Thursday, October 9, 2014


PV before.

Since this blog has been written after I have my PV class, I thought I was basically done with the painting in the last post and for my Torrance class this is probably true because when I got home and started looking at my PV version of the project, I wasn’t happy with my foreground, when I did my demo at Torrance, I corrected that version of the painting and I liked it better. I decided to correct what I didn’t like to my PV version and I like it better. This is what I did to the PV painting
Torrance version.
just so you know that even with watercolor you can make changes if you need to.

The mountain ridges in the PV version just didn’t look right to me so I looked at the photo on my computer so I could see what was really going on because the print really didn’t show much detail. I discovered that there were more ridges than I thought and had combined 2 ridges into one I also didn’t get the value of that ridge dark enough but it was just the right value to be part of the ridge behind.

PV After.

All I did to correct what I didn’t like was to make a darker, greener wash and reshape part of the ridge line. While the green was still wet, I just touched some sienna in to give some suggested detail to the ridge again because the wash mostly covered what I had. I even took some of that dark green and made some closer pine trees in the right had corner, you can finish up your own painting any way you feel you need to.

Please have something you want to start in the next class since both Torrance and PV are done with the clouds. See you in class.
Revised PV finished

Torrance finished

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Watercolor Class Project Week 3: Cloud Study

I finished up the Cloud Study at PV in the last class, Torrance we will be done this in our Monday class though I do have some work to finish up my clouds, I do think we will be finished with our clouds as well so start looking for your own project to start the following week. PV students you will need to find a project you would like to do or finish up the clouds when we have class, I will be around to help and do spot demos for problem areas.

Once you feel you are finished with your clouds the final thing to do is put in your mountains and foreground. It is best to start with the mountains that are furthest away. They should be softer and grayer than the mountains in front but they are close enough to have a little bit of color. If you have some gray left over on your palette you can use that (one of the reasons I don’t clean off my palette, I may need a color that is already mixed) but if you need to mix gray remember it is ultramarine blue, a little burnt sienna and a touch of purple with enough water to dilute it to a medium gray. To this gray I added a touch of orange and a bit more sienna, I want a warm gray. This color should also be a stronger value (darker) than the grays in the clouds. The reason for this is it is closer than the clouds and as objects come closer they become more intense in color, less gray. This is how you get depth in a 2 dimensional painting.

I painted this color onto the ridge on the right side. If you can’t see it, make it up. You are the artist and you can create things if you think it will help your painting. While that area is still a bit wet, mix up a touch of orange, with the mud that is on your brush and a bit more water to create a soft orange color and lightly touch your brush to the wet paint to create ridgelines and subtle details in the distant mountains. Let the watercolor do all of the work, just touch the tip of your brush to the paper, make a line and let it go. If you mess with it too much you won’t get the look you want and it is an aspect of watercolor you need to understand so you can make it work for you not against you.

The next ridge has more color so to that same gray I used on the last ridge, I added some hooker’s green and a touch of blue to make it more colorful and a deeper value (it is closer so it needs to be a deeper value).

While that ridge is still wet I added a bit more sienna to that gold color I used on the other ridge and did the same thing: created some detail by just touching the tip of the brush to the wet paper. I also picked up a little blue and went on the shadowed side (right side) of the mountains and just touched to createsome shadows. These mountains are closer so you might see those shadows.

With each closer ridge I added more color into the gray until I got to the tops of the trees that were closest to the viewer, I under painted with a light green (sap green with yellow will work and add water to dilute) and while it was wet I did a similar thing to what I did in the clouds: I added darker greens in shapes leaving some of the light areas to show highlights.

Let this dry. If you feel you need to go back in to add color or value wait until it is dry so you know exactly what you have to do. If you like it the way it is then it is time to move on to something new. I will see you all in class.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fall 2014 Watercolor Class


(Torrance class this is the post you will reference for the demo I will do in this Monday’s class. Look at the post before this one for what we covered in our last class.)

Before you take off the masking from your painting be sure that the areas around the cloud tops are dark enough and/or intense enough in color. Watercolor always dries lighter so you may find that your blue sky doesn’t look so blue after it has dried and to make this painting “pop” you need good contrast meaning dark values so the light ones will jump off the page. I thought that my sky was too light so before I took of the masking I went over it again with another wash of blue to intensify and darken the sky.

