Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homework Count.

Making Things Glow – The Power of Value

It is really hard to turn off the teacher mode when we have time off so I am keeping myself busy trying to keep you busy.

When all you have is black, white and shades of gray, value is all you have to convey to your viewer not only the shape of something but the mood of your subject so this is where the ability to see the subtle changes in value is critical.

I decided to draw the oranges rather than paint them to see if I could create a sense of light or a "glow" that these oranges had and I kept my value scale handy and checked my reference photo often so I stayed on track. Drawing is good for my painting – if I decided to do this particular subject of any other - because it is forcing me to use value to create the subject, no using tricks of color give me the glow, just value.

I really hope that you are all trying to do some drawing and/or painting during this break, it will keep you at your best.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter Break Assignemnt 2010


I don't know how many of you check this blog while on break, but for those who do, I have a bit of a homework assignment for you. I found a book given to me by a friend and it had a lot of great information I wanted to pass along, I will cover more in class but this will get you started. This assignment is one that can be done anywhere and every where and you do it every time you open your eyes and that is to "see".

I know that may sound silly but it really isn't from a teaching perspective. If you are going to improve as an artist you need to be able to look at your subject and see all the elements that make that subject appealing to you. Those things include shapes, color, light, arrangement (composition), texture, shadows and reflected light. There's probably something I'm missing but those are the important things that come to mind.

In the past, you have heard me harp on drawing and many of you have taken me to heart and have been working on improving your drawing skills (YEAH!) continue what you are doing because that will help you with this next task, looking for the light, shadows and reflected light in your subject. They all have shape and their shapes helps define your subject.

These oranges are a good example (I'm experimenting here posting picts to the blog). Yes, you see the oranges and the bright light and the shadows but do you see the reflected light? Do you see the change in color on the front orange under the leaf? Do you see the difference between the reflected light in the shadows of the front orange compared to the one behind?

Because of our atmosphere, light scatters. It will hit an object then bounce back and reflect a bit of the color from the thing it has bounced off from. In the front orange the reflected highlight is cooler than the reflected light on the one behind because the light is bouncing off the leaves on the front one whereas the light on the one behind is coming from the orange in front. There is also some orange color reflected into the leaves around the oranges. Yes, it is subtle but it is there and you need to see it.

There is also light coming thru the leaf and changing the color on the orange to a cool green color. It is more evident on the front orange but it also happens on the top of the behind orange.

Now look at the shape of the shadows themselves. Because they are falling on a round orange, they must follow the shape of the object they are falling on. This goes for all surfaces. Pay close attention to the way shadows fall and how the follow the contours of they fall on be it flat, round, bumpy, shiny, dull – what ever it falls on it will follow the shape.

Now look at the highlights. I want you to start at the brightest spot and follow the change of color around the orange. If you have your value scale get it out and note the change from the lightest area into the shadows. Not counting the cast shadows (shadows which are blocking the light) from the brightest highlight to the reflected light should be about 4 steps down or 40% darker than the highlight. Cast shadows are darker still and it depends on how much light is being blocked, some of the cast shadows may be from 50 - 80% darker or more.

On this next picture, I want you to find these things. I do want you to note the difference in the temperature of the color between the back orange between the two front oranges. Color temperature is the difference between the colors that we associate with warm – red thru yellow – to those we associate with coolness – purple thru green.

Well, that is your assignment. It is all around you in every room in your house. It is outside in every sunlit patio or shaded woodland. We will be covering more of this in class but this should get you started.

Have a great holiday season, see you in the New Year.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor Class

Fall 2010 Watercolor Demo

This week at PV I finished the bucket I started the previous week, Torrance, the procedure is the same for the barrel and I am using the same colors as I used for the bucket.

The first thing I did was to dry brush in some wood grain into the sides of the bucket. I demoed with 3 different brushes to show that you can use what you have available in your own equipment without getting a specialized brush for the job, with the round and the angled brush, after I loaded the brush with paint, I squished the bristles to spread them apart and repeated as necessary or when I re-loaded paint on the brush, the grass brush I used is designed to have gaps so I didn't need to spread the bristles.

I mixed a dark color of sienna, blue and purple keeping it on the warm side and making sure that when I loaded my brush I didn't have a lot of water in my brush. Then I started at the top of the bucket on the shadow side and worked my way down but you may find it easier to start from the bottom and work up, with very little pressure on my brush and with a nervous, jerky motion, pulled the brush down the height of the bucket. The nervous, jerky motion along with the dry brush effect makes it look like old rough hewn wood. I repeated until I got about half way around then added in some orange to my color to lighten it and as I got into the sunlit side, used mostly orange. I did the same on the inside.

