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.