While that was drying, I did a wash of light gray over the landscape which I could have done the first week but didn’t. And while that was drying I looked for dry areas that didn’t touch any of the wet areas and started removing the masking because it does take time. By the time you have those areas clean of masking the other two areas should be dry enough to remove the masking there as well.

HAVE YOU REFERENCE PHOTO IN FRONT OF YOU! When I am doing something like this my eyes are going back and forth between my paper and the photo so I can see exactly what I should be doing. I can’t give you a blow by blow to paint these clouds because it really doesn’t matter if your clouds look exactly like mine or not, you just have to be close and you need to see how much movement there is in a cloud. The photo or nature are your best teachers, you need to be observant.

If you don’t have any gray mixed up you will need to mix some more before you start mix it to a medium value – midway between light and dark – if you need it lighter you will add more water either on the palette or better by rinsing your brush and using clear water to move what you have on your paper; to make it darker you can add touches of blue, purple or sienna to increase the value. You can even add touches of green or red/crimson to the mix if you want to because if you really look at clouds you will see all colors.

If you want, because it will make the paint move easier, wet small areas as you go but don’t go all the way to the edge with the clear water (look at the photo) to keep them bright white. I was using my ¾” angle brush and was dabbing on the color and letting the paint and water do most of the work. I would soften the edges of the darker areas with just a damp brush with water on it or as an area was drying I would add more wet paint to darken an area and hope for blooms, or I rinsed my brush and dropped water or touched areas with small amounts of water and let the watercolor do the painting. I let the photo guide me which is what you will also need to do.

I have a bit more work to do on the clouds and the landscape and we should be able to finish up this project next time. You may want to start looking for something you want to paint for your own project for the rest of the semester and I will be doing misc. demos and requests as needed. See you in class.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Fall Watercolor class 2014 Week 1

Project: Cloud Study

Torrance students, you will use the PV blogs to review what we do in class. It does give you an advantage if you read it ahead of time or print it out that way you are familiar with what we will be doing in class since PV will be a week ahead of you.

As an artist there are times when you just have to get out of your comfort zone and try something very different, and that is what we are going to do with this cloud study. At least for me this is going to be something I haven’t used in a painting before but it looks like a perfect subject.

If you have been painting in watercolor for any length of time you have probably heard time and time again if you are using masking fluid you need to use it on dry paper, that is what I had heard from day one many moons ago, then I went to an artist’s talk and the man is a very good local watercolorist and he uses masking by dropping it onto wet paper to get natural looking clouds and sea foam. I asked many questions about this then did a sample the next day to see how it worked and it looked very promising. We will all be learning something new this time and I think it will be a lot of fun.

Remember it is important to do studies like this occasionally because it allows you to make mistakes. Too often we are all painting our “masterpieces” and are too afraid to try something different because we don’t want to mess it up. However, doing studies where you can work out your problems or try new techniques will give you the confidence to use them in your “masterpieces” and bring the finished work up to a new level. You won’t know until you try and that is what studies are for when you are an artist.

There isn’t much of a drawing for this project and if you feel confident enough you can just freehand the drawing onto your paper. HAVE THE REFERENCE PHOTO IN FRONT OF YOU. The drawing doesn’t need to be perfect but you do need to get some dynamic shapes into your clouds, so LOOK at the photo before you start drawing and refer to it often as you are drawing. The mountain ridges are simple but you do need to create some interesting shapes in them as well, I don’t want to see a series of “M” mountains and they can start up from the bottom between a third and a quarter way up, I have mine a bit higher so they can be seen when I am demoing.

Have your masking fluid ready to go, have your reference photo in front of you and have your paper flat before you start wetting it with just water. You want the paper wet but do try to avoid pools of water, move the water around so you have a nice even covering of water, the whole paper should have a shine. Dip your masking brush into the masking fluid and just on the inside of the lines for the clouds WHERE THERE WILL BE LIGHT AREAS (look that
the photo to guide you), drag and touch your brush to the paper. You will have to reload often and you will need enough so it can do its job but let the masking fluid do its own thing. You are not outlining all the clouds this is just in the areas where the sunlight is the brightest. Thick lines, thin lines and blotches make up the bright areas of the clouds don’t try to make them all even. When you are done, let it dry completely.

Our first wash of color will be a soft gray and it can go on everything even the mountains if you want. The masking fluid is protecting our white areas so everything else on the paper needs to have color and/or value. We are going to have to have contrast to make the whites look bright and we start with the next lightest value.