For the two metal bands on the top and bottom, I used that same warm dark color adding orange as I went into the light area. The highlights on the top edge of the bands, I lifted out with a damp brush.

Finally, using my liner brush and a very dark color of mostly blue and purple, I added lines and cracks and holes, all the little detail things that can make something look very old and worn out. Just be sure that the lines on the top of the wood stays change direction not only as they go across the top but also where they are placed on the bucket, kind of like spokes on a wheel, the top lines will point to the center of the bucket.

Next week I have a request for sky and water so we shall see what we can do along those lines. As I have said before, I can do these things all day every day but unless you do them your self, you aren't going to understand what it takes to get the effects you want. Keep painting and I'll see you in class.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor Class

Fall 2010 Watercolor – Demo: Rocks

(Sorry, I just saw I hadn't posted this from last week!)

Like last week, looking at the picture is probably more informative than a written explanation so you might want to flip back and forth between the two to see what I'm talking about. You will notice that the rocks are a lot more detailed than when you saw them in class, the reason for that is when I'm doing a demo it is a challenge for me to get the general basics of something across to my students without confusing them and often times I stop my demo long before I would if I were working on something of my own. Detail is just more of the same but can get boring or confusing when you have to watch from a distance. I decided to take it a bit further so you can see just how real rocks can look using watercolor.

The first thing I did was to draw some shapes of rocks. I've painted rocks for many years and I kinda know how they look and how to get the look I want, also, rocks are sort of like clouds in that they come in all shapes and sizes so unless you line them up and make them all the same size pretty much anything you put down will work as long as it fits the place you are putting them.

My first wash was very light as usual for a first wash. I used sienna really watered down and if I were working on a flatter angle, I probably would have wet the area first and dropped the color into it. Along with the sienna I dropped green and blue, you can add salt (again working vertical slat was out for me, but I like salt when doing rocks), or any color you want because rocks come in all colors and combination. I left some of the white of the paper for bright highlights. Take pictures or clip out pictures of rocks for reference and have them handy when you want to paint rocks.

When my paint dried, I mixed a shadow color of sienna, blue and purple but with a lot of water, this is also a thin wash that goes over the shadowed side of the rocks. My light was coming from the right so that meant I added this color between the rocks and on the sides to darken the color. When I got near the sunny areas, I just used water on my brush to give me a graded color (no hard lines).

Each time I used a bit thicker mix of the shadow color and each time I would start in the darkest area which is usually between or under a rock and faded it up ward. I repeated this until I was satisfied with the basic shapes of the rocks then using the same colors and smaller brushes – my ¼" angle and my liner brush – added detail. This take time, practice, patience and a knowledge of your subject but once you have mastered rocks, they are no longer a mystery and easy to include into you landscapes.

I did start a wooden bucket and I will finish it next week. I do get on a roll and may be giving you more info than you can absorb at one time, we have 3 more weeks so we have the time. See you in class.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor Class

I am not going to do a regular blog this time because I think you can see better by checking out the picture page

I will say that when you do something to damage the paper or add something like ink or wax, you better be sure that is what you want to do because once done it can't be reversed or changed.

Each of you might want to make up your own booklets on textures by cutting up squares of paper and trying to duplicate what I showed you in class, this will give you a reference when you need it and it will also give you some practice doing the different textures.

At PV, I will go thru some color blending. If you have any particular problems and want to see a demo on it, let me know. See you in class.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor Class

Watercolor – Basic Brush Strokes

When I went to photograph the sheet of paper with my demo strokes on it, I realized that I really need to do some that were a bit more organized but this demo will have to do for now and I will have to make up and "official" catalog later. I will try my best to describe what I did but you will learn better by doing.

While there are a lot of brushes on the market having a few well-made brushes in various sizes will leave you better off in the long run because you become familiar with these brushes and you don't have to think about how you will use them, you just will and that will come with practice. The more you paint, the more familiar you become with your brushes, your paints and your paper, they are your tools just like a carpenter or plumber or mechanic has their own unique set of tools of their trade, so does the artist. Each has a job to do and your goal as an artist is to not have to think about the tools you use but to think about the job – your painting – and how you are going to accomplish that goal. That comes with practice, the more you practice the sooner you won't be thinking of your tools and you will start looking for more challenging subjects to conquer.

The first notion you need to forget about your brush is it is not a pencil or pen, nor is it a brush you paint walls with, it can and should move in your hand so you can use all parts of the bristles whether it is a flat, a round or an angle brush, learn to twist and move the brush around in your hand and to use your whole arm and wrist to get the effect you want.

