Thursday, January 28, 2010

Brush Strokes

I just want to mention to my classes that - at least for now - KOCE Chnl 50 has on art probrams at noon. Jerry Yarnell is on on Tues and Thurs, he is an acrylic painter but is very good teaching color mixing, composition and brush techniques so I do reccomend him to all my students not just the acrylic students. They coud switch back to pledge mode at any moment so take advantage while you can, you can learn something from every teacher good or bad.

Brush Stroke Demo

When I was taking the photos for this blog, I was thinking that I might have to separate the acrylic class to another blog because I thought that it might be confusing to the two classes but when I sat down and thought about how I was going to describe the process of these strokes, I realized that even though they are different mediums and paper vs canvas, actually, the strokes are almost identical! I would just be repeating my self. There are some differences and I will point them out when I get to them but basically there are just so many ways you can use a brush that make the use so similar and this can be a good thing if you are interested in trying a different medium, some of these techniques will even hold true for oils. It is really more about the paint than the brushes, so for now we'll all stick together.

The acrylic students will use mostly their bristle brushes and the watercolor students will be using their synthetic sable brushes, I will let the acrylic students know when they should be using their sable brushes, other than that, the techniques for using the brushes will be virtually the same.

First I want to cover "dry brush" because in acrylics it is how we blend in a dry area, in both dry brush can be use to create wonderful textures and in both, it is important to control the water in your brush if you want to get dry brush to work for you. The only difference here is the acrylic painters will be using a flat bristle brush and the watercolor students will be using either an angle brush or a flat synthetic sable brush.

The key to this is a "dry brush". After you have rinsed your brush, make sure that it is dry by squeezing the water out with a paper towel, especially around the metal part. Pick up the color paint you want and work it into your brush on your palette. Before you touch your canvas or paper, squeeze the brush hairs near the metal ferrule, you'll be surprised how much water comes out.

Since this first technique is for water, when you touch your canvas or paper, you will be dragging your brush across horizontally. When you do drag your brush, you will be barely touching the surface. It is a very light touch. If you press too hard, more paint will come off your brush and fill in the gaps you are trying to create. If you have too much water in your brush, it too will be more of a solid stroke. When you are painting water, keep your strokes horizontal unless you are painting a waterfall.

Next try the same stroke but go vertically and wiggle your brush a bit and you can create a wonderful old wood texture. Let the paint dry in between layers and use a different color to create rich, textured old wooden fence or any old wooden object.

Acrylic students this next technique can be used for blending into dry areas as well as creating texture. The stroke is called "scumbling" and that really means that it goes in all directions. Directions of your strokes can tell the viewer a lot about what you are trying to say and remember, you aren't painting the walls of your house, you are painting a picture, you need to add interest to your painting and one way is by using a variety of brush strokes. Scumbling can be use not only in dry brush but also to base in rocks or dirt to give a rough look to the under painting, or can be used to create clouds and it works in both acrylic and watercolor.

Prepare your brush as you did before to get out all the water and load your brush with color, you don't want any real chunky color, but do work enough color into your brush that you don't have to reload every 2 seconds. Again, the touch is very light, remember that the more pressure, the more paint will come out of your brush. I use the side of my brush whether it is a flat or an angle, that means I'm not using the full width of the brush, just the small side of the brush and I lightly drag or "scumble" in every direction in the area I'm trying to cover. Let and area dry before going over it again and you can create some wonderful texture.

Another way to use a dry brush is to create grassy areas. Make sure your brush is dry and loaded with paint, you will be using the flat end of your brush, place it on your canvas or paper, lightly press and flip it up. The stroke should look fairly solid at the bottom and break apart at the top. Press and flip. It is quick so don't waste time over thinking it.

Acrylic students, you may want to switch to a flat sable brush for the next few techniques, everyone else, I'm still using the same brush.

You can create palm fronds, banana leaves, feathers, ferns, and fur using dry brush. For feathers and fur is it just a series of short quick strokes that follow the direction of growth on the animal, this is very important when doing animals so have a reference photo handy. For ferns and fronds, get your brush ready, I usually start by using the flat end of my brush to create a main rib, then flip the brush down to create the look of leaves coming off the rib. For banana leaves, don't flip quite so much and leave the brush in contact with the canvas/paper a bit longer. This all takes practice.

When ever you need texture, think of dry brush an how you can use it to create that texture. The more you use your brushes in different ways, the more mental tools you will have to use.

