Saturday, May 30, 2009

Summer Classes

Great news! I checked enrollment for my classes and we now have enough people in the watercolor class to keep it open with NO adjustments necessary :-) We can still use a few more people but watercolor is safe.

News for the acrylic class isn't as good but better. We picked up 2 more students but we need at least 4 more so if you haven't signed up for classes yet, please do so as soon as possible so we can keep the class going. The link for the Torr. Art Center is: or you can go in to the office or call the office at 310-618-2720 FAX: 310-781-7598 for both phone in and FAX you will need the class number - 3143.301 - Name of class - "Experiment with Acrylic Painting" and your credit card info. Torrance residence pay $85 Non-residence pay $95.

If we don't get enough people for the acrylic class, if there is room and it fits your schedule, students are welcome to come to the afternoon watercolor class. While I will focus my demo more towards the watercolor group, I will give instruction for the acrylic students, however, it will be better if we can keep the morning class going so find some friends and get them to sign up.

I will post the new project in a couple weeks and will keep you posted on any class developements. Sign up to follow this blog so you get the latest updates. See everyone soon.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer Classes

I really need to remind every one that if you are planning to take classes at the Torrance Cultural Art Center you need to sign up ASAP or they will close the classes! you do not have until classes start on June 22nd because they have a meeting the Wednesday before and close under enrolled classes at that time, if you want your classes to be there you need to sign up now.

I don't want to sound desperate, but I only have 4 enrolled in one class and 2 in the other they will close if more people don't sign up. If your other classes are in the same position as mine, we may all get the summer off.

I will post updates here as we get closer to class time, remember that you can sign up to get notices when ever I update this blog and in the event that classes do close, I will try to post the occasional lesson to help you during the summer.

So grab your neighbors and friends and get everyone enrolled in class, I hope to see you in a couple weeks.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Acrylic and Watercolor Spring 09 Classes

Acrylic and Watercolor Classes.

We have finished our Spring semester with flying colors! Everyone did such a great job in both classes you guys must have a great teacher some place ;-) The art you brought in for critique was really great. Good job everyone.

I’m sorry I forgot to post the notes on creating dimension from the week before, I didn’t think about it until Sunday night and that was a bit late, I will post it now so you can review it during your time off. All the posts are available if you look in the archives, btw, that is why I put them on the internet so you can find answers if you need them.

I do want to remind you that if you want to take classes this summer you need to sign up ASAP. I know that there is a month between the end of the spring classes and the start of the summer ones, but the office needs to know who is taking what so they know what classes to close. If you don’t want your classes to close – mine or any of the others you take or were thinking of taking - you need to sign up as soon as you can and encourage your neighbors and friends to take classes too. Torrance has a great art program and we really need to do what we can to keep it afloat. For more information please go to the Torrance web site and click on classes:

The lesson on giving objects in your painting dimension was basically the same for both the acrylic and watercolor classes so I will just go over the basics here, the key is using your full range of values from dark to light.

If you have ever taken a photography class you have probably heard the teacher say that the best time to take pictures is before 11 a.m. or after 2 or 3 p.m. because of the angle of the light creates shadows that give interest to your subjects, the shadow angles and how they fall on things around them can make a so-so photo into a very interesting picture. The same is true when you paint. Those lights and darks bring interest as well as dimension to your art and play an important roll in the over all composition.

On my bucket I chose light coming in from the upper left. What this means is the left outside of the bucket will have highlights and the right will be in shadow, however, the inside will be the opposite because the wall of the bucket blocks the light in the left inside of the bucket but the light falls on the right inside of the bucket. (See photo). I know it sounds confusing so look around to find examples on your own – flower pots, cups, glasses, pots – really observe what is going on with the light.

The key to getting an object to have dimension is using the full range of value: You need some light highlights and dark shadows. I heard one artist say that you need to have at least 5 changes in value but the more changes in value you can put into your painting, the more realistic you painting will become, adding more interest and excitement. Think about this when you are painting and how you can get those value changes to work for you.

