Thursday, January 19, 2017

Beginning Watercolor Homework 1/19/17 Seeing in Layers

Here are a few useful questions related to value;
What is the lightest thing in the picture? What is the darkest? Working from light to dark, what would you do first? When do the light shapes get their definition?

The relative lightness and darkness of the shapes is where the feeling of light in a scene resides. These relationships are observed entirely by eye. What your brain tells you, like that this is a white house, can get you into trouble. This is a white house but it is not white in the photo. Better to ask something like, "Which is darker, the house or the sky?"

 How dark is the house?

Anytime you ask how dark something is, the answer is always the same, "Compared to what?"

The house is lighter than________, but darker than________.

For homework, most of you brought home a picture from class. Using those or one of the above images, try breaking the scene down into three or four layers according to value. Keep it very simple. The object here is to get used to thinking a couple of layers ahead of yourself. We are not making handsome paintings today.
But, have fun!

Intermediate Watercolor 1/19/17 Who's in Charge?

 Do you work from photos this time of year? If so, join the club. If not, I salute you. Given how many painters use photos for source material, I want to spend some time identifying the skills that help us not be bossed around by the camera.
Humans and cameras don't see the world the same way. First of all, unlike cameras, we do not see everything in focus at the same time. It may feel like we do, when our eyes flit so quickly from one spot to another. The instant we stop to observe part of the overall scene our eyes adjust to see that part clearly. It happens so fast it seems like nothing changed. Actually, most of what is visible to us at any given moment is out of focus!
Now that everyone has a camera in their pocket there are more photos than hamburgers. Most of these are point and shoot images, which tend to be in focus from foreground to back. It is useful to remember that this is a departure from human vision. Just because the photo shows us everything clear and sharp doesn't mean we have to paint it like that.

The full depiction of depth in this photo is in focus. Would there be any benefit to choosing soft edges in places before starting to interpret it as a watercolor?

It is often rewarding to alter the complexity of a distant feature, simplifying it despite how complex it may be in the photo. Here's a cityscape by David Taylor:

Those buildings in the background probably displayed much more information. Why do you think the artist chose to simplify them?

For homework, find a photo with everything in focus, or one chock full of information from foreground to background. Experiment with intentional changes. Keep track of what you were hoping to accomplish. If an alteration or adjustment doesn't have the desired effect, try changing a different variable. For example, what would Taylor's painting look like if those distant buildings were warm instead of cool?


This is a beautiful spot, for sure, but the space gets a bit ambiguous in the upper left quadrant. What might you do to get the foreground to emerge more obviously from the background?

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.