Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fall 09 Class Projects Week 4

Acrylic Project Week 4 – "Feed Us!"

This was the final day for the Koi. Basically, I should be done with all the under painting at this point so I can do the finishing touches and highlight, what I need to do is stand back and look at my over all picture and I mean that literally. Get up and stand at least 6' away from your painting to look at it. 6' is the typical distance a viewer will be when looking at a painting, it is important for you as a painter to get up and look at your painting from a distance rather than focusing on one small area at a time which is what you do when you are sitting right next to it as you paint. Of course you are going to see all the "flaws" because you are on top of them but before you try to correct or fix these flaws, get up and look at the overall picture, 90% of the time these "flaws" will disappear or enhance the painting in some way, nit picking away at every little thing will make your painting look over worked and tight, as my mother often tells me: "It's a painting, dear, not a photograph!"

I need to make sure that I have all my lights and shadows to the value (lightness or darkness) that I want them and that my fish are the right colors. Where I needed to brighten on the heads and backs of the orange fish I used orange and yellow, the red fish cad red and orange. The white fish I just wiped out the paint from my brush and mixed in some white, what was on my brush was enough to tint the white for the light areas on its back. The fancy fish was a combination of the orange and white fish.

An observation I made as I walked around the room was impatience. I know that when you aren't painting something that you are emotionally connected to it is more like root canal but when you try to take short cuts and do finishing work before you get the foundation of your painting completed, whether it is the class project or your own, the only thing you are going to accomplish is frustrating your selves. I try to paint in a logical way so you can see how to build you painting much like a house: putting down a good foundation, building the framing, plastering the walls, adding the roof and finally adding the decorations and furniture. Yet, I see many of you who have barely got the walls up on your painting, moving the furniture in and wanting to know if it is done! If you enjoy sitting in an unfinished house with the rain pouring in, well, yes, you are done.

This goes for all forms of art and all media. You need to learn patience and allow the process to come to is natural conclusion no matter what you are doing, even abstract. Rushing to the end is only going to make your painting look incomplete because it is. You will be frustrated and that frustration will only magnify itself in your next painting. Most of you don't have any deadlines to meet with your paintings so why rush to get to the end? Enjoy and learn from each step and you will be rewarded in the long haul as you watch your paintings and your techniques, evolve and improve.

Back to the task at hand, once I have my foundation painting where I think it needs to be, my next step is adding highlights and finishing detail, this is also where I finally broke out my small, round sable brush. First I loaded the tip of it with white paint and put highlights in the eyes of each fish. I just barely touched the canvas with the paint so I only left a little in each eye. That dot of white brings life to the eyes so it is important. Next I looked or other areas that could use a highlight like the "lids" over the eyes or the tops of the lips, edges of fins or tail, these are quick "dots and dashes" of light to bring form and life to the fish. Use yellow with a little touch of orange on the tip of the small brush and apply the paint rather thick on the orange fish, do the same on the red fish using mostly orange with some cad red on the red fish, wipe out your brush and mix what is in the brush with the white for the white fish again applying the paint thickly. Don't spend a lot of time on this, it is quick little applications of paint. Don't forget the fancy fish.

Some of the fish are very near the surface and are causing ripples, on the orange fish I used pure cad yellow to paint the rings of ripples near the heads. Please not that the rings are not round, connected nor smooth. The fish are moving and disturbing the surface and the ripples, it looks more natural to break up the rings or just to suggest the rings rather than to complete the rings. On the white fish and fancy fish, I used straight white for the ripples. Next to each ripple which is basically the top of a tiny wave catching the light, there is a shadow in the trough between the ripples. For the yellow ripples I used touches of cad red along one side but only in a few places, I mixed a grey using white, blue and cad red for the shadow troughs on the white ripples. I let things dry and gave it one last look for anything I might have missed before I signed it and applied a layer of varnish.

Next week you are on your own. Please bring in your own project to paint I will do a demo on rocks.

Watercolor Project Week 4 – "Torrance Turtle"

The turtle is almost done, there are a few things left to paint and some final detail with a pen and it will be done. However before you read on, please go up to the acrylic notes and read the 3rd and 4th paragraphs because this applies to all media not just the acrylic students.

