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.