Thursday, November 10, 2016

Everyone's Homework 11/10/16

For the last homework of the term, you decide what to paint.
If it's warm and dry enough, go outside. Everything is worth painting!


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Intermediate Homework 11/5/16 Shadow Color on the Figure

The beginning class' homework this week includes several photos (see below) of models in light similar to what we'll use in class Wednesday. Use those or any you find on your own to experiment with color in the shadows.
Here are some ideas that might stimulate a wide open inquiry:

Make the shadow shape with a warm middle value, and add a cool color of similar value while the warm is still wet.

Mix together a warm and a cool to make an all-purpose shadow color. Paint the entire shadow shape nice and wet with the mixture. Add touches of the warm component into the overall shadow wherever you see warmth, and the cool component where the shadows look cooler.

Paint your first layer using a wash made from all three primaries. Use the same three colors in their pure form to make the shadows, placing them according to your observations of differences in shadow colors.
Have fun!

Don't forget to bring in lots of paper for Wednesday's class.

Beginning Watercolor 11/3/16 The Shadow Shape on the Figure

Here are several poses that show distinct shadow patterns. We'll have similar lighting conditions on Wednesday, so it would be good to practice seeing the shadows as a separate layer from the initial local color wash and strokes.

Try painting just the shadow shape a few times. This will help you look through the array of layers and focus on one at a time. It will also reveal the role of the shadow shapes. Do the first few in monochrome, so you aren't distracted by color.

You might also try painting the first layer of the figure twice and adding the shadows to just one of those. This will make very clear how much of the illusion of light and 3-dimensionality comes from the shadows.

After you gain some confidence, try painting a few shadow patterns without drawing them first. Stay relaxed, and allow yourself the luxury of inaccuracy. See if your mistakes reveal where you really need to be careful and where some leeway exists.
Have fun, and don't forget to bring plenty of paper to our next session.


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Beginning Watercolor Homework 10/26/16 Shadows

What is the most important thing about shadows? From the watercolor painter's point of view, it's the fluidity and transparency of the paint. Even more than we want to get the value or color correct, we work to make the shadows with an extremely even wash. If you make them paler than they actually are, they can still be believable shadows, only describing a different set of light conditions. But if your shadow is made up of many strokes that display streaky overlapping marks, it will look more like a tarp than a shadow.

The most important thing about shadows is that they have no substance.

The key to making weightless shadows is to apply the paint with a wet brush. Make a big puddle of your color and dip into it often, so that each stroke flows freely into the others.

Okay, then, what about color? Generally, shadows are darker, cooler and more neutral than the surface they fall upon. If that surface is already neutral, like a sidewalk, then the shadows are just cooler and darker.

Since the surfaces where shadows fall come in every color, so do the shadows.

John Singer Sargent

See how the shadow changes color as it moves across the path and onto the grass? On the figures, the shadows are warm or cool depending on the direction the planes are facing.

With a transparent medium, it seems possible that the local colors of the grass and the path would show through a single colored shadow enough to be appropriately different. For homework, draw a very simple path with a pronounced local color and different colored verges on the sides, like the grass and gravel in Sargent's painting. Beside the path, add something that would cast a shadow across path, verge, and anything else you want to include (imagine, instead of the potted plants in the Sargent there could be a pink stucco wall that the shadow would climb)
Put down a wash for each local color in your scene. Then mix up an all-purpose shadow color and paint the shadow as a second layer on top of the surfaces you are depicting.
Now make the same drawing and first-layer washes. This time, mix a separate shadow color for each surface and connect them to make a continuous shadow, as Sargent did.
Did both approaches work? Do you have a preference?
If you have time, experiment with the color of the shadows. Can the shadow be a different color than the sunlit parts of a surface? How different? Can there be more than one color in shadow even when the surface material doesn't change? Bring everything to our critique, and hope for sunshine!

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 10/26/16 Color Harmony

 I believe we all have inner resources which we could make good use of as painters, but which we have not learned to trust. Let's try a quick color exercise that requires thinking and feeling in the realm of color choices, and see if it helps tap into the store of knowledge we have built over the years.

Step one:
Mix up a color you like, simple or complex, and make a patch of it on clean paper.

Step two:
Now, mix up a color that clashes with the first one. Don't overthink this. Just go with what your gut tells you. Make a patch of the second color on the same page as the first, but be sure to leave a space between them for a third patch.

Step three:
Make up a color that unifies the first two. Its job is to make a bridge between the two that didn't go
well together.

We may not always agree about dissonance or harmony!


Do this several times, and bring them all in to critique. We will study how and why the bridges work.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Intermediate Watercolor 10/20/16 All Painting is Abstract. All Abstraction Tells a Story

As we let go of the need to establish an illusion on the page the balance of form and content shifts distinctly toward form. Without narrative content to occupy the viewer’s attention, it becomes more important than ever for the paint itself to be worth looking at. Freshness and clarity, fluidity and interaction of colors, - the qualities that attract us to watercolor in the first place – are now the subject matter of the painting.

How do we decide what works best when we let go of the usual standards? Are there any guidelines, or is abstraction a painting free-for-all?
Nathan Fowkes has let go of texture and specificity, but he keeps a good grip on value and color.

In fact, the same standards that apply to realists are equally important to abstract painters. A painting with too many shapes, for example, feels busy whether it is a cityscape or a non-representational collection of forms. Wherever your work resides on the continuum from realism to abstraction it will benefit from being clear and deliberate in your use of value, composition, color and edge quality. As you extend the range of your comfort zone you can keep one foot in familiar territory.

 The transition from realism to abstraction is a process of combining what you know from your previous experience with experiments into the unknown.

The pattern of light, middle and dark are thoughtfully constructed, just as it would be if this were a painting of a barn.

There is as much of a story being told in an abstract painting as in a realist image. It may be a story about rectangles touching the frame of the painting, or pale, soft-edged shapes being traversed by hard-edged diagonals. The wonderful irony is that this kind of narrative is also present in even the most hyper-realist work. The difference is that in abstraction, the viewer is invited to pay attention to it.

The patterns of marks you make, the distribution of warm and cool color, the dark/light shapes, how shapes relate to the frame of the page, all the design decisions you make play a much more obvious role than they do in realist work. Most of these decisions have to be made deliberately, painting-by-painting, or we tend to fall into making the same default choices every time (the offset cross, the centered horizon).
Having said that, it is also important to leave room for surprises. Break your own rules, just to see what happens.
Some painters will naturally start exploring without guidelines and discover what works and what doesn’t. Others will want to begin with some deliberate structure in place, like keeping the shapes parallel to the edges of the paper.

For homework, do whatever you want.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Beginning Watercolor Homework 10/20/16 Downhill From Here

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, 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.