Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer 09 Watercolor

Watercolor Week 5 – Peaceful Alaskan Village

This was the final week for our Alaskan Village so next week be sure to have something you want to paint with you.

First thing I did was to mask out parts of the foreground so I didn't have to remember to paint around the flowers and weed. I did this at home so it would be ready for class. I usually let the masking dry on its own because if you use a hairdryer you run the risk of melting the masking into the paper which will cause it to tear the paper when you try to take it off, IF you can get it off. However, if you do want to use a dryer on it use one that has a no heat option and hold the dryer at least a foot or more from the paper.

I didn't have to paint the whole area with masking, only the areas that were in front of things I needed to paint like the boat and the water, this allows me to paint those things without having to worry about painting over something I wanted lighter.

When I bring my demo paintings home, I usually set them up on my easel and look at them when I go by, especially when I am getting close to the end of a painting – all my paintings - I really need to just look at them to see if there is anything that needs my attention. I'm not focusing on the areas that I was having trouble with when I was painting, I am looking at the "whole" painting. How do all the parts fit together? Are there any areas that really draw my eye away from areas I want the eye to stay? Did I miss anything important? When I looked at this painting I realized that I hadn't put in shadows from the main buildings. Shadows helps things to become a part of the picture and it helps establish the direction of the light source.

Using a mix of blue and purple and enough water to thin it some, I painted in the shadow for the building on the far side of the water. Remember the shadow is going up a bank and it is on the left side of the building. Next, I mixed a bit more blue into the wash and painted a shadow into the water in the general shape of the building, then with a clean damp brush, softened and pulled the edges of the shadow much like I did with the reflections. I also used this color on part of the bank that is right behind the flowers in the foreground right.

I know this may sound like I am stating the obvious but there is a difference between shadows and reflections. Shadows appear when an object blocks light coming from a slight source, in this case the sun. As the sun moves across the sky, so will the shadows. However, a reflection, such as the one in the water, can only reflect what is directly above it, it never moves so a shadow can move across the reflection changing shape and angles as the sun moves across the sky, the reflection stays the same.

After I got the shadows in, I painted in the pilings for the closer building using a dark color (blue, purple and sienna) and my ½" angle brush. Remember to not bring the pilings down to the same plane, the back piling should be shorter than the front piling because it is further away.

The boat in the picture can be any color you want but I like the red because it draws your attention. I mixed some napthol (Grumbacher or Windsor) red into the shadow color I had on my palette to paint the top stripe. There is a white molding around the top so I painted just below where I wanted the molding. I then mixed a bit of blue and green together for the lower stripe but skipped a thin space the length of the boat to suggest a white stripe between the two. If you can see water below your boat – mine was almost hidden by the foreground plants – skip a little space where the boat goes into the water and using the same two colors in reverse order (blue/green then red), paint the reflection of the boat in the water. This will also help with the plants because you are making the area behind the foreground weeds darker and you need dark to show light.

The shadow in the inside of the boat is your blue/purple mix. It will be darkest near the bottom of the boat so you can apply some paint, rinse your brush then blend that color up. Remember to paint around (negative paint) the seats. There is also a molding along the top on the inside of the boat that needs a shadow right under it. The motor I painted with red and what ever was on my brush so it wasn't pure red.

When I stepped back and look at my progress, I realized that I really didn't have much of a contrast between the water and the top edge of the boat so I mixed a wash of mostly blue and carefully painted the water right behind the boat with this wash and continued using this wash to darken behind the foreground and front of the boat, then using the edge of my brush and the same wash, I created some ripples in the water. Keep the ripple lines basically flat so you water looks flat.

Before you take off the masking, remember to paint in the post and rope the boat is tied to, once everything is dry, you can peel the mask away. It is best to pull or rub it off in the direction of the dry area not what you just painted because if it is the slightest bit damp, you will tear your paper.

The foreground weeds were painted with a combination of sap green and yellow for the brighter weeds sometimes adding more yellow or orange, the darker weeds I added blue and sienna. Keep your corners darker, it helps to focus the viewers eye and most of all, remember that these are wild growing weeds not some over-managed garden, let your strokes overlap, go from thick to thin from grass to bushes to cattails. The more jumbled it is the better.

At this point you are on your own. You can do as much or as little detail as you want. Take what you have learned and see where you can apply it to other paintings.

