Friday, October 18, 2013

Watercolor Project: Water Lily Week 4

Torrance class the information regarding the negative painting of the flower petals is near the end of last week’s blog because I started the process at PV the previous week, so look there for reference.

Theyellow center area is probably the trickiest because there is a combination of grayish shadows on some of it and a reddish orange on the rest, this is where really looking at the photo is going to be important because I simply cannot do more than give you general areas here, please have you photos out and look at them often BEFORE you start this process.

The gray color is going to be yellow with a touch of purple and a lot of water. It should look gray and not purple and on a value scale of 1 – 10, 1 being white, this should be no more than a 2. This color goes on the yellow stamens/pistils that are in the back also there is a bit in the center and along the front behind the petal. The orange color is orange with a touch of red and it goes in between some of the front structures. Be sure to check the angles and shapes before you start putting on color. There are also some dark parts that seem to be on the sides of some of these structures, I just took my small angle brush and put some dark color from my palette and just touched the full edge of the brush to form a line. When in doubt, practice it first.

There are a couple of the petals that have some green stripes on them, this is very easy if you slightly wet the petal first – you want it damp not dripping – and either with a liner or the edges of a flat/angle brush, draw the lines in with sap green but be sure you follow the couture of the petal, they are not flat, they are curved. As the green mingles with the dampness of the paper it will slightly fuss out, if it disappears altogether, your paper was too wet, if it doesn’t fuzz out at all your paper was too dry. Again practice it first. This is the same thing I did to add the pink tips to some of the petals, I wet the tip and down a bit on the petal the just put color at the tip and let it spread down through the damp paper, guiding it sometimes with a damp brush with just water.

(From here on is what we did different at PV and what we will be doing at Torrance next class.)

The petal that goes under water also has a bit of a shadow falling across the middle of it but the lower part is going to need a light wash of blue. If you have a blue on the mixing part of your palette just add some water and lightly go over the bottom of the petal or use a tiny amount of a color similar to you water, you just want to tint the petal. If you did what I did at PV and painted too heavy over the petal and need to lift some color off to shape the petal that is under the water, just use the color you are lifting in one area and tint the other area with what is on your brush.

The shadows under the flower are very dark but you can see a bit of detail in them. Do not worry about that detail at this point it will look better if you go in later and lift out a bit of color than to worry about it as you are trying to paint the shadow in.

I started my shadows with just a mix of blue and purple, keeping it on the blue side. To be honest, once I got it home and could see it in better light, I am not completely happy with it so I will be tweaking it in our next class. I think I need some green and some sienna to gray up the color a bit and I do need it darker right under the flower, it isn’t dark enough.

I free-handed my shadow, if you need to draw it in that is okay too but when you are lifting out detail also take a damp brush and go across the edges of the shadow horizontally to soften the edges just a bit, then finish up anything you may have missed.

The PV class should be done with this project and students should be bringing in something that they want to paint for class. Torrance students we will probably finish up the project at our next class and you might want to start looking for your own projects as well. I will see you all in class.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


After removing the masking fluid, the first thing we did was to under paint the lily pads. Contrary to what you might think, the under painting for the leaves is not pink or brown, it is green. When you are planning your painting, you look for the lightest colors to paint first and in this case it is the light green you see in the pads. The light green is a mix of cad yellow light with a touch of sap green and I painted over all of the bigger leaves the two yellow leaves have a bit more yellow in them. This will have to dry before you can start the next phase of the pads but while you are waiting you can paint in the center of the lily.
Front pad color is the under
 painting for the lily pad.
The center of the lily is made up of a lot of spiky stamens and pistils and some of them have white tips, remember this so you paint around some of the ends. I used cad yellow light and water to paint this area, leaving some of the ends unpainted. While it was still wet, I took a thin mix of orange and water and right at the base of the yellow in front I touched this area with the orange to make it a bit darker, it will now have to dry.

If there is one thing I wish I could get my students to do that would help them immensely and that is to be more observant. Many of you don’t even have your photos out let alone look at the to see what I am talking about, unless you can see what I am talking about it won’t matter what I say, you will still be confused so learn to study your subject BEFORE you start to paint whether it is the photo you are working from or when you are out and about, learn to SEE what you are looking at. Break down the shapes of light and shadow, color and form, if you have your camera or phone with camera take more than one photo. Do overall photos of the subject then take detail photos for reference later, the smallest thing can make a big difference in your painting but you need to see it and understand it, sketch it or do small studies of the parts, whatever it take for you to get the job done, it will make you a better painter in the long run. That said, look at your photo before you start this next part.

There are a couple of things I want you to notice, the first being that while, from above, these pads may be almost round, we are looking at them from the side so they become ellipses (flat ovals). The other thing I want you to notice is the edges of the pads have ridges and dips in
them, these ridges go back to a central vein however, they come back at an angle they do not come back straight. The further away from that “sail” structure in the back the more angled the ridges become. If you make those ridges too straight in to the vein, your pad will look like it is standing on its edge. If you need to visually see this before you start painting you can do either a pencil sketch or a small study so you know what you need to do when you get to your painting.