The gray I used was my standard gray and one you really need to commit this mixture to your head. It is Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and a touch of Dioxizine Purple. I want this to stay on the cool side so it has more of the blue but to warm this up add more sienna, it is a very friendly gray and can be used in many situations. I also added enough water to make it a very pale gray so on a scale of 1 – 10, 1 being white, 10 being black this would be between a 1.5 to 2, it is more a tint. If the color looks too dark when you put it on your paper, don’t panic just quickly rinse you brush and take clear water to dilute what is on your paper. This color can go over ALL THE PAPER including the landscape. Don’t try to paint around the masking, just paint over it because that is why we put it down in the first place, just cover the entire paper with this light gray then let it dry. I used my biggest brush for this wash of color.

The next and subsequent washes will be a bit more specific so you will be using a medium sized brush (I was using my ¾” angle brush) and I was looking at my reference photo before I started painting. What you will be doing is what is called negative space painting because what you will be doing is finding the areas around a cloud and adding a darker color behind the lighter cloud in front. Watercolorists have to work from light to dark so you need to learn to see these negative shapes.

I was using the very same gray color I was using before, if it is a bit too light add just a little more of the 3 colors to give it more value and look for those darker areas to add the next wash of gray. If you need to, you can turn your painting upside down and let gravity help you get a soft blend and/or you can wet the area to help the paint move a bit. Do not go over everything you painted with the first wash, just the darker areas, we will do the detail of the clouds later, at this point we are just trying to define the clouds.

If you want to add a bit of color into the sky area you can do it while the paper is still a bit wet. Use the ultramarine blue and a little touch of purple (no sienna this time) start at the top and corners and let the blue fade down into the clouds. There are some high, wispy clouds behind the big clouds so you don’t want to add the blue everywhere, again, look at the reference photo BEFORE you start adding the sky color.

We have some work left to do on the sky and then we will start with the clouds and landscape so don’t try to get ahead of me or you could have problems. Good start on this, see you all in class.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer 2014 Watercolor Class the Basics

Perspective: Vanishing Point and Atmospheric

It you want to be a better painter learning and understanding perspective and composition is a must. It doesn’t matter if you are an impressionistic painter or a realist, knowing how to suggest a third dimension to your painting will bring them to a new level. It doesn’t matter what medium you are using or even if you are using color, perspective is as important in close-up still life as it is in a landscape.

There are 2 kinds of perspective: The visual perspective we are most familiar with that involves a horizon and a vanishing point, and then there is atmospheric perspective which usually isn’t covered in basic art classes but it is just as important as learning about the vanishing point, maybe more so if you want to do mostly landscapes. Atmospheric perspective involves what is going on in the atmosphere between the foreground and the distant background. Even on a very clear day there will be dust particles and water vapor in the air and any more you will have pollutants as well, all these things in the air scatter and absorb the light that has bounced off objects in the distance until only the blue/purple end of the light spectrum is left, more of that in a minute, first I’ll go over visual perspective.

From basic art classes, even in grade school, you learn about the horizon line and the vanishing point but most of the time you don’t learn how to determine the horizon line in the first place and it is an important factor when you are planning your drawing or painting. There will be many things to burn into your brain for easy access and this is one of them. The horizon line is straight out from the viewer’s eyelevel. For instance, if you are standing on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean and take a photo of the scene keeping the camera level with the eye, the level of the water will be along the lower part of your photo. Now, doing the same thing but you are standing near the waterline of the ocean and you took a photo looking straight out, the image will be of probably the breakers and if there is the edge of the distant ocean, it will be near the top of the photo. In either scenario, if there are objects which will have perspected lines, their vanishing point will be somewhere along the eye level horizon line NOT what looks like the obvious choice of the water level. Remember, your eyes will lie to you especially when it comes to perspective.

A common problem I see – and I have been guilty of this as well – is as humans we like to have things all neatly spaced and lined up, this is great when it comes to a sock drawer or putting the dishes away but in art, not so much. This next statement should go on the mental quick list: As things go into the distance, they become smaller, closer together, less detailed and less intense in color. We will deal with the color aspect when we get to the atmospheric part of perspective but they all go together.

If you have ever been on a very straight road or stood on a railroad track you have experienced both kinds of perspective in a dramatic way. If there were phone poles, the got smaller and closer together as they went off into the distance until they “vanished” somewhere along the horizon, the train tracks did the same thing and the tracks “converged” (came to a point) off in the distance, the ties, got smaller and closer together until you couldn’t tell one from the other. This is visual perspective and it is everywhere. It is how we know how far something it from us, the problem, once again, is all in our head when we try to paint or draw perspective.