Here are some basic moves for the different brushes:

Round Brushes – They should come to a nice sharp point when wet. You can make fine lines with the tip of the brush, thick line if you push down on it or a combination will give you thick and thin lines. This combination comes in handy when doing grasses or leaves. If you start at the tip and as you start to draw it across the paper, press and lift, you can create leaves or if you draw in longer it can be grasses or thick leaves like iris leaves. If you start out thick and pull and twist as you go up to the tip, you can create tree trunks. Experiment to see what you can do with each brush.

Flat/Angle brushes – While these brushes are similar, the angle is a bit more versatile than a flat brush you will have to decide which is best suited for your needs.

The angle brush is sometimes called an angled shader because it can give you a very nice graded brush stroke which is good for shading. (Graded means a color goes from dark to almost nothing in value), the key is just to load the tip with color, work the color in just a bit on your palette then place the whole end of the brush on paper, not just the tip with the color and draw it across. This comes n handy when you are doing shadows, or if you want to do some quick little flowers or anywhere where you need the color to fade off.

You can also make thick and thin lines with it just like the round brush, start on the edge of the brush and pull in the direction of the edge then twist the brush as you pull to fatten the line then twist back to make it thin again. Again, this brush is good for leaves and grasses.

I like this brush because I can use the tip or the side or however I need to use it and not have to change brushes all the time. I can do detail work with my 1" brush if I need to, it is because I know how this brush works from years of using them.

Flat brushes work similar but I find them a bit awkward for detail work.

Liner Brushes – I love my liner brush! This little brush can make grasses and trees or do detail that is almost impossible with any other brush. It does take some practice though so you will want to have some scratch paper or cards or something to practice on until you get a feel for this brush.

One important key to this brush is loading it with paint, this is the one time I will encourage you to use a lot of water. The paint should be the consistency of ink so it will flow off the brush. Next important is loading the paint on the brush. You need to roll the entire length of the bristles in the paint and as you lift it up, roll it between your fingers so it comes to a nice point.

You want to hold this brush at the back of the handle not near the metal ferrule, hold it in the center between your thumb, index and middle fingers like you are pinching it not like a pencil. Hold the brush slightly downward at the tip so the paint flow off it.

This brush is called a liner or a rigger or script liner because it is great for making long, consistent lines without reloading too often. The long bristles hold a lot of paint. If you press harder you get a thicker line, if you barely touch you can get long thin lines.

For grasses start by making a circular motion with the brush before you get to your paper then just touch the paper on the upstroke of that circle and lift as soon as you touch. Small circles make short grass, big circles make tall grass.

For trees, bushes and tree limbs – you are still holding like I described above – start at the bottom of the tree/branch, pressing harder creates a thicker line, and with a jerky motion pull up and lift off. You should get an unsmooth line that tapers off. To make more branches start back in where you just painted and as you pull change direction as you make a new branch. Practice will make perfect so give yourself some time to master this little brush.

There are many specialty brushes on the market like fans and rakes and stippling brushes, most of them are just made to sell, you can do the same thing and better with the brushes I've mentioned above so you can spend you money on something you will use. There are some exceptions and you may find you like certain brushes for certain things such as fan brushes, you do need to be aware of some inherent problems with these brushes and that is they usually leave a definite pattern, which is why they were made in the first place.

Fan brushes are popular and if you know what to look for you can see where an artist used a fan especially if they don't know how to disguise it. Fans will leave the image of their shape on everything you do. If you are making pint trees with them, they can look like fish bones, if you are making grass they can leave little fan shaped clumps, be aware of this when you use them.

Rake brushes or grass brushes can be used to create textures for wood or, as the name implies, grass. Again, be aware that they can leave a too consistent pattern so try to break that pattern up.

The one brush I do use occasionally besides my angle brushes is a filbert. It looks like a flat brush with rounded corners. I use this more with my acrylics than my watercolor but I do like it for certain things.

Next class I will be going over creating textures and effects with watercolor and will go over a few things I did cover in class but they are worth repeating. See you in class.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Watercolor class 2010

Watercolor Project: Eucalyptus Close-up – Final

There isn't much to write up about what we did in class because we are almost done with our shredded bark. What you need to do now to finish up your own painting is to see where you can add some darker darks, add some more color, lift out some highlights or add some detail.

I used my liner brush to add some fine cracks or other small detail. I showed how to create streaks using dry brush first with my angle brush and then with my "grass" brush. This added color as well as detail to the rough bark.

I lifted some light areas out of some areas and darkened cracks and shadows. This becomes a personal choice but it is always good at this point to step back from your painting and look at it from at least 10'. You really can't tell if or where you need to work when you are right on top of your painting so stand back and assess it. You may find it needs little or nothing for you to call it done and if you are looking for things to do, you are definitely done.

