Thursday, April 18, 2013


Negative Painting – Negative painting can be done in any medium you paint with but it is an essential of watercolor painting. In watercolor we work from light to dark saving the white of the paper for anything that needs to be white and that translates into having to paint around our white and light areas, more often than not that means negative painting or in other words, painting the area around the area we want to keep light. Positive painting means actually painting the subject. I know it can be confusing but to be a better watercolor painter you need to understand it.

For our study on negative painting I had everyone draw the outline of a tree with a few branches and grass at the bottom. Not lollipop trees (green circle on a stick) but a tree with ins and outs and a few holes for birds to fly through. There are a lot of trees in our landscape painting but a singular tree will give us the practice we need.
Negative painting can show the subject (tree)
or can be used to show detail in the subject
(shadows and branches in the tree).
Because this is just a study it can be done with any color you have handy, I used blue because it seemed to cause less confusion and it was dark enough that people could see it from the back of the room. I use my angle brushes but you can use a flat or a round, whatever brush you are most comfortable with, I do suggest a larger brush with a decent tip or point you can use to get into small places and wide enough to fill in larger areas quickly.

With the blue I went around the outside edges of the tree and the trunk and filled in enough of the sky to show that it was a sky. This is a study so I don’t need to make everything perfect, the sky was not my subject, the tree was. If you look at trees especially some of the taller trees like the eucalyptus we have around here, you can see branches that show near the tops and outside edges of the trees but they also have bunches of leaves in front of them, to create that effect in some areas of my tree I negative painted these branches by painting the sky color behind them, but just the “see through” areas, I left areas that would be leave or branches unpainted. At the bottom where there is grass, I used the fine tip of my brush to make a series of little lines to suggest the fringe of the grass.

When this was dry, I painted the leaf area of the tree with a light green and yellow wash (little paint more water), I left the branches but could have painted them if I wanted to, I am just doing negative painting so the branches really didn’t need any more attention. When this color was dry, I mixed a darker green – hooker’s with a bit of blue but can be any dark color – and with this new dark color I painted shadow separations between clumps of leaves and I also made more gaps in the leaves where you could see more branches but instead of sky color you see dark green like the inside of a tree with its shadows. By leaving the branches unpainted I can suggest some of the inside structure of the tree.

Please start looking at the world around you and seeing these things it will make you a much better painter. Take photos or cut things out of the paper or magazine and keep a file so you have reference material to look at when you are painting, this will become a valuable resource for your art.

The next thing we practiced was with our script or liner brush same brush but it has many names. You should all have at least a #3 liner if you have a #1 or #2 keep them they can be used for fine detail but the #3 or even a #4 is more of a utility size for the liner, with practice you can make some very fine lines with a #4 liner.

This little brush can be a bit challenging at first and probably will take more practice to feel comfortable with it and to get it to do the things you want it to do, however, once you figure it out it is an amazing little brush! When properly loaded with paint it holds a lot of paint so you don’t have to reload as often as you would with a small round brush of similar size, because of this trait they are used by people who paint sailing ships to do the rigging with one long stroke without having to reload so the first thing I will cover is the loading of the brush and consistency of the paint.

The paint should be the consistency of ink. This isn’t as important in watercolor as say in acrylics or oils but you do need to mix enough color so you can thoroughly load the bristles of the brush, too little water with your color and you can’t get enough in your brush to make it work properly, so make a good sized puddle of color on your palette.

When you load the brush get all the bristles down into the paint up to the metal ferrule and roll it around to get the bristles good and saturated. As you lift your brush off the palette, roll it in your fingers as you lift and this will bring the bristles to a point, you are almost ready to paint.
Grasses and lines with a liner brush
You hold the brush slightly down so as you use it the paint will flow down and out of the bristles and you hold the brush at the back of the handle like you were taking a pinch of salt, not like holding a pen or pencil. If you are going to be doing grass/weeds you want to get you motor going. What I mean by this is you want to make circles with your brush before you ever get to the paper and you make these circles with your wrist and fingers not your shoulders and body and many of you are prone to do. I will make several "air circles” before I ever try to make the grass so I can get into the flow – BTW, this will also work with a larger round brush if you need to make larger grass blades. Once I get into the rhythm of the circle I will touch the paper on the up stroke of the circle continuing making my full circle for the next pass. Large circles make tall grass, small circles make short grass. Practice in both directions.
Trees to twigs with a liner brush.
To make trees/branches/twigs everything is the same except no circles. To start a tree – these would be trees in the distance because they will be too thin for close trees – start at the ground by applying pressure to the brush with the bristles all up against your paper, this will make the bristles spread a bit. As you pull up, lift and lighten the pressure and slightly wiggle the brush. Keep lifting until your branch or twig is as long as you want it. To make a branch off this main trunk/branch, if you need to reload you brush, start in the trunk or branch you just made follow it up until you want to make another branch/twig then go in a new direction. Branches and twigs will cross over each other so don’t try to keep everything from touching, it’s not your kids in the back seat, it is a tree. Look at trees to see how their branches grow and practice with this brush. You can also do this same technique with a larger round brush if you are doing bigger trees then use your liner to create the smaller branches and twigs.

We will be starting our project at our next meeting so be sure to have your drawing on your paper. The drawing and the reference photo are your road map to this project so be sure to have a good drawing on your paper and have your reference photo WITH YOU, doesn’t do you any good at home.

See you all in class.

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