Still using a flat or angled sable brush, we will be using a bit more water but not a lot more water. Very seldom do I ever advise the use of a lot of water unless I am using my liner brush. I will get to that next.

To create various leaves, requires you to learn to twist the brush between your fingers as you pull up. This time, lightly wipe the water out of your brush and load it with paint. On the canvas/paper place the edge of the brush to the paper and as you more it along, press and twist and you pull up. If you do it quickly you can create little leaves, if you press, drag, twist and lift, you can make long grasses or leaves like for iris. Experiment with this brush to see what it will do and what kinds of leaves you will get.

If you want to make simple flowers, learn to load the paint on one end of a flat brush or the tip of an angle brush. The brush needs to be dry enough that the paint doesn't spread across the bristles but it isn't a dry brush. Pick up paint on the tip and gently work it a bit into your brush on your palette. Place the point where you want the color, I will say to the outside for this example, the heal or end without the paint will be your pivot point, as you make your petal, wiggle your brush. You may have to rinse and reload your brush, it the color is too solid you have too much water in your brush.

Switching to a round sable for everyone, try creating leaves in a similar way as above by touch, press, twist and lift. It will be similar but it may be easier to get the leaves you want.

You can also use this brush to start trees or grasses, you brush will be a bit wetter but not dripping and if you have a shaky hand when doing the trees, so much the better.

You can double load this brush and make small buds. Not too much water but first load on green, then with just the tip, pick up some red or other flower color then on your canvas/paper, start with the tip and lightly press and lift.

The last brush I will cover here is the liner brush. This is the brush that will require a lot of water to make it work correctly for most of the things you will use it for such as trees branches, and grasses. The paint should have a very ink-like consistency when you are mixing the pigment with water. To load your brush, wiggle the whole brush in the paint then twist it as you pull up to get a point.

To paint grasses, first get your motor running making circles with your brush the size you want the grasses or reeds to be in your painting, then touch the surface on the up stroke. This takes practice so have some patience. Hold your brush near the end and the handle up so the paint will flow out of it, not down where it will stay in the brush. Once you have got the feel for grass move on to trees and bushes.

A branch is thicker at it's base so slightly press and as you drag it along, wiggle and lift. Most branches or twigs and a lot of bumps and angles so these wiggles will add to the look of your tree or bush. When I start another branch/twig I usually start back in part of the trunk or branch I want it to come out of, the take a new direction.

These little brushes are also called "riggers" because the marine painters used them to paint the rigging on ships so if you need a long thin line like a barbed wire fence, this is the brush you should use.

These are just a few of the brushes and techniques that are in your arsenal of tools when you set out to paint. It is in your best interest to know how these all work, how each brush handles the different techniques so that you can create you "masterpiece".

Next week: The wonders of white. I will be using the gull on the picture page if you want to download and print out the photo and the drawing.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Winter '10 Week 2

Watercolor Demo: Creating Distance

Before I get into the details of the demo from the PVAC classes I did this week (don't worry Torrance I will catch you up), I just want who ever left a black umbrella in class and I have it in my stuff and will bring it with me on Tuesday. If it keeps raining like this, you are going to need it.

(Acrylic Painters: Everything I say here applies to every medium, when we get back to class we will go over how to accomplish this demo in acrylics but try to figure it out on your own. Hint: you will use white instead of water.)

Now as I said in class, as I walk around I see many problem areas students have and I want to address as many of them as I can, this week it is how you create distance in your painting.

It doesn't matter if you are doing a vast landscape or an intimate still life, unless you are painting abstracts you need to know how to bring dimension into your painting. We do this with value (how light or dark a color is), hue (the actual color) and hard and soft edges. I will go into perspective later but that is also in play.

You will often hear me say that if you really want to improve your painting, you need to become more observant. Your brains can play tricks on you because of the left/right division of labor. If you just glance at something without really looking at it, say if you see a tree, your left brain will assign green and brown to it and move on, it is the same with everything else. If you paint the way your left brain sees, your paintings become very flat and uninteresting because everything similar is the same color. You know something is wrong (right side) but you aren't taking the time to analyze why it is wrong (left side again). You become frustrated.

If you are working from a photograph, as most of you do, really look at the photo before you ever set brush to paper. Compare the colors in the foreground to a similar object in the background. Punch a hole in a piece of white paper and moving back and forth place the hole over the two objects. What do you see? The object in the foreground should be more intense in color and brighter and the object in the background should be lighter and greyer, less intense in color. Also look at the detail between the two. The one closer to the viewer should have all kinds of detail while the one in the back is more symbolic, meaning it lacks most detail. This is the same in real life as well. Look down a street and compare the trees near you to the trees way down at the corner, what do you see? Really see? Just because your left brain tells you that they are the same – and they would be if they were side by side – in reality they are very different.