The bronze color for the pads is a mix of burnt sienna and purple, keeping it to the sienna side. To make it darker use less water, to make it lighter add more water, simple as that but many of you struggle with this. Looking at the reference photo, see where the brown areas are don’t be afraid to use water to soften one color into the other because that is what is happening on the pads naturally. The darker colors will be where there are dips and veins, the down sides of ridges but you need to look to see them. You can also add in greens if you need to and you need to figure this out because there is no real formula other than what I have stated here. All the answers are in the photo, you just need to look for them.

The “sail” structure on the back of the pad is in shadow so both the bronze color and the green will be darker than on the flat of the pads themselves.

Once you are done with your pads, now you need to work on the water. In a few places the water actually comes up on the pads and this is where lifting will work its magic. Locate these areas on your lily pads, sketch them in again if you need to but before you start painting, really
LOOK at the photo so you can see the why and the how of these areas. You will see dark shadows under the lip of the water and you will see highlights along the edges of the water but note that neither of these is a constant line around the pad, they are broken and different sizes and in some places you can see through them. Please see these before you start and again, if you need to do a pencil sketch or small studies before you start on your painting.

The shadow color is blue with a touch of purple, if you need it dark use less water, more water to lighten it either on your palette or, better, on your brush to soften edges. There are also dark areas under the front edges of the pads and where the “sail” is. To lift out the highlights, just use plain water, wet the area with your brush, lift a little with your brush but do not scrub the area, then pat it with a clean part of your paper towel. Make them different sizes and lengths, keep looking at the photo.

Torrance students this next part we did not get to in class the last time but we will cover it when we meet again so don’t panic, you will see a demo on this.

PV students we did get started on the flower and this is where the negative painting study we did at the start of class comes into effect. To get the light areas to stand out you need to negative paint around them. The other thing to keep in mind is this is a white flower so most of our shading it going to be on the light side you don’t want to get too dark with a couple exceptions that I will cover and no, we have not done the shadows under the flower – yet.

If you keep a dirty palette like I do you may not have to mix a color for the shading of the lily, one of the reasons I do keep a dirty palette is I have colors I have been using and if I need just a little bit of color it is already on my palette but if you are neat and need to mix again the color is going to be mostly blue with tiny touches of purple maybe even a tiny amount of sienna, you want a light blue/gray color.

The darkest area of each petal is going to be near its base as it goes behind other petals or the center area, it will lighten as it comes to the outside edges of the petal so start at the bottom with your color, paint up a bit then rinse your brush and with just the water move the color up the petal. You may need to add a bit more color but start at the bottom and work up. Skip petals so you are not painting next to a wet petal and work around your flower. Look at thephoto to see what you are doing we will continue this in our next class.

This should get you caught up on 2 weeks’ worth of blogs. See you in class.

Saturday, September 28, 2013



I am going to preface this blog entry with the advice that if there is something you really don’t like about your painting either fix it, if you can, or start over, I ended up doing both.
Bad paper

Torrance redo
The PV project just didn’t look right when I got it home and in good light, I just put another ultramarine wash over the offending area and it is fine. I was not so lucky with the Torrance project. I tried a quick fix with another wash but it really didn’t help, I think the paper hadn’t been stored properly and the surface had gotten damaged. It was gifted paper and even though it is the same brand I use, I just couldn’t get it to work right no matter what I tried, it just looked too streaky and not the look I wanted so rather than waste any more time and paint on the dead horse, I started over on some of my own paper and I am much happier with the results. Just so you know your teacher has problems too.

The first thing we did – and this is mostly a whim on my part – we splattered our painting with colors and water. Most of the time beginner and intermediate students are so worried about being “perfect” even the slightest variation from that notion of perfect throws them into a tailspin and even before something is an actual problem, they are trying to fix it and they become fixated on a non-problem. By starting the painting of by first splattering we have already taken away “perfect” and we can move on.
Splattered color and water
Actually, many watercolor artists will start with some variation of splattering when they start their own projects. Look in watercolor magazines where they have the how-to section and the artist describing how they create their visions. Many of them start out with splattering or dripping wet into wet or so combination of the two. It is a very loose and free way to give an under tone to you painting. Don’t be afraid of it.

Once the drip were dry and I mean bone dry, we put masking fluid on the outside edges to about an inch in to protect our subject while we paint the background water in. do not put masking on the flower shadow, it is almost the darkest thing in your painting so it will need all the values it can get. While we didn’t need to mask out anything in this painting because we could have painted around everything (negative painting), sometimes it is just easier to be able to paint quickly and not worry about edges or painting around stuff. As you develop your skills you will automatically paint faster and subjects like this will be easier painted without masking but for now you know you have another tool in your art box.

