Friday, April 29, 2011

Watercolor Spring 2011

Watercolor Class Project – "Utah Fall"

After last week when I turned around and saw a bunch of deer caught in the headlights, I realized that we needed to do some practice on negative painting before we continued on with our painting. Negative painting is one of the cornerstones of watercolor painting and you need to understand it because you simply can't escape it if you want to continue with watercolor.

In watercolor we work from light to dark. What this means is anything that is white is the white of the paper and we work to darker colors from there, saving white and light areas using various techniques such as when we used the masking fluid. Negative painting used more often and when you understand it you automatically switch from positive painting (painting the thing) to negative painting (painting the area around the thing). You use it in large areas or in very small areas; it is almost like carving out the object with your brush out of the white of the paper. You do need to practice this and you need to learn to see it in the pictures you are working from.

I handed out some small pieces of watercolor paper and had you just drop some light colors like yellow and orange onto the wet paper, then let it dry. When it was dry, I suggested that you draw a tree on this paper, using one of the trees in the reference photo as your model it didn't have to be perfect but you did need to know where you were going. Some of you did not do this and were having problems. Even seasoned professional watercolor painters will do detailed drawings so they know where they are going. It's not like acrylics or oils where you can paint over something you don't like, it you paint something dark that should be light, you may not be able to lift enough color off to make it look white again, so please, get those pencils out and sketch in your "road map", it will save you a world of grief.

After I had my sketch on, I mixed a dark green color of Hooker's green, blue and a touch of purple to make the color of the pines behind the leafy trees in front of them. Remember this is just for this particular painting, I have some light green and orange trees against dark green pine trees, different scenes will require different handling, you could do this with ink on white paper if you want, it is the technique not the color.

With this dark color and my ½ angle brush, I used the tip of the brush to make a series of overlapping dots to create a lacy edge to my trees. Many of you were making dashes or marks instead of dots so you weren't quite getting the lacy effect that dots will give you, plus you were leaving even spaces between the marks and dots and you were making regular shapes. It is a human thing but as artists you need to be aware of it and work towards a more natural look. These are wild trees that grow at irregular rates, they are also deciduous trees with lots of leaves, they should look very lacy with lots of ins and outs. If you take the end of your brush or a pencil and trace the edge of a tree either in a photo or in real life, you should see that the end of the brush or pencil moves all over the place! This is what you need to recreate on your paper.

The end of my brush dances around like I have the coffee jitters, making these little overlapping dots to create the outside edge of my tree. Beyond the tree I can just paint as normal but that outside edge needs to be very irregular to make it look natural. I also added some "see through" areas in the trees and negative painted some branches in these areas.

Even in the trees where I wanted to show that one branch was sticking out from the others, I can negative paint the area behind that branch which will give the tree depth and form. Practice this! It will make you a much better watercolorist.

The next thing we went over is the pine trees. They aren't that hard to do but like everything else, they do take practice. I've mentioned before to get some blank greeting cards to do these little studies or use the back of an old painting, just something you can practice on and not worry about if it is "right".

I use my angle brush for this but you can use a flat or a round but you will need to work out the particulars because they are just a little bit different. With the very edge of my angel brush, I touch the paper a couple times to create a line to suggest the very top of the pine tree. I DO NOT paint in the full length of the trunk of the tree because most of it will be hidden by branches, I can suggest parts of it later. Starting at this line a bit down from the top with the tip of my brush and my brush on its side so it is perpendicular to the paper, I press and lift and I swish out from the center line. Small movement creates small branches, longer bigger movements make longer braches but the technique is the same: Press, lift and swish!

As I move down the tree, I do start along the center line but I will make marks across the center of the tree. Many of you only had branches coming off the sides of the tree at regular spacing giving your trees a "fish skeleton" look. Just like the deciduous trees, pine trees grow irregularly, and you must remember that there are branches all around the tree. Towards the bottom of the pines the branches can droop as they might do in nature and the will be come more congested then the tops.

To create a grove of trees start with one trees then just add the others around it starting the same way and overlap the branches especially near the bottom.

Practice! Practice! Practice! We will be continuing on the painting next week so you will need to know how to do this.

Both classes are about at the same place now so PV if you need instruction on the sky look in the achieves. See you all next class.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Watercolor Utah Fall


PV Class – You will have to go back into the archives for the finishing touches to the boat. Please be ready to start the fall picture next class by having the photo and the drawing with you and have a drawing on your paper. The drawing does not need to be exact, just close enough so you have a decent road map. This also goes for my Torrance class if you haven't done so already.