The first thing I did this week was address the rock problem. As noted in last week's blog, I needed a way to make the rock stand out from the background. Since I wanted the rock to look sunlit, I chose to negative paint the rock which means painting the water behind it. Using cobalt blue on the tip of my brush, I ran a line of color in the water area up the rock in front of the turtle to about his knee. I rinsed my brush then with a damp, clean brush (wipe out excess water) I blended the color into the water area and let it dry.

In the rock itself, I picked up a little bit of what I call "palette grey". It is what I find on the cool side of my palette and is a mix of everything I've been working with. I just need a little bit of color so if I find a nice light grey, I work it into the tip of my angle brush it is a great thing when you need some subtle shading like on these rocks. Look at the reference photo or go look at the actual rocks, you will notice that there a shallow indent where bits of rock have flaked off, you see them because of the light shadow under the lip where they chipped off, this is what I will use this color to suggest in a few places. I put the whole brush on the paper with the tip that has the color where I want the shadow to be and drag it along to suggest a slight indent.

Next I painted in the shadow of the turtle. Shadows are important in a painting because they anchor the subject and they suggest a direction of the light not to mention add drama and interest to a painting. I first drew the shape of my shadow using the photos as my reference then using purple with a touch of blue I painted the shadow. The turtle isn't sitting flat on the rock, his under shell is balanced on a couple of ridges front and back so you can see the water behind the rock. If the turtle was sitting flat, the shadow would be very dark right under it and get lighter as it goes away from the turtle because of scattered light, however, because the turtle is slightly elevated over the rock, some of that scattered light is getting into the shadow so it isn't as dark in the cast shadow, so the shadow will look a bit bluish and that's okay. Blue and purple are your natural shadow colors so you need them when painting a shadow.

This is where I got out the permanent ink marker – fine line – to add lines and detail to the turtle. I outlined with a broken line the outside of the turtle, around the plates of the shell, added wrinkles to his feet and head basically looked for places where I could add detail or the suggestion of detail like ridges on the shell plates or defining his toes. I also did some work on the rock. Do as much or as little as you feel necessary.

In the background, I drew in a few lily pads and some lilies that grow in the pond across the way. I also suggested waterfalls with the ink and once I had them drawn in, I went back in with a little paint to add color to the pads and shadows under the pads and fall spray also negative painted behind the top of the spray dragging some of the color up to suggest water. You don't have to do this and only do as much as you want. My painting is finished at this point except picking out a highlight in his eye with a pointy Exacto blade.

Next week have something of your own to paint. We have 3 weeks left in class.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Fall 09 Class Projects Week 3

Acrylic Week 3 – "Feed Us!"

This week was the final layer before we do the final highlights and finish this project up. What we are looking for is where we can brighten the bodies of our fish to give them a more rounded look and where we can enhance the shadows. We also are basing in the fins – finally – the tails, and the eyes.

First to brighten the colors, basically all I did was add more of the colors I've already been using. Remember that acrylics dry darker and they are also transparent so what is underneath a layer of color will effect what is above it, much like watercolor and acrylics can be used like watercolor by adding thin layers called "washes" to get the desired affect. For us, our goal is the get enough layers so that the suspended pigments overlap enough to make a more solid color in the places where we need it. Some of that darkened color works to our advantage in the shadow areas or as texture, that is why we don't want to cover it all up each time, just build on it.

On the orange fish I used mostly the orange, cad red and on the tops, a touch of yellow. If I needed it on the sides, I would pick up some napthol red or crimson though I did blend it in well with the other lighter colors. Keep the sides darker.

The red fish was more napthol, cad light on the top, crimson in the shadows and touches of orange on the very top if I needed it lighter but I did blend it in very well. This fish will always be darker, sort of a mystery fish, don't get it so light that it looses that mystery.

The white fish is still not white. By that I mean I am still mixing the white with touches of blue and cad red light, it is lighter than the last layer but it isn't white/white. You must have dark to show light, if you are too light at this point, you will have no where to go with your highlights. Remember that this fish is ever so slightly orange so keep your color on the orange side of grey (white, ultra marine blue and cad red light)

The fancy fish at the top is a combination of the orange fish and the white fish, again, don't get the white areas too white just yet, just brighten the value of the colors already there.