Once the masking was dry (it should look clear not cloudy when dry) we mixed a color for the water that was ultramarine blue and Hooker’s green, I did add a tiny touch of burnt sienna but mostly the blue and the green. It was a medium light value. It will take more than one wash of color to get to where you want and you don’t usually want to get there right out of the gate (exceptions to all rules) and adding layers of washes lets you build up to where you want to be rather than blowing past it then having to fix it.

I painting everything that is water including the yellow leaf that is under water in a more or less horizontal direction with a scumbling stroke. (Scumbling is a disorganized series of strokes) Remember, this is a painting not a wall and while it is water and water lies flat, you want to avoid long horizontal strokes which could leave streaks that will be hard to get out. It might make it easier to get the paint on quickly if you wet the area first and always work with the back of your board or paper slightly elevated, even an inch is better than flat. Let gravity work for you, if you work flat the paint and water will stay in puddles and as your paper dries it can create blooms or back runs you may not want.

The second layer of wash I applied after the first layer had dried, it was the same colors but
more color less water so it was slightly darker and went over everything EXCEPT that yellow leaf. That is as far as we got this week. At Torrance I will need to do one more layer of wash at PV I think that I am done for now with the water so I removed the masking. Everyone: If you have masking on your paper DO NOT LEAVE IT IN YOUR CAR OR NEAR A WINDOW. The masking will bake into your paper and you will never get it off. You also don’t want to leave it on your paper for more than a few weeks. I’ve left some on for 6 weeks with no problem removing it but if you have a soft surface paper or if you are going to put it away for a while, remove the masking as soon as possible so you won’t have problems later down the line. We will probably be removing all masking in class this week if you haven’t done so already.

We are going to move a bit faster now because we will be able to move around our painting as areas dry, so get ready to work. See you soon.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Surprisingly, we were able to do the negative painting exercise in both the Torrance and the PV classes so for the time being we are all in sync. 

There really isn't much to go over and I think the short video does a better job of showing what we did in class but I will give a brief description here for those who missed.

First we created a very colorful background. I found that using warm colors like yellow, orange and red worked better than the cooler colors, but the choice is yours.

I only drew in the layer that I was painting around each time because all those lines just add to the confusion and negative painting is confusing enough - as many of you found out.

I used the same colors and value of those colors throughout the entire process and those colors were ultramarine blue with a touch of purple with enough water to make a medium light value. It doesn't have to be exact each time, just close. you DO NOT have to make it darker for each layer it will do that on its own, just let the layers dry in between applications of paint before you do the next layer.

Remember that this is NEGATIVE painting, do not paint the thing, PAINT THE SPACE AROUND THE THING. It is an essential part of painting in watercolor so you need to learn this. Watch the video and see how it progresses, we will be using this technique on the project.

Have the project drawn on your paper for class and bring the reference photo with you at all times. See you all soon 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

If you haven't checked out some of the YouTube videos I have posted for class, here is one on negative painting that will come in handy when we do the study in class.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Watercolor Class Summer 2013

The project is finished if you need to review what was done, scroll down to previous posts for information. this is also where the PV class can find what was done in class last week.

At Torrance I did a simple demo on creating grasses starting with a very loose wet into wet under painting and when it was dry adding very quickly both positive and negative shapes to create a natural looking grass.
This was done quickly even the under painting (right side )
 always using "grassy" strokes. I wasn't painting a wall.

It is always good to practice a technique on another piece of paper so you understand what you are doing. Studies are a good thing.

Friday, July 26, 2013


Watercolor Project: Moonlight Fishing
Week 4

(PV students you will need to read last week’s blog to review what we did in class this week)

This week we added the pier and I want to reiterate that it doesn’t have to be the Redondo Pier or a pier at all or anything at all plus it does not have to look exactly like the photo, I just used the photo as a guide and put the pier in free hand, it does not need to be perfect and it might actually look more artistic if it isn’t perfect. Probably the most important thing is to be sure that you get enough pylons under your pier so it looks safe to walk out on so with those words of caution go ahead and draw on your pier or whatever you have in your painting.
Finished Torrance version

The pier is basically in silhouette so you need to mix a dark color with your indigo, sienna (burnt umber if you have it) and a touch of purple, if you have Payne’s grey you can add that as well, you want a very dark color. Be careful when you make dark colors that you add enough water that your paint still flows free, if it gets pasty and you put it on your paper, it can look strange, even shiny, if you have to go over it again it is better than putting it on too thick. Be careful of the perspective as well if the end of your pier is too small, it will look like it is a mile long if that is the case, make the pylons longer (I think I have to do that with mine). As the pylons come forward they will get thicker and a little further apart and while most of them are almost straight up and down some do angle in a bit, don’t forget the cross pieces and miscellaneous “stuff” that is under the pier, those are just shapes they don’t have to be anything in particular but  they are important.

I put that closer restaurant with the glass windows in my foreground to make it look like reflections I took just water on my brush and blurred out the background water before painting the trim of the windows in.

For the buildings and the areas where there is light from the light poles that are on the pier I lifted the areas first, I added a little bit of yellow where I wanted the light to shine but left the buildings as they were after I lifted color.