Now the sky in this painting is a bit blah so as artists we can create something more interesting. For this painting I didn't want anything over powering to take away from the scene itself, I wanted something to compliment it so I choose blue to compliment the oranges in the trees.

Before I move on, I so want to remind you to have some elevation to the top of your painting, this will let gravity work for you and it in this first step it is essential that you get some movement in your paint. You don't have to work vertically like I do even an inch or two will help so put a roll of tape or your brush box or something under the top of your painting to get an angle.

First, I wet the sky area and the area where the distant hills are going to be. The reason for wetting all this area is one, I want the color to run down the paper and I don't want a hard edge where it runs into the hills so it visually looks like it is going behind the hills. Second, I am going to need the hills wet anyway, this will give that area a chance to dry slightly so edges will soften but not blur.

In the wet sky area with my 1" angle brush right along the top of the page I applied blue. I used ultra marine blue but you can use any blue you like, though I would advise not to use pthalo blue because it is a powerful color and it will not lift off.

After I applied the blue, I rinsed my brush and along the bottom of this color with a damp brush, I moved the color down with just the water on my brush. The paint may move enough on its own so this step might be unnecessary but it is good practice, just remember to rinse your brush between passes. You might also find that you need to add a bit more color to the top of the paper so repeat these steps as needed.

Your sky shouldn't take too long to do so everything should still be pretty wet. If you want to add clouds, you can lift them with a paper towel or your brush or you can drop water into the wet sky, this is optional and you might want to try it out on a separate piece of paper before starting your sky but it is okay to add clouds.

If your hill area has dried, you will need to rewet the hills and the sky just above the hills by maybe a quarter inch, just enough so the paint will have some place to go when we are doing the distant trees. The colors I used for the hills was a watered down mix of sap green and a touch of purple, just enough to gray the green slightly. Remember that as things go into the distance they become less intense and grayer in color so keep this color very pastel. Also have an orange ready that is mixed with a lot of water and some of the green mix to slightly gray the orange, you will be working back and forth between these colors as you paint in the hillsides. Notice in the photo that there are patches of the orange color all across the hills, when you want to add the orange, just drop it in or lightly touch the tip of your brush to the paper and let it blend in on its own. Another thing I need to mention is not to worry about the dark foreground pine trees just paint the hills like the trees weren't there, you need that color behind the trees for one reason the second and most important is because the pines are so much darker the color on the hills won't affect them much if at all. It will save you the added misery of trying to put the hill color in after you have painted the pines.

If and you are painting the hills the paper seems to be getting dry, you can rewet as often as you need to. If you are working under a vet or it is a dry day, you paper may dry out faster than you can paint so don't be afraid to rewet if you need to.

Once you have finished painting the base colors in for the hills, there are some trees on them that need to be painted in while the paper is still wet or at least damp, you don't want it dripping wet but it should still feel damp to the touch. In that same green/gray mix you made add a touch of green and a touch of blue to darken it slightly. This value isn't much darker that what you have already, it just needs to have a bit of contrast against what is there.

These are distant clumps of trees and they are not phone polls, they should be various sizes should be clumps both large and small, as well as individual trees, also, don't line them up like a tree farm, these are wild trees. They are also suggestions of trees so no detail, just make a vertical mark or marks and let the wet paper do the rest. We may come back and add some features, not necessarily detail, just keep it simple at this point. Now let it dry completely before starting the next step.

The next area we will be painting is the line of green and orange trees in the middle ground. Actually, we won't be painting the trees we will just be painting their basic highlight color. The orange trees are pretty straight forward because they are orange we need a lighter version of the color to under paint them, the green trees aren't so obvious to most. Look in the lightest areas of the green trees you will notice they are very yellow so that will be our under painting for the green trees.

I wet the areas for the trees as I painted them doing the yellow first then the orange, if the colors blend a bit together that is okay, do not worry about it. The yellow was fairly rich in intensity meaning I used more color and less water, the orange was a bit different it was basically orange but I added a touch of red because it is more of a salmon color and a lot of water, I want to keep this light. You may also need to add a bit of water as you paint, remember this is just the under painting for the trees just paint the mass color and don't worry about whether they look like trees at this point. Let this dry completely.