This photo I took of the trees up in PV is a good example of what I am talking about. All of the trees in the photo are probably roughly the same size if you walked up to each tree in the image, maybe 30’ – 40’ tall and a couple feet around more or less and your brain knows this. You have all seen trees before, it is stored in your memory the problem comes when you try to draw or paint them, more often than not, I will see students struggling because all their elements are the same size or they are putting way too much detail or color into distant objects because they are listening to their brain tell them “It’s a 40’ tree!” In this photo, you can see that the closest tree goes off the page (yes, I did plan that), the next trees you can see the base on up to the top of the photo where they go out of the image. As you go back into the image, the trees get smaller, they get closer together, there is less detail and they are less intense in color. All these things give depth to the image.
In my first figure I drew my horizon line and my first line and drew the perspective lines, then I put dots at the top ½” apart and drew the lines getting smaller going to the horizon line. If this were a fence line or telephone poles in a painting, it would look very odd because they are evenly spaced. It is a trick of the eye, but the taller lines look closer together and the smaller lines look further apart but they are all evenly space apart. Conversely, in the next figure, by applying that things get closer together as they go into the distance, lines of similar height look smaller in the front and taller in the back because our brains are applying the rules of perspective whether we are aware of it or not. The third figure is how using the rules of perspective can create the illusion of distance on a 2 dimensional surface.
You need to be aware of this and look for it in your everyday surroundings, the more you see the better you will understand and the better your paintings will become. Now we will go on to atmospheric perspective which works in conjunction with the visual perspective to create depth in your painting.

As I said above, there is a lot of particles in our air and it does affect how we see things in real life. Some days there are so many particles like smog or fog that distant things are barely visible if at all as artists, we need to figure this element into our work to create depth. The atmosphere is the “…less detail and less intense in color (softer and grayer)” aspect of the rule of perspective. As light comes through the atmosphere it is scattered and absorbed by these particles until only the blue end of the spectrum is left, it is why the sky is blue and since the sky is usually the furthest thing in our painting we will start there.

If you look at a clear blue sky starting at the horizon and pan up, you will see that near the ground the sky can be almost any color from a milky white to pinks, light blues, browns depending on how clear the day is, time of day and what is in the air. As you look up the sky will get bluer until it becomes a rich, deep blue in color. The reason for this is most of the air and what’s in it exist in a very thin layer around the earth when you are looking at the sky near the horizon you are looking through the thickest part of the atmosphere which could be several miles of thick atmosphere, when you look up you are only looking through what is directly above you and the air thins out within a few thousand feet which creates the blue sky above you but the darker color comes from the dark of space behind that thin layer. Sorry about the science but knowledge is power especially for the artist.

You can do this with shades of gray to practice however, if you are using color, I started out wetting my paper with just water then I mixed mostly blue with a touch of both sienna and purple – a very tiny touch of purple, it goes along way. The sky, being the furthest thing in a painting will be lighter than earth bound things like mountains and trees, so that is our first distant plane which is why I start with my darkest colors at the top and use water to blend my colors down the sky area. You should get a graded sky starting darker at the top and fading to a light blue at the bottom. This makes a very simple sky.

Our next distant plane would be any mountains in a landscape. If they are very distant, they will be about one value darker than the sky (remember the values we did in our previous class?). You can mix this color on your palette in the same area you just mixed the blue for the sky, again, you will be using the same 3 colors – the blue, the sienna a tiny amount of purple and water to lighten. You want the color to be just a value or so darker than the sky, it will be a soft blue gray. If you work into slightly damp paper you can create a soft edge for your distant mountains, you don’t want a hard edge. And keep in mind what you are trying to paint they are distant mountains not a bunch of humps or “m’s”. The next layer will be much the same as the first but the color will be darker so you will add more blue, sienna and purple (please watch the purple, it is very strong) and less or no water to paint the next layer of mountains. It is fine if they overlap because that is what they do in nature.

After a couple of layers of these “purple mountains” you can start to gradually addcolor. Depending on your landscape you can add some green like distant trees or more sienna if it is desert, the key thing here will be your values. Don’t jump too far up the value scale, this is still distance. Do as many layers as you want to do, each time adding more value, color and finally suggested detail. When you are done you should see depth in your painting.