I did notice that a couple of you were having trouble mixing this grey color and the common factor was the blue you were using. Each color is ever so slightly different from the next but those differences can cause a huge difference in the outcome. I use almost exclusively (French) Ultra Marine Blue, though upon occasion I might add cobalt blue or cerulean to my palette, generally speaking I use ultra marine blue because it is a more true blue and a more natural blue. Those who were having problems were using Pthalo blue and pthalo is a color that comes straight from the lab. Don't get me wrong, it is a beautiful color but it is a devil to mix with! It tends to be on the green side which makes it good for tropical skies, seas and peacocks but when you mix it with white it turns turquoise, add cad red and you get mud because you have then added all 3 primary colors together (Phathlo = blue + yellow, Cad red = red + yellow, blue+red+yellow=mud). While mixing UM Blue and cad red is still mixing the 3 primaries, there isn't as much yellow in the blue to add to what is already in the cad red so the mudding of the color is workable. If you don't have ultra marine blue, you should get some to add to your palette.

Another problem I saw as I walked around was that several of you have Basic paints on your palette. You can use these but be aware that the way they are made, they have less pigment in them than most other brands of paints including the student grades of other brands. On the equipment sheet I give out, I do not recommend the Basic brand because to get the same results you get with other brands you have to add twice as many layers or more. Yes, they are cheap, but are they really when you consider the amount of paint you need to use to do the same thing other brands do in less and each layer you have to put on also takes time so you end up doing repetitive layers, seeming to get nowhere and your frustration levels go up and you get bored with your painting. I use it with gesso to tone a canvas and I know others who use it in printing, but it really doesn't work well in this technique.

After I had gone over each fish to brighten the colors, the next thing I did was take my chalk and place the fins, the tail and the eyes. The reason I waited until now is because each painting will be different and the placement of my fish in this painting is a bit different from the example I painted. Saving the fins until the end lets me paint the fish without worrying if the fin it too far forward or too far back or even if it shows at all! It is why I suggested that you forget about the fins and just paint the whole fish and worry about the fins later, yet many of you left spaces that once you got to the point where you needed to do the fins, the spaces you left for them weren't in the right place! If this is the case, fill in those spaces before painting your fins and you will struggle less.

When you are sketching in the fins and especially when you are painting them, remember that the fish are constantly moving. Parts of a tail may go in opposite directions, if you need to, go out and look at the fish and watch how they move. The fancy fish looks like a dancer but all of them are very fluid in their movements. Also notice how transparent the fins are. There are ribs down them that support the webbing in the fins that has color, but the webbing between the ribs is almost transparent, this is what you want to get on your painting.

When you sketch in the eyes, keep in mind that you aren't seeing them from the side so all the eyes will be slightly oblong, don't make them round as that is your left brain speaking, don't listen to it.

After you have everything sketched in, you will need to base the fins in using a "dry brush" technique. Rinse your brush out really well, then dry it completely especially around the metal part, any water in your brush will cause you problems. On the orange fish, I loaded my brush with cad red but after I loaded it I wiped it so there wasn't any excess paint, then flattened and spread the bristles using my fingers. I'm still using the same brush by-the-way, you can try using a fan brush, just keep in mind it tends to leave the same pattern of the brush if you aren't careful.

Starting on the outside of the fin or tail, I lightly touched the canvas and pulled in toward the "arm" of the fin or toward the body if it was the tail, quickly lifting my brush off the canvas. This is a very light touch so you might want to practice on some paper or a scrape canvas. Touch, pull and lift. The harder you touch the more paint will come off and the more congested with color the area will look. Also, if your brush is too wet, more paint will come off that you didn't want. Keep your brush dry, use little paint and use a light touch, it will come with practice.

The orange fish I started with the cad red on the top part of the tail fin and napthol on the bottom part so that it almost disappears into the water. The red fish, I started with napthol and went to crimson, on the white fins an light grey (white, blue and cad red) to a darker grey (more blue).

