Saturday, October 29, 2011

intermediate homework 10/29/11 The illusion of space

You've heard this before, but it bears repeating:

Start your treatment of a new subject by identifying the major shapes. Which parts of the composition need to be separated from each other for the feeling of space to be apparent? Consider which variables you will use to enhance the feeling. Generally speaking, it takes two, or more of color, wetness, value and composition working together to establish a clear separation.

Joyce Hicks, Pennsylvania Idyll, 18 x 24
The location of each shape in the illusory space is obvious in this landscape. Which variables are at work to make it clear?

Stanislaw Zoladz, Lofoten
The big change from foreground to background is brought about mostly with color temperature, but there is more to it than that...

Make a study of a new subject that involves believable space. Be thoughtful in your consideration of the feeling of depth you want, and how to create it. Be prepared to describe what your plan was to the class. Have fun.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beginning Watercolor homework 10/28 refining a subject

You might characterize what we did in class this week as refining a subject down to its essential parts. At first a new subject is overloaded with information, and you may be drawn into rendering it with undifferentiated specificity. After a couple of versions, though, the most telling aspects of the subject a begin to reveal themselves. Compared to these features, the rest seems optional. you can include it if you like, but it is not essential to a description.
Look for an object that you can see as a series of layers. Set it up under a single, strong light source, so it casts a noticeable shadow. Paint a monochrome study first, then make a simple version in color. Try describing in words what you see as the most important aspects of your subject. See if you can identify the visual characteristics that correspond to these essential features. Go down the list: Value, color, wetness, composition. Save the important parts, lose the rest, and paint it again. And again. Keep painting new, refined versions until you can make one from memory. Keep it simpler.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

intermediate homework 10/20/11 The important thing...

Margaret Wise Brown, author of Goodnight Moon, also wrote a wonderful book called The Important Thing, in which she talks about familiar things, listing their features. Snow, for example, is cold, and it falls from the sky, and tickles your nose when you tilt your head back to watch it, but the important thing about snow is that it is white.
We are doing something similar when we paint. The many features of our subject present themselves, all jostling one another for the spotlight. To know better what needs to be in the picture and what is optional, it helps to decide what the important thing is to you.
Find an image that appeals to you and take time to identify what you want to focus on in the scene. This is not necessarily a "focal point", or a center of interest. It may be a feeling, rather than a particular spot on the page. Keep it in mind when you make decisions about palette, cropping, how the page is oriented, which shapes need to be separated and which combined...everything, in other words.
When we put them up on the wall next week, we can try guessing what the important thing was to you.
Have fun

beginning Watercolor homework 10/20 shadows

Hi Folks
While you're all tuned up to see in layers, the time is right to practice making shadows as a layer that goes directly on top of the sunlit light shapes. Hopefully, the weather will offer us an opportunity to work from life, but if not, here are a few vignettes that feature shadows:

If you are not yet in the habit of having a piece of practice paper handy while you paint, this exercise is a good time to establish this essential bit of housekeeping. When you decide on the color and value of the lights that will have shadows cast upon them, make a big patch of the color on the practice paper. Then, when you are mixing the shadow color, you can try a stroke on the practice patch and see immediately if it works.
Don't forget to practice the kind of edge you want, too. Some of these are soft.
Have fun

Friday, October 14, 2011

Intermediate homework 10/12/11 Combining shapes of similar value

       As part of our recent exploration of the role of the mid-tones, we have been combining shapes that are close in value. Looking at the image with an eye toward how far you could go without lifting your brush is a useful to discover similarities.
       Once you have assessed a scene to read which layers carry the most content, you can make informed choices about how much you can afford to simplify the other layers. Combining shapes is a very effective form of simplification.
       The idea is to make it easier for the viewers to take in the main message at a glance. Once they feel anchored in the story, the subtleties can be savored at leisure.
The following images offer opportunities for combining lights, middle values, or darks, or maybe even all three. Try a sketch first, then see if you can use this approach to refine a proper painting.