On the bucket, starting from the left side I have my brightest highlight, my light area, a transition area (it’s going away from the light), a medium dark form shadow, a dark form shadow and a reflected highlight. You should all know by now what a highlight and shadow are but you may not know what a form shadow is compared to a cast shadow and what the heck is a reflected highlight? They are very important to your painting.

First on the list is a FORM SHADOW. A form shadow is exactly as it sounds the shadows on the objects that give them form in your painting. It usually isn’t as dark as a CAST shadow because of all the light that bounces around living here on Earth, light is scattered by the molecules and particles in our air and is usually scattered into the form shadows and that is where the REFLECTED HIGHLIGHT comes in the last light to be absorbed is the blue violet range, adding a touch of this color to your darkest form shadows makes the subject come alive. It is also perfectly okay to add other colors into the shadows especially of other objects that may be close by and reflecting light, just keep these colors subtle. A CAST shadow is usually darker than a form shadow because it is blocking the light and it is darkest just under and close to the object. As it moves away, it too gets scattered light bouncing through it so it will get lighter, just remember that all shadows are in the cool range of colors – blues and purples – look for these examples in your daily life, don’t take my word for it, you need to know it is true.

These are the things I keep in mind when I am painting regardless of medium. I am posting a pastel I won a prize with so you can see how understanding light and shadow can work for you. Most of you will look at it and see a white crane, look again. There is very little actual white on the bird at all, it is mostly blues and purples yet you know it is a white bird. Note the reflected highlight on the chest and underside and that only across the shoulders a, top of his head and a few feathers on his back are actually white.

I hope that everyone uses the time off to practice what we have done in class. If you are going on a vacation (I envy you) the same principals apply to your photographs as they do to your painting, though I will mention that if you are thinking of using your pictures for reference, take a series of pictures. Start with a wide overall photo from different angles, then move/zoom in. If you can take close-ups or detail photos it will give you a great reference when you are doing the actual. How many times have you squinted at a photo wanting to know what was going on in a certain area? Take the picture while you are there and you won’t have to guess. Most of all, have a great time and I will see you when you get back all ready and charged up for the new semester!

I will post here any updates for class any need to know things if I hear them regarding registration and when we get close, I will post info on the class project. Summer 09 is landscapes. If you come up to the PV Art Center in June, I will be featured artist in the Artist Studio gallery, I will be showing some of my animal paintings in acrylic and pastel. See ya all soon.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spring 09 Acrylic and Watercolor Classes

Acrylic/Watercolor Week 6 Demo

I did similar demos in both classes so a lot of what I needed to preface the demo applies to both classes, I will give a description on “how to” in both media further down.

This week I went over how to paint realistic skies when you are doing landscapes. Once again, your best teacher is observation. Don’t take my word on this go out and look at the sky, take pictures of the sky at various times of day. When you are on vacation take lots of pictures of sky and clouds in the various places you visit so you can compare what a desert sky looks like compared to a Hawaiian sky. The more information you have at your disposal the better your sky will be. However, that said, you really need to look and analyze the sky when you are there because photographs can lie, this is especially true when you are working from a magazine photo or postcard. The photographer and/or printer wants to project the best image they can when showing it to the public which means most images you see commercially have had some “tweaking” so what you see in the final product may not always be what was actually there when the photo was taken.

When you look at a sky, look at the horizon see what color it is. If you have a piece of white paper or cardboard, poke a hole in it and look at the horizon thru that hole and compare the “value” of that patch of sky to the whiteness of the paper, then while still looking through the hole scan up until you are looking up. What do you see? How has the value changed from the horizon to over head? What about the color? These things are important because gravity pulls all the molecules towards earth so the atmosphere it more dense near the ground, as you are looking up, you are looking through less atmosphere and the dark blue of the sky is actually influenced by the black of space that is just beyond the atmosphere. As an artist, if you want a natural sky, it is important to understand that a clear sky does get darker from horizon to overhead.