Next time – for the PV class – I will be done some mini demos and "special requests" but I would like people to bring in things that they want to paint and I will help you get started.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor

Watercolor – Eucalyptus Up Close

Last week we created our under painting for our eucalyptus and at this point you might wonder where I'm going with this but I start out many paintings with an under painting similar to this because I know that by using the transparent qualities of the watercolor, the under painting will show through and have a subtle effect on the final product giving it much more interest.

As you will get tired of hearing me say, it is best to have your reference material close at hand even when you are doing the drippy under painting. By knowing where you have changes in light and color, you can plan your drips accordingly. I looked to see where my shadows were, where the smooth new bark was where the warm old bark was peeling off and where my light was brightest while I was seemly throwing paint at random. It was more like controlled chaos. Another thing I was aware of was to not make this first wash too intense in color, this is a subtle step and your colors should be in the pastel range, if your colors are too dark or intense, you have no where to go with them. You can lift out some color but it is more time consuming and the results not as satisfying if you start out light. You can – and will – add color where you need it to deepen or intensify the color but it should be at your choosing; watercolor is a subtle dance between the artist and the paint not a WWW smack down.

Once my under painting was dry (this is very important) and I got my drawing on my paper, I looked for my shadows or basically the darker and lighter areas of my reference photo. I noticed that most of that knot and all of the right side (as you are looking at it) had shadow as well as the left upper and lower corners plus some subtle shadows just behind the main knot, this was my first wash area.

I mixed a shadow color using ultra marine Blue, Purple and burnt Sienna (I will just call these blue, purple and sienna from this point and will specify if I use a different blue or raw sienna), this is my primary mix for shadows, I may mix other colors into it but this is what I start out with, the more water I add, the lighter it will become, the more paint (pigment) I use with little water the darker it will become so that it will look almost black. For this step, I wanted it to be a thin wash so I added a lot of water.

Use the biggest brush you can to cover an area quickly, you don't want to spend a lot of time going over and area or you run the risk of stirring up the paint underneath and loosing it as well as the chance you'll mix mud. Get it covered and leave it alone. I was using my 1" angle brush to apply this wash so I could get it on and be done with it. Even if you are working on a smaller size paper, it is best to use a larger brush. Save your tiny brushes for the detail, this step is big areas and you need to get them covered.

While I was waiting for my shadowed areas to dry, I was able to add some color into the bright areas and into some of the peeling bark areas. First, I added some color into the top bright area behind the knot. To do this I used a technique called "dry brush". What this means is I had color on my brush with little or no water. First, I rinsed my brush to clean it then I dried it completely using my paper towel. Next, I picked up some sienna and worked it into my brush on my palette but before I went to my paper, I used my towel and squeezed my brush right at the base to one, get out any more water I may have picked up in my paint and two to help spread the bristles of my brush, this will help to create texture.

When I applied this color, I looked at my reference and saw that the texture of the bark ran more or less up and down so I lightly dragged my brush in this area to create subtle grain for the bark. This takes a very light touch, if you press too hard, you will get more paint off your brush and it will fill in the spaces you need, if your brush is too wet, you will also fill in these spaces, so you need to be dry of brush and light of touch.

With practice, you can work a long time on a watercolor just by avoiding the wet areas until they dry by working in the dry areas, which is what I did and by the time I was finished adding color into the already dried areas, the wash was dry enough I could work into it and not worry about lifting or creating blooms (wet paint moving into a drying area that creates a"bloom"). Using a mix of orange and sienna I added color to the peeling bark areas. Some of this I used the end of my brush in a choppy stroke to create texture, sometimes I used water to soften or blur this color, I was looking at my reference to see where I could put this color and also the direction of the bark's grain so my strokes would follow accordingly. This takes practice which is why this is such a good teaching subject, there is a lot of repetition in this tree but you do need to pay attention. At this point I let it dry completely. I may not be done adding color but I have a good start on it.

Once it was dry, I mixed more of my shadow color but this time I used more paint than water so my mix looked very dark. One note: if your color looks to brown or warm, add more blue to it, if it seems too transparent you need more paint less water.

With this mix, I looked for my dark shadows, I loaded my brush so most of my paint was on the tip (this can be done with flats and round brushes as well) and starting in the darkest part of a shadow or crack laid down my color. If I needed it to lighten as I went, I just picked up a little water on my brush and lightened the edge to blend it out. With this dark color I could start to define the different pieces of the bark or the cracks and I tried to work around and through my painting so I didn't over work one area and neglect another.

We should finish up this painting next week, there is some more shadows and cracks and you should have a liner brush or a round brush to do detail. You might want to start looking for something you want to paint after we are done with this, I will be doing short demos and helping you with your own projects.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fall 2010 Watercolor Class

Watercolor Fall 2010

I have posted the drawing and the reference photo for our class project. As always, please feel free to download and print the reference photo for class.

