Friday, September 30, 2011


WATERCOLOR DEMO – Values and Color.

Torrance Class – You will need to go back a couple of weeks to get the first part of this value study, I did post a picture of the one I am doing in class so you can see where we are. I also posted a photo of my drawing for this version of the value study. This is good to note for both PV and Torrance classes because if you want to do detailed paintings in watercolor, you need a good drawing.

I started by transferring the drawing I posted on the picture page but then I took the reference photo and carefully went over the image looking for detail that wasn't included in the original drawing (figured it would scare the pants off everyone ;-) . I looked for shapes in the vase, and in the reflections, I also found that I had mis-drawn the leaf that is below and behind the flower so I corrected that. I put as much information is as I thought I needed to help me with my washes. You DO NOT need to do this! However, if you want to do more detail in your paintings, this is what you will need to do.

PV Class – I decided that I had most of my values for this study about where I wanted them so I switched from the diluted ink I had in the bottle to straight drawing ink because I wanted to get the black areas black. That is not to say that I didn't go back into some areas with a diluted wash, but I could just add water to the ink to make it lighter when I needed it.

There were many areas that needed to be almost as dark as the background, especially around the flower itself. To make the flower look light and bright, I really needed to get dark around it. Many of you were still way too light right around the flower petals so you flower didn't quite jump off the paper. I took my full strength ink and put it in between and around the petals, rinsed my brush and with just water, pulled the ink out to blend it in with what was there. I did this a couple times until I got the darkness I needed behind my flower.

This is the point where the artist has to make decisions: How much detail do I put in and do I add color? I added quite a bit of detail by using the reference photo and finding where I wanted/needed to add more values or darker values. When I was done I let it dry for at least 20 – 30 minutes so I was sure that the ink was completely dry then I came back in and added some color to the flower, leaves and vase. I did this so students can see what it is like with color, the one I am doing at Torrance I will leave black and white for comparison.

Next week I am going to do a demo using my watercolors in a similar way to build values, I will be working from a photo from a friend and former student Kathleen Russo who graciously said I could use it in class. However, I am not going to use this as a class project it is a demo, if you want to paint it you can, or you can find something else you would like to paint and just watch the demo.

I hope that students will find a project of their own to get started on so I can help you with it during the rest of the semester. See you all in class.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Watercolor Demo – Value Study Week 2

Torrance students we started on making our value scales in class, if you haven't finished we can do that on Monday. These scales come in handy in many situations so even if you don't do the project, I hope that you will finish the value scale. We will start the project on Monday so I hope that everyone has their drawing on their paper and ready to go.

PV students what we did was more of the same as last time but each time we add a wash of ink we are leaving out more and more areas until we get to the darkest areas of the photo.

You need to really look and use your value scale if you need to, to see where values change which values are darker than others and paint accordingly. The glass and the reflections are going to deserve your attention at this step. Glass not only distorts images of things in it or behind it but it can also distort the value of those same things so really look at the things you see in and behind the glass.

For instance: There is a shadow that goes behind the vase that is offset from the shadow but it is also a shade or two lighter than the shadow outside the vase.

There is a lot going on in the reflections, if you miss something and are still adding layers just paint around it so it may be a bit darker that it should be or you can forget it as long as it looks like a reflection you are ahead of the game. Remember we are artists. I think I've missed some things because my printer didn't print a good enough reference photo for me, but that's okay, it is just a study.

I also want you to notice that I stared adding shading to the flower petals. I did this just like I did the rest of the painting starting out with a light wash and gradually making it darker where it needed to be darker, I did leave the brightest areas the white of the paper.

At this point it is almost done thought I think that there are some areas that need to be darker and I may go ahead next week and take straight ink to finish of the very dark areas. I won't make that determination until I am satisfied that the darks are all I have left to do and that may take another lay or two of washes to make that decision. I'm not in a race, I could take the rest of the semester to finish this and if I were doing this on my own, I probably would take more time to get it "perfect" before calling it done but for instructional purposes torturing my students with more that a couple of weeks of ink washes is enough to get my point across. I may put some color on it when I'm done but I do have the option of leaving it as a black and white, since I am doing two, I can do both.

Please be looking for something you would like to paint whether it has glass and/or reflections in it or not because once we are done with the class project, I would like you all to have something to work on that you want to do and I can give you some help getting started and answer questions that come up. Choosing subject matter is also an important lesson.

Keep painting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Torrance Students this if the first of the blogs for the Fall '11 semester, you may be a week or two behind the PV Class as far as the demos are concerned so if you read a blog that seems like I've missed a step, go back one or two to catch up.

PV Students we started out our class by making a value scale with ink. Most of this class project will be done with ink although, you can mix a gray color with your paints and it will be about the same. I had pre-mixed ink in the class so every one had the same value of ink with the hope of getting some consistency with the scales everyone was making. I think it worked out to be about 1 part ink to 10 parts water.

Part of the reason I mixed up some ink is so everyone could see how by building up layers of one value, you can create darker values with each layer you apply. This is a key element when you are painting with watercolor and one I don't think many understand. Watercolor requires patience because if you are doing it right, you may go over and area many times to get the value and the color intensity to be deep enough. Too many of you try to get there in one fell swoop and you don't like the results, watercolor works best if you build it up layer by layer.

I handed out a strip of paper to everyone and gave out ink, I asked the class to skip about an inch at one end of the strip then paint a layer of ink on the rest of the strip, then let it dry completely. No, you won't be able to coat it in one stroke probably and if you want it perfect you will need to go to the art store and by a computer generated one, just try to make as even a coat of ink without going over and over or adding too much ink into the same area. It must be dry before you do the next step because, like watercolor, if the area is wet, it will bleed into the damp ink and ruin your results.

