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. http://picasaweb.google.com/artclasspics/Spring09#

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: http://picasaweb.google.com/artclasspics/Spring09#

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
www.torrnet.com click on “classes” for more information.

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