time, you don’t need to rush, however, you do need to learn the technique.
Next week: Adding some highlights.
Week 2: Watercolor Project – I-Pops
I hope you will all read the first 3 paragraphs and paragraph 8 I wrote for the acrylic class because the same applies here. As I go around the room and look at what each of you are doing, I know that I haven’t quite reached you or maybe you don’t trust me enough to try what I suggest, I don’t know but I will keep trying until I get my point across. I have hopes.
I-Pops is a very simple painting but you wouldn’t know it from what I am seeing as I walk around class. I know you all watch me when I do my demos – this is where I think the trust issue kicks in - but I don’t think you believe me that it is simple or easy as I make it look because you go back to your own paintings and really over think the whole process. In theory, I should be able to give you a reference photo and you should go from there, ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED is in the reference photo. It shows you light and dark, shape and details all you need to do is study it and figure out how to achieve each step.
I don’t say this to be mean, I am hoping to get you thinking logically about breaking a subject down into manageable steps that when you put them together you create something you are happy with, mostly what I’m seeing is frustration caused by over thinking.
These types of poppies look like crumpled crape paper, they are not smooth, the lines in the petals are uneven and broken in spots, connecting in spots, thick and thin as they curve up from the bottom to the top. I had to decide how I was going to achieve that look, while I’m sure that there are many ways to this end, what I chose to do was to use the end of my angle brush to create a series of uneven, curved, broken lines to suggest the crumpled look of these flowers. I wanted to enhance the value of the color in some of the areas of the flowers and well as creating a more crumpled look to the flowers, using the end of my brush and paint with very little water to dilute the color, I made a series of choppy, curved lines starting from the bottom where my lines were touching in most places to the edges where I left a lot of the lighter previous wash. (See detail on pict page.) Remember, what I am trying to do is create texture and a sense of light. I referred to my photo often.
I separated the petals on the bud casing with a bit of blue and green on the tip of my brush, rinsed my brush and soften the outside edge by running the damp brush along the edge of the darker color.
When my flowers were dry, I painted in the cast shadows. For the orange flower I used a mix of orange, napthol red and burnt sienna to get a deep red-orange color, you might also need to add a touch of purple but be cautious, the purple can cause muddiness if you use too much. On the yellow flower the first wash was just orange and red but after it dried, I felt it needed something and added a wash of blue and purple, I suggest you do this as well rather than mixing blue and/or purple in with the red and orange. Mixing these colors together will just create a muddy color, by layering the color with washes, as long as you have let one layer dry before putting another wash on top, the layer underneath will show through the top layer, the look will be much cleaner.
Once again when I was applying the shadow color I was thinking of the direction of growth and the texture of the petals. I used the edge of the angled brush and tapped in my color. (See example on pict page) If there was a bit that I didn’t put shadow color on and it was too bright, I rinsed my brush and just tapped it with a damp brush to slightly tone it down and give texture in the shadows. I did this for both flowers and with the blue/purple wash on the yellow flower. Let them dry completely.
I started the background which is an optional step. If you like you painting without the dark background leave it or you can do some of the fuzzy details on the stems and pods if you want, your choice, I kind of like the dark background because it really sets off the flowers and put a spot light on them. I was working wet on dry but if you want a more even application of paint, you can wet the area first then add your paint, I don’t mind the brush strokes and they will become less as I darken the background but you need to do what feels best for you.
Next week: Finish I-Pops. Start looking for subjects for your next project, from here out you are on your own subject wise.