Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Intermediate Homework 11/7/12 Life Painting

The moment I look up to see the model's latest pose I am eager to launch into a clear and simple interpretation, but many distractions have arisen by the time the beeper signals "time's up". I dare say most of us get seduced into trying to depict some subtle change of hue from one side of a shadow to another when we're only half way done with the big shapes. I usually end up with a much more complicated image than I intended. But, those disappointing paintings can be useful.
Without the model there to distract you, it should be easier to make a simplified version of the pose using your live work as a starting point. Those shadows, for example, can perhaps be laid down quickly enough to vary color without running into drying issues. And there's much more room to think and breathe with no timer running.
Give it a try. Maybe it will have a positive impact on next week's live session.

Beginning watercolor 11/7/12 Shadow Patterns on Heads


Look for a photo of a head that features a strong shadow pattern. Imagine it as a series of layers: First, an overall pale wash to represent the illuminated skin tone, into which color variations of similar value can be placed. Then, a shadow pattern, which can also be given soft edged variations, and, finally, the few darkest darks, like pupils and nostrils.




Keep it simple!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beginning Watercolor: The Paint Itself 11/1/12

Stanislaw Zoladz                                        Lofoten



Intermediate Watercolor Where do I need hard edges? 10/31/12

We've all seen paintings that suffer from too many hard edges. Often, if we pay more attention to content than form, the individual parts of the scene insist on being kept separate. A hard edge is the best way to ensure that, but the result can be a jigsaw puzzle that is difficult to see as a cohesive whole.
Deciding which edges in the forest really need to be hard is tricky when we are all wrapped up in doing justice to the individual trees.

Working under the assumption that the best way to see if something needs to be in the painting is to leave it out, I recommend making a study that has no hard edges at all. When it is finished, the study will tell you where more focus is required. It also helps to have a limit in mind, say, half a dozen strokes, so you can identify the most important spots.

Ranch Alto                                            Tom Hoffmann

For homework, choose an image that has lots of shapes, and paint a version that is all soft edges. Part of the exercise is to practice the techniques involved in keeping the shapes blurry without losing definition altogether. The awareness skills that are at work include noticing as soon as a hard edge appears, and stopping right there. Then dry the paper, re-wet the relevant areas and continue.
Assess the study, with an eye toward where it needs greater definition. Make the hard-edged additions one at a time, and stand back each time to see if that's enough.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Intermediate Watercolor 10/25/12 Drawing on Instinct

The 5 minute studies (ok, 10 minute) we made in class revealed that we all have the means already in place for making sound editing decisions without a great deal of analysis. Through practice and by instinct we have become skilled at choosing what belongs in the picture and what we can release.
For homework, let's put this tool to work informing a more leisurely painting.
First, choose a subject that seems a little challenging, and make a very quick study. Keep your palette limited, and resist the temptation to make corrections. This is not meant to be a proper painting. The parts that fail will be just as informative as the terrific bits.
Next, spend some time assessing the study. Where does an extremely simple version tell the story well enough? Where is more subtlety or specificity needed? Taking notes may be helpful.
Now indulge in taking your time (how about a whopping 30 minutes?), and paint an informed rendition.
One of the ways a very quick sketch is useful is as a reminder that the range of what works is usually much wider than we think. If something goes awry, at least consider leaving it as is.
Have fun.

Bill Teitsworth      Bill's Rhubarb

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beginning Watercolor 10/25/12 Refining the Translation


Painting a new subject can be a steep uphill climb. It usually takes more than one piece of paper before I begin to know what is essential and what is optional. Understanding a subject in terms of washes and strokes requires knowing it intimately –memorizing it, in a way.
This exercise is designed to bring you to the place where you know your subject well enough not to need to even look at it.
Choose a simple subject. I recommend something shiny,  like a persimmon, or a tea kettle, and not too elaborate.
Take all the time you want on the first version. Go ahead and paint LOTS of information. Then paint it again. And again. And so on, until you know what needs to be in the painting and what you can let go of.
Now put the object out of sight, and paint one from your understanding of the essential elements.

Lars Lerin

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Intermediate Watercolor 10/17/12 Follow Through


Homework this week is simple: Make a painting. That’s it.
Oh, one more little thing: Make it a painting you really like a lot.
The time to apply your highest standards is right now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not getting any younger. Figure out what’s wrong, practice it, and make another version. If an inner voice says you might be getting bored with the image, remember the motto of the universal watercolor society, which is “Shut up and paint!”
Have fun.

