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.

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