Another thing you need to know is how different things will affect how a sky looks. Morning skies are usually cooler not only actually temperature-wise but also cooler color-wise. Use pinks and purples in a morning sky to suggest a cool morning. Afternoon/early evening skies are much warmer and the colors reflect that warmth. Use yellow, oranges and reds to bring warmth to your skies. Dust and water vapor will also affect how a sky looks. Dust or smog can make a sky look brownish near the horizon, water vapor can make a sky look milky, your job is to figure out how to get the sky to look the way you want. On to the demos.

Acrylic Demo.

Read and understand this first before you start because if you stop to read what’s next your paint will dry and that’s a different kettle of fish.

I usually start a sky by lightly applying a layer of gesso to my sky area. I use this to mix my color into and because gesso is slower drying, it gives me a longer time to blend my skies plus gesso is more opaque and covers better.

For this discussion I will explain how to do an afternoon sky.

While the gesso is still wet, using my soft blender brush (2” hake brush), I pick up a bit of yellow and streak it along the bottom or the sky area, then pick up a bit of red and streak it a bit above the yellow (you can double load the yellow and red, or do red alone or use orange), then gently, using chris-cross strokes, blend the two colors. I cannot over stress the importance of the word “gently”, I barely touch the canvas as I work one color into the next. Don’t overwork this step because you still need to get the darker sky colors before the gesso dries.

Once you have lightly blended the horizon colors, clean your brush but make sure that you have squeezed the excess water out of it then dried it in a paper towel, the brush needs to be dry or the excess water will ruin your sky.

On the clean dry brush, pick up both blue and a touch of purple on your brush and streak it along the top of the canvas, then again using the gentle chris-cross strokes blend these colors down toward the other colors (it should be more blue than purple) but do not go into the other colors yet. First clean and dry your brush, the starting in the lighter area, blend up into the darker area. Gently blend these areas until you can no longer see where one starts and the other ends.

If you haven’t figured out why I had the red between the yellow and the blue, think about what color yellow and blue make. Green usually isn’t a color you associate with most skies so you need to put red or orange between blue and yellow though orange will create a brownish color, it isn’t bad for LA skies.

If you want to put clouds in your sky, do not start out with white. Again look at clouds. Even the biggest, puffiest, whitest clouds are mostly shades of gray or blue-gray but they are only white where the sun hits them directly. Storm clouds are darker then clouds on a sunny day and most clouds have more color in them than you’d expect, don’t be afraid to add touches of color into your cloud mix.

Using white with a touch or blue, sienna and purple, I mix a gray color for the under painting of the clouds, the less white you use the darker the color. I used a #10 flat bristle brush using both the flat side and the side of the brush in a circular motion. This is a dry brush technique so not too much water, or paint on the brush and don’t press too hard either. Remember to keep edges soft particularly the bottom of your clouds. Clouds come in all shapes and sizes but all are done with a dry brush. Highlight with the same stroke just a lighter color.

Watercolor Sky Demo:

Wetting the sky area with clear water first will help you when you are painting your skies. While the paper is pretty wet pick up some blue and purple (mostly blue) and streak it across the top of your sky, then rinse your brush. With just water guide the paint down the page. It will help if your paper is at a slight angle, gravity will work with you to get a graded wash of color. If you want to add color at the horizon, turn the paper upside down and start with yellow, then red or orange rinse your brush and with just water blend it into the blue. Turn your paper as needed to get the results you want. The wetter the paper to start the faster your paint will run so it may take a few times to learn to control this mix of water and paint. However, this is much simpler than it is for the acrylic class because watercolor will do a lot of the work for you if you let it.

If you want to add clouds to your sky, again watercolor wants to help you. While your sky is still wet (you will need to experiment to know what works best for you, usually just as it looses its shine is good) you can drop just water or alcohol into your sky or very dilute color or use a paper towel to lift color or use a brush or sea sponge to lift color. You can also plan the clouds while you are painting the sky and “negative” paint around the cloud areas. Practice this and experiment so you know what your colors and paper will do.

Next week: Rock on!

Remember our last class is May 18th so have something for critique. The Seasons catalogs are out and sign ups for class start May 13th for Torrance residences and May 27th for non-residences. Go to click on “classes” for more information.