Beginning Watercolor 10/17/12 Assessment


When you come upon a subject that wants to be painted, there is work to do before you begin putting brush to paper. It’s a good idea to be really clear about what you want to see in the finished painting. What is it about the scene that speaks to you?
Once the colors are being mixed and the washes and strokes are going down, it is all too easy to lose sight of what brought you to the scene in the first place. Say it out loud! Maybe even write it down.  With the message clear in your mind, you can make choices about palette, value range, edge quality and composition that support and enhance what you want to say.
I strongly recommend making a simple study before beginning a proper painting.  Which sort of study depends on what looks tricky.  If the relative values are hard to discern, try a monochrome value study. If you are uncertain about how many hard edges would support your purpose, make a study with only soft edges. Where the hard edges need to be will be clear.
For homework, find a scene or an image that you would like to paint, and be sure to identify what you want to see in the finished painting. Next, make a study that will help you resolve what looks tricky.  Ready? OK, paint.
Bring everything in to class.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

beginning and intermediate homework 10/12

uh oh, it's monday and the homework hasn't appeared yet. must be a free week, although those of you who were in class know what to do, right?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beginning Homework 10/3/12 Seeing in Layers

In class we began the process of each making a step-by-step demonstration of the sequence of layers that led to a simple study of an image. To review the process, please read this description carefully:

Start by identifying the major shapes in the image. There should be no more that 10 or 12.
Make a simple drawing that locates the shapes.
Paint in the first layer - the lights - of each shape, keeping the treatment as simple as possible (no texture or detail).
Now make two more first layer pages, so that you have 3 more or less identical sheets.
Put the second layer - middle value - on top of the first on two of your 3 sheets.
Finally, apply the 3rd layer - the darks - on top of one of the second layers.

When the process is finished, you should have one sheet that just has the first layer, one that has first and second layers, and one that has three layers. Please bring all three, plus the photo in to class.

In case you missed class, here are a couple of simple images that will resolve nicely into three layers. If you think there should be a fourth layer of super darks, put them on top of the three layer treatment.





Intermediate Homework 10/3/12 The role of the Mid-value shapes


In some scenes the narrative content - the "what it is a picture of"- comes from the darks, which are usually applied late in the sequence of layers.


Los Tamales Mejores                   Tom Hoffmann
Imagine this painting without the darks. There would be
      very little to tell you what the lights and middle values are describing.


                                                    

Sometimes, though, most of the story is told before the darks go down.



                                                                     Soledad                                   Tom Hoffmann
 Even without the few strong darks the illusion of substance and light would be clear. Although the lights comprise most of the image, it is the  middle value layer that carries most of that information.
                                                                  
                                                                 
                                                                  
                                                                  
                                                                

For homework, look for an image that you suspect may owe its content to the mid-value shapes. Make a study in which the lights are left white, and everything else, including all the darks, is painted in a single mid-value color. Bring both the study and the photo to class, if possible.
Here are a couple that might work, if you don't find one of your own.







Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beginning Homework 9/26/12 Seeing inLayers


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 and light 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. Try limiting your palette to just three colors - one red, one yellow, and one blue, and make all your colors by combining the primaries you have chosen
Have fun

Intermediate Watercolor: Simplifying toward abstraction 9/26/12

Today at Gasworks park you did all the necessary work to learn what the components of a free interpretation of the structures would be. There are 3 layers: Light (vertical rectangles), Dark (vertical, horizontal and diagonal shadow pattern), and calligraphy (thin, dark strokes around the periphery of the major forms).
Using your studies as a guide, try simplifying the layers to the point that they can be seen as patterns at least as much as they describe reality. You may have to let go of the illusion of light and space, but perhaps not.
You're right, this isn't Gasworks, but it illustrates the kind of  refinement I'm imagining. 

Here's the source. Most features were given room to wander, but there were a few that  seemed essential, and were held onto a little more tightly.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beginning homework 9/20/12 controlling wetness/sky paintings

Paint a few soft-edged skies. This means that as soon as you see a hard edge, STOP. Let the painting dry completely, then re-wet the area where you plan to make more soft-edged strokes.