Next week a drawing lesson I think.

We only have 2 more classes before this semester ends, I really want to remind and encourage you to sign up as early as you are allowed to for any classes you want to take and please spread the word to friends and neighbors about the great classes that are offered here at Torrance Art Center. We really need to keep this great program going and word of mouth is one of the best ways to let people know. The Fall semester starts the week of Sept. 20th registration should start at the end of August for Torrance residences and a week or so later for everyone else. I will post to this blog during our "off" time so check back. Don't let your favorite class get canceled, sign-up ASAP, thanks. See everyone Monday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Watercolor Summer 09

Watercolor Week 4 – Peaceful Alaskan Village

We really didn't do much on our project this week because as I looked around the class, many of you were at least a week behind and I didn't want to get too far ahead of you or you would be even more confused than you already are.

As a teacher, it is often hard to judge how students are going to see a project and how they understand what I am saying. There are times I think that you are over-thinking the whole thing. I haven't said this in a while, but I think you need a reminder that it is just a piece of paper! When you take a class you are trying to learn something new, yet, you look at what I do in my demo and it looks easy but you don't believe it. When you go back to your own painting, rather than trying the easy way, you find new and creative ways to frustrate yourselves. I don't say this to be mean, it's just an observation.

If you got to know me, one thing you would find out is that I'm lazy. I'm going to find the easy way to do something especially if I'm painting. I want to get the thing done, I don't want to fuss with it forever, I want to move on to the next project. So if what I do looks easy its because it is easy. I'm not trying to razzle dazzle you with my fancy brush work, I'm trying to show you the easiest way to get the job done. Its okay to do things your own way, that is how you will develop your own style, just don't make it hard on yourself and you will have success more often than not as you learn.

Keep in mind that you aren't going to be painting a masterpiece in any class you take unless you are working independently as a studio substitute. You are on a journey of learning when you are in a class and it is often hard at times to understand all that you are seeing and hearing, you really need to make time to paint at home on things that you want to do, that is where you will start seeing progress because you aren't comparing what you are doing to mine or others in class.

The building on the far side of the water needed pilings to finish it up and a railing leading up to it from the land. I made the pilings by mixing a very dark color (blue, purple and sienna) and using the edge of my angle brush or a flat brush, just touched the paper to create the supports and some of the cross bars. If you want, you can use a small round brush for this part as well as creating the reflections in the water as I did when I got to the reflections. The reflections of the pilings aren't as long as the pilings themselves because of foreshortening but when you do them skip a little space in the water and wiggle your brush, keep a paper towel handy to lift a bit if they look too dark.

At the front of the building there is a railing you can put this with the round brush with the same dark color. Rinse your brush and bring some green "bushes" up in some places to settle the railing down into the scene.

For some reason the building on the close side seems to have been a problem for many of you, more where it sits than it's shape. Both the buildings by the water start out on a bank but extend out so that they are almost over the water. This is a tidal area and when the tide comes in, the water is almost up to the bottom of the buildings so that the fishing boats can unload their catches. The pilings keep the building level with the ground above high tide but the shore has been eroded away to for a bank that falls away from the underside of the buildings. The closer building sits on a spit of land that sticks out into the water so that the water goes behind it. It looked pretty clear to me but after seeing all the problems people were having, I thought I should try to explain, that is where the reference photos come in handy, don't look at the drawing after you have it on the paper, it is just a rough guide, it is the photos that are going to be your real guide to painting this picture or any picture because it holds all the information you will need.

The roofs of the two building by the water are probably corrugated metal to create the look of old metal, once again we use the dry brush technique. I used a ½" flat brush and sienna on the far building and sienna and a touch of blue on the front building just to change the flavor a bit. Remember to dry your brush thoroughly even the water in your pool of paint can make your brush too wet to d a good job and with a light stroke, follow the direction of the slant of the roofs with each stroke keeping the strokes parallel to each other. It will help if you lightly tap the end of your brush up and down on your palette to spread the bristles a bit or you can spread them with your fingers, if they close back up, you may have too much water in your brush, dry it and try again.