When the areas were dry I added some windows and doors and light posts along with railings and the suggestions of people on the pier. Do not try to make it look like people they are way too small. They are just “suggestions” of people mostly stick figures or dots and lines and that is it. Remember to remove the masking from your stars don’t over work this it is too dark to see much detail and you are done.

Torrance class be sure to have something you want to paint with you in class, PV we will be working on the project for at least this next week. See you all soon.
PV class week 2
PV wave demo

PV sand and foam demo

PV wet into wet foam demo

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Watercolor ClassesSummer 2013 
 Project: Moonlight Fishing 
Week 3

(PV Students you will have to look at last week’s blog to review what we did in class but it is good to go over this blog so you know what we will be doing in our own class).

In our last class, I went over how to paint waves, it is much easier to show you how to paint wave than it is to explain it here so I found a visual aid:
Duct tubing as a model

A wave is like this tube with a slice out of it. You see both the inside “face” of the wave and the back side of the wave as it breaks over the face. I took a piece of duct tubing and cut  part of it to illustrate a breaking wave, the red representing the face or inside of the wave/tube and the green the breaking part of the wave as the back side of the wave falls over the front. If you have a piece of duct tubing you might want to look at it the coils in it make a great visual to see a close representation of the action of the water. That combined with watching actual wave breaking will give you a better understanding of the dynamics that are going on in a wave.

The other parts of a wave that also show are the eye or transparency and the base. If you look close you will see that it is much lighter at the top of the wave than it is at the bottom because of the light behind and thickness of the water at the base. As the water peaks it becomes thinner and thinner allowing more light to come through until it becomes so thin it can’t support its weight and falls over. All of this is what we as artists are trying to represent on our canvases when we are painting, it is a lot simpler to do than it is to explain here but put simply a wave is darker at the bottom than it is at the top.

I wet the area of the wave I wanted to paint first with just clear water, painting the water around the areas where the foam will be, if it is easier, you can turn your paper upside down and let gravity help you. I start at the base of the wave with my dark cool colors like my indigo, ultramarine, purple and Hooker’s and at the base I start out with flat strokes as I go up the face of the  wave I start to curve my strokes to match the curve on the inside of the wave (red lines on my tube). As I go up the wave I use less paint moving what I have with water on my brush. You should have what is called a graded wash when you are done starting with the dark and ending in a medium light blue color and a very light blue where the eye is just under the foam.

I did the breaking part of the wave in a similar manner but note that the curve of my stroke is going in the opposite direction (green lines on my tube). This is important to get the illusion of shape visually correct.
When the water part of the wave is dry, wet the area where your foam will be then look on your palette for a light blue or blue/grey color in the mixing area. Too often you want to mix all your colors when you already have what you need right there on your palette (the advantages of a dirty palette). If you don’t have this color or have cleaned your palette, what you want is a very thin (light) color, you can get this by using ultramarine blue with a tiny touch or purple and sienna so you have a light, cool grey. Starting at the bottom of the foam, you will tap the color in and let the water on your paper do the work. This may take several layers but always start at the bottom which is the furthest away from the light and work your way up leaving some of the very top of the foam that light blue from the original wash. That light blue first wash becomes your brightest highlights for the foam. Let this layer dry, then repeat the process always starting at the bottom and working your way up, leaving some of the previous value showing. You might want to practice on another piece of paper so you understand what the water on your paper is doing, it should look like a soft mottled grey when you are done.

Next we started creating the glow around the moon, you will need to have a clean, dry paper towel handy because we will be doing a lot of lifting. I used my ½” shader but you want a brush that will hold its shape pretty good, a round brush may not work here. You will only be using a damp brush for this no color so be sure that your brush is clean before you start.

With my damp brush I wet the area just above the rim of the moon and pulled in towards the moon. These will be like very close to over-lapping together spokes radiating out from the moon. Go over the area a couple times with your damp brush, let it sit for a few seconds, then with your paper towel, blot the area. If you have used too much purple you may not be able to lift because it is a staining color, there isn’t much of an easy remedy for this except for and opaque color or starting over and being sure you use more indigo than purple.
Continue around the rim of the moon repeating wetting and lifting until you have as large a ring of “glow” as you want around the moon. You can also use the lifting to lift out some soft highlights in your clouds. Be sure not to go over any area too long or scrub and area because you can damage the paper and that will cause a lot of problems. Let it dry first to see what it actually looks like if you think it still needs to be lifted, you can do it again just let the paper recover and harden by drying between times. When your sky is dry, you can remove the mask on the stars if you want.

We will be getting into the final stages of this painting so you can put your pier or whatever you decided to put in before class so you are ready to go and we should be at least basing in the pier this class and finishing up the following week (PV you are a week behind so don’t worry about your drawing yet). See you all in class.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Watercolor Class Project: Moonlight Fishing
Week 2

(PV class you will need to go down to the previous blog entry to see what we did last week and what we will be doing this week though it will be good to read this entry as well because we will probably get caught up with Torrance or close to it when next we meet.)

