Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Week 5 – Acrylic and Watercolor Classes

Essentially, I am done with the demos in both classes though I know that people in both classes are still working on the projects. If the previous blog entries don’t answer your questions, please catch me in class or send me an e-mail and I will try to give you some help.

All-in-all, I am very pleased with what I am seeing in both classes. Yes, there is work to be done, however, you have all come a long way, I’m very proud of you.

This week I covered the same subject in both classes, a subject most are baffled about and that is adding people to your paintings. I’m not talking portraits here, I really don’t do portraits, I’m talking “suggestions of people” in your paintings. It isn’t hard but like everything else, it will take a bit of practice and experimentation on your part.

Most of you often hear me refer to the book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards, this is such a great book whether you are wanting to draw or paint because it helps you understand how your brain is working, why you do what you do and why it can get so frustrating getting things to look right on your paper or canvas. That left side seems to want to thwart your every effort if you don’t know how to counter it. That comes with time, patience and practice, if you are diligent, it will become almost second nature, understanding the why, and wherefores is where the book comes in handy.

Most of you, when you are painting a landscape or cityscape know that it would look more natural if you had people or at least a person in it, otherwise, it looks too empty. Adding some life to your painting can change the whole mood of your painting but because you are afraid to “do people” you leave them out. I think the reason we want to leave out people is we are afraid they won’t look like people, the thing is, they don’t have to.

Generally speaking, when you are doing a picture like a landscape where you are taking in a lot of scenery, any people who are going to be in the picture are going to be so small that detail will not be visible. This is important to remember because you don’t need to worry about faces or fingers or hands or feet if the people are so small in the picture they become just shapes, your brain already knows that they have all the parts, you just need to worry about shape, the brain will fill in the blanks.

I suggested that you look at some of the old master’s painting and I’m sure that there are more modern artists that use a similar technique as these techniques get passed down thru the generations, in particular look at street scenes or any painting with people in it. Look at the people closely. You will only see some detail like eyes or hands if the people are in the foreground and close enough to warrant that detail, even those are usually suggestions or detail, all the other “people” are just shapes, you know they are people not because you can recognize individual faces, you are only recognizing the shape along with location or activity they may be doing. I will have some reference books next week you can look at to prove my point.

Whether you are using acrylic, watercolor, oil, pastel or whatever medium you choose, by adding simple shapes with or without color and a few well placed rectangles on top and you’ve got yourself a crowd of people. I showed in both classes that blending some colors together then using a dark color to make heads, I suddenly changed the “blob” into a group of people. Or you can do what Frank Clarke on PBS does for individual people, he paints carrots! Using the basic shape of a carrot – broad at the top, tapering to the bottom – then placing a rectangle shape just above the carrot, you’ve got a person. Paint the top half one color the bottom half a different color and they have clothes. Run the rectangle down into the carrot and you have a woman walking away from you. It’s really all you need (see photo page).

You notice that I say a rectangle shape for the head when most of us think of heads as round. Actually, if you look close, you will notice they are rectangles with rounded tops and bottoms. If you put a round shape on your blobs or carrots, they will take on a cartoonish look, so keep those heads long rather than round and you will be okay.

I know it seems like magic to watch someone do something so simple as to make a blob of color into a group of people, I was amazed the first time I saw it done, maybe you think there is some trick to it, no, actually it is that simple. The “trick” if there is one, is to make sure that your blobs or carrots are in proportion to their surroundings, you don’t want them too small or too large, for instance: If they are standing next to a house, keep in mind basics of a house – a door us usually around 6’ - 7’ tall, a single floor may be 8 ‘ - 10’ tall, if your person is on the same plane as your house (draw a line under both and if the feet of the person and the bottom of the house touch that line, they are on the same plane), if the shape is too big it will look like Hagrid next to the house and if your person is too small it will look like a child, so watch the proportions. Again, you need to practice this so you can understand it, but it is a very handy thing to know to put life in your paintings.

Next week: The sky’s the limit. Have something you want to paint for class, acrylic students think of a subject you would like for next semester, the watercolor class suggested landscapes with trees and old buildings. Both classes note that the new Season’s class schedule is out, Torrance residents can register Wed. May 13th, non residents can register Wed May 27th. Please be sure to register for any classes you want to take and I encourage you to get family, friends, neighbors, gym friends, card buddies…who ever you think of to encourage them to sign up for classes, there is a risk of loosing this art program (all classes, not just mine) if enrollment keeps going down so we need all the bodies we can get to sign up and take classes to keep us going. Thanks. See ya Monday.

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