Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Intermediate Homework, 2/20/20 Hold on here, Let go there

When you feel the urge to depart from accuracy in your paintings, but the prospect of having no guidelines gives you pause, do as the Fauves did. Hold on to value so you can let go of color!

Derain painted his buddy, Matisse in exaggerated colors, but a B/W of the portrait reveals how closely he held to the actual values.

This version of Mt. Hood is familiar and outrageous at the same time. The colors and the values are in the ballpark, which allows the brushstrokes to be more about form than content.

The placement of the shapes in this interpretation of the laguna in Melaque, Mexico are approximate at best, but the colors are true. Holding on to one major aspect of the scene lets us take liberties with another.

Play around with the images that follow. Value is the real heavy hitter. Try holding on to a reasonable interpretation of the relative darkness of the shapes in your first attempts.

Beginning Homework 2/20/20 Simplify

Sometimes reducing the complexity of a scene is a worthy goal in itself just for the pleasure of seeing how simply the content can be stated.

The trees in the painting are more symbolic than realistic. They are brushstrokes more than they are trees, which serves to enlist the viewer as a participant in the interpretation.

See what the following images suggest to you. Are there aspects you might exaggerate to enhance a feeling? Are there features you could simplify, or some that you could let go of to make the ones you keep more important?

Have fun!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Beginning Watercolor 2/13/20, E Pluribus Unum

Building a tree by painting all the individual leaves is definitely the hard way to tell the story. With a couple of organic green shapes on the top of a dark vertical stroke you've got a tree. The part we forget is that there is a sympathetic, eager and intelligent audience awaiting the opportunity to meet us halfway. Show them the simple version and rest assured they will know what it is.

                                                                  Andrew Wyeth

Here, as usual, Andrew Wyeth Was thinking in terms of "shape first, then texture, if necessary." The stand of conifers is a solid dark shape. Along the profile edge there is a little bit of texture, just enough to suggest that the entire dark shape is made of that same detail. We, the viewer, will gladly do the job of "seeing" all the needles in the middle of the shape, even though Wyeth didn't paint any.

Below are a couple of images that respond well to seeing in layers. They also benefit from looking for ways to combine shapes to simplify the scene. Give one a try.

Intermediate Watercolor, 2/13/20 Careful or Carefree?

                                                                                   Eugen Chisnecean

Take a look at the boats in the lower right of this painting. The artist has allowed two separate shapes to intersect. What is he up to? It seems as if he'd rather we paid more attention elsewhere on the page. Given the role Chisnecean wants the boats to play in the big picture They have been sufficiently described as is.
There are several other places in the painting where adjacent shapes run together. Look at the buildings in the middle ground. The washes that describe the colors of the walls merge along partly soft edges. But the artist is keeping track of how much the shapes combine. He takes care to use hard edges, value contrast and color to keep the buildings separated enough to describe how the town is one thing made up of many.
The painting is a balancing act. Just where the artist is letting go of control of the movement of the paint, he is assessing how accurately he wants to describe the identity of the shapes.
Starting with a general statement and moving toward specificity, every artist finds their own stopping place, where the balance between accuracy and individual interpretation is realized.


Is this enough information for you?

                                                                   Michael Reardon

How about this one?
How do you know when to stop? Do you want to show the viewer how you created the illusion of space or light, or do you hope to leave them marveling at your skill? Secrets and tricks...

Here are a few similar images. Choose one, identify what looks tricky and practice that. When you're ready, make a simple version in which you allow shapes to merge.

I want to put a mountain in the background!

Friday, February 7, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor 2/6/20, Limited Palette

I've seen a lot of paintings that are troubled by too many colors but very few that require more. There must be something to learn here.

Every once in a while I like to revisit the benefits of a limited palette: Cohesiveness, authority, harmony...Who doesn't want a little of that?

Neutrals made from the colors that are used elsewhere on the page


Limited number of colors


Dominant color


Look for an image that would benefit from a limited palette. Exaggerate, invent, interpret.
Have fun

Beginning Watercolor 2/6/20 Value Studies

Understanding the role value plays in a scene or a photo takes us a long way toward translating the subject into paint on paper. The key to that understanding is seeing the subject as a sequence of layers that progress from light to middle value to dark. With practice, we learn to look through the darks and middle values to see how and where the lights need to be established. Devoting 15 minutes to making a step-by-step monochrome value study is a powerful tool for discovering what does the work in every new subject.

Everyone got a start in class on a monochrome value study. Please finish those for homework, and give one of the photos that follow a try. I am adding a black and white version of a couple of them. Even though that does some of the work for you, there is still real value in building your study layer by layer.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 1/30/20 Layers: Light, Middle, Dark

So far we have been working from light toward dark in our painting practice, for example, the light cloud shadows go on before the dark ones. The idea is that it is much easier to put a dark on top of a light than vice-versa.
There is another compelling reason for following that progression. Shape by shape, the lights tend to be the most general statement about a subject. As the painting moves from light to middle value to dark, it also progresses from general to specific.

This image looks rather busy at first, but if you are thinking in layers it resolves into a simple step by step interpretation. Imagine if we could peel back the dark layer of trees and grasses. All that  would be left are 3 big, simple shapes, the sky, the hill and the ground. All three are blue, but the hill is the lightest. You could paint the whole page that light blue of the hill.
When the lights were dry you could mix up a moderately darker blue for the sky and the ground and paint everything middle value, except the hill, which would be left light. Are you following this? If it's confusing, read it again. 
At this stage of development the hill, sky and ground would be very  simple shapes, with no texture and nothing specific. 
Time to bring in the darks. I like to keep this final step simple, so I don't overwork the details. I prefer to err on the side of too little information.

Give this image a try. Here are a couple more.