Thursday, October 20, 2011

FALL 2011 Watercolor Class

Watercolor Demo – Sketching with Pencil and the Brush

Most of you who have been in my classes for a while know that I encourage all of you to draw as well as paint. While drawing is an art to its self, it can also be a tool to use to make a better painting. You can work out problems or designs on sketch paper long before you ever get to your watercolor paper.

Whether you are doing a full blown drawing or just a few sketchy "thumb nails" drawing will help you in your painting. You can use it when you are on location or doing "plein aire" painting or you can use it when you are going thru your photos and you find an image you like but maybe the composition needs work. Or you may want to combine images from one photo into another this is called a composite painting because you are using elements from different sources to make one painting. I do this a lot and more often than not I just do a few thumb nails to work out my composition and many times I look at these sketches and wonder what someone else who didn't know what I was trying to do would think because it often resembles a bunch of chicken scratches on the paper but I know what I mean. It's like shorthand for painting and we all can develop our own "shorthand" it just takes practice.

Always keep a sketch book or a sketch pad with your art stuff. If you are using a large pad you can divide the page into several smaller squares and try different designs in each square. If you are working from a photo, try to imagine the scene in both vertical and horizontal formats, if it is a landscape try different times of the year. A good "rule of thumb" is if the subject is vertical, it works best in a vertical format. Be sure to use all of the space and move things around so you know where the best place is for all the elements you plan to put in your final painting.

I started out with 2 photos I took on a trip a few years ago. I really liked the house but the surroundings were real special except the tree. Same with the hand pump. I liked the pump itself but I just couldn't get the right angle for the pump and get a decent background so I took the picture of the pump for reference. When I was looking for images for this class I went thru my photos saw the house and thought I could use that then came on the pump and presto! I had my demo for the class.

In class I showed how to do a few thumb nails placing the house and the pump in different places and settled on the one that places the house in the background and the pump in the lower right foreground.

Now one of the "tricks" to sketching is not to hold the pencil like you are writing braced between the index and middle fingers with the thumb on the back and the pencil resting on the space between the thumb and index finger, instead hold the pencil between the thumb and index finger so that the back end of it is in your hand. This will let you have freer movement when you are sketching so you can twist it into a position to get the stroke or shape you need.

Once I decided on the design now it is time to paint but I'm not going to draw the design on my paper first, I am going to use my brush to do the sketching. This is a technique that can work very well when you are out on location and it is another way to sketch plus you get the benefit of using color, just not as easy to erase as pencil.

For most of the painting I was using my ¾" angled brush because it gave me a lot of flexibility from big broad strokes to finer detail on the tip but you can use a round brush or a flat brush and remember to use a large brush to start out with, keeps you loose.

I mixed a gray color with my cerulean blue and a touch of orange and fairly light, I just want to use this color to sketch in my elements so I want something that is fairly neutral in color. If I don't get it right I can just put come clear water on it and lift it off but do not worry if you can still see the lines, they will disappear as you paint.

I started to add color by adding the lightest version of the colors I saw such as for the house I used a watered down cobalt and painted all the walls. The trees behind the house were the gray I was using with a touch of burnt sienna in it. The path was a touch of burnt sienna and yellow. All of these colors were their palest color. Things like the trees and grasses were done very loosely but my brush strokes followed how they grow: Grasses were shaggy and sort of vertical though not straight up and down they had curves and angles to them. The trees grew in clumps so my brush strokes reflected that but all these strokes were not little, dainty, precise strokes, they were very wild and free. I also didn't worry about covering every square inch with color, if I left white spots of paper that is a good thing. This type of painting you will see a lot of that because the artist wants to continue painting so will leave little slivers of dry paper so they can paint another color next to a wet area and the two won't bleed into each other.

Once I got my under painting done I started to deepen the colors where I needed to like adding shadows into the building or into the trees. I detailed out some of the areas like the pump and the path. I added the red trim to the house as well as windows and I repeated that red on the house in the flowers in the foreground. You can do as much detail or not once your under painting is established. If you want you can do a bit of pen and ink work on it, I use a Sharpie for this if I do it, it is less messy.

Painting like this really demands that you concentrate on shapes and the shape of the colors. This is a more suggestive way to paint, it is looser and freer than what we have done in the past and can be a bit scary at first but some of you might embrace this technique or try it when you take a vacation or when you are working from a photo you want to give your own personality. I do hope that you try it and maybe paint out in your yard to try and capture the essence of what is there rather than the detailed thing. It is good experience.

