Saturday, September 24, 2016

Intermediate Homework 9/24/16 Deciding on Edges

What kind of edge does this form need?

Sometimes the subject matter of what you are about to paint will tell you whether the edges of the form should be hard or soft, but there are no rules about this. Clouds often appear to have soft edges, for example, but you can paint perfectly acceptable clouds with only hard edges. You can search long and hard in most of Edward Hopper’s watercolors and never see a soft-edged cloud. 
More often, it is the focal point of the picture that determines how wet the paper and the brush need to be in any given area. Hard edges are assertive. They tend to describe distinct forms, while soft edges merge with the field on which they have been applied. 
In Familiar Rock, we are encouraged to see the trees on the foreground headland as individual forms, while on the hillside in the background we are meant to see the forest as a whole.

Familiar Rock                                   Tom Hoffmann

The hard edges of the nearer trees are necessary to keep them separate from the more distant hillside. If the painting were made with only hard-edged shapes, or all soft edges, the pictorial space would be ambiguous. Choices have been made that deliberately focus the viewer’s attention, much as you would focus a camera.

Soft edges tend to describe a subject in general terms, while hard edges are usually more specific. Consider the role that the particular area you are about to paint is meant to play in the big picture before deciding whether your paper should be wet or dry. How much attention do you want the viewer to pay here?

Red                                              Mary Whyte

Limiting the hard edges to the face and the hat keeps the viewer’s eye from being distracted elsewhere.  The job of the background, for example, is simply to “set off” the figure. Once that is accomplished, nothing more needs to be added.

It is often appropriate to imply complexity in a subject rather than to specify it. Too much specific information leads to a confusing picture, where the viewer’s eye is pulled in several directions at once. If your pictures tend to lack clarity and cohesiveness, consider holding off on the hard edges until you know where you really want them. As a preliminary study, try blocking in the lights and the middle values all wet-on-wet. By the time you’re ready for the darks, you will probably have a good basis for deciding where you want to focus attention. See how the picture “reads” if you only make hard edges in that center of interest.   

Baby Grand Baler               Tom Hoffmann

Here, the baler is clearly the star of the show. The stacked hay bales play a supporting role, and would compete for center stage if they were more specific. They are made up of many brushstrokes, but because these are mostly soft-edged marks, it is possible to take in the overall shape as one form, without being distracted by too much information.

For homework, make a very simple version of your choice of image, or one of those below, using only soft edges or only hard edges. When the study is finished, ask yourself where you wish there were the other kind of edges. In your imagination, decide where the most meaningful strokes would go if you were 
limited to only a few, say, three or four.
If you have time, make both an all soft edged study and an all hard edged one. By then you'll be ready to make a very well informed painting.


Have fun.

Beginning Homework 9/24/16 Soft-edged Skies

Sorry the homework is late to be posted. There's a glitch in the process that almost defeated me

Paint a few soft-edged skies. This means that as soon as you see a hard edge, STOP. Let the painting dry completely, then re-wet the area where you plan to make more soft-edged strokes.

Can you tell how many layers of paint were applied to make this sky? It looks like four to me. First, the paper was wet with clear water, then a layer of pale, warm peach color was applied across the bottom and center. While the paper was still wet, the lighter gray went down. Then the dark gray, and finally, the blue. The brush needed to be washed once - between the dark gray and the blue. 
Remember to stay aware of how wet your brush is compared to the paper. And don't correct these paintings. If something goes wrong, let it be. Really.

When the paper is dry, add some hard-edged landforms. Or, on second thought, let them be soft, too. Experiment. Be playful, and have fun. 
Take a look at this week's intermediate homework for a short discussion of how choosing hard or soft edges affects the focus of the painting.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 9/14/16 Thoughts about Plein Air Painting

It seems a little crazy to try to practice, or even talk about plain air painting while looking at photographs, but here goes...

I  hear many people say they feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the quantity of information painting from life presents. It would be helpful, I think, to have some guidelines. What needs to be included in a painting and what can be let go? What is essential, we are asking, and what is optional?

Let's try to zero in on the fundamental aspects of the alleyway we visited today. We started by looking at the space as a shoebox. As such, the most significant visual features were the sides and top and bottom of the box, or the planes that defined the space.

This way of seeing recognizes the planes as more important than the individual fences, garages, bushes and dumpsters each plane comprises. It is essential to make apparent that there are vertical and horizontal planes first, and then to make some reference to the more specific, smaller components within each plane. If the viewer were unable to identify just what those components were, or exactly how many there were, it would still be possible to feel the basic structure of the scene. Most of the specific information can be released. That hypothetical viewer will do the work of making it all meaningful.

Once you have discovered that there are boxes full of information that do not need to be named, it is useful to shift into abstract vision. All those recycle bins and garage doors can be sufficiently described by just making some rectangles within the larger shapes that represent the big planes. Give the viewer some credit. They will recognize those rectangles as "alleyway stuff", and that's good enough. It is not your job to make sure the viewer can tell exactly what they're looking at.

