Sunday, November 6, 2011


Watercolor Demo - Backgrounds

There are many ways to start a painting and one of my favorite ways to start a painting is to do an under painting that establishes my light source, this sets the mood for the painting from the start. It can seem scary at first but once you get past the fear and try it a time or two you will see what a dramatic difference it makes in your paintings.

While I can visualize how a photo may look using this technique you may what to look for photos that have a strong source of light and deep shadows until you feel comfortable enough to "ad lib" on your own.

Once you know where your light is coming from and were it is going to be on your paper choose a color for your lightest area. It can be any where from paper white to a warm color like yellow or orange or pink to a cool color in blues or violets or greens, this is totally up to you and the mood you are trying to set.

In both demos I did I wanted to establish a sunny warm feel so my lightest area was a cad yellow. After I thoroughly wet the entire paper – I wanted it very wet so it wouldn't dry out while I was painting my background - I started with the cad yellow in the sunniest area painting a rough circle slightly bigger then the area I want this color. Keep your colors light, use lots of water when mixing.

Mixing in the same area of my palette I added a slightly darker color for the bamboo background, it was orange, the other a light green, and water and painted this new color overlapping the outside of the yellow and into an unpainted area in a rough circle around the yellow. I continued this process each time mixing in the same area of my palette, just adding a darker cooler color such as to the orange I added a touch of red and to that red a touch or sienna and to the sienna a touch of purple until I was using the purple mix in the corners and the areas that would be my darkest, coolest areas. The key is to go from your lightest warmest area where your subject will be to your coolest areas when your painting is done it will give a very strong sense of light to your painting almost like a spotlight, it can be very dramatic.

My goal as a teacher is to expose you to different ways of using your watercolors because no two people are exactly alike and what may be fun for one person is tedious for another so I try to give you enough information and some different ways of doing things that you will try something new and different even something you have seen in a magazine or at a gallery, what you as a student need to keep in mind is you are learning. The things you see me paint or the things you see in magazines or galleries are from artists who have been painting for years. Let me repeat that: ….Artists who have been painting for years! Every artist has to start someplace and they all have a learning curve. They weren't perfect their first time out or even their second, they had to experiment and find teachers who could guide them, a process that can take years or even a lifetime to perfect as they develop their style.

I took classes for over ten years just like you are doing now until one of my class mates decided I needed to be in front of the class, not in it. I would have never thought to do it myself but I am so thankful that she pushed me past my reluctance because I truly love teaching each and every one of you and I marvel at the improvements I see in my students. You may not see it but I do and your classmates do, so please remember that you are learning at this point and while what you are doing may not be perfect, with each painting you are getting more skill and knowledge with each brush stroke. When you don't have to think about which brush or what color and just paint it is like learning a musical instrument when you start playing the music not worrying about which fingers go where.

When I can find them on TV, I watch other artist paint regardless of what medium they are using because I can always learn something and I think it was the late Bob Ross who said don't focus on the things that you don't like about your painting, focus on the things that you do. Pat your self on the back and blow your own horn because if you don't know one else will. He called his show "The Joy of Painting" because that is what it should be. If it isn't you may need to rethink why you are painting in the first place, art should be an expression of who you are not some other artist. Learn what you can but make it your own and celebrate the difference.

See you in class.