The bank on the close side is in the shadows so add blue to the green you use to cool it down, when you get to the upper part of it you can add some yellow because it might be in the sun. I painted around the flowers in the foreground but for next week I think I will have put masking fluid on those areas to make it easier, I'll try to remember my masking fluid next week. Under the building the shadows are very dark because it is a cast shadow. Follow the shape of the bank with a dark wash of blue and purple all the way down to the water. Don't worry about the pilings, we will do those next time but when you are painting near where the sun might be shining, use the tip of your brush to make an uneven line to suggest grass and weeds.

I really do want to finish this painting up next Monday so please try to have your own paintings up to this point, we still have the canoe and the foreground to do and some details on the close building but that should be it. Remember, it is the journey that is the important thing not the destination.

Until Monday.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Watercolor Summer 09

Week 3 – Watercolor – Peaceful Alaskan Village

This week I worked on finishing the background houses and trees, started the reflections and gave the closer buildings an "old wood" look.

First, I looked for places where I could add some cast shadows in the background. A good place for a cast shadow is from the chimneys on the houses even some from trees that might be close enough to cast a shadow on the roof. A few shadows will give a sense of direction to the light with just a few suggestions from the artist. Don't get carried away, remember this is the background, save detail for the fore ground.

The bushes on the hillside were separated out using "negative painting". Because it is such a small area, I've done a demo which I've photographed and posted on the picture page. This was an exercise that I use to have my students do but I got too many groans, however, I think it was one of the most useful exercises I ever learned when I was taking classes because negative painting can be used is so many way to create depth and detail in a painting, I encourage all my students to try it.

The first panel shows the basic layout of the leaves and the first layer of color which I did by wetting the entire paper and splashing or dripping color onto the wet paper and let it dry (Fig. 1). I also numbered the leaves so you can see which one is the top one, second…4th. Each wash was basically the same value, a mix of cobalt blue and orange to make a cool grey color and I let each wash dry before I started the next.

When you "negative paint", you are painting around the thing you want to create, so my first wash of grey, I painted everything EXCEPT leaf one (Fig 2). I left that as the first light wash of color. The next layer of leaves I painted everything EXCEPT leaf one and the 2 leaf 2s (Fig 3). Leaf three was added to leaves layers 1 & 2 and finally (Fig 4), the only thing I was painting was the dirt around all the leaves. (Fig. 5) In the final panel I added color and detail to my leaves because each layer is lighter than the one below it, adding color only strengthens the value change between the layers. Remember: Watercolor is accumulative so what is underneath shows through the layers above it deepening the value and the color intensity.

The reflection of the trees and buildings can be a bit tricky and can be totally ruined with too much detail, it is better to suggest than try to replicate the scene above the water. Remember, the water is always moving so nothing is in focus and it is polarized light so the reflections can be darker than what is being reflected.

I took a color that was close but slightly darker than what I wanted to reflect (building, tree, grass…) and loosely created the shape in the water by pulling straight down for the most part. I rinsed my brush and with the damp brush softened the edges, pulled the color down and then across using very light strokes, I just wanted to soften the shape I put in the water. Water reflects what is directly above it so you will see more of the underside of the buildings than the walls or roof. Also note that I'm not painting or painting around the pilings that hold the buildings up, I am saving that for later and will use a combination of lifting and positive painting to create them, right now, they would just be in the way.

Lastly, I started creating some detail in the wood of the two closer buildings. This requires using a "dry brush" technique. This is also a very useful technique and does require practice to get the right amount of paint on a damp brush and getting it to come off on the paper so I suggest that you practice before working on your buildings. The biggest problem most students have after having too much water on their brush, is using too much pressure on their brush and they get a more solid look to the paint. The key is to just lightly touch the surface with the brush and let the paper take what it wants. This is great for not only creating realistic looking wood, but can also be used to create the shimmer on water. (See pict page)

Monday, if you have masking fluid you might want to bring it and an old brush. There are some things in the foreground that might be easier to do if they were masked out, however, if you don't have any masking you can use some of mine or not worry about it, I will show you different ways to create the foreground. This will probably finish up this painting so be looking for your own projects and be thinking about what you would like to cover in the fall class, I'm open to suggestions.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer 09 Watercolor Class