This same idea works for water and flat land as well. Rather than me doing a blow by blow descriptive of each of these two studies (one is an acrylic the other a watercolor) I would rather you look at them and figure out on your own how to accomplish the same thing for yourself using the guidelines above. I won’t always be there to guide you so you need to learn to not just “look” at a scene but to actually “SEE” the scene whether it is a photograph, real life or even another painting, you need to figure out how to accomplish something similar when you are painting. This even works for close up still life, maybe not as dramatic, but if you can keep the things in the back softer and grayer and the things in the foreground more detailed and colorful, you can create great depth in a still life like it is popping off the canvas or paper.

I stress again that what I am covering in the time we have is just the tip of the ice burg, it is up to you to practice what we cover and if you want more information it is out there usually with just a click of a mouse or a visit to the library. Have fun and I will see you next time for composition.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Summer 2014 Watercolor Class

Watercolor Class – Color Mixing 101

As humans we are a curious species and we like to analyze everything and that includes the whys and wherefores of art. The Ancient Greeks set up committees to better understand why we like some things better than other even when the quality was equal and came up with what they called “The Golden Mean” we call it the Rule of Thirds today but that was just the beginning into how to create the perfect art masterpiece. We still do it today and there are volumes and volumes written on every aspect of art and while some of it might be helpful to the everyday artist sometimes there is just too much information and proves to be more confusing than helpful, Color mixing and Color Theory are no excepting to the rule. I don’t want you to discourage you from learning more on the subject but sometimes having a basic understanding of the subject is helpful when you want to learn more because it will make more sense to you. This is going to be a VERY basic introduction to color mixing but it should be helpful to you in your efforts to create your own masterpiece.

There are 3 Primary colors and their 3 Complimentary Or Secondary colors, these colors and their combinations should be burned into your brains if you are going to paint in color. The PRIMARY COLORS are: RED, YELLOW and BLUE. What that means is there is no way to mix any other colors together to get any of the three primary colors, you must have a source of red, yellow or blue to get these colors. SECONDARY colors on the other hand, are the combination of two primary colors. The 3 Complimentary colors are: ORANGE, GREEN and PURPLE.

You can buy a color wheel at the art store or better yet, make your own so you can learn about the primary and complimentary colors. You can make a circle on your paper or a canvas and then in the 12, 4 and 8 positions put a patch of your primary color (R,Y,B). Midway between the red and the yellow, apply a patch of orange. Midway between the yellow and the blue apply a patch of green and midway between the red and the blue apply a patch of purple. While it is good practice to mix these complimentary colors for your wheel, if you have premixed tube colors, that is okay too, the goal here is to create your color wheel.

Now look at your wheel and memorize these colors and what is directly across from it on the color wheel. The colors directly across from each other on the color wheel are COMPLIMENTARY COLORS. If you have these colors together in a painting they will complement each other giving a pleasant visual balance to the painting. For instance, if you are painting something with a lot of red in it adding green will enhance your painting more than adding say orange.

Most beginning artists do not have a problem when it comes to mixing mud, the problem comes from how NOT to mix mud or how to control the amount of mud you mix. The way you get mud is when ALL 3 PRIMARY COLORS ARE PRESENT. Mixing a primary and its complement together will get you some form of brown or gray. For instance, if you take the primary color blue and you mix it with orange (yellow with red) you will get a steel gray color if it is more to the blue side and a rich brown color if it is more to the orange side. Yellow and purple (blue with red) makes a great sand color. Red and green (blue with yellow) make rich browns and grays. There are some artists who only use the 3 primary colors with white (oils, acrylics or other opaque medium) and maybe black and that is it for their palette and they can mix any color they need but it takes years of practice to get the subtle differences in color and most of us aren’t that patient so getting pre-mixed colors saves us some time but we still need to understand the reasons behind what we are doing on the palette or our canvas.

By-the-way, all of this applies no matter what medium you are using. It doesn’t matter if it is acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastel, colored inks, anytime you are using color, these guidelines apply. If you ever want to try pastels, you really need to know more or less what you are going to get because you mix the color on your paper by putting 2 or more colors down then blending them with your finger or a blending tool.

Now why, you might ask, do I need to know what makes gray or mud? The answer is so you know how to correct or adjust you colors.

Most modern colors that you buy premixed at the store are usually too intense in color to use straight out of the tube and you need to know how to “tone them down”, greens can be particularly challenging out of the tube and need to be quieted to look more natural. For example, knowing that by adding some form of red to your green, be it red, orange, burnt sienna (which is in the orange family) or purple for shadow greens, will go a long way to improving your overall painting. This goes for all your colors.