While you are waiting for the strip to dry, you can transfer the project drawing onto your paper, this will give you some thing to do besides watch paint dry.

When the first layer of ink is dry on your strip, skip another section next to the white section then paint another layer of the same ink mix on the rest of the strip. Do not dilute the ink. Be sure that if you have rinsed your brush, dry it well before dipping into the ink. Again, try to make an even coat of ink and let it dry. Continue this procedure until you have at least 10 sections painted on this strip, each time leaving a bit of the ink you just put down before you move onto the next. Your last section should be black or very close to it. When it is dry, you might want to take a hole punch and punch a hole in the centers of each section, this will allow you to isolate a value either on your painting or a reference photo so you can see just how dark you need to go.

Remember this procedure because this is how we are going to paint our project: Layer by layer.

I've had several requests for glass and reflections in the past couple of semesters, when you do glass you are more often than not doing reflections as well so I thought this would be a good project not only for the glass and reflections, but also for practicing values. I found the simplest vase in the house and the simplest fake flower I have and made the easiest set up I could think of so really, all you have to do it think of it as values and shapes, which when you come right down to it, that is all any subject is values and shapes.

You will be using your value scale while you are doing this project and the first place you will use it is on the reference photo. Before I ever start a painting, I look at my subject, this goes for any plein aire (on location) or still life as well as photos. What I am looking for are the lightest lights and the darkest darks. If a painting or photo only has a limited range of values say from white to about the fifth gray down you scale, your painting will look flat. You need the darks to show light and you need a range of values to create excitement in your painting. This is what I am looking for and if my reference doesn't have enough darks and lights, I look for places to put them. This takes practice but your paintings will benefit in the long run if you can learn this skill, but that is later.

I placed this setup near the glass doors of my back room that was my only light source, there is no other light other than any reflected light on my subject. Having only one light source keeps the lighting simple giving you a direction of light. The light is coming in from the right so all the shadows will be on the left.

Now that I know where my light is coming from, I look for the brightest areas of my painting and those will be the highlights on the glass and the flower petals in the actual vas not the reflection. Right now I am treating all of the petals as the same value and will go back to that when I am closer to finishing this painting. These bright areas can be masked out to save the white though I am going to paint around them.

I do want you to notice that the reflection in the Mylar is a couple values darker that the subject itself. Use your value scale if you need to, to prove to your self that it is because to make a reflection look natural it needs to be a bit darker than the thing it reflects. This is true for all reflections, not just these reflections, keep that in mind when painting water reflections.

This first wash is what seems to confuse most students who have not painted like this before, so I am asking you to trust me here, it should all work out in the end, for right now with the exception of those bright areas, everything is going to be painted with the same value of ink. The ink I mixed is a bit dark so there are a couple ways to dilute it: Add more water to the ink just not too much, probably best to put some out on your palette and pick up water on your brush, it should be about half the value of what it is now, or you can wet an area on your paper with water and work the ink into it, or you can put the ink down then quickly pick up water on your brush and spread it out. The value should be somewhere between the white and the first section on your value scale.

When I say "paint everything" except the brightest areas I mean PAINT EVERYTHING! Do not worry about your drawing at this point the only thing that will not be painted are the highlights on the glass and the flower petals in the vase, everything – including the flower petals in the reflection – gets a coat of this ink. There should be no other white showing on your paper. Do not paint around the vase or the reflections, p a i n t   E V E R Y T H I N G! You should have a nice light gray paper with a couple of light spots on it, that is a good thing. Now let it dry completely.

While it is drying, you need to look for the next lightest areas, the ones that aren't quite the brightest but almost. These will be the next areas that we will leave unpainted when our paintings are dry. Check them with your value scale so you understand, and more importantly, SEE the difference. The more you can see the subtle changes in light and dark of your subject the easier it will be to get them into your painting. I know that sounds like stating the obvious, but most of us need to learn to see these subtle changes in light and dark to even know that they exist. In our normal everyday life we have better things to think about but as artists trying to create something that looks real, these subtleties become very important.

Look at the reflections in the glass, notice the shape also notice that the shapes on the back of the vase are darker than the ones near the front this is what I mean about subtle. You will not paint the ones near the bright side this time, but the ones near the back need at least one more coat of value.

Once you have determined which areas are the next lightest, EVERYTHING else gets another coat of value. That is the key to this kind of painting: going over the darker areas each time building up the value rather than painting sections at a time, your watercolor will work the same way building layers of color and value to create depth in your painting, it is almost like carving the image out of your paper, each time you make a deeper and deeper cut until the image stands out.

This will also be a lesson in patience something every watercolorist needs to produce quality watercolors, so this may take 2 – 3 weeks depending on how fast the class works. What I would like to see for your own project when we are done with the class project is if you can find something you would like to do with reflections and/or glass in it. This will help you see how you can use what you have learned in paintings you want to do and I can help you work thru the problem areas. Keep this in mind and start looking for references.

Next class, more of the same.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


The new semester is about to start and I wanted to let you know what we will be painting this time.

I have gotten several requests to do glass and reflections so we will be doing both! With an added bonus of learning how to use values in our paintings.

One of the things I notice with my students is they are afraid to go dark with their values and most stay in a very safe range which makes their paintings look flat. You need the dark to show light and depth so we are going to be doing a black and white study to start, color can be added later. Yes, this is an exception to my "no black" rule.

I will bring some ink to class for those who would like to use ink or you can mix to your dark, I will show you ways to accomplish similar effects with your paints.

The photos on the reference page include the reference photo and some detail photos but I will also be bringing a set-up so you can see it in real life.

This should be a very informative lesson and I hope that I can convince a few of you to not be afraid of the dark.

See you soon.