Can you tell how many layers of paint were applied to make this sky? It looks like four to me. First, the paper was wet with clear water, then a layer of pale, warm peach color was applied across the bottom and center. While the paper was still wet, the lighter gray went down. Then the dark gray, and finally, the blue. The brush needed to be washed once - between the dark gray and the blue. 
Remember to stay aware of how wet your brush is compared to the paper. And don't correct these paintings. If something goes wrong, let it be. Really.




When the paper is dry, add some hard-edged landforms. Or, on second thought, let them be soft, too. Experiment. Be playful, and have fun. 
Take a look at this week's intermediate homework for a short discussion of how choosing hard or soft edges affects the focus of the painting.

Intermediate Homework 9/20/12 Edge Quality


What kind of edge does this form need?

Sometimes the subject matter of what you are about to paint will tell you whether the edges of the form should be hard or soft, but there are no rules about this. Clouds often appear to have soft edges, for example, but you can paint perfectly acceptable clouds with only hard edges. You can search long and hard in most of Edward Hopper’s watercolors and never see a soft-edged cloud.
More often, it is the focal point of the picture that determines how wet the paper and the brush need to be in any given area. Hard edges are assertive. They tend to describe distinct forms, while soft edges merge with the field on which they have been applied.
In Familiar Rock, we are encouraged to see the trees on the foreground headland as individual forms, while on the hillside in the background we are meant to see the forest as a whole.



Familiar Rock                                   Tom Hoffmann


The hard edges of the nearer trees are necessary to keep them separate from the more distant hillside. If the painting were made with only hard-edged shapes, or all soft edges, the pictorial space would be ambiguous. Choices have been made that deliberately focus the viewer’s attention, much as you would focus a camera.

Soft edges tend to describe a subject in general terms, while hard edges are usually more specific. Consider the role that the particular area you are about to paint is meant to play in the big picture before deciding whether your paper should be wet or dry. How much attention do you want the viewer to pay here?

Red                                              Mary Whyte


Limiting the hard edges to the face and the hat keeps the viewer’s eye from being distracted elsewhere.  The job of the background, for example, is simply to “set off” the figure. Once that is accomplished, nothing more needs to be added.


It is often appropriate to imply complexity in a subject rather than to specify it. Too much specific information leads to a confusing picture, where the viewer’s eye is pulled in several directions at once. If your pictures tend to lack clarity and cohesiveness, consider holding off on the hard edges until you know where you really want them. As a preliminary study, try blocking in the lights and the middle values all wet-on-wet. By the time you’re ready for the darks, you will probably have a good basis for deciding where you want to focus attention. See how the picture “reads” if you only make hard edges in that center of interest.  

Baby Grand Baler               Tom Hoffmann

Here, the baler is clearly the star of the show. The stacked hay bales play a supporting role, and would compete for center stage if they were more specific. They are made up of many brushstrokes, but because these are mostly soft-edged marks, it is possible to take in the overall shape as one form, without being distracted by too much information.



For homework, make a very simple version of your choice of image using only soft edges or only hard edges. When the study is finished, ask yourself where you wish there were the other kind of edges. In your imagination, decide where the most meaningful strokes would go if you were limited to only a few, say, three or four.
If you have time, make both an all soft edged study and an all hard edged one. By then you'll be ready to make a very well informed painting.
Have fun.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Intermediate Watercolor Homework5 value monochrome study

Please open to a past post by clicking on the link here:

Beginning Watercolor homework 9/29 layers and value post for a thorough description of a 5 color monochrome value study, complete with illustrations.

Beginning Watercolor Homework 9/12/12 Color mixing

To warm up, try combining any two colors together so that neither one dominates the mixture. Make a patch of the result on a sheet of student grade paper.
Next, mix two complimentary colors together to make a neutral with neither of the components dominant.
Finally, mix three colors together to make a color where none of the three dominates.

OK, now that you're all warmed up, look through magazines (do people still have magazines around?) for patches of solid color at least 1x1" square, and cut them out. Paste them on a your piece of watercolor paper.
Using only one red, one yellow and one blue, make as good a match as you can for the colors. Make a patch of the color next to the cut out original. Write the names of your primaries beside the patch.
Now switch to a different set of primaries, and match the colors again.
That's it. Have fun.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Homework 5/31/12 thinking abstractly

Hi Painters
Here's a brief essay on how thinking in the abstract helps prevent becoming specific prematurely.
See if applying this approach provides you with more room to interpret your next subject, and be prepared to tell us about your experience.