Many of you were adding more value to your sky and water so most of what we did was to get the waves started and added some detail to the moon. Waves can be very challenging and I am going to be doing another demo in our next class that will be exclusively on breaking waves so if you are having problems with your waves you might want to wait until next class to start them. Getting your sky and water dark enough when they need to be dark is more important at the point.
We worked on the waves and added a "face" to the moon.
The moon is very simple so don’t try to make it more than it is. You already have the color on your palette, just some of the light blue you have been using an a lot of water, it should be just a little bit darker that the moon itself. First, lightly wet your moon (should not be dripping) with clear water, while it is wet, take that light blue on your palette and just touch the surface of the moon and let the paper take what it wants and just suggest the craters of the moon, the water and paint will do most of the work. Done!

Basically a wave is a graded wash: Dark at the bottom and lighter at the top. This has to do with a couple of things like the depth and thickness of the water at the base, the thinness of the water just before it breaks and the light source. We know where the light source is in this picture and we know that the light of the moon is cool, what that translates to is the color we will use, mostly our blue with touches of purple and the occasional touch of Hooker’s green. This is for the water right now, not the foam, that will be later.
Note the change of value from top to bottom of the wave.
Right where the wave is breaking it has what is called its “eye” the water is very thin at this point and light will shine through it. As you go down the wave, the wave becomes more dense and thicker with water so less light can penetrate to get through so it gets darker in color. You might find it easier to wet the area of the wave with the light color which is just a touch of the cobalt with a lot of water the start at the bottom with your darker color while the area is still wet and drag color up the wave leaving that lightest color just under the breaking foam and along the top. Another thing to keep in mind it that wave is curving as it breaks so be sure that your brush strokes curve with the wave in the wave, the rest of the water needs to stay flat. I hope the demo will help clear this up because it is very hard to write about it.

You will probably want to let the wave dry before you do your foam though blooms can be very creative, just a work of caution.

You probably already have the color you need for your foam on your palette it will be the cool blues or purple grays and you want to find an area where there is very little color. This is a much easier way to work when you only need little amounts of color and you have a dirty palette. If you need to mix, it will be a little bit of cobalt or ultramarine blue and a tiny touch of purple and a lot of water.

This will be similar to what you just did on the moon to suggest craters, though this time we will get a little bit darker in some areas, first wet the foam area, you are going to need the water to help soften this color, do it in sections if you have to so the paper doesn’t dry. Start at the bottom of the foam area and dab the color on. Think about what the foam is, it is turbulence in the water, bubbling and boiling, violently moving so you want to suggest this movement with your color. Most of the foam will be covered with color except for the very top edges where it might catch a bit of light from the moon. You may want to go over some areas so they are a bit darker, just don’t go over everything you want that variation in value to show movement and texture in the foam.

Like I said, I will be doing a demo on the water and waves because this can be a bit confusing. I do suggest that you go down to the beach and take picture of the waves or go on the internet and Google breaking waves to you can see what I am talking about, it makes you a better artist if you can figure out the whys and the wherefores rather than relying on your teacher because there are times when words just aren’t enough, you need the visuals to really understand.

See you in class.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Watercolor Class Summer 2013

 The purpose of this painting is twofold: One is to learn to paint a night sky with a moon and stars over water, the second is to show you how to take a daytime setting and change it into a nighttime setting just by using a bit of imagination. This could be almost anything from a mountain scene by a lake or a cityscape like the harbor scenes from NY and buildings reflected down into the water, this can be anything you want, even a different pier or lighthouse, it is up to you if you want to do something different though I do suggest that you find some reference material for whatever scene you choose to do.
Line drawing for class project.

Reference photo for class.
If you want to do a complex drawing before you start, be sure to use at least a #4B pencil so you will be able to see your drawing when we get to the pier, mostly what you will need is a horizon line and a moon to start. Again, you can decide how big you want your moon, I made mine a bit smaller that my test study because it didn’t look like earth’s moon, however, if you like a big moon, be my guest, it is your painting. To get a nice round shape, you can use a compass or bottle cap or just about any round object that is the size you want please make sure you have a round moon, I did see a couple egg shaped ones and one that looked like a pear, not really of this Earth, ours is round.

Another thing that you will need to do before you start painting is to get out your masking fluid and add a few stars to your sky. Don’t get too carried away with stars, just a few will be good again, we are still here on Earth and with a moon bright in the sky not too many stars will be visible, just a flick or two of your toothbrush and call it good. Remember, if you get spots of masking fluid where you don’t want it or if you get some big blobs wait until it sets up then just rub them off don’t try to fix it while it is wet or you will create problems for yourself, it is designed to peel off so don’t panic use it to your advantage. Wait until the masking is completely dry before you start to paint.

