Week 2 – Watercolor: Snow and White House
White can seem like a huge challenge to the beginning watercolor student because the white of the paper is the traditional white so how do you create white snow?
This is where becoming very observant comes in to your advantage. If you look at a photo or if you happen to be in snow country, really look at the snow especially in the trees or on the shadowed sides of building, it isn't white. This is your brain telling you one thing when in reality it is something else. With the exception of only the brightest highlights, most of the snow is in shades of blues, purples and grays and the actual white is really only white by comparison, remember we must have dark to show light.
Because I have a lot to cover in this blog and I want to get it done before Monday, I am just going to go over the basics of what I did, it was all pretty similar, I just used it in different scenarios.
My first job is to figure out where my sun is because that will determine where my shadows will be and shadows are what I have to work with to show the snow. It is always good to have some kind of reference material to look at especially when you are learning, I want you to pay particular attention to the form shadows. Snow is soft and usually has rounded shapes, the darkest areas will be those away from the light causing a form shadow though these may not be as dark as a cast shadow (shadows cause by something blocking the light), yet in these deep cast shadows there may be some reflected highlights as the light hits an object and bounces back into a shadow. Usually a little lifting is all you need. A lot of this is done using negative painting, painting everything that isn't snow.
For the shadow colors in any white object I usually use a mix of blue (ultra marine or cobalt), purple and sometimes I add a touch of burnt sienna to gray the color, this is especially true for shadows in the distance. I load this color on the tip of my angle brush – though you can create a similar look with round or flat brushes - and I place the tip on the edge where I want my shadow but the whole edge of the brush is on the paper, this should give me a graded (dark to light) shadow. I will rinse my brush and dab it along any hard lines I see and the slight bit of color left in my brush will add texture to my snow. Any place that isn't in the bright light should have some color no matter how faint.
On one to the thumbnails I did, I started by painting rings of color, first I wet the entire section with water, then starting near the middle with a very dilute mix of yellow, I then switched to a very thin wash of orange and finally a very thin wash of red getting close enough to the previous color so they will blend and create a soft graded background. When it was dry, I used darker versions of each of the colors – yellow in the yellow areas, orange in the orange, red in the red – and negative painted around the trees in the sky. This increases the value as well as the intensity of the colors.
To paint the Mts, the furthest mts I used the red with a touch of blue, it should be only slightly darker than the sky and I painted around the trees. The same for the next layer of mts but I used a darker color adding water as I came forward on the right, it is still considerable darker than the trees.
In the trees, I painted the shadows. The light source is in the center so the shadows are to the outside. Look at the picture page and find your won reference. White is a fun challenge.
The house is a lot of negative painting. I started with the shadows under the porch roof where it is the darkest using a blue/purple mix. I was careful to paint around (negative paint) the railing and supports of the roof, I need to leave those white but I did go over where the windows will be. Using that same color I painted the shadows under the eves of the roof, across part of the roof and on part of the side of the house. If you need to indicate the shadow track it is okay to draw them in, just keep in mind that the angle of the roof and where the shadow continues down that back wall, there will be a bit of a jag because of the roof angle verses the vertical side of the house, look at shadows on a house to see what happens.
Next, under the roof of the porch and the eves of the house, it is very dark. A mix of blue, purple and a touch of sienna with little water make a very dark color. Put this color right under the above mentioned areas, rinse your brush and with a damp brush blend the bottom edge a bit to create a soft line. This dark color can also go into the corner of the building where the two sections of the house meet, again rinse your brush and blend it out.
White isn't always white because it will pick up colors that are reflected into it like green from the grass or colors from flowers this adds interest plus it makes it look more natural. Find a "white" wall and really look at it for a while or look at the clouds it helps to relax your eyes so they aren't focusing on one thing, pretty soon you will see all kinds of color!
First I wet the area that is white, this will help the paint spread, then I dropped in some very dilute colors like yellow and green, you can even do this in the shadow areas but keep to cool colors. A little color will go a long way and when I say drop I mean just barely touch the paper and let the watercolor do its thing. If it is too much either blot it with your towel or add more water but don't mess with it too much, trust your watercolor.
You can also help create your house by putting dark trees around it so you have light against dark. The chimney in the corner helps define the edge of the front part of the house, the porch helps define the rails of the porch. Using blue to make the window pains you can create the frame work of the window by leaving spaces, use a bit of shadow color the sill of the windows and along one side to create the outside frame. You can get as detailed as you want or you can just suggest things, the key is contrast between your darkest darks and lightest lights.
We will be doing the cactus flower that has been posted so if you want to download the drawing and/or the picture, have it ready for class.