Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Watercolor Class Spring 2011

Watercolor Demo – Studies

I know that both of my Torrance classes are between semesters, it doesn't mean I'm letting you off the hook. The subjects I cover in PV are relevant to all my classes or any medium for that matter so Torrance students consider this homework.

The real lesson here is taking the time to do studies of different things. It could be anything from plants to animals to rocks to eyes. If you want to get to know your subject better, you need to understand it and the way to understand it is to isolate different elements in your art and practice them by themselves. This is particularly true of things you have problems with like rocks or negative painting or getting distance in a picture. If you want to do portraits you may want to practice doing eyes from different angles or noses. You may want to practice hands or feet if you do figure work, the point I am trying to make is before you can create your masterpiece you need to practice and understand your subject and to be familiar with your equipment.

I'm sure that you would think it ridicules if someone suggested that a professional musician just grabbed a stack of sheet music before going out on stage and to give the performance of a life time never having seen the music before. Yeah, he/she might have heard it over the years and maybe gave a decent go of it but the performance would have lacked the nuance of the music that only practice and understanding will help bring about. When that musician gets on stage he/she knows it backwards and forwards as well as the instrument he/she plays is a part of who they are so when the musician plays, it is coming from the heart and soul because the mind and hands already know what they need to do, there is no thinking involved just the interpretation of the music. This is the importance of doing the studies so when you get to your canvas or paper, you just paint and you don't have to think about it.

I know that you have heard me more than once tell you that becoming a good observer will help make you a better artist, that is where these studies will hone your skills as an observer. You can be as detailed as you want to be in a study which I know will satisfy a need in most of you. This is a good thing because you get a better understanding of what is going on with your subject. You can write notes in the margins about color, or time of day, or place…anything that will help you understand it when you look at your study. You might want to get a sketch book or a nice watercolor field book to keep these studies in so they are in one place when you need them. These can be pencil sketches, watercolor sketches, pastel, colored pencils oils or acrylics, whatever you want them to be or whatever happens to be handy at the time. You can even take photos or cut out photos and paste them in your book as reference. You are limited only by your own imagination.

Before you start painting or sketching, look at your subject first and continue to look at it until you start to see the subtle changes of color, textures and shapes, this will be your right brain kicking in your left brain will have already named it and wants to move on (it's a stick with leave on it, let's go!), when it gives up your right brain will take over, this is when you start sketching either with your pencil or paint. Try to recreate what you see, watercolor students, you will need to concentrate on the lightest areas first because we work from light to dark, the acrylic students look for the mid-tones. All of you should be looking at the shapes – the curves and angles that make up the subject, don't name the parts just look for shapes – and the way they fit together and relate to each other. It is much more complicated to write this than it is to do it but like everything else, it takes practice.

You all can do this, should do this, even those who are new to painting. You have the knowledge and the basic skills even if you have only started this semester, you can do this. Studies are not meant to be perfect, they are the artistic equivalent to musical scales and finger exercises. I certainly wouldn't expect you to sit down to a piano and play Moonlight Sonata if you have never been near a piano, I don't expect perfection and neither should you, the goal is experience becoming familiar with the subject and the equipment the masterpieces will come but not over night. Be patient with yourself and practice any chance you get.

There will be more mini demos in the PV class. See you all soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Watercolor Spring 2011

Watercolor – Utah Fall

The Torrance class basically finished up what they were working on there wasn't anything new from last time but I did do a mini demo in both classes to show how I negative painted at the bottoms of my rocks to leave white areas for grasses. I was asked if it was okay to use masking fluid – of course! What ever works for you is perfectly okay, but you do need to see that there is more than one way to do something. I just didn't want to wait for the masking to dry so I just painted around the grasses but I have in other instances used mask so feel free.

I was also asked if the grasses could be done with the liner brush, again of course! I usually do as much with my flat or angel brush as I can because it covers more ground and I save the liner for individual grasses but all of the closer grasses can be done with a liner if you so choose.

If you want to add some texture to the road, get out your toothbrush and splatter the road with some different colors, you can even splatter some purer colors up in the trees if you want though you might want to cover any areas you don't want splattered because it tends to go everywhere.

For Torrance that was the last class, the next class will start June 20th and will run for 9 weeks not 8 fall classes will be 10 weeks again. PV classes we will be doing some studies for the next few weeks because I see there are areas we need to work on and I'm not sure we have enough time to finish a new project so please bring extra paper even some sketch paper and a pencil will come in handy. See you all soon.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Spring Watercolor Class


PV students the one thing that I did different in your class is I didn't under paint the green and orange trees until after I had negative painted their shapes with the darker trees behind them, other than that the previous blog will apply, just add the yellow and light orange under painting in your tree areas.

Torrance, this was our last day on this painting for the most part, I started by adding more shadows to my rocks. Again the mix is sienna, blue and a touch of purple and only a little water. We are painting the NEXT DARKEST AREAS, not the darkest yet we will get there, just not all at once. This wash helps define the individual rocks even more, that first wash defined the sunlit tops of the rocks, this wash will help define the bodies of the individual. Please follow the photo where you can, it is your best resource. You will be negative painting some rock by painting darker behind them and positive painting other, just start in the darkest part of the rock and work your way out, rinse your brush and blend areas together. It doesn't need to be a smooth transition it will give texture to your rocks. At the base of the rocks remember that there is grass growing in front of them, if you want that grass you can negative paint around the grasses, mask out the grasses before you start on the rocks or scratch them out later, it is up to you, just remember it is there and proceed accordingly.

If you want ruts in your road, you might want to lightly sketch them in, simple lines will do, just so you know how your ruts go back into the distance. Remember they are prospected lines meaning that as they go back into the distance they get closer together.