Please read this carefully: The stars are the only white things in this painting. Repeat: The stars are the only white things in this painting. Everything else gets toned down. Night is a totally different animal from daylight, even with a bright moon in the sky the light from the moon is reflected light and isn’t as bright as the sun, it also isn’t as warm visually as the sun, its light is much cooler so even bright areas are going to be cooler (bluer) and that includes the moon, the sea foam and any other highlights.

Once your masking fluid has dried and you have removed any unwanted spots of masking (that includes any you have put on the moon), on your palette mix a tiny amount of your cobalt blue (this is a new color for most of you) so you have a very pale blue color, then wet you whole paper either with your spray bottle or with your biggest brush keep using your big brush and while your paper is wet, cover EVERYTHING with the light cobalt and water mix. Do not paint around anything! Not the moon, not the wave foam not the light track NOTHING! At this stage EVERYTHING get a coat of paint. If it looks too blue on your paper, just pick up some water and thin it out on your paper. No need to wipe it off and remember that watercolor dries lighter as long as it is a light blue, you will be okay. Your paper should be completely this pale blue color with the masking when you are done. Let it dry.

Your paper should be dry to the touch and you may need to reinforce your moon and horizon lines at this point. Still using your big brush and now your indigo blue, ultra marine blue and a touch of purple, start at the top and start painting your sky. Have your brush wet enough that the paint comes off evenly and if you want you can rewet the sky area however, you don’t want to use so much water that you dilute the color. You may have to repeat this process a couple times to get it dark enough (I did this at home). If you have a value scale the top of your sky is going to be between a 9 and a 10, 10 being the darkest down towards the horizon it should be about an 8. If you don’t have a value scale, what you are looking for is a very dark midnight blue color where the stars are and a slightly lighter color near the water. If the sky is still damp you can lightly lift out some clouds with a clean paper towel (crumple it up), just lightly blot the surface where you want the clouds. Remember this is nighttime, clouds are just going to be a suggestion.
Where I left off in class.
Before you start painting the water you might want to reestablish the drawing for the waves and foam because you will need to paint around these areas and also draw a light path starting at the moon the width of the moon, widening it as you come forward so it is about 2 moons wide at the shore, you will need to know where these are so it is best to draw them in. You can use a smaller flat, angle or round brush for this next step, I was using my ½” angle brush but any brush you feel comfortable with will work. What you will be doing is long, flat, overlapping slightly curved shaped strokes so use a brush you will be comfortable using. I will tell you now, it will take more than one layer of paint to get the desired results.

Starting with a light mix of cobalt blue and Hooker’s green make long overlapping strokes of color in your water area, don’t worry about where the pier is for now, just paint over it you won’t hurt anything (see my painting), the places you will want to avoid are the waves and sea foam and the light track in the water. Just be aware when you are avoiding these areas, that they have their own shape and you will be doing what is called “negative painting” because you will be painting the shape of the area around these areas. The light track from the moon is not straight, as the waves roll in they break up the edges of the light track, some of the waves may actually cross the light track causing a shadow (again, look at my painting), to get the “shimmer” for the water you need to create an uneven edge to the light track, we will refine it later. This layer of color can almost be solid but still use the long flat strokes because as you reload with paint, you will make streaks and that is a good thing. If you have to remix and it is not the same color that is a good thing as well, it will make you water look more natural plus you will be putting more layers on top of it. Let your water dry in between layers of color and each time you add a layer of color, you will be leaving a bit of the previous color showing. (Check my painting to see how many different values of color I have in my water).

Each layer will be a bit darker than the previous which means less water, more paint and you will change the colors you use. Do at least another layer of the cobalt and green but a bit stronger in color (less water), then switch to ultramarine blue and Hooker’s green and finally add to that some indigo, and purple in the darkest areas which will be to the far sides of the water, areas that will be furthest from the light source, i.e. the moon. This take practice just keep referring to my painting and try to get as close to it as you can, water can be a challenge.
At home I added more color to both sky and water to
darken both.
Last thing we did was add a face to the moon. First off wet the moon with water, then with a small brush – I was using my ¼” angle brush – look on your palette for a very light blue color. You don’t have to mix color, just find a light color on your palette add a little water so it will flow off your brush then lightly touch the wet moon. Think about how the moon looks with its craters and such, it doesn’t take much to suggest texture on the moon.

Next week you might want to have your pier or whatever you are going to paint sketched on your paper, we should finish this up in a week or two so start looking for something you want to paint, we will work on specific studies after this project so if you are having problems with something let me know, others may also need a demo on the subject. See you all soon.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Project: Az. Wash