In our first class we did a couple of things. First, we created a "value scale". These can come in handy, especially, for those who are still learning to paint and need to have visual "proof" of the values within their paintings or their subject matter be it a photo or real life. Until you have developed the skill to see the subtle changes in value and color intensity, having something like the value scale to check against can be a very useful tool.

The process is simple enough: mix a grey color – blue and orange or blue and burnt sienna make a nice gray – and keep it pretty light, you want it just a bit darker than the white of the paper. You can either cut a strip of watercolor paper about 10 inches long by and 1" to 2" or just paint a stripe at the end of you paper. Remember to skip over the first section to leave the white of the paper for your scale and paint a nice even strip across the paper. Let this dry completely or use a hair dryer before doing the next strip. Just remember each time to skip a bit of the previous application but use either the same color you just used or add just tiny amounts of the blue and sienna for your next layer. You want to keep your paint light so you can build up the values one step at a time, also when you are applying a new layer, just put it down with just a couple of strokes and leave it alone. If you keep going over it you run the risk of lifting the paint off from the other layers.

You need about 8 – 10 different layers for a good value scale. When you get to the darkest one, mix blue (your ultra marine) and the sienna with very little water to get a dark almost black color. When it is dry, use a hole punch and punch holes in the middle of each color, then keep this scale with your art stuff so it will be handy.

We also started on the under painting for our class project which will be a close-up of a eucalyptus tree trunk will all it's peeling bark. If you can have this part done with your sketch already drawn on it we can get started in class the next time we meet.

It isn't necessary to have the drawing on your paper before doing this first step and it might almost be preferable to wait until you do the first step before you do you drawing because it can get washed off or covered up with all the water from the under painting.

To do the under painting I first wet the paper with you sprayer. It will help you to have your paper elevated at the top so your paint will run down the page, or lift it while your paint is wet. To the wet paper start adding color. Almost any color will work here but if you have your reference photo handy, you can see that parts of the trunk are cool in color (blues, purples and greens) and other parts are warm in color (sienna, orange, reds and yellow). Your paint should have a lot of water in it so it will run and when it dries it isn't too dark. You can drip it on, flip it on or paint it on, just don't let it get to feeling so good that you end up with mud and don't get your colors so intense that you have no where to go with them, we will intensify the colors as we go but can use those lighter colors to our advantage.

Be sure to have a reference photo with you in class. I will see you soon.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer 10

Watercolor 2010 - Wet into Wet Skies

I continued along the wet into wet techniques by doing a couple of skies. There is no one way to do anything and I by no means showed all the variations on the theme, all I hoped to do was to show a couple of possibilities and other uses for wet into wet, it can be a very versatile technique in watercolor.

The biggest thing most beginners have problems with is how to create warm colors along the horizon and cool dark colors at the top. The problems occur when you bet the blue near the yellow or orange, you end up with green or brown (respectively). The problem can be solved by adding red.

If you look at a sunset or dawn, you will notice a gradual change between the light and the dark. It might start as being yellow then fades to orange then to red then blue to deeper blue or purple. RED is the key color here.

First I wet my entire sky area so that it was fairly wet, next I started with my yellow where the horizon would be - and you can turn it upside down if that is easier - next I added orange to the top of the yellow, then RED then blue and finally blue with purple. Having the red in between the orange and the blue keeps the color from getting muddy. Be sure that you are using either the napthol red or crimson and not cadmium red because the cad red tends to be on the orange side and you will get a muddy color where you have the transition from red to blue.

I do want to point out that there is a difference between a morning sky and an evening sky. Morning skies are usually cooler in color: More orange and crimson no yellows whereas evening skies can be blazing hot with color. Part of the reason for this is the fact that morning air is cooler than the air that has been heated all day plus there may be more dust etc in the air from all the activity. Also the change of seasons will affect who a sky looks depending on where the sun is in the sky. Just keep this in mind if you want to create a mood in you painting.

While your sky is still wet, you can lift out clouds with a paper towel or with your brush. These can be the framework for darker clouds but do not try to do darker clouds while your sky is still wet or you will get mud! LET IT DRY COMPLETELY before you add the darker clouds.

When it is dry THEN you can put in darker clouds. Do them quickly so you don't mix the paint underneath into the clouds or visa versa. This will keep your colors clean. You can also lift out details with your brush but remember that clouds are soft so you want to avoid hard edges.

When you are painting skies, don't be afraid to turn your paper to get movement in your paint it can add interest and it is fun. No two skies are ever alike so it really won't matter but it will give you an interesting sky.

The rest is up to you. Your job as students is to take what I give you and try to find other ways to make them work for you. It is much easier to mess up a practice piece than to have done a detailed drawing and be afraid to mess up all your hard work, it can be very intimidating and scary. Sacrifice a piece of paper to practice the things you are unsure of and it will pay off huge when you get to your real paintings.