The eyes I did different than I usually do, I used the black gesso I used in the background. I also used the black to clean up any edges and to suggest the mouth openings and if I got any of the fins too congested with color, I dry brushed in some dark.

Next week, we finish up the koi so you will need to find your own project to get started on.

Watercolor Week 3 – "Torrance Turtle"

We are almost done with the turtle (stop the cheering ;-) but we still have a few things left to do. Since everyone seemed to be working well on their own, I just painted on the turtle and didn't really do a demo mostly because it was repetitive from last week. I did finish painting the plates of the upper shell then I painted the flesh parts of the turtle to get all of him based in.

The second verse was the same as the first, I went in and added another layer or color to the whole turtle, this increases the value of the color and the intensity of the color. Look at last week's stopping point and see how the turtle is almost the same value as the background, now look at this week's. See how the turtle pops off the background? This is because the value of the color is deeper, more intense than the background. You need to have contrast in your painting to show dimension and dark to show light.

I also went in and deepened some of the shadows under the shell on the turtle. This helps to create separations between the shell and the fleshy parts of the turtle.

In the spaces between the plates on his shell, I use a mix of sienna and purple to get a dark brown color. I used a ¼" angle brush to get into the smaller areas between the plates but I didn't worry about being precise, just put it on and don't worry about it.

The yellow parts of the shell need some shadows not only under the turtle but also where the separate plates join together there are slight cracks, for this I use a very dilute mix of what was on my brush and a touch of purple. This is a very light wash so don't get it too dark.

The last thing I did was lay a wash of color on the rock. First I wet the rock area with clear water avoiding the feet and toes. Next with a very thin mix of blue and sienna (it should look like a cool grey) I went over the whole rock area and while it was wet, I did a couple of things: First I dropped some other colors into the wet, any color I used in the splatter is fine and when I say drop, I mean drop. Lots of water with the color so it is dripping off your brush and don't mess with it. When the rock was starting to dry (loose it's sheen) I sprinkled some salt into the drying paint and let it dry completely. I did this with the paper almost flat on the table, btw.

When it was totally dry, I assessed the progress of my painting and realized that the rock was now about the same value as the background so something is going to have to change. I did lift off a bit of color on the top of the rock in front of the turtle but that is where I stopped and I will address this issue on Monday.

I will finish up the turtle on Monday and will be using a Sharpie. You might want to find your own project to work on when we finish.

Have a great weekend everyone, see you Monday.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Fall 09 Class Projects Week 2

Fall 09 Acrylic Project Week 2 – "Feed Us!"

More often than not, when I get home and set my paintings up to write up the blog notes, I will see something that bothers me about a painting I'm doing. It is not easy to try and talk and paint at the same time because it uses 2 different sides of the brain: When I drift off in the middle of a sentence, my right brain has kicked in and the speech (left) side of my head goes quiet and my train of thought gets derailed. When I'm focused on what I'm saying, my painting suffers. This is what happened the first week with the Koi. When I came home I realized that the white fish was straight up and down and that the nose was even with the orange fish and the tails of the 3 orange/red fish where all lined up. This is not good composition. So I made some changes.

I took my chalk and adjusted the line of my white fish and brought the nose down a bit and then I used my black gesso to paint out any of the white that fell outside those new lines. I also adjusted some of the lines on the orange and red fishes so there appeared to be more movement. Remember that fish are constantly moving and you need to suggest that in your painting. Don't be afraid to change something if it will help your painting, it is part of the learning process.

When I got in to class I filled in the white fish to get it back to the point it was with the new corrections before finishing the first layer of under painting.

Before I go on, I have noticed that several of you just don't believe me. If you look at the points where we stopped each week, you will notice that I painted right over where a fin overlaps another fish, yet when I look around the class, every one is carefully painting around those areas. The reason I am not worried about the fins right now is I need the color underneath the fin so it won't look like it has been cut and pasted on to the painting. Acrylic dry fast so you can paint over them with no problems unlike oils or watercolor though you can even do a similar thing in oils. You want/need that color under the fin so don't paint around it.

