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
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.
(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