Watercolor – Week 2 “Peaceful Alaskan Village

This week we finished off the trees behind the houses. In the pine trees I added a few trunks to some of the closer trees. I didn’t do this to all of them, just a few. There are a couple ways you can add tree trunks one is by “lifting” and the other is by just painting them in, the thing to remember is to only paint portions of the trunks not the entire trunk. This will make it look like there are branches in front and behind the visible trunk. I like to use my flat or angled brush on its edge and just touch the paper where I want a trunk if I am painting the trunk. If I am lifting the trunk, I rinse, clean and dry my brush in between strokes and gently brush the paper where I want the trunk to be. You don’t need to push too hard on your brush to remove paint. If it doesn’t come up, blot it with a clean paper towel and if you are still having problems you may have use a “staining” type paint, if that is the case, you will have to either just leave it or paint in the trunks.

Where I painted the bushes/deciduous trees, I did what is called “negative painting”. Negative painting is when instead of painting the thing itself, you paint around the thing so that the thing will stand out because it is lighter than what is around it. This is a standard technique for watercolorists because we work from light to dark, knowing how to negative paint is very useful.

I was using my small, 1/2” angle brush with a cool green color, Hooker’s and ultra marine blue and loaded it on the tip of the brush, then I placed the brush where I wanted to start the shadows behind a bush I wanted to be in front and created the shadow. If you are using an angle brush, make sure the brush is clean when you load it, then put the whole brush on the paper, you should get a nice even blend from dark to light. If you aren’t using an angle brush, first paint in the dark shadow directly behind the bush you want to bring forward, rinse your brush and dry off the bulk of the water then with the damp brush, soften that dark line into the tree that is behind. Practice on a separate piece of paper if you need to, this is almost your “bread and butter” technique when it comes to watercolor – put a color down then soften one edge it has many uses.

Next I painted in the water with a very dilute mix of blue, what ever was on my palette and lots of water, when applied to the paper it should just barely tint the area. First I wet the area with just clear water, this will help you get the wash on quickly and not have any blooms or back runs you might encounter if you worked wet on dry. Paint around the boat but do paint ALL of the water area with this wash, that includes all of the areas where there will be reflections. Reflections are darker than what they reflect because of polarized light so this wash will work to your advantage.

While the water was still wet, I took some sienna and purple and painted in some of the shore line. You want this color to touch the water and bleed down into it, this will be the start of the reflections.

We are finally at a point where we need to determine the direction of the light. This is an important aspect many overlook but is essential to give depth and interest to you painting. For this painting the light is coming from the front right side of the painting that means that the right sides of things will be the brightest and the warmest color-wise.

For those who are new to art concepts and for those who might not understand how this works, I will go over “warm” and “cool” colors. Some of this is just plain common sense but we take it for granted because we haven’t really thought about it. What do you think of when you see colors like red, yellow or orange? Next what do you think of when you see blue, purple, dark green or aqua? The first set of colors should bring thoughts of sun, heat, deserts, summer, fire – warmth. The second group of colors should have made you think of shadows, winter, ice or cool things. So if you want to create a feeling of warmth in your painting, use more of the warm colors, if you want it to seem cool, use the cool colors of the palette. These colors also help you show direction of light: Use the warm colors on the sunny sides of things and cool colors in your shadows to bring dimension to your painting.

If you are still having trouble with this, find a place where you can see both the sun-lit side of something and the shadowed side and study it. If it is a white surface it will help. Try to figure out how you would paint what you see. What colors would you use to show light and shadow? Don’t take my word for it, see it, it will help you understand and you can bring that understanding to all your paintings.

First, I painted the back houses with a dilute mix of blue. I painted all sides of the houses except the roofs, for now, don’t worry about doors or windows yet, just paint the house walls. When they were dry, I used a darker version of the same color by adding a touch more blue or purple and painted the mix I had to paint just the shadow sides. Again picking up more shadow color on my brush, I painted a darker shadow just under the eves even on the sunny side of the houses. If you have a hard line on the edge of that eve shadow, rinse your brush and run a damp brush along that edge to soften it. Let it dry while you more on to the front buildings.

Because they are closer, we can add more color to them. Another thing to keep in mind: Things in the distance are greyer, smaller and less detailed than things in the foreground. The roofs of these buildings are probably old tin or metal of some sort, for my first wash, I used a very dilute mix of sienna and lots of water. You can also use orange or yellow or ocher, the key is to keep it very light for now.