One way to keep from getting specific too quickly is to stay abstract as long as possible. For me, this is mainly a matter of how I think about the subject. During the inner dialog that accompanies the painting process, I can describe the image by naming everything in terms of the content, or I can stick to the language of form. For example, here is a narrative, content-based description of the photo below:

             

            A street scene in Mexico, late in the day: One side of the street is in sunlight, the other in shadow. A woman carrying shopping bags is crossing the street, while another is standing on the sidewalk. Several cars, some parked, some driving, are in the middle distance. A big tree shows above the sunlit buildings. A mountain in the distance stands out against the clear blue sky.

Here is the same scene described in the language of pure form:

            The right quarter and the bottom third of the page are rectangles of cool, dark, neutral. A “triangle made up of warm, very light, rectilinear forms begins at the center of the page and widens toward the left.  A pattern of verticals is distributed across this light triangle. Above it a semi-circle of intense medium dark green is silhouetted against a medium value blue, which fills the entire top left quadrant. Where the triangle and the dark strips converge, a mid-value purple-grey form widens upward, one third of the way into the blue.

            How I choose to think about the picture can have a profound effect on the way I begin to paint it. In the early stages of a painting I usually want to establish the general structure of the image, without getting caught up in specificity. The painting has to work first of all as an arrangement of big shapes, and at this level it is more important for the pattern of darks and lights to be strong than for any specific information about content to be present.

           Until I have taken care of the fundamental needs of the painting, I don’t have sufficient basis for deciding how much information to include. It is easy to get involved in the proportions of the woman crossing the street, for example, and lose track of the fact 
that she is primarily part of a big shadow. If I were actually standing in the scene, I would be aware of the figures, but I would probably not be studying them in any detail.  In the painting, I want the elements of the picture to have an emotional presence similar to the actual experience, which is not necessarily the same thing as seeing them in a photograph.
  Photos exert a powerful influence. It is easy to assume that the painting will only feel right if I duplicate the photo exactly, especially if I am already thinking of the elements of the picture as “people, buildings, cars, and trees”.
 But if I am thinking in terms of big, abstract shapes, there are no people, no sidewalk, no shopping bags; just a few somewhat darker and lighter strokes within the big shadow.


Here is a painting of the scene done from this point of view:


                                             Tom Hoffmann            Tinoco Y Palacios

            The figures in the foreground have a presence appropriate to the role they play in the big picture. Thinking abstractly allows me to stop as soon as I see that they have done their job. A content-based approach would have invited all the associations that attend the names of every part of the scene. Like many realist artists, I am susceptible to an imperative to do justice to each subject. I could easily get wrapped up in accurately rendering posture, hairstyles, ankles, and on and on, until the figures took on too much importance in the scene.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Beginning and Intermediate Homework 5/23/12 Keeping it Abstract

Layer by layer, as our paintings evolve from general information to specific, they move toward an increasingly detailed interpretation of the subject. Depending on your style, you decide the point at which you have described the content sufficiently. If your assessment is reasonable, the viewer - that alter ego in waiting - will meet you halfway.

How you translate a subject into shapes of just the "right" colors and values is largely a matter of setting aside what the content of the scene means to you, and looking strictly at form. A white house in shadow, for example, is not white, but thinking of it as "a white house" can confuse the process of deciding how to paint it. When we shift our attention to observing form, we are stepping into the realm of the abstract, where form is simply form, and the eye overrules the mind.

This can be a slippery process, since understanding the meaning of what we observe is a basic survival instinct. Keeping your vision abstract involves deliberately changing channels. T make it easier, try asking these questions of whatever part of the scene you are about to paint. With your brush loaded and ready to apply a new layer, ask about:

Proportion: What percentage of the overall shape is the new color? 20%? 40%? A little more than half?
This is a very general way of looking at a subject, on a par with, "what color do I need?"

Distribution: How is the new color distributed throughout the overall shape? Is it regularly spaced? Concentrated in certain areas? Always in predictable locations? Random?

Pattern: What kind of marks will be appropriate? Rectilinear? Organic? Vertical? Diagonal? Are they connected? Separate? Square? Round?

The answers to questions like these are abstract qualities. They progress from general observations toward more specific ones, but they do not require checking to see if you are making a good version of the subject. A fair amount of faith is involved in believing that your observation of purely formal aspects of the scene will result in a reasonable interpretation of the content. Can it really be true that knowing that your marks need to be horizontal, roughly rectangular, and cover about 75% of the big shape will be enough to tell the story?