The last thing I did was I started adding in the dark pine trees and as I did that, shaped my middle ground trees using negative painting. First the pines: I mixed my Hooker's green with a touch of purple to make a very dark green, there was only a little water. I used my angle brush and working on dry paper, I first made a straight line to mark the top of the tree – not the whole trunk, just the top – then starting from that line with a flicking motion, I made the branches of the tree. This is something you may need to practice on another piece of paper, the problem I saw around the room was people were either painting them too solid and too uniform or were making them look like fish skeletons, branches come out from all sides of a tree, there are gaps between branches, branches from one tree overlap the tree next to it there could be smaller trees in between…It is Nature, it is messy.

At the top of the trees you might see some individual small branches, but as you work your way down, the branches get longer and more congested there are also more shadows so add more blue or purple to you color near the base. There is something else you need to do as you get near the other trees and that is to create the shapes of the middle ground trees with this dark green color by negative painting the outside shape of the green and orange trees. Remember to be random in your shaping, these are not manicured trees, they will have odd shapes. We will do more of this next class. Negative painting is how we keep our light areas in watercolor.

We will continue this at Torrance and will start this at PV so be ready to work. See you all soon.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Watercolor 2011

Spring 2011 – Watercolor – Fanta-Sea

For my PV students you will need to go back a couple weeks to see the beginning of Fanta-Sea. I have done nothing different just follow along as best as you can, any questions ask me in class. You might also want to download the photo and drawing for the next project because we might get started in the next class.

Before I get involved in talking detail for finishing up the boat, I want to go over how to create a graded wash, it is something a lot of you struggle with and it is one of the most versatile techniques you can use in watercolor. It can be used in big areas like a sky or small areas like the sides of buildings or petals of a flower, once you learn this technique it is simple and will make your watercolor cleaner and fresher.

What I mean by graded is it goes from dark to light in a very smooth blend and there are several ways you can create a graded wash. The first way is to wet the area where you want/need the color to go from dark to light. Wet beyond where is should be the lightest so the paint doesn't just stop when it reaches dry paper. Then, starting in the area where you need it darkest, apply the paint. Rinse your brush and remove the excess then with just the damp brush, run it along the edge where you need to soften the color. This can be done with most brushes whether they are round, flat or angled, just be sure to use most of the brush on the paper with the tip a bit into the color and the rest of the brush away from the color.

The next method is to work wet on dry paper again, you can use any brush but you do need to practice this so you know how your brush works. Load your brush with the color you need then apply it to the area you will be painting. Rinse your brush and immediately with your damp brush, run it along the edge you need to soften and lighten. You can't wait too long or the paint will start to dry and won't move. This is a good time to remind you it helps to have the top of your paper elevated so that gravity will work for you, helping g the paint to move. You may need to do this again until you get the desired look you want.

The third method works best with flat or angle brushes. Rinse your brush and slightly dry it then load your paint on to one corner (flat) or tip (angle) and then slightly work it into the bristles about a third of the way across by working it on your palette. Place the tip/corner of your brush where you need the darkest color but have the whole edge of your brush on the paper with the opposite end of the bristles in the area you want the lightest. Again, this takes practice but it is very effective.

Now to the boat.

Make sure that you have the color around your boat intense enough. You need the contrast between the color and the white of the paper to make the sail and the boat stand out. This is best done before you remove the masking, however, if you need to, you can add color around the sail or the boat, using the technique above to fade the color into the sky or sea, just find a color that is in the area you need to intensify, paint it around the boat or sail then with a wet brush, fade it out to the sides of your paper.

When you are satisfied with your background, be sure that the paper is totally dry before removing the masking. Moisture likes to gather at corners or angles. If you are using a hair drier, be sure to use the low setting for the heat and hold the drier back at least 18" from the paper. You don't want to melt the masking into your paper or you will have trouble.

Do not worry about the stripes on the sail for right now, just worry about the shadow that runs the length of the sail. You will notice it is a graded shadow: Darker on one side then fades to light on the other, this is where your practice comes in. Mix a bluish gray with blue, a touch of sienna to gray it, even a tiny touch of purple but keep it on the blue side, then do your shadow using one of the techniques I mentioned above. If you use the wet into wet method, do not wet the whole sail ONLY the pars of the sail that have shadows, this will give you a harder line on that one edge and keep the sunny areas bright.

You can use this color in the shadow areas of the boat. If you mix it darker, you can use it to create the canopies over the man piloting the boat and for the portholes and other dark detail.