For homework, what would work best is to get outdoors and work from life some more, looking for the most important features of your scene. If that's not convenient, you could work from the studies you did in the alley, or try one of these shoeboxes.
Have fun

Beginning Watercolor 9/14/16 Shadows

In class today we came up with a fair description of how shadows are different from local color. By comparing aspects of the two we were able to conclude that shadows are generally darker, cooler and more neutral than the surface upon which they are cast. As with just about everything pertaining to art, there are exceptions to these rough guidelines. Let's do some comparisons to see how dependable the guidelines are.

This image presents a real variety of shadows. The red chair is half in shadow, half sunlit. The beige tarp is sunlit on the upward-facing surface and shadowed on the under side. The tarp also casts a shadow onto the ground, where we could compare the color and value of that shadow to the sunlit dirt  beside it.
Is it true, in this case, that the shadow is darker than the local color?
Yes, definitely.
Is it cooler?
Again, yes, it is.
How about more neutral?
Well, not really. The ground is already quite neutral. The shadow is also neutral, but not more so. One is a warm neutral, the other is a cooler neutral. Hmmm. Lets compare the sunlit tarp to the shadow on its under side.
Is the shadow darker?
Yes, for sure.
Is it cooler?
No. If anything, it's warmer.
Is the shadow more neutral?
Um, no, it's not. The upward-facing surface is nearly white, which is pretty much a neutral, but the downward-facing surface is a rich golden ochre.
Some of the guidelines appear to be slipping away. All that's left is that the shadow on a surface is darker than the sunlit areas of that surface. How can we find colors that will work for shadows if we have no recipe for success?
The answer is to observe and inquire. Which is darker? Which is cooler (or warmer)? Which, if either, is more neutral?
And while you're at it, what kind of edge does the shadow shape have?

Each of you selected a couple of photos that contain shadows and local color near or adjacent to each other. Starting with observation and inquiry, see if you can come up with answer to the questions above.
Take your time mixing colors to represent the local color and the shadows you see in your images. It is not necessary to make an exact match. Instead, focus on making a convincing  pair of colors. Do they describe a believable quality of light?
This is also an opportunity to practice mixing colors from the primaries. Choose one red, one blue and one yellow, and see if you can get reasonably close to the colors and values you see in the photos. Keep track of the colors you used by writing the mix beside the patches of color on your practice paper. To darken a color, try adding some of its compliment.
Don't forget to bring in your flops as well as your triumphs.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Beginning and Intermediate Homework 6/9/16 Working From Your Figure Sketches

After 2 1/2 hours of intense concentration, we all ended up with a fair-sized pile of studies, some much better than others, no doubt. All of them can be very useful, though, so I hope You haven't recycled the rejects yet.
Hopefully, the examples below will offer some inspiration to repaint a few of the sketches in a more efficient way. Some are simpler than others, but the importance of the shadow shape is obvious in most of these. Try to keep it simple, and have fun.

Linda Lovell

Linda Lovell

Jaqui Morgan

Ewa Ludvicsak

Tracy - Ann Marrison

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Intermediate Homework 6/2/16 Figure Practice

Intermediate watercolor homework: Figures, Letting go!

Here are a few images that might inspire you to make more general statements in the figurative work we'll be doing next week.
Nathan Oliveira

Kim Froshin

David Park

Richard Diebenkorn

These paintings are based more on shapes than lines. Even in the Diebenkorn if you took away the lines, the figure would still be fully present, much as it is in Kim Froshin's exciting painting. An edge, rather than a line can make a more convincing object in space. 
Take another look at these three images with the relationship between the figure and the ground in mind. There's a big opportunity here for defining shapes, and it can come late in the sequence of layers. Be sure to take advantage of that from time to time.
So, your homework? If you can get someone in your house to hold still, great. Otherwise, look for photos online, or in magazines that feature distinct shadows on a figure, clothed or not. Keep the drawing to a minimum. Paint shapes!

Please bring lots of paper for our next session. Most of it can be cheap sketch paper (not newsprint).  Just a  couple of sheets of good watercolor paper for the longer poses.

Beginning Homework 6/2/16 Figure Practice

Here are a couple of images that can get you started seeing the figure as a sequence of layers.

Try painting the whole figure as a single color silhouette. See if you can get used to starting from the inside of the form and working toward the outside edge, instead of drawing the profile and then coloring it in. I know nobody's watching, so you could just draw an out line and fill it in, but really, try it the other way, at least a couple of times. Use your brush to make shapes rather than lines.
Make some of your silhouettes in a very pale wash. Remember the tendency we saw in the portraits to make the first layer too dark. Better to make it too light. Well, best to make it just right, but too light leaves plenty of room for the shadows to contrast sufficiently.
Next, paint the shadow shapes as a layer by itself. The idea is to get used to seeing it as a separate layer that you can hold in suspension while you focus on the lights.
Finally, put the two layers together, adding a few accent darks where they are needed (creases, hair, eyes,. etc.)
Remember, it is not necessary to have a flawless figure present right from the start. When you are applying the first layer, you still have 2 or 3 opportunities to clarify the edges and proportions. Putting in a background can be a powerful tool in this regard.

Please bring lots of paper to this next session. Cheap sketch paper will be fine, not too small, though. And a couple of sheets of good watercolor paper for the longer poses.