In fact, as painters we ask this kind of question all the time. Before your brush touches the paper, we are used to asking what color we need, how dark, and how wet the brush and the paper are. These are abstract questions, too. Here we are just extending the familiar process to include how the brush should behave.
The image below is made up of a just a few major shapes - Water, yellow-green banks, forest. For each one, try asking the questions outlined above.


Now choose an image of your own, and make a painting that proceeds entirely on the faith that pure form will get the job done. When you get to the stage of making small dark strokes, stop. Set the picture up on the table, or pin it to the wall and stand as far back as you can get. What do you think? If it tells the story, you have made a realist image without ever becoming specific. This may have enormous repercussions, or it may just shake things up a little. In any case, it should serve to remind you that with watercolor, it is not only possible, but also wise to stay abstract as long as possible. Given our common tendency to get specific prematurely, this is important news.
Have fun.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Intermediate Homework 5/11/12 Simplifying the figure

Now that the model has gone home, all we have to refer to are the many studies we made in class. Ideally, there are enough of them to inform choices about color, value, wetness and composition without being distracted by the infinite subtlety of the figure standing before us.

Let's tip the form/content scale a bit toward form:

Using your studies as a guide, make a few versions of the pose that begin with letting go of accuracy and subtlety. Choose a variable and make a painting in which, for example, the value range is greatly exaggerated. Or another in which the values are in the ballpark, but the colors are fanciful. Or one where the colors are true, but the edges are all soft. Or all hard.
You get the idea. Have a wild time.

Kim Froshin

Beginning Homework 5/11/12 Finding the essentials

Most of the visual information we perceive in a subject does not need to be included in a painting. A big part of the artist's job is to identify what is essential and what is optional. Which elements of your subject describe its fundamental nature?

Choose a simple object, like the onions we painted in class, or a persimmon, a milk jug, a glass of water - something that will not require fastidious drawing.

Set up the light source so that there is a clear and simple shadow pattern. Including a cast shadow is a good idea.

Paint a monochrome version first, emphasizing the darkest darks and the lightest lights. Leave out most of the subtle middle values to find out how important they really are.

Paint several versions in color, with an eye toward discovering which features do the real work of defining the subject. Let go of accuracy as you learn what matters.

When you feel that you have a good sense of which strokes and washes tell the story, put away the actual object and the studies, and paint one or two from memory. Now that you have answered the basic question, you are free to give all your attention to laying down some juicy paint!

Comments are welcome, by the way.

Silver Cup                   Lars Lerin


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beginning watercolor homework, 5/2/12 Monochrome value study

Seeing past color to read value is an essential painting skill. It can seem impossible when you first start to practice it, but a couple of questions can help bring the task into focus.

"How dark is the part I'm about to paint compared to what I already know?
Value is relative. Every area of a painting is assigned a value compared to its adjacent shapes. Look for something darker and something lighter than the shape in question to discover the range within which it falls.

What is the darkest thing in the picture?
What is the lightest?
If you are unsure of the value of a given shape, ask yourself if it is closer to the lightest thing or the darkest. That gets it in the ballpark. From there you can bump it a little in one direction or the other till it feels just right.

This week, make a 5 value ( White, light gray, middle, dark gray, black) monochrome study of an image that appeals to you. To assess the information that is available from the study, ask where you need more subtlety or more specificity. When you are sure you have answered the big value questions, use the study as a road map to guide a full color version of the subject.
Bring the study and the painting to the critique.
Have fun.

intermediate watercolor homework: Assessing your work

Every once in a while it's a good idea to pin up several of your recent works and stand back to see what is revealed. To be sure not to get overwhelmed, aim for just one revelation at a time. What is your current bugaboo?
You probably have a feeling for an aspect of your painting practice that needs some work. In my case it's my unwillingness to combine shapes of similar value. I know that having fewer shapes will strengthen my paintings, but I can't seem to let individual shapes merge into one bigger form. As usual, it's about letting go.
If you are aware of something that has been nagging you, start there. The purpose of the review is to come up with a plan for one thing to work on. How will you use your strengths to support your weaknesses? If you have no idea what you should take on as a task, let the paintings tell you. This involves awareness skills that we all need to practice. If nothing surfaces, hang the paintings upside down.
Bring in an example or two of what you notice, and let the crowd make suggestions. Think of it as spring cleaning.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Intermediate Watercolor 4/26/12  Hold on tight to this, so you can let go of everything else.


