Thursday, January 23, 2020

Beginning Watercolor Homework 2/22/20 Prolonging the drying time



Yesterday we experienced some rapid drying conditions while we were trying to paint multi-layer skies. The edges of the clouds were hard before we could even get two layers applied, making the shapes look more like baked potatoes than soft clouds. What can we do to keep the paper wet as long as possible? Is there anything we should do if hard edges appear before we're ready?

Let's look at the second question first. If you see hard edges where you intended soft ones, stop painting! It does no good to keep making hard edged marks. Instead, let the painting dry thoroughly and re-wet the area where you want soft edges. Then carry on making the soft clouds. Re-wetting is a powerful tool that takes away the feeling of panic. Just remember the paper must be all the way dry before you lay on a new layer of water. A little practice reveals the techniques and puts you back in charge.

Now, back to the question of prolonging the drying time. More water seems to be the obvious solution, right? What if you wet both sides of the paper? Or let the sheet of paper sit in the sink for a few minutes. You'll probably need to use somewhat thicker paint for the second layer to keep it from feathering too far.
 Here are a few paintings and photos to guide your experiments. Try counting how many layers it would take to paint them.










Image result for clouds





Image result for clouds




Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Intermediate Homework 1/15/20 Foreground, Middle Ground, Background

Conventional watercolor wisdom insists that soft edged shapes appear more distant while hard edged ones advance to the foreground. Is that true?

What about color temperature? Do warm colors really come forward and cool ones go back in the illusory space?

Then there are the effects of atmospheric perspective, which compress the value range as we look farther into the distance.

How important is it to always "follow the rules"? How much does the illusion of space depend on making sure the viewer knows what your subject is?

Below is a gorgeous painting by Frank La Lumia that has a deep sense of space. He makes sure there is no confusion about where the shapes are relative to each other. What would happen if the foreground were cooler and the background warmer? How about softening the edges of that shed in the mid-ground and sharpening those of the background mountains? How much can we defy convention without destroying the illusion of space?


                                    Would you be willing to give it a try?

Here's one by David Taylor


Switch the color temperatures, making the reflections warm, for example.
See what happens. Maybe put some strong darks in the distance? Maybe not.


This one was mostly done with a credit card, but held to convention regarding color and value.
Have at it!

Beginning Homework 1/15/20 Making a Smooth, Even Wash

Related image 
A watercolor wash is made from two or more strokes that touch or overlap.
 A smooth, even wash presents consistent saturation, where the whole shape has the same degree of concentration of pigment. The wash in the illustration is not obsessively perfect, but for my purposes it is "perfect enough". It  has no overlap marks and no blooms, where paint already on the paper is pushed aside by excess water.

                                         
                                                  Here's a bloom, usually undesirable
                                                                 

The homework exercise that follows is simple. Draw a rectangle about 4 x 8 inches and paint it as smoothly and evenly as you can. Simple, right? Easy? Maybe.

Make as many attempts as it takes to be able to make a smooth wash dependably. As you experiment to improve your attempts, compile a list of the variables at work. For example,

 1) the angle of the paper
2) mixed color or right from the tube
3) Quality of paper

You may be surprised by the number of variables you discover once you start thinking about it.
Please bring your washes and lists in to class next week.

Have fun

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Everyone's Homework 11/12/19 The Illusion of light

When it comes to creating a convincing illusion of light, watercolor has a head start. Light passes through the transparent washes of color, then bounces back to your eye, making the page feel as if lit from within.






Making a believable feeling of light is mostly about getting the values right. Color plays a role, as in the scene, above, but even with the color removed...




...the illusion remains.


Note that as the mountains step back into the distance, the range of values diminishes. The darkest darks and lightest lights are in the foreground. If the background shapes were as dark and as light as those in the foreground the sense of space would collapse. This phenomenon is not just a painter's trick, it is what we actually observe. The intervening atmosphere is full of reflective particles of moisture and dust that act like a translucent veil. The complexity of the scene also diminishes over distance, as you can see in the furthest mountain.



To be sure that the values you apply to each shape are relatively correct, remember to "bracket" the darks and lights by comparing them to each other. For example, the shadow on the mountain needs to be darker than the sky, but lighter than the trees in shadow. If you can't find anything darker than the shape you are about to paint, it must be the darkest thing in the scene. Converting the image you're working from to black and white makes this job easier, so go ahead and give yourself a break. Sooner or later, though, It would be good to know you can make value comparisons even when color is there complicating the task.





Feel free to make any changes you want, especially where you are simplifying the image. You won't really need to put in all the bricks, for example.




This one looks pretty easy, right? Can you please make it more apparent that this is hay, not rock?





Thank you, and have fun



Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Beginning Watercolor 11/6/19 Essential or Optional?

Here are a few images that might benefit from some editing before being interpreted in watercolor. Or, maybe not. You decide.



One of the big trees has a shape similar to the leaning rock tower. Does it need to be removed? 
All that texture in the dark green trees could be a distraction. What if you just painted it all as a simple green shape, with no texture at all? What about removing all the trees? 



The silhouetted hills just across the water are very dark. Should they be lighter? Should they be dark brown instead of black? And what about the pointy saw teeth along the top edge of the hills? Would it be better to have fewer of them, like, none, for example?





Too many shapes!
Some of them have got to go. Big ones, little ones? Near? Far? 

How will you decide what you can afford to edit out and what you ought to keep?
The best way to see whether something belongs in the scene is to leave it out. If you don't miss it, it's optional.

Have fun





Intermediate Watercolor 11/6 Fill in the Blacks

Having practiced inventing and exaggerating last week, you might be ready to liven up some deep black holes in the images below. In an attempt to display subtlety in the lightest areas, cameras often make the darks into empty spaces, devoid of imagery and information. Your job is to adjust the color or value or edge quality to awaken those dead zones. You can look into the dark shapes and exaggerate whatever you think you see, or invent the kind of life and movement you think belongs.













  







Thursday, October 31, 2019

Intermediate Watercolor Where do I Need Hard Edges?

We've all seen paintings that suffer from too many hard edges. Often, if we pay more attention to content than form, the individual parts of the scene insist on being kept separate. A hard edge is the best way to ensure that, but the result can be a jigsaw puzzle that is difficult to see as a cohesive whole.
Deciding which edges in the forest really need to be hard is tricky when we are all wrapped up in doing justice to the individual trees.

Working under the assumption that the best way to see if something needs to be in the painting is to leave it out, I recommend making a study that has no hard edges at all. When it is finished, the study will tell you where more focus is required. It also helps to have a limit in mind, say, half a dozen strokes, so you can identify the most important spots.




You may have to wet both sides of your paper to get it to stay damp long enough


For homework, choose an image that has lots of shapes, and paint a version that is all soft edges. Part of the exercise is to practice the techniques involved in keeping the shapes blurry without losing definition altogether. The awareness skills that are at work include noticing as soon as a hard edge appears, and stopping right there. Then dry the paper, re-wet the relevant areas and continue.
Assess the study, with an eye toward where it needs greater definition. Make the hard-edged additions one at a time, and stand back each time to see if that's enough.