Saturday, February 5, 2011

Winter 2011 Watercolor class


Torrance students: The instructions for this week's class are pretty much the same as for the PV class a couple of weeks ago so check the archives for that lesson. The only thing I did that was different, I added more masking to protect the foreground trees and some of the branches before adding the middle ground trees and another wash on the snow.

PV – Poppy

To save time, I had already drawn the sketch of my poppy on my paper before class, that said, it really doesn't make a difference if you have your design on before or do it after this first step, so if you don't have your design on, you can wait until the paper is dry then add the design.

I do want to point out a vital issue when you are organizing your design, that is you main subject should be important on the page. If you are working from a photo – either your own or out of a magazine – you are not bound by what you see in that photo. Your priority is your paper. Make the subject big enough to show its importance. This is especially true when you only have one subject, fill the paper with the subject. My poppy takes up almost 3/4th of the paper because I what everyone to know it is important. I kept most of it out of the middle, just off center and I even have part of it going off the page. When you do take part of something off the page be sure that it looks like you intended to do it, don't take the tips of your petal, for instance, to the edge of your paper because if you mat it, it will visually look like it is stuck on the mat, so if it is going off the paper, make it definite.

To start this first step – and this is what a lot of you missed – I wet the paper first, first by spraying it with my spray bottle then with my big brush to get it well coated with water. Next, using my 1" angle brush i.e. the biggest brush you have, I picked up color on my palette that had enough water in it so it was drippy and splattered color on my paper. I used most of my colors except my browns and while it was wet I tilted my paper, threw on some salt and added some plastic wrap before I was all through.

A word of caution: Throwing paint can start to feel too good and you can very quickly go from interesting to mud in a blink of an eye so it is better to stop sooner rather than later and let it dry, you can always add more if you want later. Let it dry completely before starting the next step especially if you added plastic it will take longer for the paper to dry under the plastic.

The first area I painted was the center of the poppy. I used yellow and made a ragged top edge to suggest the fuzzy form of the center, along the bottom of that yellow I added touches of orange and sienna for shadow.

Now the color for the background is not important, I could have – and have in other things I have painted – used black ink for the entire background but for this demo I picked up my red, blue, purple and hooker's green to paint in the area behind the flower and leaves, this is called "negative painting" and it is something that as a watercolorist you will use quite often. Basically, I started with my most concentrated color – more pigment, less water – in the lowest part of the spaces between the petals keeping the color more vivid until I got past the end of the petal then I rinsed my brush and with clear water along the outside edge of that color while it was still wet, I bled it into the background. You may have to rinse your brush often to get it to fade out, just be sure you do not have excess color on your brush before you start this process. When I changed colors, I would blend the new color into the old so there was hardly a noticeable transition from one color to the next. I continued this process until I had all of the flower and the leaves outlined with the color.

Have your reference photo at the ready so you can see where the shadows are on the flower. The color I used for the shadows on my flower will always be blue with a touch of purple, no sienna this time, but lots of water. You want a thin wash for most of the shadows and by letting the area dry before you go over parts with the next wash, the wash doesn't even need to be darker because with water as you add layers, you also add density. Remember to take a damp brush and soften the edges of the color as you put it down.

In the center next to the yellow, you may need to mix a darker value of the blue and purple (less water) to get a dark enough color to carve out the fuzzy top, this is again negative painting because you are painting around the thing, not the thing its self.

The leaves were under painted with yellow then with sap and hooker's green depending on whether the area was light or darker, I negative painted in the veins of the leaves.

While I was doing my demo, people were asking whether I ever used white or pen and ink – yes to both. While I try not to make a habit of using white because it can make a color look chalky, I do occasionally need to use it, this was a good case in point. The splattered soft background tinted all of my paper so I didn't have any white and the edges of my flower looked a bit dingy so I borrowed some white and brightened a few of my lightest areas.

To finish my painting off, I took a permanent, fine tipped marker and added lines and detail around the edges of my flower, leaves and center. Remember, this is art, there are no hard and fast rules. If you want to use white or black, ink washes, collage or what ever strikes your fancy, feel free to do so, that is the only way you are going to know what it is you enjoy about art.

Next week I will be doing a water demo, maybe some rocks or…I'll find something to help you on your journey. See you soon.

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