How do we get that on our paper? You may have to fight with what you would normally think until you have finally convinced yourself that this is true, using a landscape as our first example we will start our first wetting the paper and letting it dry just a bit so that the shine has just vanished from the surface, then with a mix of blue (any blue will do) and a touch or purple (be careful purple is very over powering) and lots of water to dilute the color until it is very pale, use the biggest brush you have and create a layer of mountain shapes.

If the paint spreads too quickly, you paper may be too wet, let it dry some more and try again. You want the edge that would be next to the sky to be very soft but still look like mountains. Rinse your brush and with just a bit of water, fade the bottom of the mountains down a bit. This is a graded wash and will look like mist or dust that happens at the bottoms of mountains and hills. Let this dry to just a bit dryer than before. Each layer you put down must be dryer than the layer that preceded it before you create the next layer.

While you are waiting for your paper to dry, mix the same colors together but this time make them more intense by not adding so much water. For this exercise you just want the value to only be a shade or two darker, so don't make it too dark too quick or you will have no place to go with it.

When your paper feels dry enough, create another layer of mountains the same way you did the first. The top edge should still be soft but with luck not as soft as the first layer (this is tricky and takes practice, don't worry if you don't get it the first time, I'm still struggling with the technique and I've been trying to years!).

Make as may layers as you want using the same method: Each time get a bit darker – you can add some sienna to the mix as well – and let you paper dry a little more each time.

Some one asked: What if I don't like blues and purples? While value is the key here and yes, you can do something similar using warm colors, keep in mind that to create distance especially in a landscape the things that are way in the distance usually take on a blue/grey or purple/grey hue. Remember the line …"Purple mountain's majesty", this is because as we look at distant objects the atmosphere absorbs the various colors of the light spectrum until only the blue and purples are left. In our second example, I first painted a sky instead of wetting my paper with water, and like in the above example, I painted a couple of layers of distant mountains with blues, but as I came into the foreground, I added more sienna to warm it up and in the last layer added orange and red to the sienna to warm up my foreground. See how much depth is created when you remember that cool colors recede and warm colors come forward.

Using this same principle I created studies of closer things: Rocks and flowers. Remember that things must be greyer in the background and to create grey you add a form of it's compliment. For example: Blue add orange and visa versa (sienna is a form of orange), green add red or orange or purple(they have red in them) , purple add yellow or orange. Just a touch of a compliment, especially if you are adding a darker color to a lighter color like purple to yellow because the stronger color can overwhelm the weaker one. What you have done is combine all 3 primary colors and have "muddied" a color.

The rocks became more intense in color as they came into the foreground with harder edges. In the flower study I did in the afternoon, the background flowers are just patches of color. As I came forward, the patches took on a more defined shape and became more intense in color until in the foreground I painted actual flowers with detail.

This isn't hard to do but you do need to convince yourself that it works. Doing little studies like this helps you learn and make mistakes that you don't want to make on your "masterpieces". It's like practicing scales on a musical instrument, not real exciting but very important.

Next week: Brush strokes!

Torrance students be ready to paint, we have a lot of ground to cover.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Winter 2010

Torrance and PVAC Winter Classes

Welcome to the New Year and to the new semester. It feels great to be back and seeing familiar faces and a lot of new ones. I want to welcome my new PVAC students; I hope this blog is helpful.

First off I need to remind my Monday classes at Torrance that we will not be meeting this coming Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr Holiday. We will meet again the following Monday. This doesn't apply to the PVAC classes because there are no Tues holidays and I am thankful for that aspect! It gets very frustrating in the winter semester with 2 Monday holidays, seems like we just can't get started.

Torrance watercolor class members you might want to check this blog for demos I will be doing at PVAC when we have missed a Monday, it'll give you something to do on your week off.

That said, I will give a brief explanation of the demos on skies I did in my Tues class and I will link with the picture page, click on the blue hyperlinks.

Watercolor Skies

(This first part is true for all artists not just the watercolor classes.)

It is important for all artists to take the time to do some "thumbnails" whether they are a quick sketch of the whole scene or a detailed rendering of one aspect like rocks or trees, taking the time to practice before you get to your masterpiece will take the fear out of working on your painting. For beginner and intermediate artists, practice is very important and shouldn't be thought of as wasted effort. If it helps improve your painting and future paintings, it is well worth the time.

