Friday, March 11, 2011

Winter 2011 Watercolor Classes


Torrance class: I didn't do anything different to the rocks in your class than I did at PV so the blog I wrote for them should be just about the same for your rocks. Just be patient and take your time.

Before I start the narration on the rocks, I want to talk a bit about "getting in the mood" to paint. Painting should be almost meditative. If you are in "the zone" when you are painting you should be startled when you look up and see the time and realize an hour or two has passed. As I look around the class most of you look dismayed that only a few minutes have passed since you last looked at the clock. This is not the mind set you should be in when you are trying to create.

I have mentioned before the Betty Edward's book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" it is a wonderful book for many reasons, the best being explaining to you how your mind works. The two side of your brain have different functions. The left side is concerned with Time, logic, math, language to name a few, the things you use in your everyday-get-through-life state of being. The right side of your brain of you brain is more concerned with spatial things, face recognition, esthetics, emotions sort of the background program that lets you walk through a room without watching every step – everything the left side is not. Together, they make up who we are and how we see the world around us.

One of the key things she talks about is how the left brain relates to the world. It has its own short hand for everything so that anything that looks like a chair no matter how ornate, it names it as a chair and moves on to the next thing, it is very impatient, it doesn't care. Your right side is the side that can tell the difference from a garage sale folding chair and a $1000 gilded antique, it does care.

There is another important fact she discovered and that is when ever you stopped learning art such as drawing, whether it was in grade school or college or whenever, that is where you start your journey again. This is a hard concept for adults, I think we assume that because we are adults that we have absorbed this knowledge or have access to it just by living and experiencing art. Well, I've flown on planes and watched countless movies and TV of pilots working all the controls, but I don't think you'd want me flying any plane you were on. You need to have not only the knowledge but also the skill and that comes through practice and patience.

Most of you are coming from this combination of being an adult and assuming you should be able to do this, plus, for a lot of you, you are in your instant gratification, left brain. Not a real good combination for learning. You will find you have trouble getting things to look like the pictures in your mind, they will tend to be more child-like (this would be more your left brain's shorthand version) or you get frustrated and start mixing mud. You need to slow down, picture the subject in your mind, sketch the subject either on your watercolor paper or on sketch pad and concentrate more on the process than the end result. You will hear that little voice in your head saying "Are we done yet?!" Ignore it and see how much detail you can see in your subject. Whether it is clouds, rocks or whatever, look for shapes, colors, lights, darks and patterns. You will start seeing things you never noticed before and the more you practice this, the easier shifting into that state of mind will become, you just need to ignore that voice when it switches to "This is stupid! Let's move on!"

I can't teach you this, I have tried. This is something you will need to find on your own before you will believe me, I know this from personal experience. The ironic thing about the left brain is it is also your own worst critic. It can see the picture you have in your mind and if what is on your canvas or paper doesn't match, it is quick to point out those "faults". Again, don't listen to it because it will drag you down until you finally give up which is what it wanted all along. Find something in your painting or drawing that you like and concentrate on the positive. I have had my "SHUT UP!" moment when I got so tired of the self criticism I about had myself in tears. It felt like I was being attacked by an internal pack of wolves and I didn't deserve it because I was still learning and art was a part of me I wasn't about ready to give up. It was my epiphany. From that point, my art took a dramatic turn and I've never looked back. Cut yourself some slack and enjoy the process, it will come with time, patience and practice.

::::She gets off her soapbox and puts it away::::

Rocks Part 2 – This week we worked on the river rocks, the individual rounded rocks that could easily be part of a cobble stone road or wall or house as laying on the bottom of a decorative pond. It is all the same, rocks are rocks.

You can start out by doing your drawing before you start or you might want to wait until after the first step because the graphite will tend to wash out and you will have to come back over with your pencil to reestablish the lines. It is up to you, I did my drawing first and went back over the lines when the first step was dry.

The first thing I did before I started painting was to totally wet my paper. I want the paper to be wet so the paint will spread and blend and create some really lovely blends and textures. I also had this on about a 4" slant when I was redoing it at home. Very seldom do I ever work totally flat on the table.

To that wet paper, I splattered, touched and dripped different colors of paint. Anything I've got on my palette is fair game the only caution here is to stop before you create mud. Let the colors flow together by tilting your paper other directions or by using water and no paint to splatter. Also, be sure that you use a lot of water in your paint so it isn't too dark when it dries.

When I was satisfied with my splattering I let it dry until the sheen was just off the paper and I added salt to create even more texture then I let the whole thing air dry to give the salt time to work. When it was dry, I went back over the lines of my drawing.

I am always asked about controlling the watercolor, I have to laugh because even if you get out the little brushes there will always be an element of chaos with watercolors. It is like skiing: At first you feel like you are flying out of control as gravity works against you and those trees come up real fast! But the more you ski the more control you have of your body and your equipment until gravity becomes your friend - or partner in crime – then those trees really are coming up a lot faster but you know what to do to avoid disaster. Same with watercolor though the consequences are only mud and not broken bones, the element of chaos is still there, you just have more control over it. Be patient.

The next thing I did when the paper was dry was I mixed a dirt color for between the rocks. This was mostly sienna though I did throw in some blue and/or purple and while I was painting it on, I picked up touches of red, orange and green just to change the flavor of the color. I painted around all the rocks, this is called negative painting because I wasn't painting the rocks, just the dirt around them. This could be mud, or cement or what ever is between them depending on what situation the rocks are in - road, wall, house etc.

Each rock was painted individually. Some I wet the rock before I added color others I did wet on dry paper, it depended on whether I wanted the paint to spread or I needed to control it. With something like this, you can work on another rock while one dries so you can keep painting for a long time, just be careful not to paint next to a wet area or you will get blooms though in this case that might not be a bad thing.

I used my sponge to create some of the speckles on a rock and then went back in with my brush to soften and shape the marks left by the sponge to make them look more natural.

Rocks have dents and chips on them that are subtle and require a gentle hand. For dents I might wet the area first then drop in a bit of darker color making sure that the edges stay soft with just a damp brush. For the chips, I just put paint on the point of my angle brush (this can be done with a flat or round as well), placed the whole edges of the brush on the paper and painted the shadow of the chipped area. I rinsed my brush and softened the color so that it would blend in on the ends. Sometimes just a little bit of paint can make a big difference, these chips and dips don't need to be dark but they do need to be there.

I finished my rocks by getting in the darkest shadows around each rock. I even pulled out smaller rocks in the dirt area just by painting around with a shadow color or lifting color first then adding shadows around it. While your rocks don't have to be exactly like the ones in the photo, follow the photo enough to give you ideas how to finish each rock. Take your time, you can learn a lot about controlling your paint and how your brushes work doing a project like this.

This week will be our last class in both places so please bring in something for critique it doesn't have to be something you have done in class it can be anything you would like help with or a second opinion. Remember that registration is now open if you want to sign up at either Torrance or PVAC.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Nice sermon! It surprises me how much people talk while they paint. I occasionally hear them go on about their families, vacations, incidents and more. Most of the time, I can't even hear it while I paint, let alone participate. My biggest challenge in the class is finding a way to stop and pay attention to the instructions instead of continuing to paint. It takes a lot of self-discipline!