Thursday, July 14, 2016

SUMMER 2016 WATERCOLOR CLASS: Project – Working the Steps Week 1

This class project is to give you some insight into how you can become a better painter and to create better work habits. The best artists have their own methods but they are very similar in that they will collect reference material, do sketches, values and color studies, take photos and notes plus anything else to prepare themselves to get down to the final painting. A good painting doesn’t just pop out of the end of a brush or a piece of chalk, it is the accumulation of knowledge and study.

I usually provide a photo and a drawing for the class so we can get started on a painting. Students are hungry to get into the “meat” of the project but they rarely are interested in the “bones”. What I present in class has taken many hours of looking through images of my own or from things I have clipped out of papers and magazines or search out on the Internet, and that is just the beginning.

Once I have my reference material I then have to come up with a design for my classes. If I am using one of my photos I may just do an outline of what I already have for the project but if I am working from some other source or maybe my reference isn’t all that exciting and needs to have other elements included, I need to do what is called a “Composite” that is the final design is made from more than one source of reference material.

If I am doing a composite, I may have 2 or more reference photos that I am working to put together to create my final design and this takes time. I may do several simple pencil sketches – some looking more like stick figures than a drawing – and then I sometimes will do a detailed pencil drawing to see how everything looks together and/or I may make a preliminary line drawing and do a small study in watercolor of acrylic. Still, nothing is set in stone at this point. If I am not satisfied with my results it is literally back to the drawing board.

By the time I get into class I am very familiar with my subject then I paint it again 4 times. Sometimes I do get tired of the subject but each time I do the paintings in class I learn something especially how the subject works in the different mediums, you are always learning when you paint so get out of the notion that you do one masterpiece then move on to the next, it just doesn’t work like that for most artists.

This project is from a plein air class I have been taking. You will notice that there is a big difference between the photo I took and the study I did. Photographs have their limitations and if you are going to work from them, you are going to need to understand these limitations. First off, photos do not give you the exact colors that were actually there. The human eye sees a lot more color that any camera can so the colors which are in my watercolor are more accurate than what you see in the photo because of the limitations of the camera and this goes for all cameras no matter the expense.

When you are working from these photos, it is best to use the real image to work out your drawing and my watercolor to suggest what colors to use in your painting.

Pencil value sketch from Torrance class.
In class we worked on a pencil sketch to find the values in the image we will be using for the painting. You can also do a pencil sketch then use watercolor of ink to create your value study. Value is more important than the color so until you can see value (darks and lights) in a photo or a scene, you want to get it correct before working on your final painting. This is where having a value scale is handy especially when you are learning. Most art stores should have them or you can make your own using ink and water on white paper.

If you want to do a watercolor value study, you need to have a dark color, I have done this using both watercolor and India ink, the India ink allows me to put color over it without the dark mixing with the colors but if you are just doing a value study you can get a nice gray mixing ultramarine blue and burnt sienna adding water to lighten it or using more paint and less water to darken or you can get to dark using layers of a lighter gray because of the transparency of watercolor, the layers you put down before influences the new layers you put down and is the traditional way watercolorists create darks and vibrant colors using layers of thin washes. It is good practice.
Watercolor value study for PV class
You do not need to do detail but you do need to see the different values, squinting at the reference photos will help when looking for values.

As a watercolorist, more so than other mediums, you really need a good roadmap when you are painting because errors can be tough to fix. The process of sketching and doing value studies helps cement in your mind where you are going in your painting and what you need to do. It will help you avoid making errors then trying to figure out how to fix them.

We may have time to do another project and this time you will have the choice of doing your own or another one I provide, either way, I want you to try and work the steps, if you will be working on your own project, get good reference material and work on sketches, I can help and answer questions in class.

We covered a lot of ground, do the best you can but keep painting and I will see you in class.

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