Practice let's you test your equipment, your paint and your paper or a new technique. You can try new things and not worry about what it is going to do to your painting. You can work out bugs or problem areas on a scrap piece of paper or, as I showed in class, watercolor cards. When you finally do get to your painting, you will know what you need to do to get the look you need and just paint, not worry about every brush stroke. The more you paint, the more confident you will become and it will show in your paintings.

I showed how to do skies 4 different ways; first, I wet my paper with just water so that my paper would be damp, then starting at the top of my wet area, I used ultra marine blue and a touch of dioxazine purple across the top then added a brush full of cobalt blue right under the ultra and purple, rinsed my brush and with just clear water (my brush was damp not dripping, btw), helped the color down the paper. This is called a graded wash. It is dark in one area and fades in value to another. I turned my paper upside down and did the same thing only I used napthol red, fading it up to the blue area. This is how I started each of my thumbnails*.

To answer a question that came up in class – Why do I use red at the bottom? - it is mostly to add interest to the sky. Yes, I could have used just one color to paint the sky but that is visually boring. The next time you look out at the sky, really look at it from top to bottom, and at different times of day, different weather conditions and you are going to find that it isn't all one color. Even if it looks blue from top to bottom, the sky above you is darker than the sky at the horizon because at the horizon you are looking through more atmosphere, more junk in the air: Dust, water vapor, pollutants – all of which will change how the light passes through it to your eyes. A sky can set the mood of a landscape so become observant of nature and try to capture what you see on your paper.

Back to the first thumbnail: While the paper was still wet, I used a paper towel to lift out some clouds. I use Viva or tissues because other brands of paper towels have patterns that will show on your painting. This gave soft fog like clouds because the paper was very wet. Try lifting at different points in the drying because it will give you a different look as the paper dries.

The second method of lifting was done with a brush. I did let the paper dry until it was just damp then using a clean damp – this is very important to dry most of the water out of your brush – brush, I lifted cloud shapes out of the color on my paper. I rinsed and dried my brush often so I didn't transfer color back into areas I wanted white.

In the third example I added color to make my clouds working wet into wet. Wet paint onto wet paper. This lets the paint spread keeping the edges soft. The paper shouldn't be soaking wet, it works better if it is just on the damp side. Again, this is why you do these thumbnails so you can learn how and when to add water or paint to get the results you want.

I used a dark color that was wet enough it would run if I tilted my paper, this gave the impression of rain. While I always work with the top of my paper higher than the bottom, I usually don't work vertical like I do in class but I would hope that most of you do try painting with the top elevated even an inch will help.

The forth example I did what is called "negative painting" and it is a technique that watercolor artists use all the time. This time when I painted my sky, I started on *dry paper and left the areas where I wanted the clouds white by painting around them. I even added more color around the clouds to increase the value change between the sky and the clouds. A good point to always remember is you need to have dark to show light.

Once I had my cloud shapes in and was happy with the sky, I rinsed my brush, dried most of the water out of it and with the damp brush went along the edges of my clouds to soften them.

These techniques take practice and I hope that all of you take the time to do these sketches. It will really pay off in the long run. I also want to mention that even though this is not a drawing class and I really don't have time to teach drawing in class, if you want to improve your painting regardless of which media you use, you need to understand the basic principles of drawing. There is just no escaping it even if you do abstract because you need to know composition or all you will have is a mess. I recommend the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards because not only does she have easy to understand lessons but it helps you understand how your brain could be working against your efforts and ways to get around your own traps.

Good luck to everyone I will see the PVAS classes on Tuesday and the Torrance classes a week from Monday.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

I Just want to remind everyone that on Monday the Powers That Be will be looking at under enrolled classes and it looks like the watercolor class will be amongst the ones they will cut. I am sure that with only 5 people signed up they will not cut us any slack, maybe if we had 7 or 8 we could cut a deal, but 5 isn't strong enough to even be considered.

My thanks an appreciation to those who have signed up for the acrylic class and also to the 5 brave souls who registered for the Watercolor class. If you would still like to take my watercolor class check out the classes up at the PV art Center on Tues mornings and afternoons, their registration will be open until the day of the class as far as I know, you can call them at 310-541-2479 and ask about Cathy Cango's classes, they are the ones I will be taking over. They are 3 hours instead of 2 1/2 and 10 weeks opposed to 8 (or less) so they do cost a bit more but are comparable in price.

I hope everyone has a happy and creative New Year and I hope to see you all soon.