Please be sure you have something to work on in class, this goes for both PV and Torrance. Not sure what I will demo yet, still thinking about that so it may be a surprise to all of us. See you soon.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Watercolor Demo – Using Watercolor for Value Under Painting.

I continued working on the painting of the Colorado lake and fall colors to show how the value under painting using shades of gray made by using various blues and oranges and be a great way to start a painting. It doesn't mean that once you have your values established you can't go back in and tweak them as you apply color, it just gets you headed in the right direction. As you add the color you can fine tune the values where you need to or change something if you need to, we are working on paper not stone so make adjustments, they are part of the process.

Never be afraid to try something new or different or even take classes from other teachers, you can always learn what not to do but more often than not you may learn a new technique that you really enjoy. I should have had all my classes at the TAG meeting last week because we had a watercolor painter who works very differently than I do but I really enjoyed his process. While it may not be for me in a total change of the way I do things, it did give me ideas on how to do sketching with my brush and how to use one photo several different ways. If you want to do plein aire or if you like to take your sketch pad with you when you travel, you might enjoy this. This is new to me so I will be learning along with you but it should be fun.

See you all in class.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall 2011 Watercolor Class

WATERCOLOR DEMO – Values using Watercolor.

A few years ago I went on a week long watercolor seminar up in the Big Bear area, it was a fabulous learning experience and I often start my own painting the way the artist – Don Andrews – showed up how he painted. I like it because it establishes the values of the painting early and it sets the mood for the entire painting, besides, it is a good way to work.

Just like we used the ink washes to create the different values in our last project, we learned how to use our watercolor to do virtually the same thing starting with light grays and creating darker and darker mixes to get our values, then finally adding color. The results were quite satisfying.

A former student sent me the lovely fall photo that is on the picture page, it shows the fall color and is quite peaceful as well as being simple enough that I could do most of it in a class or two. I did adjust the composition a bit by moving the foreground tree closer to the right side, as an artist, I am the ultimate in Photo Shop so I can move trees if I want, whereas when you are the photographer you may not have the option to move something to get the photo you want, so you take the picture, you will be using it for reference only. Never look at a photo as the goal of your painting, you already have the photo if that is what you want, as a painter you need to add your feelings and interpretations to your paintings.

The biggest reason I moved the tree is it created 2 pictures. There was the main picture of the lake and hillsides on the left side of the tree but there was also a picture that demanded almost as much attention on the right side of the tree with the bright reflections surrounded by the dark tree and shadows. By moving the tree more into the shadowed area, those areas that were asking for attention become part of the larger image and therefore less distracting to the eye. Be aware of this when you are taking your own photos, bright things will attract attention and hard lines like the trunk of that tree can divide your image.

As I do with all things I am painting, I first look at the reference to see where my brightest highlights are and my darkest shadows. One thing I noticed about this image was there were no white whites. If you don't believe me, take out your value scale and place it on those white clouds. They are not white. The brightest thing I see is the tree trunks on the left and it is on the tan side but I did want to protect that brightness so I masked out the two trunks. EVERYTHING ELSE was given a wash of gray.

To mix my gray I started with my lightest blue on my palette, for me that is my cerulean blue and a touch of orange. The orange is a powerful color so a little goes a long way but it makes a very nice gray and I used a lot of water. I just wanted a tint of color this is where some of you get a bit heavy handed and you start out way too dark with your colors then have no way to get back to the value you want. It is better to have to put 2 or 3 washes of color on then to try and take it off if it is too dark.

I used this mix of cerulean and orange, mixing a bit stronger each time for the first 3 or 4 washes, then I switched to a darker blue – I have cobalt on my palette – and orange for another 3 or 4 washes. When I want my darkest darks I use my ultra marine and burnt sienna. Each time I paint a layer of value I am doing exactly what I did with the ink, I am leaving the next lightest areas unpainted until I have my full range of values.

In the sky, I lifted out clouds with a paper towel at the second and third washes of grey and because the sky is a fairly light in value, after about the third wash of gray, the next wash was cerulean blue and cobalt I made sure to lift out my clouds. The water is darker in value (use the value scale) but I did the same thing as I did in the sky only I waited to the third and forth wash to pull out the clouds and the 5th wash was color (cobalt, ultra marine and a touch of my Andrew's Turquoise). I waited to add color to the trees and hills until I was closer to being done with the washes.

One thing to remember when you are painting the water is to keep you brush strokes parallel to the top and bottom of your paper. This will make your water lay flat if you happen to leave streaks with your brush.

I will finish up the painting in class so you can see what I am doing, if you have any special requests let me know and I can do a demo for the class because chances are if you have a question someone else will also have a question.

See you all in class.