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.

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