This coming class will be our last class, bring in a few things for critique be they your best work or ones you need help on, getting a second opinion is always a good thing. Remember that registrations is open at both Torrance and at PV, get signed up as early as you can so you can get the classes you want. See you soon.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Watercolor Summer 2010

Watercolor – Wet in to Wet

This week I did demos that showed a couple of ways to use the wet in to wet technique though they were not the only ways to use wet in to wet, it is a very versatile technique and one every watercolor artist should learn to use. Because we had done a still life in class many wanted to put some sort of cloth behind it without much success so a demo on material seemed logical if not a bit late.

Unless you can vividly see your subject in your mind it is always best to have some sort of reference in front of you and in this case even a scrunched paper towel will do. You need to be able to see all the subtle changes in the light and shadow of the material. Some of the shadows are just barely lighter than the highlights to suggest little dips, where as other shadows gradually go from the light into dark folds. You need to be able to see this before starting so you understand what is going on. Also, if there is a pattern on the material, pay close attention to the change in direction it takes, in some cases it can disappear altogether and reappear someplace else depending on how the material is folded back on itself.

Keeping all this in mind, one of the easiest ways to create fabric is using wet in to wet, the exception may be satin which is very shiny and may need some hard lines around the highlights. First you wet the entire area you want to paint with water and use a big brush so you can cover a lot of area in a hurry. It can dry right behind your brush so by using a big brush and going over the area a couple of times you can saturate it enough to keep it wet while you work quickly.

Determine where your highlights will be and use any color you choose to paint NEXT TO the highlight, the color should drift into some of the light area but will leave enough to suggest a highlight. Create the folds of you fabric in this manner. Both the highlights and shadows will start and stop so pay close attention. If a shadow gets darker add more pigment and some shadow color (blue and or purple). Each fabric is going to be a bit different depending on its color: If it is white your colors should be in the blues and grays to violets in the deep folds. Dark reds or blues can be almost black in the shadows so the colors need to be more concentrated.

You can also lift out some highlights with a clean damp brush by running it down the length of a dark area or if you want to add subtle shadows, look on your pallet for some light color or used the lifted color to add a soft shadow into a light area.

If the area starts to dry, you may need to take a damp brush and run it down the side of a color to soften the edge, which is another way to do this process. All the information you need is right there, you just need to practice it until you understand what you need to do to get what you want. Wet in to wet, lifting, adding color or water, find the combination that works best for you.

Another way to use wet in to wet is to create soft backgrounds. These backgrounds can be used in still life or landscape, portrait or in any situation where you need to suggest that there is something going on but you don't want it to stand out but support what is in the foreground.

I used the example of looking through a fruit tree at PV, but this is only one example. First I wet the area with lots of water just like I did in the demo above. In to that wet surface I added colors to suggest sky, fruit, limbs, branches and leaves. Because the paper was wet these shapes blurred out into soft forms, some of the colors ran but that was okay too. This could be anything from, distant mountains or fields of flowers, to just splotches of color, you are only limited by your imaginations. You can turn you paper to change the direction of the runs or you can splatter color in to the wet or lift out shapes while it is still wet. Have fun with it while you learn.

I let my background dry completely before putting on my foreground fruit and branches. The contrast between the sharp edges of the foreground and the soft edges in the background create depth so it looks like you are looking up through a tree with fruit. If I was going to be doing a similar painting as more than a demo, I would have started with a detailed drawing of the foreground I wanted to paint, then I would have masked it all out so I could paint the background and not have to worry about painting around anything. When it was totally dry, I would have rubbed off the masking and painted the foreground subject as I normally would.

I can only show you a few of the ways to use different techniques, it is up to you to work on these things at home and find out how you can use them yourself, it is a fun adventure, just trust yourself and don't worry if it isn't perfect the first time nothing usually happens perfect the first few times but you will gain knowledge of how your paints work.

I think that we will work on some sky demos this week. We only have one more week after this week so think of what you want to bring in for critique. Classes start at PV on the week of September 13th and in Torrance in September the week of the 19th. Registration is now open up at PVAC if you are a member you can get an early bird discount. Torrance registration for residents will start Aug 24th, non-residents on Aug 31st. Be sure to get registered in your classes as soon as you can so they don't close your class for lack of students, they usually close under enrolled classes a week before they start so don't get left out and encourage your friends to take classes as well.

I'll see you next week.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Watercolor Summer 2010

Watercolor Glass and Metal

There isn't much left to do on our watercolor still life, just some final touches. I will be using the Torrance demo as my guide as far as color, the techniques are the same just the color is different.

Now that everything is based in, we need to set it down on something, I chose a table top in the Torrance class it looked like a wooden table in the other classes maybe cloth, it's your painting, you need to decide.

