Watercolor Class Project: Arizona Color
Torrance students you will need to go back a couple of posts to the start of this project. Everything is basically the same to everything we did in class so you shouldn’t have any problems getting started.
In our last class I put the finishing touches on my painting, depending on how far along you are with your painting you may or may not be to the finishing point on yours yet but feel free to continue working on it in class if you want, there is no rush.
One thing I do want to say, and I say it in almost every semester, is if you tell yourself you can’t do something, you have already set up a road block in your mind and chances are you will have a self-fulfilling prophecy. You won’t be able to do it because you have already told yourself you can’t, then you will set out to prove your point. You weren’t born with this knowledge or skill it is something you have to learn, these classes are here for you to learn and every class you are learning a lot more than you realize for every stroke you put down on your paper there are a hundred things going through you head, you are not painting, you are thinking and it is going to take time and patience with yourself to get past that point of thinking about every move you make to just worrying about what you will paint next. Think of each new technique you learn in class as a challenge or a puzzle you need to figure out and you will see improvement each time you paint and look for the things in your painting you like, you may not like all of it but you probably find something you do like. Concentrate your mind on those areas and congratulate yourself on getting something you like, celebrate the small victories and ignore the rest, it will get there you just need to cut yourself some slack. Most artists are their own worst critic but chances are other people will be impressed with your efforts, they know watercolor is a challenging medium and applaud you for your efforts; you need to do the same.
I started the finishing process by adding some color to the bank along the river and to the sandbars out in the water using burnt sienna and putting a wash of color over the areas. A wash is a weak mixture of pigment and water and can be used to build up the value and/or the intensity of a color using the transparent nature of watercolor to do the job. There were some gray strokes along the bank, when I put the wash over them they become shadows in the texture of the dirt.
Next I started the reflections in the water. A “rule of thumb” when it comes to reflections is you measure from the top to the bottom of an object – I usually just measure with my finger and thumb making a space between – moving that measurement so the top point is now at the bottom and the bottom point should be somewhere in the water, that point is where your reflection will end so some things in the distance may not show up in your water at all. Reflections in the water are not like a mirror reflection, they are reflecting what is directly above them as if the mirror was on the floor.
The strokes you use for reflections can be basically simple: straight down andstraight across (vertical and horizontal), as you grow as an artist you will want to see how other artists handle reflections because there are other techniques out there but this one is simple and effective.
I started with my yellow and orange finding where my tree will reflect in the water then pulling the color down, this is almost a dry brush technique using more pigment and less water on my brush, be sure to dry your brush before you start your stroke. When I have done some of the color on my paper, I lightly go across the color, your stroke should be parallel to the top and bottom of your paper (straight down, straight across). Repeat until you have a basic shape for your tree. Next, I mixed a dark green color using my Hooker’s green and/or sap green, blue a touch of purple whatever is on my palette to make the dark green then I did the same strokes with the green as I did with the yellow: Straight down and straight across. When I got to the places where the green and the yellow touched, I rinsed and dried my brush and lightly went over the yellow using a horizontal stroke to drag some of the yellow into the green, then reversed the process to drag some of the green into the yellow. Because the water is moving you will see this happen in real life so recreating this in you painting is a good thing. Practice this before you try it because it can start to feel good and the next thing you know you have mud.
I wanted to have a couple of large rocks down in the corner but I had painted over where they were supposed to go. No problem, I just lifted the color out of the area using a damp brush, clean water and a paper towel and lifted off enough color to create the highlight on the rocks. It won’t get back to paper white, but that is okay, just be sure not to scrub too much or too hard so you don’t damage the paper.
While the rocks were drying, I added the trunks and branches to my trees with myliner brush. The liner is a challenging little brush but once you get the hang of it you will be able to create all kinds of things from trees to grasses to fence lines to hair to boat rigging… not to mention detail, please take the time to practice with this brush before you get to your painting, you will have a lot more success if you do.
The first thing you need to do with this brush is get the paint mixture correct, it should be like ink in consistency, enough water to flow off your brush but enough pigment so your lines aren’t too light. The color for the tree trunks is sienna, blue and purple which will create a very dark, almost black, color, test it on some scrap paper to be sure it is dark and not light enough to see which color is dominant. Load the brush by rolling the entire length of the bristles in the color, then lift and roll your brush as you take it off you palette. Then holding the brush by the end of the handle and starting at the bottom of the tree or branch, press, pull up and lift the brush until you are on the end of the bristles. A little shake is a good thing when you are doing branches and trees so don’t worry about the little glitches along the stroke, with your next stroke you can use those to “branch off” another branch but start the new branch by starting your stroke within what is there then change directions. Be sure to skip areas in the trees because the branches go being clumps of leaves, they aren’t all in the front. Please practice this.
The shadows on my rocks were basically a watered down version of the tree color, leaving some of the lifted area as the highlight on the rocks. I did several washes to get deeper shadows. I also used some of the dark tree trunk color to suggest some reflections in the water, wiggling my brush as I went.
The last couple things I did was I used pure color straight from my palette so it was fairly thick to add some leaf and leaf clumps to my trees. Yellow, orange even touches of red or green will work here just don’t do dot, dot, dot it is more like dot-dot-dot-dot dot-dot dot-dot-dot-dot dot with lots of over lapping dots. Leave some of the lighter color around the edges because those are your highlights in your trees.
Finally, just using a light mix of green and orange I suggest a distant cactus to act as an eye stopper, it could also be another tree or something to keep the eye from wandering out of the painting. This is where I stopped, I may or may not work on it some more to refine things but that becomes an individual choice, for teaching purposes it is done, you will have to decide for yourself just how much detail you want to put in or move on to something else, which brings me to the point where I am turning you lose to start on your own projects, I will be doing demos that will help not only you, but also your classmates, so bring something you want to work on to class or you can finish up the class project if you want to. I will see you all in class.