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.

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