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.