The red fish was painted using the crimson, napthol and cad red light with the occasional touch of blue in the shadows. This fish is much darker and it has spots. Just like the fins, I'm not worried about spots right now, it will be one of the last things I do on this painting, right now I' trying to establish a base color and shadows. Starting on the left side with crimson and a touch of blue, still using the same brush I started with, I painted the side. When I got near the top it was napthol and a touch of crimson. On the very top it was napthol and a touch of cad red. This fish will appear darker than the other fish and that's okay.

I also finished filling in the fancy fish on top using mostly cad red and a touch of orange on top and cad red with crimson in the shadows.

Now that everything is based in, I can start the brightening process.

Acrylics are somewhat transparent and when they dry, they will always dry darker. Just when you think that something is looking good, you will come back and it has gotten dull, it is just the nature of the beast. To counter this tendency, much like a watercolorist, we need to add layers to our painting to brighten the color, yet some of that under painting will show thru and help build depth in our painting. So the purpose of the layers isn't to totally cover the under painting but just enough to strengthen the values and intensity of the subject we are painting.

On the two orange fish, I used mostly the cad red and napthol on the sides and some orange and cad red on the top, making sure that I blended the areas of transition between the light top and the shadowed sides, you don't want a striped fish. On the white fish, still a bit on the grey side but this time I used white, a touch of blue and orange as my base adding more blue in the shadows and more white on the top. This fish has an orange tinge but still generally looks white so go easy on the orange. This layer should be at least a shade lighter than the under painting especially on the top of the fish. Follow a similar color combination for the orange areas of the fancy fish and basically white and blue with a touch of sienna in the white areas. Nothing is totally white at this point so be sure that you have grayed the color slightly. You must have dark to show light. Straight white is the final highlight.

The red fish is basically the same colors you used before just use a bit more napthol and cad red and less crimson and no blue. This fish will stay darker than all the others.

This is where I finished for the day. We may have one or two more sessions on this project so you need to start looking for something you want to paint, that way I can help you get started on it and you will have something to paint over the holiday break.

Watercolor Fall 09 Week 2 – "Torrance Turtle"

The first thing I did was to remove ALL of the masking I had on my painting. That includes the turtle and the rocks we should be able to do any adjusting around the turtle without the mask at this point.

The next thing I did was to start the process of establishing my shadows on the turtle. This step can be done later, I just like to start getting the feeling of a 3Dimentional subject. You will need to look at the reference photo and really study it to see where there are subtle shadows and where the darkest shadows are. The lighter shadows are called "form shadows", the darker ones are "cast shadows" both are important when you are wanting to create dimension in your painting.

For the shadows I used a mix of purple and a touch of blue, very dark right under the shell the back front leg and under the neck, lighter along the back and sides of the shell, underneath the shell and shadows on the head and neck. I will probably go over these again later as the painting progresses, this is just the under painting.

After my shadows had dried, I painted the entire turtle with a wash of cad yellow light. The markings on the turtle are mostly yellow, if we paint the whole turtle now it adds value and well as color to our turtle and we won't have to try and paint in the yellow after we have dark around it because the dark usually will bleed into your lighter yellow areas no matter how careful you are.

When the yellow has dried, look at the reference photos again and notice the yellow stripes on the turtle. There are some obvious ones on the legs and neck, but there are some stripes in the shell as well. If you are more comfortable drawing in these stripes before you paint, now is the time. The stripes are probably more important on the skin rather than the shell so if you don't want to do the shell, that's okay.

When you have your lines drawn in, it is now time to start bringing this little guy to life. I started on the shell plates using a mix of sap green, blue and purple to give me a grey green color. Using my ½" angle brush, I loaded color mostly on the tip then placed the tip on the outside edge of one of the plates. The whole brush is on the paper and as you pull the tip along the outside edge, you should get a graded stroke. A couple things to remember here: Each of the plates on the shell is slightly mounded which means that it is higher in the middle than at the edges, also, they aren't all that smooth. They have ridges from growth and dings from wear and tear, if your strokes are uneven that is even better, it will give the shell some texture. Do each plate individually leaving a little space between them, we will do that later, check your reference photo often and if you want stripes in the shell, remember to paint around them (negative painting).

Next time we will finish painting in the green parts of the turtle and under paint the rock. We should finish this up in the next couple weeks so you might want to start looking for your next project.