The stripes can be any color you want them to be I will tell you my reasoning for my choices but the choice is yours. I didn't much care for the navy blue stripe in the photo but decided to have a blue stripe at the top part of the sail because it was the compliment to the colors in the sky (orange and yellow), but it was not solid blue. I wet the stripe (wet into wet) put blue at the top and bottom of the upper stripe and put a bit of sap green in the center and with a clean damp brush worked the edges of those colors together. This creates a sense of light coming through the sail.

On the bottom stripe, I needed a color that would stand out against the blue of the ocean, again I went with the complimentary colors of red with a touch of yellow at the center of the stripe, just like I did on the top. The stripes on the boat are optional but again you choose.

To finish this up I outlined some of the boat with my Sharpie pen to give it some detail and definition to areas. The rigging (rope/cables for the sail) I did using my ruler and a sharp, pointed knife to score the paper. this was another reason to have that area intense enough in color so the ropes would show up when the paper was scored. The important thing to remember here is this has to be the last thing you are going to do to the sky because once you have damaged the surface of the paper, it will take the paint differently, usually a lot darker so be sure you want to do this before you start.

We will be starting a new project on Monday so be sure that you download the photo and the drawing if you need it. See you soon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring 2011 Watercolor


Because Blogger has taken away my ability to create paragraphs, why, I am unsure, I will separate thoughts with --- sorry I know it makes it hard to read but they keep messing with my format.

--------- Please read the last post for last week to get started, I do want to emphasize that you do not need to do your drawing until after you have done your first splatter, not do you need to have your boat masked out, however, if you have don't both before you started to splatter it is okay, I just like to see some of the splatter in the subject I am painting, it is neither right or wrong, it is personal preference.

--- Another thing I need to mention is there was method to my madness when I splattered, this is where a drawing or at least the horizon line will come in handy, I wanted to keep my warmer brighter colors up in the sky area behind the sail of the boat and the cooler, darker colors in the water area. Keep your paint pure as you splatter and let them mix on the paper, remember to stop before you start mixing mud.

--- I also want to mention again that it will help your painting, not just this painting but when ever you paint, if you raise the top end of your painting so it is on a slight angle. This will let gravity work for you and your paint won't sit in stagnant pool on your paper but will do what watercolor does best and mingle together with the other paints. You don't need much to start, maybe an inch or two but you may find that the angle helps you a lot. I usually work at an angle of about 4" at home though I am now pretty comfortable working almost vertically since teaching the classes. All it takes is a roll of tape or you purse or a brush box, just something to prop the top up.

---- Once you have finished your first splatter and your paper is completely dry, if you haven't done so get your drawing on and put masking on the entire boat and sail. The paper need to be completely dry before you add the masking or you will have problems when you go to take it off.

--- When the masking is dry, it should take about 20 minutes or so, you can do your next splatter, this time use more paint and less water so the colors are brighter. You want to increase the color intensity and also its value nearest the boat both in the sky and in the water, just don't try to do it all at once. It may take t or more times of splattering with drying time in between to get the depth of color and value you need, just remember to let it dry between sessions.

--- When you have the background the way you want, make sure that your paper has completely dried before trying to take off the masking. The moisture likes to pool up along the edge of the mask, especially if there is a corner, if you take it off while there is any dampness near the mask you run the risk of tearing the paper. If you use a hair drier, be sure to use the cool setting and hold it back at least a foot from the paper so you don't melt the masking into the paper. You may have to reestablish your drawing before you start because the mask will put up some of the pencil and paint with it.

--- From here I painted the boat just like I would in a traditional setting. At the top of the sail, there are some shadows and creases, I mixed my blue with a tiny touch of purple and sienna, I wanted a bluish gray. Starting right next to the mast I painted my darkest color using my ½" angle brush, I rinsed my brush, and at the edge away from the mast I blended the color out to get a graded look to the color. Next, using this same color, I painted the shadow on the sail. If you need to draw a line to show you where the shadow is, please do so. There is a harder, darker edge to parts of it but you do need to soften the back edge going towards the sail, so after you rinse your brush, with just a damp brush, tease that strip of color you just put down so that it fades back towards the mast. Next, rinse your brush, and draw the damp brush down the outer edge of that shadow just to soften it a bit, it will make the sail look rounded.

--- The stripes on the sails had two colors, you may want to wet the stripe first, then put blue at the top and bottom and hooker's green in the middle. On the bottom stripe I did a similar thing with red and orange, orange being in the middle. I did add some shadow to the side of the boat with the blue-gray color, but we will finish this up next class.

--- We are going to practice doing some graded washes so have some extra paper with you to practice on.