Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer 2011 Watercolor Class

Watercolor – Demo: Pelicans in Flight Week 4

PV students, most of what we did in class this week is documented in the previous blog so check there for details. Torrance students you can go to last weeks blog to see how I did the water, I am going to concentrate on the hills on the island this time. Both classes we are basically done with the birds there are just a few details I might go over in class just in case you would like to see how I might finish, but this is nit picky stuff and you might want to move on to something you want to paint.

When I write these blogs, I have my paintings sitting next to me while I write so I can figure out what I did in class. Sometimes when I look at them I notice things that bother me but I'm too busy in class to figure out what it is, sitting here trying to make sense of all this it at times jumps off the paper, this was one of those times.

Looking at all 4 of my paintings (2 watercolor, 2 acrylic) I realized that not only did it look better with some ripples in the water (did that at PV and liked it), it also came to me that maybe there should be a bit more detail in the hills of the island, it just looked too plain, it needed something.

With that in mind, I mixed a color that was similar in value but just a bit more purple for my hills. Remember that watercolors are transparent and are accumulative in nature so that the color underneath will influence the next layer both in color and in value (darkness). The more layers the more intense the color and deeper the value, it is why we start light and work our way to dark in watercolor. I don't need to mix a darker value for my shadows because it will automatically be darker when I paint over the color that is already there.

I mixed my blue with my crimson – you can use the napthol red as well – to create a cool wine color that was about the same value as the existing hills. Be sure to add enough water so the color isn't too intense. The sun is coming in from the top left so my shadows will be on the right sides of the hills and down in the spaces between the ridges. I would put down the color, rinse my brush, then with just a damp brush go along the edges of the color to blend it into the existing color to create soft shadows.

Sometimes if you look at the dry paint, you will see shapes that you can use to your advantage to create cliffs or other distant details on the hills. Just be sure that your shadows don't have hard lines and that the color isn't too dark. If you need to look at a photo or at the local hills/mountains to see how the shadows play on the hills, by all means, see what Nature does when she paints the hills with shadows to give you an idea of where you need to go with your own shadows.

It is good practice as an artist to keep files on all different subject matters whether it is something you cut from a magazine or newspaper or photos you take for yourself, having a reference file available when you paint is invaluable if you don't have one, start one.

All students need to bring in something that they want to paint for next week, I can help you get started on it and if you need a demo on something I can do it in class for everyone. See you soon.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


Watercolor – Demo: Pelicans

PV students look back in the previous entries for detail descriptions on doing the sky and the island, we did out clouds a bit different because instead of lifting, we negative painted the clouds. By using a little blue on the tip of my angle brush, I painted the sky behind the area where I wanted my clouds to be. In negative painting you paint what is around the thing you are painting, not the thing itself. Next, I rinsed my brush and with a damp brush, blended out the top of that line of paint into the sky so I didn't have a hard line. I rinsed my brush again and with a damp brush, lightly went over the other side of the line to soften it – clouds should not have hard lines – and I rinsed often so I didn't get too much blue into the tops of my clouds. I did a similar thing along the top edges of the birds to increase he contrast between their light areas and the clouds.

The under painting for the pelicans is also in the previous entry and please refer to the picture page to get an idea of where you need to be in class.

The one thing I didn't do in the Torrance class – I will when we meet next – is to do the water. It was suggested that the water needed to have more blue and though I do like the greenish color, I did think it could stand a bit of detail and I could accomplish both at the same time.

I turned my painting so that it was vertical and using my blue with a tiny touch of purple on my brush (I used my 1/2 " angle brush but a small round or liner brush will also work), using just the edge of my brush, I made a series of slightly curved, vertical lines. Sometimes these lines touched, sometimes they didn't, I wanted to leave the color underneath to suggest highlights and I sometimes used just a clean damp brush to lightly blend areas together. Also, the marks near the foreground were wider, darker in color and spaced further apart, as I went into the background, I was using mostly the color left on my brush making the marks lighter, I also made them smaller and closer together to create distance, they faded out altogether before they got to the island. I let the blooms that formed when I paintied in the island act like reflections in the water.

Torrance students, we worked on the birds adding detail and more shadows, this is where having a good print of the photo comes in handy, some of you have much better printers than I do but don't get too caught up in the details of the main bird, look more for the value changes that give the bird its shape.

Mix up a very dark mix of your blue, sienna and purple (mostly blue and sienna with very little water), this should look black even when painted on your paper, if you can see color or see the paper white coming through, it has too much water in it, add more pigment to make it dark. You can thin it out on your paper when you need to but for now it needs to be very dark.

Now you don't hear me say this often and I'm only suggesting this for specific areas, but if you have black (pause while you get over the shock) you can use it on the wing tip feathers, the tail feathers and the back of the head ONLY! These areas are pretty much black in color so it may help you get them dark enough but please, these areas only. Make sure you rinse your brush well and that you don't have any black in your mixing area, it is a color killer, use the dark mix for the rest of the shadows because it will be more alive.