Torrance class you are about a week behind the PV Class what we did in class is to add highlights to the background trees remembering to do negative painting around the foreground bushes, added color to the wash which was a mixture of yellow and a very tiny touch of purple to gray it, I do want to mention that when I got to the wash I switched gears in a way, this time I painted over the area on the right hand side with my wash color (it is so much lighter than the branches in front, it won’t matter), but negative painted around the bush on the left hand side. In the front corners I added some orange to my sand color as the under color for the foreground weeds. Out in the wash itself I added just a touch of purple to make the color just a bit darker and put some random “dots and dashes” where the water washes down to give some contour to the sand, then with just a clean damp brush, I went over those lines to soften them.
Torrance Version
I want to explain another reason to negative paint an area: when you are painting in watercolor you always have to remember that when you put one color on top of another the color underneath will influence the color you just put on because watercolor is a transparent medium. If you want an area to have a nice clean color you need to be painting on white paper, this was my main reason for negative painting around the foreground bushes yes, they are in many places much darker than what is behind them but the foliage of these plants have a cleaner color, a brighter warmer color than the trees or cliffs behind them, hence the reason I left the white of the paper in these areas. The tree trunk and the branches are so dark that whatever is behind them isn’t going to have enough influence on the dark color to make a difference. I do have my reasons and If I don’t explain them clearly enough, please feel free to ask.

Torrance, you will be doing the following in class next time so you might want to practice. PV class, we first started the class by practicing with the liner brush and I’m sure that most of you found it isn’t as easy as I make it look but remember I have been doing this for a long time and I love this brush!

There are a couple key things to remember when you are using the brush, first is the paint itself. Whether you are using watercolor, acrylics, oils or other painting medium, the paint needs to be an inky consistency. If you tilt your palette it should run, it is a balancing act between getting the color dark enough and enough water in it so it flows which is why we are practicing before getting to the painting.

The next key point is loading the brush. The brush has long bristles for a reason (you should have a #3 as your basic liner brush), it can hold a lot of paint IF you load it properly. Work the whole length of the bristles into your paint, as you lift it up, roll it in your fingers to create a point, you brush should be fully loaded with paint and those long bristles will act like a fountain pen as you paint, what is in the bristles will flow down to the tip replenishing what you are using.

That brings me to the next key point: How you hold your brush. For these techniques to work you need to hold the liner at the very back end of the handle so it is pinched between your first and second fingers and your thumb, if you hold it any other way you will struggle to do the technique. You also want to always hold the brush slightly downward so that the paint can flow into the tip as you paint. The rest is in your fingers and wrist.

Many of you paint with your whole arm and sometimes your whole body seems to be attached to your brush, I think this is learned from those early days when we were learning to write it was more a whole arm sort of movement, you need to be aware of this so you can feel what you are doing, this is painting not writing, it is a different skill set.

Using a liner brush to make trees and branches.
The liner brush works best if you are using you’re the length of the brush along with your fingers and wrist to create what you are trying to do be it tree, bush or grass, first, the trees. If you have closer trees like we do in this painting, you might want to take a bigger brush to lay in the bigger parts of the tree and use the liner for the branches and twigs. We start in the thicker areas of the tree or branch by pressing the bristles into the paper so that they spread to form the wider part, then as you pull to form the branch, you lift up slowly until you get to the tip of your brush making a finer and finer line. It is also a good idea to have a bit of a “shake” to your brush this will give it a more natural twig/branch look. When you want to create another branch or twig, don’t start right where you want it, start back inside the branch it will come off of, follow it up then change direction creating a new branch, lifting until you get the length you want. This takes practice folks, but once you get it, this brush will do some amazing things for you.

Next are grasses. You load and hold the brush the same way but this time you will really get the feel of using your fingers and wrists with this brush. Before you ever touch the paper with the brush start doing circles with the brush above your paper, get a rhythm going with your brush. Bigger circles means taller grass, small circles shorter grass but keep this motion going, then on the upstroke of your circle, touch the paper and lift but keep the circle going. Each time you
Use a liner to make grasses.
will touch the paper on the upstroke to create the grass. Change the size of your stroke also practice going in the opposite direction. Congest the area with these strokes, don’t just do one or two across the page, think about what you are trying to create, a clump of grass and it has more than one or two blades sticking up out of it.

You really need to practice these strokes before you get to your painting if you are unfamiliar with this brush, it can add so much to your painting but it can also add a lot of frustration if you think you can just start on your painting without the practice.
PV Version

PV we also did the under painting for the foreground bushes, remember to leave some of the white around the edges as your brightest highlights and when you do the branches where there are leaves keep in mind that some of the branches go behind the leaves and some are in front, and some weave in and out. Those of you who missed class please try to have your painting as close to this point as you can, if you have problems with the liner brush, hold off on the tree and branches until I can give you a quick demo when you are in class.

I want you all to start thinking about subjects you would like to paint so I can decide on what we will be painting next semester. See you all in class.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Project: Az Wash

Much of this is copied from the Acrylic blog though I have made some adjustments to account for watercolor but as I was reviewing what people were doing in all my classes many of the same problems came up regardless of the medium, if you work in any other medium most of this will apply, only the medium changes.

So far in our project we haven’t done anything that we didn’t do when we were doing the study so if you need to review what we did, go back a couple posts for any of the technical descriptions you might need, I am going to talk here about some of the other issues students were having. These issues are no less a problem than knowing how to do a technique properly and will make more of a difference in your painting than perfect technique so it is well worth the time to go over.