Once again, I looked to see where my light was coming from and that was from the right and it hit the table just in front of the bottle and around the bell of the snuffer, that is where I started using orange with a touch of yellow and water. I could start by wetting the area just like we did with the background but because I am working vertically, I needed more control so I wet the paper as I went along.

The next color I picked up was orange with a touch of sienna and blended with water. I want smooth transitions between the colors, it does take practice so don't get discouraged if it doesn't work the first time. The final colors I used were sienna and purple for the corners and sides, this creates a vignette around my subject and focuses the view into the central part of my painting. This now has to dry completely before I start on the shadows.

While this is drying, I can look at the rest of my subject to see where I need more shadows or to intensify color. I decided that I needed a shadow from the bottle on the wall behind the candle. No, I did not see it, but I needed some dark behind the candle to give in more shape against the light background so I put it in. I am an artist, I have a license and I use it and you should too. This isn't a photo where you don't have the control, you are the ultimate "PhotoShop" you put in or take out what ever you need to make your painting work for you. I needed a shadow, I put in a shadow.

Since this was glass that was casting the shadow, it wasn't a real dark shadow. I used Hooker's green and a touch of blue and water to make my shadow. I then rinsed my brush and with a clean brush went around the edge to soften the edge. The color bled down into the wet table but that was okay, some of that color will be on the table as well.

Once the table was dry, I sketched in the shadows cast from the snuffer and the candle and its base. Shadows are important because it sets your objects down and helps tell the viewer where the light is coming from, it is also why it is important to only have one light source when you set up a still life, so you know where your light is.

The shadow color is dark because these are cast shadows. That means that an object is blocking the light, a form shadow shows the shape of an object as its shape move into or out of the light such as the candle gets darker away from the light source, the form shadow tells you it is a round candle.

To mix a dark color in watercolor it is important to be able to get enough pigment off your paint pile so be sure to wet your paints when you are setting up to work. Most of the problems people were having were because they had to wet their brush to wet their paint to get the color off, this dilutes the color making light gray instead of a dark, almost black color. Even if you had black on your palette, if it isn't wet enough for you to pick up enough pigment, it too will look gray instead of black.

Using blue, sienna and a touch of purple and very little water, I mixed a dark blue/purple color for my shadows. I painted the shadow of the handle of the snuffer paying close attention to the face that the snuffer is inclined but the shadow must stay on the table. Under the candle there were two shadows a lighter shadow from the whole candle and holder and a darker shadow cast by the rim of the holder.

I looked at my set-up to see where I could add more shadows like under the rim of the holder, or under the candle next to the holder. The edge of the snuffer or the insides of the holes of the snuffer needed shadows. I even used that dark color to create a wick for the candle, these things you will have to decide how detailed you want your painting to be.

Finally, I removed the masking fluid from my painting making sure that the areas were dry before I rubbed it off. If the paper is even damp, it can tear the surface of the paper so be sure it is dry around the masking.

With a damp brush, I softened some of the edges of the masked areas, sometimes picking up light versions of the colors around the white area to make them look more natural. On the snuffer I wet over the highlights with a thin wash of yellow because the highlights weren't bright white.

During this final process, I step back often to look at my overall painting to see if it really needs me to fiddle with it more. If I can't find any glaring omissions when I step back, it is done! I may live with it a few days and look at it later but it is much better for your painting to stop sooner rather than later otherwise you will over work it and ruin what was a nice painting. This too takes practice but it is what all artists need to learn: When to stop.

We are done with our still life so now you need to find something you would like to work on or at least get started before we end our classes. I will be doing requests the next few weeks so if you have anything that you need more instruction on or clarification on technique, let me know because if you have a problem chances are others do too.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer 2010 Watercolor Class

Glass and Metal – Watercolor

Now that we have practiced painting metal and glass, we are going to put what we have learned to practical use by organizing our elements and adding a simple third element into a pleasing simple composition.

You need to draw your still life on your paper but before you start drawing, check your composition. First and foremost, you want to fill up your paper with your subjects. If you have something tall like my wine bottle and you go with a horizontal (landscape) placement of your paper, you are probably going to have a lot of wasted space around your subjects when you get finished so a vertical format will probably be better for tall things.

Again, rule of thirds. I placed the bottle close to the left vertical third line as well as the candle and the bell of the snuffer very near the bottom third intersection and the handle running near the bottom horizontal third line. This I usually do in my head but if you need to, divide your paper into thirds before you start drawing. Also, overlap elements in your composition. When there is space between objects they compete for attention, connecting them visually makes them a unit. You should be using at least a #2B pencil and a soft eraser when you need it.