Combining shapes means letting go of non-essential information. Some lights will be important to save, others don't matter. The same goes for texture.

Could the car and its shadow combine to good effect? Could they both combine with the building in back? Which lights need to be reserved?

Have fun

beginning Watercolor homework 10/13/11 Layers

Here are a couple of images that suggest a series of layers as a means of translating them into watercolor.
Look them over with an eye toward which layers carry the narrative content and the illusions of light, space, and substance. Squinting helps.
Just in terms of total space, the middle values dominate this scene. Are they also responsible for the content?

Here there is more dark than middle value. Would the darks alone tell the story?

If you were making a painting of one of these in layers that progress from light to dark, at which stage you would have to start being careful. 
Many of you brought home the images you were working on in class. Using those or one of the above, make a simple version of the scene by blocking in the lights, laying the middles over them, and, finally, adding the darks.
Have fun

Thursday, October 6, 2011

intermediate homework 10/6/11 middle values

How important are the middle values, painting by painting? 
To answer this question, it seems like a good idea to practice seeing the middle values as an isolated layer, apart from the influence of the lights and the darks. Just as we sometimes paint the darks alone, to see how much of the story they tell, the same approach may reveal the role the mid-tones play in a given image.
Here are a couple of images that seem to rely on the middle values for essential information. Try quick rendering of only the mid-value shapes. Keep it simple. Lift your brush from the page as little as possible. 
If the layer goes on the paper good and wet, you will have time to vary the color of the wash without creating overlap lines. The fewer individual shapes you use, the easier it should be to get an instant "read" of the content.
This one is mostly middle-value
So is this one
Keep it fluid! Colors added to the wash will run together somewhat, but those few darks will pull it together later.

beginning Watercolor homework 10/6/11 Layers

Here is an exercise from a previous term that addresses the concept of seeing in layers. it should be useful as an intro to the three version project we discussed in class. Remember? There will be one version of the first layer only (lights); then a second piece of paper with two layers (lights and middle values); and, finally, a third study that includes three layers (light, middle and dark). It might be informative to de-construct a painting, instead of a photo. Here's one that resolves into layers pretty well:

Translating an image or a scene into watercolor is easier if you can envision the painting as a series of layers. Using the image you selected at the end of class, make a simple study along these lines.

Start by identifying the major shapes that comprise the image. These are the shapes that need to be separated from each other for the pictorial space to be apparent.

This market scene depicts a shallow space, crowded with shapes. It is important to make clear where the individual components are, relative to each other. I would want it to be obvious that the car is closer than the umbrellas, which, in turn, are closer than the sunlit people. Beyond them are more people, subsumed by the deep shade. For each of the major shapes in your scene, draw a simple outline to locate it on the picture plane. Remember, this is meant to be over-simplified. We only need to know where the shapes are, not what they are.     

Next, block in each of the shapes with a first layer. The layers will progress from light to dark, allowing each successive layer to be applied on top of the previous ones. To help see a couple of layers ahead of yourself, try asking, "Is there a way I can paint the entire shape with a wash that will underlie everything that will come later?" 

There is another progression that parallels the movement from light to dark. Thinking of the information that is being depicted as starting out very general and becoming more specific, layer by layer, is a good way to keep from putting in more than the viewer needs to be shown. In the deepest shade in the market scene, for example, it is difficult to know exactly what those dim shapes are. Instead of leaning in very close to the picture to try to make them out, lean back, and let them be vague. Give the viewers an opportunity to interpret part of the scene for themselves.

Some parts of the picture will be sufficiently depicted after two layers. others will need three, or maybe four. If you feel the need to use more than 4 layers, it's time to rethink your approach. This is meant to be too simple. It is not a painting, it's a tool for learning how much information is enough. Just because you can see it, doesn't mean it belongs in the picture.

Use three colors, one red, one blue and one yellow, to make all the colors you see.
Have fun