Before I close this, I want to touch on a trend in the manufactured paint of ever expanding palette of colors, you now have many choices for a similar color. Blues, for instance, may say red hue or green hue or variation. All this means is instead of being a true blue color it has more red or yellow (respectively) and this will affect the color depending on what other color you have mixed into it. Bottom line is “Do you like the color?” if the answer is yes, then you may have to do some testing just to see how it mixes with your other colors or maybe you have to save it for special circumstances when you don’t have to mix it too much to use it. Art is all about you, if you like it, that is what matters sometimes it can take years of experimenting with color to find the combinations of color that work best for you needs, just never be afraid to try something new or to test your new color because they are all different even between the different manufacturers.

No pictures for this blog because your results will be different from mine and that is okay, we will be working on perspective and atmospheric perspective next class so practice those grays!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Acrylic example
Simply put, value is the light and the dark in you painting and all the shades of gray in between. Value and Composition are the two most important aspects of a painting especially when you are trying to create realistic and/or dramatic paintings. This holds true no matter what form of 2 dimensional art you do and whether you are working in color or black and white, painting, drawing or even photography, if you can get dark darks and light highlights with at least 5 shades of gray in your art, you will see how much more exciting your finished piece will be then if you only have middle tones. It isn’t as easy as that sounds and some of us really have to work at getting the darks in our art.

One of the main reasons we have trouble getting to very dark darks is because our eyes lie to us. When we are learning to draw or paint, for some reason we are afraid of the paper or canvas and many times when I go around looking at students’ work I will hear that they know that something is wrong but they keep fixing things that are okay and ignoring the elephant in the room which is usually they need to get some darker darks. This is why I had us create a value scale.

The first thing we needed to do is learn how to make a dark, almost black color. The reason I don’t use black is because it can kill other colors when you add black but by using a very dark color that we mix, if we use it with other colors the colors will still be lively though grayed in value.

Please burn these three colors into your head because they make my go to, universal dark color: Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Dioxizine Purple. More of the blue than the sienna with just a touch of the purple make a deep rich, dark, gray color. A variation of this combination is to substitute Burnt Umber for the Burnt Sienna but in the same combination. If you want to see what the true color is take a little bit and add a touch of water to it, you want a neutral gray color (optimal) or a cool gray color (to the blue side). If the color looks too brown, add more blue and a tiny amount of purple and test it again. It is worth the time to get your mix right before you start so you don’t have to stop and start over again, you will also want to mix a enough paint so you don’t have to keep remixing, we used this dark color for the entire class.

You can use a strip of paper to make your value scale. You will need enough room for at least 10 squares using the white of the paper as your white. If you need to, mark them off, I just used the width of my brush for each square.

Take the black color that you mixed and add lots of water to it, you want a very light gray, remember to skip a space for the paper white then paint THE ENTIRE REST OF THE STRIP
Use a similar value to the above for the entire strip.
with the light gray color, that is step one. Watercolor is transparent, which means that when you put one color on top of another, the color underneath will influence the color you just put down. The white of the paper is making the color you just put down look gray because it is so thin, pay attention to what happens each time you put down a new strip of color. Let the paper dry completely before skipping a section next to the white paper, WITH THE SAME LIGHT GRAY, PAINT THE REMAING STRIP WITH THE SAME VALUE. Let this dry completely (use a hairdryer if you are impatient), skip a new segment and paint the same value down what is left of the strip. Do this until you get to the last segment, if you have to get a very dark value, you may have to mix the colors again to get a dark, just don’t add a lot of water. We use water to change the value of watercolors, we don’t use white. You should be able to see a distinct difference between the values when the strip has dried going from black on one end to white on the other, you can punch holes in each segment if you want when it is dried.
Many artists will do a value study of a project before they start a major project, even plein air painters will try to capture the values of a scene so they can see where the light and shadows were when they started their painting because light changes when you are outside. A value study can be a quick painting sketch with little detail, or a pencil or charcoal drawing just to get the “feel” of the scene you want to paint, while it is not an absolute necessity, it is good practice and habit if you want to improve your painting.

With that in mind the rest of the class was devoted to doing quick studies of things around you using only the dark color you mixed and white to change the value.

We will be going over basic color mixing in our next class so be sure to have all your colors with you next time. See you in class.