After I finished the roofs, I painted the sunny side of the buildings using the same sienna mix but adding just a touch more color and a touch of blue to grey it. You want it to be a warm grey so not too much blue and keep it thin, use lots of water. While the side is still wet, you can drop warm colors into the wet paint so long as the paint you are using is also very dilute. Just touch your brush to the paper and let the paint do the work. I used orange, red and even some light green I made with yellow and sap. I did this to both the closer buildings.

On the shadowed side, I used the sienna but mixed in some purple along with the blue to use as my shadow color. Again, I dropped in some other colors into the wet paint only this time I used cool colors like blue, Hooker’s green and purple. I let this dry before adding the shadows under all the eves using purple and blue on the tip of my brush with very little water. These are “cast” shadows so the are darker than the “form” shadows on the building. (“Cast” shadows are caused by something blocking the direct light, a “form” shadow is the side of an object that isn’t getting the direct light.)

Also with this dark color, I created windows and doors in the back buildings. If they look too dark, you can blot them with your towel of lift a bit of color with a clean brush.

Lastly, I painted the hillside on the far bank. While I was painting them, I was thinking about what I was painting: Lots of bushes! Rather than just painting with flat strokes, I dabbed and moved my brush around, I picked up other colors and covered the area down to just below the top of the building near the water. Keep your color light in value and hue (the actual color). When I got to that lower area which is a steep hillside, I changed my stroke to follow the curve of the side of the hill, then flattened it out near the water. This is more grassy than bushy so my strokes need to express that change.

We may only have another couple weeks on this project so start looking for something to paint for the duration of the class. Monday we will work some more on the hillside bushes and start detail on the buildings and the reflections.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Summer 09 Watercolor Class

Watercolor – Week 1: Peaceful Alaskan Village

For this painting I used 2 photos, taken by my sister-in-law Susan, of the same place because each had elements I wanted to use that weren’t in the other, this is called a composite and it is a great way to create a more interesting painting than using only one source, artists were the original photoshop. This is why I tell you to have reference material at your disposal whether it is your own photos (the best option) or collecting images from magazines or now, finding them on the web. They will provide you with inspiration.

I also used my “artistic license” when I designed the drawing. There were more houses and no mountains visible so I removed some houses and added mountains, remember, this is art and you art the creator of the art, you have power to move or remove, add or subtract anything that will give you the painting you want. If you want to paint every stick and leaf, that is up to you, however, it is better to simplify and let your view do some of the work rather than hit them over the head with detail.

When I drew my sketch on my watercolor paper, I only drew the main elements of the scene, basically the mountains, houses and the boat. These are really the only things I need as long as I have my reference photo handy, the trees and weeds, even the water will change depending on time of day or year so it doesn’t matter if I have every single one planted exactly where it is in the photo, no one is going to care. If you feel the need to place the positions of the trees in your painting, just draw straight lines, you will be filling the rest of the tree with paint.

Before I started working on my painting, I did a quick demo on how to get distance into your watercolor using a wet into wet technique and using several light washes to get the desired effect. This is something you need to practice because it is a bit tricky at first but it is part of the learning process. First I wet a section of my paper with just water and let it sit a minute while I mixed my first wash. Things that are in the distance are lighter and greyer in color and don’t have any hard edges because of scattered light and all the atmosphere between them and the viewer, knowing this, I started with a cool grey color (see mix below) and painted my first layer of mountains across the wet paper and also on to the dry area for comparison. This should be a very light wash. The next layer or mountains I added more color and less water and repeated the process just below my first range. On the third pass, I added some green to the mix and again painted another range of mountains. With each successive range, the paper became drier so when I painted the next range it was less diffused from the one before it creating the illusion of distance.

When I start painting, I generally start from what is furthest away and work forward, obviously, the sky is always going to be the most distant thing in your painting. The reason I usually start this way – and there are exceptions to every rule – is so I don’t have to “paint around” things in front to get those distant things in later, you can end up with something that looks rather “cut and pasted” rather than part of your painting. This painting doesn’t have a lot of sky but it still needs to be done first so we don’t have to worry about it. It is a partly cloudy sky, I mixed blue (I used cobalt here but ultra marine will work so will cerulean, avoid thalo, it won’t work here) and burnt sienna because I wanted a cool grey color, I also use a lot of water to dilute the color. I pre-wet my the sky and mountain area of my paper (about the top third) with just water and starting at the top, lightly touched my brush (my ¾” angle brush) filled with my sky color along the top part of the sky. I rinsed and dried my brush so that it was damp but not dripping and touched the bottom of the color I just put down so it will move done the page. While the sky was still wet, I picked up very dilute (a lot of water very little color) colors like blue and red and just touched the wet sky with the brush this will look like clouds and sky when dry. Let the water and paint work for you, just touch or drop the paint into the wet and let it do its thing.