Add as much information as you need or want to create the elements of your design just don't be so committed to them that you are afraid to improvise when you need to. Use masking fluid to protect your brightest highlights and be sure that the fluid is totally dry before you do the next step.

I know just how tempting it is to jump right in and get started on the main elements that matter most in a painting and worry about the background later, the thing is the background is like the stage set. Yes, you can act out the play without the set but it is very difficult to move the set in or get the props on or adjust the lights once the play has begun, I know, been there, done that and had to be physically held back from running on stage with forgotten props =-O (I still have nightmares). While you may not have nightmares if you don't get the background in first, you are going to have trouble trying to get the background to look like it belongs as you try to paint around your subjects leaving halos and hard lines and odd colors you may never get rid of, so trust me when I say" If your painting is going to have a background, do the background first, it will make your painting a lot simpler.

The background I demonstrated is simple but can be very effective no matter what color scheme you use.

The first thing I look for is my light source and which way the light will be traveling. In this case the light was in the front right so it will hit the upper left third of my background. I went over the "the rule of thirds" in class and if you do a search on the Internet, you will find a lot of sites that can give you more examples and explanations so I won't go into it here except to say that it is important to my composition to use the third lines when I am designing my painting and that includes the background.

Now that I have determined where my light will be the brightest on my paper, I can start painting. First I use my water sprayer to spray the entire paper and with my big wash brush I can add and spread the water to wet the paper evenly. When my paper is totally wet, I start in the area where it will be the lightest and pick up a tiny bit of the color I want to use. I did three different backgrounds in the three watercolor classes because I wanted to show these backgrounds can be any color you want or combinations of colors, it was the technique I was demonstrating not the color. For this explanation, I will go with the colors I used in my Torrance class.

This process moves pretty fast so don't stop between steps. I picked up a tiny touch of yellow on my brush and started working it on to my wet paper where the brightest light would be on my background. I was using a 1" angled shader but can be done with any large brush you have, save the small ones for detail. If I thought it was too yellow, I added more water because I want to keep this step light in value.

Next, I picked up a bit of orange and on the outside edge of the pale yellow worked the orange out a bit more making another ring of color. Blend the two areas together either with light strokes from your brush adding touch of clear water if necessary, you want a nice gentle blend. Keep working.

Next, pick up red, sienna and repeat what you did with the orange. You may find that on the left side you have run out of room for a complete ring, that's okay, just get your paper covered and be sure to blend the area where the two rings come together so you have a nice gradual transition.

The last step to the background will probably be mostly the corners maybe down the right side and bottom, use sienna and purple to create a dark color work that color in the corners. Again blend the touching areas so you don't have a hard dividing line. Now it must dry before you can start painting your objects. Note: on the green background I painted around the candle and snuffer (negative painting) because I didn't want the green to influence their colors in following washes.

When my paper was completely dry, I started with the wine bottle because it was the thing that was furthest back in my composition. I based it in with sap green and I was careful to paint around the candle to be sure that the bottle will look like it continues behind the candle. This is negative painting the candle. Looking at my bottle I added in yellow in the lighter areas, and sap with blue or just Hooker's green into the dark areas. I was using my ½" angle brush. Working other colors into the bottle while it is still wet – wet into wet – lets the colors soften into each other, just don't keep going over and over an area or you will stir up the color underneath and your colors could get muddy this is especially true if you are working with a complimentary color like I had with the red background and the green bottle.

The candle is translucent, keep this in mind because its shadows won't be as dark as a solid object. I used a mix of blue, purple and sienna and water to make a gray then starting on the inside where it would be the deepest part of the candle, created the shape of the edge I saw on the actual candle. Rinsed my brush and with a damp (I wiped out most of the water) brush, I went along the outside edge of that color (where it would be the inside of the candle not the outside edge) and spread it out towards the far edge of the interior of the candle. I rinsed my brush often because I wanted to keep it light. I used a similar technique for the shadow on the outside of the candle, starting with the gray color and bleeding it out with a clean damp brush. In some places I used the little bit of color on my brush to indicate shadows in some of the melted wax.

The center of the snuffer was the same blue, purple and sienna but with little water so it was very dark. I started in the darkest part of the bell then rinsed my brush and with the damp brush teased some of that color out to the front of the bell. This is much darker than what you did on the candle because of shadow and soot so you don't need to thin the color too much. This takes practice, if you have some scrap or test paper handy, you might want to practice first. The rest of the brass was painted in with yellow and a touch or orange or sienna. I used the same color mix on the candle holder.

Depending on how fast the class works – and I am by no means trying to rush you – we may get done with the painting next week and for sure the following week so please start looking for something you would like to paint. It can be any subject you want. Also, think about what you might like to do next semester so I can plan for something you want to learn or feel you need more instruction.