Friday, January 24, 2014

Watercolor Project: Az. Fall
Week 2

Most of what we did in class this week was to continue negative painting around our trees. When you are doing something you are new to doing or unsure of you naturally go slower and that is fine, speed will come in time and practice. It is better to slow down and think about what you are doing than to rush ahead and end up with big problems. However, if you do run across a problem or you want to change things, all is not lost. Regardless of what some might think, you can make changes in watercolor, it might be a bit more challenging than in other mediums but it can be done and you should know how to fix problems because as a painter – watercolor or otherwise – there is always something you see that you want to fix or change in almost every painting you do. Do not be afraid to make these changes, because they happen and they will continue to happen as long as you paint.

Where we stopped in class.

A couple of the students made the mistake of positive painting the trees with the hillside color. Negative painting is not a natural way of doing things so when you are learning it is easy enough to switch from the negative to the positive – painting the “thing” and not the space around the thing. We all do it at some point or another no matter how experienced we are, what experience give you is the knowledge on how to fix a problem so you don’t panic and make it worse.

There are several ways to fix a problem like the above and I covered 2 ways to fix the problem. The first way was to “lift” the color off the paper. Lifting is a fun thing to do in watercolor, in can add texture, highlights, leaf veins and countless other things to make you painting interesting and it can also take enough color off an area that you either mistakenly painted over or want to change. You just need a brush, water, a clean paper towel and a bit of time.

First you wet your brush and lightly dry it with your paper towel so that it isn’t dripping, it can still be on the wet-side, then paint the area with the water lightly going over the area to reactivate the pigment on the paper. Blot your brush on the towel frequently, rinse it out to get off any color that came up and repeat the process. You can also blot the paper to lift up even more color, the one thing you do need to be careful of is damaging the paper. If you go over an area too much and it gets too wet or if you scrub too hard with your brush or both, you run the risk of damaging the surface of the paper. If you do damage the paper, it will not take the color the same way and you may get dark blotchy areas when you tried to lift. It is best if you do a little lifting, then let the paper dry and try again if it needs it. Remember that when the pigment and the paper are wet they will be darker than when they are dry so once it dries, it might be light enough for you to go ahead with whatever changes you wanted to do.

The other method I showed was a fairly recent addition to our watercolor tool box, and that is the use of the “Magic Eraser” by Mr. Clean. It is a soft sponge which is filled with a cleaner that doesn’t seem to harm the paper. It comes in a box with 2 sponges and I just cut mine into 1” or so squares that are easy to throw in my art box and it is easier to use than a big sponge. There are times when you have a bigger area you need to take the color off of or you have used a staining color that won’t lift easily, it is those times that the Magic Eraser does work its magic. It might not get the paper back down to paper white, but it will get enough of it out that unless you point it out to people, they will never know so don’t tell them! You don’t need to use them dripping with water, just a bit damp and, again, be careful not to work the area too long or too hard because you could damage the surface of the paper.

The other thing we did in class is to start working on the water’s edge. The thing to keep in
mind here is the edge is not a straight line. Because the water follows over and around rocks and other obstacles the (geology is another class) the edge of most natural bodies of water will meander in and out, to make your river bank look natural you need to create the same type of meandering. Study the reference photo of the water I included for this painting, note all the edges and how they wander, also note that the water looks flat even though the photo was taken from an elevated angle. The reason it looks flat is because as the water goes away from my camera lens those meandering edges become “foreshortened”. What that means is the camera is seeing it from
an edge the further away it is and not seeing the entire surface. You can experience this yourself with a round lid: If you look at the top of the lid straight on, the lid will look round, now tilt the lid so that the back edge if further away from you than the front. Is it still round? No, it has become an “ellipse”, this is called “foreshortening” in art terms and it is a very common occurrence when you want to create distance. What this means is when you are sketching in the edge of your water those meanders need to stay flat and you do this using flatter lines and shallow angles especially as they move away from you or when making the parts that stick out or the inlets, keep them flat and narrower when they are in the distance. Again, this will come with practice and observation, this has been very hard to describe. Practice or do some drawings before you get to your paper, these rules apply to all the 2D art.

Once you get your sketch on your paper we are now going to add the start ofreflections down into the water. There is usually a dark edge and it is probably best if you do this in sections. I used my ½” angle brush and the color I used was a mix of blue with a touch of sienna and a tiny touch of purple to create a shadow color which I loaded onto the tip of my brush. If you use a round brush just load the tip and if you use a flat brush, just load a corner, be sure to rinse your brush before you load it. Putting the tip of my brush where I want to start the edge and the rest of the brush on the paper, I pulled the color along the edge of my water. I just did a few inches, then I rinsed and dried my brush then with the damp, clean brush, I pulled that color I just put
down, straight down and faded it out. Then I did another section and repeated the process. Be sure to pull the color STRAIGHT down because of the nature of reflections the images from the reflections in water will have a combination of vertical and horizontal components, the horizontal coming from the movement of the water, so after you pull straight down, wipe out your brush and lightly pull straight ACROSS, you brush should be parallel to the top and bottom of your paper. We will be using this technique as we work on the water so again, you might want to practice before you get to your painting.

I also used that color was on my brush to create the shadows in the dirt alongthe shoreline. Again, my strokes were fairly flat because the dirt was flat. We will work more on the dirt and the water in our next class. Try to get your painting to this point, remember the more you do something the easier it becomes the next time so get some card or divide a practice paper up into sections and practice your techniques, also become more observant of your surroundings, don’t just “look” at things, really try to “see” the world around you, it will make you a better artist. See you next time.

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