First off be aware of your brush strokes. Your eyes are very sensitive and pick up on even slight discrepancies, it is important that your strokes follow the shape of the thing you are painting. It doesn’t matter if it is a mountain, bird, ocean, or vase, whatever you are painting has a shape unique to it and your brush strokes need to follow the unique shape of what you are painting. This was true of the mountains in this project. Many of you were using vertical strokes all the way down the cliff s into the rugged ridges at the bottom so you weren’t getting the look of the ridges.
Torrance Version watercolor

The sheer rock faces of the cliffs only go down about a quarter or less of the whole mountain, then it spreads out in to the ridges that make up the bottom ¾ of the mountain, this is caused by eons of erosion and rocks tumbling down and piling up at the bottom. You can see this for yourself if you pour dirt or sand from a bucket (sugar or salt will work but needs a container to pour into), the bucked it the top of the cliffs. As you pour from the bucket, a mound will form in a roughly a cone shape, if you pour the dirt down the side of a wall it will build up a wedge of dirt. Now do several pours next to each other so the cones and wedges overrun each other, this is what is happening on a much larger scale when mountains erode, this is why you need to change the direction of your stroke to get that “feel” of those hills at the bottom of the cliffs.

Shadows are another problem area for most of you, many of my students – both acrylic and watercolor – make their shadows too warm and shadows are cool both in reality and in visual color temperature. What I mean by visual color temperature is what colors do we associate when we think of heat, for instance? I doubt that anyone thought of blue or purple when I mentioned heat, you probably thought of red or orange or yellow because those are the colors of fire or warmth. If you have a room that is always too cool, paint it a warm color and it won’t feel so cold. Conversely, if you have a room that is always too warm, paint it a cool color (blues, purples and greens) and it will seem cooler. Designers know this and use it to their advantage. There are a lot of references in our language as well such as “red hot” or “so cold he turned blue” so you are no stranger to the concept, most of you who have this problem are fighting the influence of your left brain.

PV Version watercolor
In your mind, you know that the mountains are all a warm earthy color so logically – in your mind at least – the shadows would just be a darker version of the rocks on the sunny side and you translate that into using more of the sienna and orange, maybe tiny touches of blue if it doesn’t get dark enough but it still looks warm like sunlit rocks because it is way too warm in color. These visual clues to our viewers are how we create a three dimensional look on a two dimensional surface, it also shows the direction of the light which in turn shows time of day or set a mood, it is very important. If you are painting shadows, they need to be in the cool visual range, mostly using blue and purple in your base color and water to change the value.

Almost all of you had this next problem to some extent and that is organizing the unorganized. As humans we like to have everything in nice, neat, organized groups, guess it is why I like Nature so much because Nature is chaos. The rocks on the cliffs are broken in to different sizes and shapes: tall, skinny, short, wide, missing… You name it, no two shapes are the same, yet, as I walked around many of you (and I can include myself as well if I’m not paying attention) had nice, neat pillars of stone that looked like they just came from the stone mason and set into place. This same thing happened when you got to negative painting around the trees, they will looked like hedges on someone’s manicured estate and not trees that fight for survival in harsh desert conditions.

While you do not have to be exact to the photo when you are painting, you do need to be more random in the way you paint especially something like rocks and plants that are the essence of random. Someone looking at your painting will see any repetition of shape faster than you’d imagine because it isn’t natural and looks out of place. As an artist, it is your job, even if you are painting more impressionistic, to create the illusion of Nature on your canvas and that means being aware of repetitive, unnatural shapes. Check your painting for these repetitive shapes and find a way to break them up visually by adding shadows, cracks and crevasses, or whatever it takes to make the shape look more natural. These same suggestions also go for straight lines and hard lines, they are usually not usually found in Nature and you as an artist need to be ever vigilant when you are painting.

Negative painting is still confusing to most of you, even those with experience with watercolor, it is something you need to practice. One of the reasons I like negative painting vs using masking is that masking can look too stiff and more often than not, after you take the masking off, you don’t go in and add the “see throughs” or rough up the edges. Negative space is very important because it is what gives the thing you are painting its shape and suggestion of texture around its edges, the masking always smooth out an edge and those edges can look hard and unnatural and because of that instead of looking like you painted it as a part of the whole painting, it will look cut out and unnatural (Hard lines see above)

We will continue on our project next time so I hope that all of you are up to this point on your own painting. For homework, I want you to be more observant to the world around you and you can do this both indoors and out. Look at the difference between shadows and lit areas, inside and out. Try to figure out how you would paint it. What colors would you use? What technique? Outside, you can do the same thing and also really look at the nature around you. Look at the different colors of the trees and how they grow. Notice the color of their trunks and branches or differences between plants and flowers. Watch the clouds and the patterns they make both in the sky and on the ground. Look at the PV Peninsula and really pay attention to its shape. If you have a camera take photos both wide images and close-ups for reference. The more you “see” the more you will understand and the better artist you will become.