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.