Friday, July 4, 2014


For those of you who are new to blogs and this one in particular, there is a lot of information associated with it besides the body of the blog itself.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Spring 2014 Watercolor Class

Watercolor Class Project: From My Garden
Final Week

This final step I took with my paintings is not one you need to take to yours or if you do want to try it, you don’t have to be as aggressive with your color as I usually am. This will take some bravery on your part, just keep in mind this is a classroom situation and experimentation is not only shown, it is encouraged. You won’t know until you try it whether you will like it or not but it does add another element to the dynamic of your painting so grab a brush and give it a try.

What is this terrible/wonderful thing I am going to do? Add shadows.

Seemed like a bit of a come down after such a buildup but adding dark shadows to your work after spending all the time and effort to get it to a point where you don’t hate it as much can be a scary thing. Even my little voice in my head will question do I need to put the shadows in? Yes, I do.

Shadows can be everything you painting will need to finish it up. Shadows make the light areas seem lighter and more vibrant, they give a sense of direction and intensity of light, and they give form and interest. The darker your shadows are the more intense you light becomes and the more dramatic your finished painting will look. I can’t tell you how many times a student will ask me “Why does my painting look so flat?” and it all has to do with the shadows and their intensity.

I like dramatic light, if you want a lighter look to you painting or want to put in some other kind of background, you do not have to make your background with as much contrast as I have in mine but now is the time to be sure that your background is where you need it because from here out we will be finishing up the veggies and putting their shadows in.

When you are working on the shadows on your veggies, the light is coming from the front upper right as if there is a window opposite the veggies and the sun is coming in. The things with the brightest highlights will be the yellow zucchini, peppers, big tomato, to a lesser extent the tops of the melon, pumpkin and the tops of the garlic. Everything else will have highlights but they won’t be as intense as the aforementioned veggies or they will fall into less intense light.

I can write pages and pages on how the light is falling on each thing in our painting but unless

you can see this for yourself, my words will be wasted. If you can set something up in your own house, find a window that has light  coming through it, put some things on a table where you have a “sun spot”, it doesn’t even need to be veggies, just things with different shapes, turn off the interior lights and look at how the light plays on the objects. Find the brightest highlights, the darkest shadows, note the colors in the light and away from the light but not necessarily in the darkest shadows. Take a photo of the scene for reference so you can try to understand this play of light: Where does it come from? Where does it fall? Where are my shadows? You will find sun spots everywhere if you just look. As I have said in the past, the more observant you become the better an artist you will become.

These are the things I am thinking about when I get to the shadow part of my painting. First where is my light coming from and how intense do I want it? Where are my shadows and what do they fall on/across? Then I get started, I usually have to take a deep breath like jumping into a pool of unknown temperature, then start painting.

There are 2 kinds of shadows: From shadows that give things their shape and are usually lighter and Cast shadows that are created because something is blocking the light source and they are usually darker than a form shadow.

I use a bigger brush usually not smaller than my ½ inch and I use a mix or ultramarine blue, purple and a touch of burnt sienna not much sienna, I just want to gray it a bit, then I start in the place where it will be darkest which will be where something is sitting on the table or between objects and lighten as I move away from the thing that is casting the shadow. Be sure that your shadows follow the shape of what they are falling on, be observant because shadows will start and stop then pick up in a slightly different place as they follow the lumps and bumps and surface changes they fall on. This is something you have to see to understand, with practice it will become second nature, but you have to see it or my words mean nothing.

I will also go over the shadowed side of things in my painting to slightly blur them into the shadows. This is called “lost and found” and it adds a bit of mystery to your painting. Or I look to find light areas where I can put a very dark, dark to increase the contrast and therefore the intensity of my light. Be brave and give it a try.

I also took off my masking fluid to expose the white highlights. To tone down areas I thought were too big or too light I used either just water on my brush or a little color to decrease the white, the choice is yours.

We are now done with this project for the most part, if you still feel you want to work on it there is still plenty of time in class to get it done, if you think you are done with it please find something you want to work on and I will help you along the way. I will see you all in class.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


Watercolor Project: From My Garden
Week 3

I am hoping that all of you have the background in and the first light washes on your veggies, in the last class we worked on increasing the intensity of the color (the brightness or depth of a color) and to establish the shadow areas of by increasing their values (lightness or darkness of an area). Shadows create form and some of these vegetables have bumps or ribs on them that will have darker areas at the bottom of the bumps and lighter at the top. This is just another layer of wash and not the finishing touches, that may come next week, for now, try to keep your whole painting at the same level by working around your painting and NOT finishing as you go.