To paint the ruts you might first want to first practice with a pencil doing "u"s and upside down "u"s. I want you to see that these shapes can suggest depressions – u's – and rises – upside down u's. If you connect them you will see that it visually looks like rises and falls, when you are working on a two dimensional surface like paper or canvas, you only have shapes to convey what you want your viewer to see, in this case curved lines. Flat curves will look shallow or low, deep curves will look deep or high. If you start out with a wide curve then make a slightly smaller curve on top of it and so on up the page until the shape is almost a dot, you should get the sense that the shape it going back in space. This is what we will be ding in the road and you need to under stand it so it will make sense to you.

All that said, I made a mix of sienna and a touch of purple and along the lines for the ruts of my road I made a series of shallow "u" shapes with my brush, making them smaller and lighter (more water) as I went around the rocks. The distant part of the road is too small for any detail. These marks can be rough and uneven, giving more character and texture to the road, just be sure that they aren't too deep.

Conversely, on the top of the road, using light mixes of color – sienna, orange, yellow, grey, any or all – meaning color mixed with a lot of water, make a series of convex shapes (upside down "U"s) to give texture to the top of the road. I also took my toothbrush and splattered different colors in the road area, you can use any or all you have on your palette, they should fade out around the big rocks, keep the very small detail for the foreground .

All that is left now are the grasses and bushes along the sides of the road. The bushes are done just like the trees in the back, leaving some of the light area as highlights and when you get around where you want grasses, you will have to negative paint some of the foreground grasses just like you did in the rocks. You can also positive paint grasses using the tip of your angle brush, a round brush or your liner brush, I do want you to notice that the grasses are many colors: Different greens, browns, oranges, some grays – don't be afraid to add those colors as you paint your grasses it will actually make the grasses look more natural, if they are in Nature, they can be in your painting.

Some minor details and this is done. First, you may want to put shadows on your road from the grasses, just be sure that your strokes follow the contours of the road: If a bump goes up, so does the shadow, if it goes down, so does the shadow. Next, we need to add the trunks of some of the trees. This is best done with your liner, mix sienna and purple with a little water, you want it dark but not too dark, then add tree trunks into the deciduous trees. These are lost and found lines because some of the have leaves and branches in front of the trunks, just put in a few where they will do the most good and let the viewer fill in the rest.

This was the last day for this project and Monday will be our last class. Please have something for critique, it can be something you have worked on in class or something from home or another class, any media, something current or something you have done in the past, just as long as you need a second opinion bring it in.

Registration starts soon and the summer classes will be 9 weeks and it looks like the fall classes have gone back to 10 weeks so please get signed up ASAP if you want to take classes. See you.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Spring 2011 Watercolor Calss

Watercolor Project – Utah Fall

PV Class – You will still be referring to the previous blog posts for the steps we covered in class but there is a difference you will notice: At Torrance, I under painted the deciduous trees before I painted in the tall evergreens, in your class, I just negative painted around those trees and will under paint them next class, either way is fine, there is no right way so if you are going by the blog to catch up and you see the PV painting looks different, do not panic, you are fine.

Torrance class, we worked on filling in the middle ground dark trees and the lighter deciduous trees in front of them. The brighter trees were created by negative painting around them, leaving the light area. I hope that you practice the negative painting because as watercolorists it is a very useful tool in your tool box of knowledge, by painting darker behind and area you can make another stand out so when you are painting the trees, if you want to suggest a branch coming out off that tree, you paint dark around the area you want as that branch. Go out and look at different kinds of trees, notice the light and dark areas and think of how you would paint that tree knowing that you have to save your lightest areas.

In the deciduous trees, I was using my 1/2'" angle brush on its tip, I usually start in the middle of the tree with a light color – this will depend on if it is a green tree (sap green, yellow and water) or the orange trees (yellow, orange and water), and I tapped the color on with over lapping dots leaving some of the under painting showing for highlights and worked my way to the edge of the tree. Remember that under painting is your highlights for the tree so do not cover the whole thing up, leave some of it to show the light in the trees. This is also where you can suggest branches in front by leaving light shapes in the body of the tree (see the sample I have on the picture page).

While the tree was still wet I went in with slightly darker versions of the color of the tree (more paint less water) adding that to parts of the tree I wanted to suggest were in shadow, I did not cover up everything I just did, just some parts especially towards the bottoms of the trees where they may be more in shade. And finally to that color I added touches of blue and/or purple for the darkest shadows and added this to only the areas I thought should be the darkest.

I do need to clarify something when I say I make a series of dots: I don't mean Dot. Dot. Dot. I mean dotdotdodotdoot dotdotddoot dotdodottodot. The overlap and become one shape rather than a bunch of individual dots that look like ornaments hanging on the tree. The dots allow me to leave small spaces to let the under painting show through and creates texture.

Also note that when I got down to where the weeds and grasses start I negative painted around them to suggest the weeds and grasses.

If you are going to have a path in your painting – some have opted not to have one and that is okay by me – under paint it with a watery mix of sienna, yellow and a touch of orange. Be sure to get the path in the background going into the trees. The grasses are under painted with watery versions of yellow, sap green, and orange. You can paint both the path and the grasses with water first to help the paint move and to help keep it light. This is just a wash so it should be very pale.

Last but not least, I under painted the pile of rocks with a mix of blue, sienna a touch of purple and lots of water. This is just a pale gray that I put one everything that will be in shadow leaving the white of the paper as my highlights. If you need to, re-draw your rocks so you know where you need to leave the white of the paper but everything that is in shadow get this first layer of color so don't worry about painting individual rocks, they will come out later.

I noticed a couple of things I forgot to do so I will show you, you don't need to panic if something isn't perfect, we all need to know how to fix things we don't like so this will be a good demo. We only have 2 weeks left so I hope that everyone is up to this point in class. See you soon.