In the interest of discovering which features of your subject are essential and which are optional, it is important to have a clear ideaa of what you want to emphasize in your interpretation. How you decide what to include and what to edit out depends on the feeling you want your painting to convey.

In the photo above, for example, you might be looking more at form than content. You could be especially interested in abstracting the shapes, which might lead to simplifying the complex intersection of the big triangles of light and dark. In such a case it would probably be best to eliminate all the curlicues.

If, however, your purpose were to comment on a surprisingly light-hearted attitude toward a potentially somber subject, you might want to emphasize the playful distribution of the shapes along that same intersection. Exaggerate the tilt of the verticals. Bring back those curlicues!

Once you have a basis for deciding how the different elements of the subject will be treated, you know where you need to be careful, and, thus, where you can be carefree. The more you can let go of accuracy, the less you need to correct. In most cases, relatively little of the scene really needs to be tightly rendered. Give control back to the paint as much as possible. It's directly related to how much fun you have painting.

In preparation for your next painting, take note of what you need to hold on to, and what you can let go of. Be perpared to tll us how you made those decisions.

Beginning Watercolor 4/26/12 Seeing in layers

Please scroll down to the entry for 3/1/12, and give that exercise a try.
Have fun!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Intermediate watercolor 4/19/12 Unanswered Questions

During our critique, it came up that it's not always obvious what the questions are that need to be addressed. To practice identifying the work that needs to be done before diving into a new subject, try the following exercise:

1) Ask yourself what attracted you to the image or scene that you have chosen. It may be a feeling, such as serenity, or it may be a challenge, such as describing vast space while celebrating the patterns the land forms make on the picture plane. Whatever it is, write it down, or say it out loud, to make sure you have it up front in your thinking.

2) What looks tricky? With a little detachment, you can tell at a glance what will be difficult to translate into the language of watercolor. Take a good look at those aspects of the scene, and see if the uncertainty is a function of color, value, wetness or composition. Address the variables one at a time, and be sure to cover them all. The approach you devise to interpreting these slippery parts may involve more than one variable. Take your time, and see if you can envision an approach that will leave you plenty of room to adjust to surprises. General to specific, light to dark.

3) When you see the nature of a tricky part, make a study that will answer your questions. For example, if you determine that the issue is about how to keep a hard edge for most of the profile of a mountain, but to have a soft edge where it goes behind a cloud, your challenge is all about wetness. You can most efficiently address this by limiting the variables in your study. To give all your attention to the unanswered questions, eliminate the distractions the other variables might present. Your study does not need color. Make it monochrome. You don't need to paint the whole picture. just practice the edge you are unsure of.

4) Take notes. for the benefit of the rest of us in the room, please be prepared to tell us what you zeroed in on, and what you learned.

Sound of Sleat          Piet Lap

Beginning watercolor april 19 2012 Layered washes

In class you had some practice laying an even wash, while taking care to preserve a complex profile for the overall shape. To take that a step further, try the following exercise:

1) Make a pale wash over half or more of your paper, saving a large white shape within it.

2) When that wash is dry, make another of a different color, overlapping the first one. Within this second wash, save a shape that partly overlaps the reserved shape from the first wash (better read that part again). Let the paper dry.

3) Make a third layer now, with its own reserved shape.

The three washes will make new colors where they overlap, and they will show their simplest color where they appear on top of what was white paper. You could plan for the greatest number of colors, or the fewest, or simply follow your instincts. However you arrange your shapes, make your washes as smooth and even as you can, without correcting flaws.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Beginning watercolor homework 4/12/12 wet on wet (more like damp on wet)


To follow up the work we did in class painting the sky, try again to invent a cloudscape with no hard edges. If you found that your paper dried before you could apply all the layers you wanted, try wetting both sides of the paper first. If you still see a hard edge, stop immediately. Dry the paper thoroughly, rewet it as efficiently as you can, and carry on making soft-edged strokes.
My approach leaves the blue for last (when there is blue), but you may prefer a different progression.  Experiment. These sky scenes can be done pretty quickly, so make a few, and don’t spend time correcting. Clouds are very similar in feeling to transparent, fluid brushstrokes. If you poke away at the paint you will lose the simplicity and weightlessness of the forms, which are far more important than whatever is prompting you to fuss. The sky is a very forgiving subject. Just about anything can happen up there, so remember to detach from your agenda, and at least try to live with what your brush did on the first try.
If you are feeling ambitious, try painting one of these skies. Paint, though, don’t duplicate. 
Have fun.




