WATERCOLOR CLASS – Glass and metal
There are similarities between glass and metal that will be apparent when you really look at the two, glass has the added element of being transparent for the most part, in both cases it is good to know where you are going with them and that requires a good road map.
You will hear me almost every time talking about drawing skills, my hope is to get a few of you to take it to heart. Like anything else you have to learn, the more practice you get the better you will become and if you concentrate on creating shapes rather than the thing you are drawing you will see improvement. Shapes are important in creating a road map for your glass or metal.
First, draw the basic shape of the glass or metal you want to paint. The outline and some basic "road signs" like a label or a corner is all you need to start. When that is done now look at your object and look for all the shapes that are reflected that are reflected. Don't worry about what is causing the reflection it is truly unimportant even if it is you that is reflected, just draw what you see. If it is glass you may see the shapes of things behind the glass such as the table and that will have its own shape. You may even see shapes within shapes, depending on how detailed you are going to make your drawing/painting will determine what you put in. Remember you do need to suggest enough of what you see to tell your viewer that it is glass or metal, beyond that is up to you as an artist.
If your subject is burnished metal or glass that is not as transparent you still to look at your subject carefully. Whether it is a tarnished copper pot or a ruby glass vase, it you look close, you will see that the things around them do reflect into them, maybe not as strong as something highly polished or transparent, but it is there and you need to be able to see it.
Once you have your "road map" – it could be a simple as a few basic shapes to note the most prominent things you see or it can be highly detailed, your choice – now you have to fill in the map. It doesn't matter where you start just hold off on your highlights until the very end. Even light shapes in a very reflective object aren't pure white so you will want to gray them down with a bit of mud from your palette or a touch of blue and sienna – teeny tiny touches – you just want to take the white down a bit.
When you are painting this for real, it will be to your advantage to mask out the highlights before you start. For the new students who don't know what masking fluid is, it is a rubber cement like latex that watercolorist use to protect their white areas so you can paint right over it and not worry about painting around small areas you want to leave white, then it rubs or peels off when you are ready for it. I will have some you can use in class but if you are going to continue in watercolor it is a handy thing to have in your art box. For now just be sure that you have marked where your major highlight is and worry about the small ones at another time, remember this is just practice.
If you are painting clear glass, really look at your glass. There is very little actual white, in the thickest parts it could be green or blue or gray and the overall color will be a very thin glaze or wash of that color so start off with that color and keep it handy you will need it to build up density. Don't get too dark too soon, in watercolor we work from light to dark and we need all those in between values to help us create three dimension on a two dimensional surface.
Don't be afraid to test a color next to your glass or metal on your paper to see how it looks. It is much better to test now and know if it is too dark or not the right color on your paper, than when you are working on the real thing. Test those washes, they should just be tints. If you get things too dark too soon, it may be hard to lift the color back off to where you wanted it and you could end up damaging your paper. Better to do it right the first time than fretting over it later.
Again, have the thing you are going to paint in front of you and put in as much or as little as you need to tell your viewer what it is, the detail is up to you. Just work in layers and let the layers dry before you attempt to add more layers (washes). And feel free to experiment, this is the place where you can learn how to use your brush, how to add washes, how to lay down paint then rinse your brush and use water to bleed the color out. Or play with the color of your object to get the right mix. This is just practice so practice!
We are going to put these objects all together this week and create a simple still life so you will need a fresh paper and bring in your glass and metal along with one other thing for your set-up. It can be a piece of fruit real or not, a silk flower but keep it simple, your glasses if you don't need them to paint, a book, a candle…What ever you think would go with the other two objects that isn't a project in itself. I want it simple for your sake, this third item will help you compose your painting easier than with just two but it should be something you are familiar with painting-wise.