Thursday, January 17, 2019

Intermediate Homework 1/17/19 When to be Careful and When to be Carefree

When you are just beginning a watercolor the usual procedure is to block in the major shapes with the lightest tone that is present. At that stage, it is not necessary to make sure the viewer can tell what the subject matter is. Broad statements about color and value serve as underpainting for the more specific work that is yet to come. They are often nebulous and indistinct. 
In many cases the second layer, too, doesn't describe specific content, nor does it provide a context that might give the viewer at least a clue as to what's what. It can be disheartening to have laid down a couple of layers on your page and still not have much narrative content to show for the effort. Don't give up, though. Chances are your image is one where the shapes don't get their identity until the darks go down. 
With a little practice you will get in the habit of asking when the shapes become recognizable before you begin to paint. If you can see that the darks will do the work of bringing out the meaning of your strokes and washes, this is very good news. It means that you can be casual in the early stages of the painting, giving the paint room to flow. 
The following images are part of a new crop of photos, including some in which the final layer can be counted on to pull the whole painting together. To identify these, imagine what they would look like if you painted only the darkest darks. For homework, please choose one or two that you think will work and paint the pattern of strong darks by itself, just black shapes on white paper. Stand back and see if, in fact, the darks tell the story. If so, dry the study thoroughly and, in a carefree manner block in the middle values and the lights right on top of the darks.
Most likely, what you will see is that this is an image where what is usually done first could be done very loosely.
It might be a good idea to read this again before you start your homework. It asks you to work backwards.


Beginning Homework 1/17/19 Soft Edges

 A hard edge is a hard edge. There's no such thing as a slightly hard edge or an extremely hard edge.  If your paper is dry, the strokes you make will have hard edges.

Soft edges, however, can, indeed be slightly soft or extremely soft. How much the paint on your brush diffuses when it touches the wet paper is your choice

 How can you make edges that are just a little bit soft? Is it possible to make a stroke that is hard on the bottom and soft on top? How do you avoid blooms?

Consider the variables;

The wetness of the paper

The thickness of the paint on the brush

That's it. The entire range of edge quality possibilities is created by adjusting those two variables.

For homework, experiment with the relative wetness of the paper and the brush. You can use the photos and paintings below for your attempts to copy specific edges that interest you. It's not necessary to make complete paintings for this exercise. It would be fine to fill a page with unrelated experiments. Make notes on your practice paper so you will remember how you adjusted the wetness of the paper and the brush.


Have fun!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Homework for all 11/9/18

The last week of class the homework is always up to you.
Work on some aspect of your practice that needs strengthening, or something that delights you. please bring some work to put up on the wall. Spectacular failures are welcome, if you're feeling brave enough.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Everybody's Homework 11/2/18 Composition

It was fun watching everyone in class asserting their opinions about changes in composition. Clearly we all have an archive of examples of what works and what doesn't, and a tool kit for putting together solutions.

Here are some images that might benefit from adjustment. Some require removing portions of the composition. Others want the shapes to be moved around, or for there to be fewer shapes, overall.

Vertical or horizontal?

That cloud!?

Off balance? Need permission to move something?  

Look at the relationship between the image and the frame. Also, where's the horizon?

If you wanted to break the symmetry of this image, should you add something or take something away? What about moving something?

What a mess!

Subtle changes...

Making notes as you consider these flawed compositions will help us share thoughts during our discussion in class.
You might want to try out any changes you come up with by making small pencil or pen thumbnail sketches. If you do, please bring them along to show your process. 
Make a simple painted version of one or two of these after you decide what you want to change.
Have fun

Friday, October 26, 2018

Jill McElmurry

While we're still on the subject of symbolic realism, the artist I've been searching for has emerged, Jill McElmurry. I couldn't get the spelling right till today. Here's some of her wonderful work:

Hard edges, shape first, pattern rather than texture, limited palette. George Post would have been delighted. I wonder if they ever met.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Intermediate Watercolor 10/24/18 The Easy Way

Photo by Sally Hayman

This market scene resolves nicely into just a few shapes. There's a strip of dark along the top (the awning), with a strip of middle value rectangles (the doors) below that. Then there's a strip of dark below that (the shadow), and a strip of light below the dark (the fruit). Finally, there's a triangle along the bottom made of a mix of all three values. Five shapes.

It would be nice if you could paint everything light, then put the middle values on top of the light and the darks on top of the lights and the middles. Can you see a way to do that? 

Imagine wetting the paper first, then blocking in lights everywhere. The fruit could be a cloud of light yellow and red. It wouldn't matter if it bled a little into the triangular shape below, since the strong darks in that area will give sharp definition later to the bottom edge of the fruit. And it would be good if the red and yellow bled into the shadow area, since there are fruits in the shadow area, too. 

The strip of middle value doors could all be painted a color like the warm neutral you can see right behind the post in the center. I'd put some other neutralized middle value colors in while that wash is still wet. You can run those middle values right up to the top of the page. Later, you could add some slightly darker verticals in that area to show that there are various rectangular doors. Soft edges or hard? I think it could be either or both. I wouldn't make them as dark as the shadow section that comes last. That would make the background come forward. The dark awning along the top, if you decide to include it, could go down right on top of the middle values after they're dry.

Finally, the big shadow. Use your practice paper to get the value dark enough so you don't have to go back over the shadow again. If the fruits don't show through the shadow glaze well enough, add some red, yellow and green into the shadow while it's still wet. Make sure the paint on your brush is pretty thick for this job to prevent blooms, but If a bloom occurs, leave it.

How much information does the painting need before it's done? That's up to the individual painter, of course, but be respectful of your alter ego, the viewer. Leave a little for them to interpret. 

It may be a good idea to read this again before launching into a painting. A monochrome value study would also be very helpful.

 Here are a couple more images that resolve well into light, middle and dark layers to choose from.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Beginning Watercolor Persimmons made of paint 10/24/18

So far, in class we've done more work from photos than from life. This week's homework exercise puts your understanding of seeing in layers to work on a simple 3-D object, like an apple,

Image result for gerhard richter watercolor
Gerhard Richter

or a chalice.

Image result for lars lerin

Lars Lerin
(This is a watercolor, by the way)

Look around the house for an object that invites a watercolor interpretation. I find the refrigerator to be a great source of candidates. A bottle of hot sauce, a jar of mayonnaise, maybe a rutabaga. A stovetop tea kettle? Try setting up a single strong light source so the light and shadow shapes are easy to identify. 

Does your object resolve nicely into just a few layers? If so, get started with a monochrome value study. Keep it very simple. No need to make the first attempts into handsome paintings. The idea is to begin seeing a series of layers; light, middle, dark.

Once you've seen your way through the single color study, make a color version with a limited palette, just one each of the primaries. In fact, make 3 or 4 versions, all increasingly simple. 

Eventually, you will begin to recognize what needs to be there for the subject to have some presence. Adding the cast shadow will be very helpful. Make that simple, too, of course. Fussing with the shadow will do more harm than good.

After you've painted 5 or 6 of your rutabagas, or persimmons, the translation into "watercolor" will be realized. When you feel confident that you understand the subject in terms of layers of washes and strokes, put the model away, where you can't see it. Now paint a version or two by heart.