Intermediate homework 4/12/12 Where should I depart from accuracy?


The theory behind our class time exercise yesterday is that when you have a clear idea of what you want to emphasize in your interpretation of a scene, you can manipulate the variables to support your intention. One by one, you can ask how you might depart from strict accuracy to enhance the emphasis you are after.
For example, in the photo below, imagine that your primary interest was in the remote setting and the isolation of the boat. How could you alter the color, value. wetness and composition to support your purpose?
Let’s consider composition first.  What effect would changing the orientation have? How about cropping? Would less water emphasize the isolation? More sky? Should you take out one of the fishermen?
You are in charge here, not the image.


Building on the work you began in class, finish asking all the questions that will focus your attention on how to get the most out of the source. Use studies to find the answers, and make a painting when you feel confident that the preliminary work is done.
Have fun.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

model sessions

Here's the schedule of models for the next two weeks:
Beginning  -  Model 3/21
Intermediate - Model 3/14, 3/21
Advanced - Model 3/13. 3/20
Madrona - Model - 3/20

Where's the homework?
You take it from here. What do you need to work on? Pick just one thing - seeing layers, getting the darks dark enough on the first try, controlling wetness - whatever it is, stay with it, and don't spend your energy trying to make a pretty painting. When you put your efforts on the wall, please be prepared to tell us what you were focused on.
Have fun

Thursday, March 1, 2012

intermediate homework 3/1/12 The List


In the interest of becoming your own best teacher, remember to keep your goals realistic. Here's an example of using the list to narrow down the focus of your efforts toward refinement of a work in progress.

If you are unsure of part of your subject, or if something you have tried looks wrong, you can either practice it on a separate piece of paper, or attempt something on the painting in progress. If your experiments don’t lead to increased confidence, slow down, and make sure you understand the problem. Go down the list: Color, Value Wetness, and Composition. When the dust has settled, you should have a plan for what you will do differently. Limit the changes to just a few, so you can see whether you have resolved those issues. Taking on too much at once obscures your progress, and increases the odds that you will be overwhelmed.



147             Study, Barrio Azucenas, Oaxaca                        Tom Hoffmann
There is a mountain at the end of every street in Oaxaca. I wanted this one to feel distant, but to display the afternoon light. A hard edge for the profile, but soft edges for the shadows seemed right, as did carrying on the blue/orange palette from the rest of the picture. When it was finished, though, something was not right. The scene did not feel as peaceful as I intended.
Going down the list, I started to assess color first: Are there too many colors? No, that’s not the problem. Is color temperature an issue? Hmm…could be. The mountain may be too closely related to the blue and orange in the buildings, pulling it forward in space. And the big orange building on the right is too insistent. Maybe ease off of the complimentary palette. It seems a little harsh.
How about wetness? The big building is all in shadow. Maybe the doorway should have a soft edge. That would make the whole shape less intrusive. I like the soft, blue shadows on the mountain, but maybe soften the profile a bit to make sure it stays back. That’s enough for now. Time for another try.


148            Barrio Azucenas                        Tom Hoffmann
Softening the blue doorway was definitely a good move. As a separate bit of painting, I liked the orange mountain better than the green one, but it didn’t work as well in the big picture. In all, I’m satisfied, and don’t feel the need for another version. This was a quick enough painting that I did not have to think twice about making a new version rather than try to rescue the first one. Actually, I’m glad I left the study alone. After some time passed, I found that I liked them both.                
Do you think I should put the rest of the phone wires in this version?

Give this process a try with your latest painting.

Make sure you are clear about how you intend to revise the painting before you begin a new version. At some level I seem to believe that I should trust entirely to instinct and not analyze my efforts at all, so I often rush through my assessment. There may be some wisdom in this, since painting is largely done from the gut, but, realistically, there is no danger that I could eliminate instinct even if I wanted to. Honing in on one or two issues that need to be clarified will not make the next painting a dry, intellectual exercise. As soon as you make the first stroke, the current begins to flow.