This stage will go quickly because you need the paper to remain damp to get the desired effect, applying a new layer at each stage of drying. First, I need to let that area dry just a little before I start on my mountains but I don’t want it totally dry, you should still be able to see a bit of sheen of water on the paper. While I’m waiting, I added a bit more blue and sienna but little water to the color I just used for the sky. I want it maybe a shade or two darker than the sky but it is still going to be a light blue grey color. I painted my first range of mountains while the sky was still wet. If it needed a bit of help diffusing along the bottom of my mountains (your paper will dry at different rates depending on the weather, how much water you used, where you sit in class and how long you take to go from the sky to the mountains so this is good to know), I rinsed my brush and with a damp but not dripping brush, just like I did in the sky, I run the brush along the bottom of this color to soften the edge.

The next layer of mountains is closer so this time I added some sap green to the same mix with little water to get a soft grey/green color. The paper should still be damp, you want the color to diffuse when you put it down. If you need to, lightly brush the area with clean water to rewet the area if it has dried, then paint this next range of mountains this time don’t paint a smooth edge, wiggle your brush a bit the uneven edge will look like distant trees.

Quickly, add some more green and a touch or blue and/or purple to the same mix of color, you want a slightly darker grey/green for this step. Using you brush on its edge and using downward strokes, this next layer will be trees that are much closer to us so we will be seeing some basic tree shapes. It is the top most edge of this layer that is important, you want to vary the height of the tops of the trees so you suggest individual trees off in the distance. The bottom of this layer should come down almost to the first row of houses. This is where you will let your painting dry completely before going on to the next step. If you want, you can use a hair dryer to speed the process.

Controlling the value of a color (its intensity) depends on how much water you use. The more water you use, the lighter the value; the more pigment (color) you use, the darker the value (more intense). This is important to understand because you need to have a good variety of values to bring depth to you painting. If you start out with too much intensity/value to your paint, you have nowhere to go and your painting will look flat. Conversely, if all your layers are very light your painting will look flat but this is easier to fix than a painting that is too dark. Keep this in mind.

Up to this point our layers should be on the light side, with this next layer, we will be moving more into the foreground so our colors will become more intense, this means more paint less water. We also need to control our brush a bit more, I don’t mean nose to the paper type of control, just learning how to use our brush to get desired effects.

Remember this step the paper needs to be dry, feel it with the back of your hand if it feels cool, it is still wet and needs to dry. It should feel like room temperature when dry.

In the same puddle of paint we have been using, I mixed Hooker’s green (sap will work if you don’t have Hooker’s), ultra marine blue and a touch of purple to create a dark green color. Using my ½” angle brush, I start each tree by first using the edge of the brush to draw a line by touching the edge to the paper, then with the tip, I do quick “flips” with the brush to create the top most branches. The strokes become longer the further down the tree I go. Think of a pine tree and how they grow while you are painting. Also, as you go down the tree, you can pick up more blue and purple to darken the lower parts of the trees as if they are going into shadow.

To that basic mix of paint, you can add burnt sienna or orange even red to vary the color of the trees, just remember to use it in other places in your painting or you will have a unique color that can be distracting to your finished painting.

Vary the height and size of your trees as you paint them. Congest the bottoms. Get them dark behind the houses. Have darker ones and lighter ones. All this variety adds interest and make your forest more believable.

To paint the other types of trees I used sap green with some yellow and painted some tree shapes in front of the pine trees near the houses. To create branches in these trees, while they were still wet I took my finger nail and etched in some branches. You can use the tip of a sharp knife, exacto blade or cut up credit card as well, just remember that once you break the surface of your paper it will always react different than the rest of the paper, so this is permanent.

Next week we will finish these trees and start on the houses and the water.