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.

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