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.

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