Thursday, September 23, 2010

Intermediate Watercolor Homework: Two Layer Geometric Study

Hi Painters
First of all, please write your notes on your sketches from Volunteer park, and bring them to class next week.

Here's another kind of deliberate simplification exercise to try. Look for an image that resolves nicely into fewer than ten shapes, and give this a try. The most important part of the exercise is the assessment at the end, where you look for the places that need more info. Write it down. Then, if you have time, make another version, using what the study taught you. 

The doors in this picture are small shapes contained within a bigger shape (the yellow wall). Include them if they feel essential to the painting.  I know I want the door on the right, but I’m not sure the scene needs the other door. If you’re uncertain about a shape, leave it out. The finished study will reveal whether the picture could do without it.
This is a good exercise to try after you are confident of your ability to read values well. Each of the big shapes in your composition can be deliberately oversimplified by thinking in terms of basic geometry. A pine tree is, roughly, a green triangle. Clouds may be elongated ovals. A hill can be a half circle. It’s fine for the shapes to be approximate. They don’t need to be pure geometric forms. Just don’t let them become too specific. Focus instead on getting the values right. The idea is to discover how much of the information in the scene needs to be included in the painting that will follow the studies.
 Assign a color and value to each shape. Try to summarize the information you can see within a given shape, so that it can be expressed in its simplest form. Let go of texture and detail. A tree is a single shape, rather than a collection of leaves. The finished sketch will look like a collage made of cut pieces of colored paper.
Since this exercise involves two variables (color and value), keep it simple by limiting your palette to 3 colors: one red, one yellow and one blue. You are making a learning tool, not a painting, so if your colors don’t make a good purple, or the green is not intense enough, let it be. You will be well informed about what the final painting needs.
Each shape is given a first layer wash representing its lightest shade. When these are dry a second and final layer can be added.
The overlapping shapes begin to suggest a feeling of space, but the light that is apparent in the photo is not yet present in the study.

Since this study aims to ignore texture and detail, nothing more than the shadows needed to be added.
Even simplified to this degree, shadows go a long way toward establishing a convincing sense of light. A second layer of two simple shapes gives the car noticeably greater substance.
Stopping after two layers provides a means of assessing where and how much further information needs to be added. What do you think about the second door? How much more (or less) of the complexity of the upper storey would you include? If you chose to represent the pavers in the street, how many would you need to show? What about the cast shadow of the roof? Is it important to show that it is made of tiles? What if the sky were blue?
You can see how the fact that the information is not here makes it easy to decide whether you want to put it in your painting. 
Have fun,

Tom Hoffmann 206-930-2549

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