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.

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