There are dark shadows under the wings, around the eyes and under the top part of the bill and under the body. You will notice that there is a bit of reflected light on the breast of the main bird I added a touch of orange to the wet area and lightly blended the edges into the surrounding dark with a damp brush.

Be aware of your brush strokes, they should follow the growth pattern of the feathers and will change depending on what part of the bird you are painting at the time.

My photo didn't have the pelicans in their mating plumage so I looked on the Internet to see what I could find to liven my birds up, they do become more colorful when looking for mates. Starting around their eyes, the feathers are a burnt sienna color that fades to orange then yellow as it goes back on the head, this will test your blending skills and be sure to use a small enough brush so you aren't fighting your equipment, I saw this with several of you. Even I change brushes occasionally.

On the bill, the tip of it is yellow, then it goes into a mix of red and a touch of orange, darker near the tip and fading back to the eyes, then under the chin it seems to be darker near the face and lighten as it goes to the tip. On the distant birds just a touch of yellow on the head and a touch of the orange red on the bill and that is enough to suggest detail.

While you can call this done at this point if you want, as I look at my painting as I write this, I see a bit more I would like to do. It isn't necessary but just in case you feel your painting needs a bit more, this might help you get some ideas, otherwise, have something you want to paint in class on Monday and I can help you get started.

See you all in class.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Watercolor Class – "Pelican's in Flight"

PV students, you are about a week behind the Torrance class so please check the archives to see what we have been doing. I cover the same material. If you are going to follow along with the pelican project, please have the photo and the drawing on the picture page downloaded and printed so you can have them for class. If possible, have the drawing on your watercolor paper before class so we can get started.

Torrance students we did get pretty far along with our painting with any luck at all, we might finish it in the next class so you might want to have something else handy to work on.

We have been practicing sky and clouds for the past couple of weeks so check the previous entries for detailed instructions on how to do the sky. This does take practice to get a nice graded blend, just remember that it is art, not a photograph so those little imperfections are what give your painting character. Perfect really isn't necessary and may not even be desirable.

If you feel it necessary, you can mask out the light areas of the pelicans with masking fluid, I really didn't feel it necessary, I just kept a paper towel handy and when paint was in areas I didn't want it, I just wiped it out of the area, this is just another way to save your whites and it shows you that you needn't panic about your white areas if you forget to mask them prior to painting the area. You could also wait until it was dry and lift color out if you haven't used a staining color. Mostly what will make it look white is contrast. I will get to that later.

Once you have your background in and it has dried completely (ß this is important), if you have mask on your pelicans remove it. Masking can create hard uneven lines so you might want to take a damp brush and soften and straighten your lines. Rinse and dry your brush often, otherwise you may end up putting down paint rather than lifting it.

We are now going to under paint the pelicans and I need to remind everyone that we do this in layers or washes. Everything that isn't white can all be painted with this first wash of color because it will be dark anyway and this gets us started. What you want to avoid is finishing as you go and when you are a beginner it is an easy habit to get into, you want to see it done but you need to have patience, it will pay off in the end.

I mix my standard grey – ultra marine blue, burnt sienna and a touch of purple – keeping it on the cool side. Mix in enough water to make a medium light grey color, not too dark not too light. This is the first wash of color I will use on my pelicans, it will go on everything that isn't white. In the areas where this color come close to the white areas, I rinse my brush and with a damp clean brush I run it right along the edge of my color to make a graded color that blends into the white area. This is exactly what we did in the sky when we were blending the color down with just water but on a much smaller scale.

There were also several areas like under the wings where there is a bit of reflected light shining up into the shadow areas, remember they are flying over water so there probably would be a lot of reflected light hitting them. I did a similar thing as mentioned above, I put my color in the darkest areas (this is where having the reference photo is your best guide), rinsed my brush then teased the color into the lighter area with just the water on my brush.

Another thing I want to mention is when I have to remix the color when I run out I am more concerned about matching the value (lightness or darkness of a color) than I am matching the color. I use the same 3 colors but if it is more brown than blue or more purple, I can always add a bit more of the other colors to get closer, it is the amount of water that changes the value in watercolor.

I also needed to darken behind the light areas of the birds so there would be some contrast between the birds and the clouds. I used a little bit of blue on my brush and put it next to the white areas of the birds, rinsed my brush and blended it out into the clouds behind. You need to have contrast – light against dark – to show that your light areas are really light. I may need to do more, but I will wait until the end to see if and how much more I need to do.

This is where we stopped, I hope that everyone (Torrance) can be near this point when we meet on Monday. Like I said, we may finish this project depending on where the class is at the end of the day so start looking for something you would like to paint.