Again, I don’t have the time to go for a stroke by stroke narrative of each element of this project, basically the technique is the same throughout, you just need to change color depending on what you are working on or if it is light or dark. All of the veggies have a base color such as orange or yellow or green, this will be where you start with your color and to that you will add color to darken and slightly gray the colors for now, like I said, this is not the finished painting, we still have some work to do to establish our values.

To gray a color or to create a shadow or form shadow color, you will need to add a form of the colors complimentary color. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the color wheel there are 3 primary colors: Blue, yellow and red and they are on the thirds of the wheel. If you mix equal
parts midway between each of the primary colors you get secondary colors: Green, orange and purple. Green is between blue and yellow, orange is between red and yellow and purple is between blue and red, these secondary colors are directly across from a primary color: Red – Green, Blue – Orange, Yellow – Purple. This is the simple version, there are whole courses on color and color theory and volumes of books if you want to know more, but for our purposes this is what you need to remember. So when I say to create a shadow color or a grayed color, what I mean is to add its compliment or some form of its compliment.

Most of you don’t have any trouble mixing mud, it is very easy to do your color just needs to have all 3 primary colors present and they cancel each other out creating a muddy gray color, usually not the color we want. The way to create a softer grayer color is to start out with the color you want – say green – to gray the color you will need to add red or something with red in it like sienna or purple, depending on what you need. The red or sienna, which is in the orange family, or orange these will gray the color but not change its value too much (values is the lightness or darkness of a color), purple will not only change the color but can change the value to a darker form of green. Conversely, if you are working with red, you will add some form of green to gray the color.

The key to color mixing, especially when you are learning, is to sneak up on the color you want. Some colors like sienna, purple, pthalo blue or pthalo green are very potent colors and little amounts go a very long way, for instance if you were trying to add purple to gray the yellow for the zucchini you would NOT want to mix them in equal amounts or you would get a grayed purple, even 10 yellow to 1 purple may be too much but it is a much better place to start than 1:1.
You may also want to build up layers of color the create the intensity of the color and the values, trying to go from “a” right to “z” can create more of a problem than adding a few more steps. Watercolor needs patience especially when you are learning, as you build on your skills and knowledge, working faster will come automatically because you will know just how much you can do without causing yourself more problems. Be patient.

I did increase the values in my background by starting in the corners with a darker version of the color that was there and adding water as I got closer to the area of light and at PV I did start adding in some of my shadows and started working on the wood table both which I will show Torrance on Monday. Get your painting as far along as you can and I will see you next class.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Spring 2014 Watercolor class

Watercolor Class Project – From My Garden
Week 2
Previous week Torrance
In our last class we filled in the colors of the veggies by intensifying the colors. It is always a good practice to not finish as you go because what can happen is you will overwork one area and not work another enough then your painting looks unbalanced. Work in, around and through you painting at each stage to keep it all at the same level and you stand a better chance of not overworking areas.

Keep in mind that in watercolor we work from light to dark, so at this stage of the game we are just bring up our values (our darks) and intensifying our colors. Watercolor always dries a bit lighter so it usually takes several washes of color to get the intensity you want, be patient with the process.

The colors will be more or less the same as before but this time you need to be aware of the light and dark area of each shape, I showed how to put down someintense color, then rinse you brush and use the damp brush to move the paint up to the light area. This will create a graded color that is dark where it needs to be dark and lighter where it needs to be lighter.

You can also create a shadow color by adding a form of the colors compliment: green/red; yellow/purple; blue/orange. Just be very cautious when adding complimentary colors add little bits at a time to sneak up on a color. You can also add blue and purples to most shadow colors but again be careful not to add too much at a time.

I also showed how to use your angle brushes to also create a shaded effect by first loading paint on to the tip area then placing the ENTIRE END OF THE BRUSH on the paper with the tip where you want it to be darker and the heel where it should be lighter then make your stroke. This is very fun to do and comes in very handy. It can also be done using a regular flat brush but the end needs to come to a nice sharp edge.

If you are working on this at home and have gotten your veggies up to the intensity of color you want, you might want to wait to finish your painting until I get to the shadow stage of mine and I still have to finish the table and the background. I may get to this stage next class but more than likely the following week, I just don’t want to get ahead of those who are still trying to figure out what I’m talking about. You might want to bring something else to work on so you don’t “fiddle” your project into a place from where it can’t be saved.

See you all in class.