Thursday, November 14, 2013

Intermediate Watercolor Homework: Using your live studies as a starting point 11/14/13

The moment I look up to see the latest pose I am eager to launch into a clear and simple interpretation, but many distractions arise before the beeper signals "time's up".
I dare say I'm not the only one to get drawn into trying to depict some subtle change of hue from one side of a shadow to another when I'm 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 might 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. Please bring some of the work you did in class, and any refined versions for our critique.
These two sketches are by Nora MacPhail

Beginning Watercolor 11/14/13 Figure practice

Well, that was weird. Try going online and looking for a few well lit nudes to paint from. You'll see what I mean.
Here are a couple of images that can get you started seeing the figure as a sequence of layers.

In this figure the warm side and the cool side are the same value. How would you approach painting that?

Try painting the whole figure as a single color silhouette. See if you can get used to starting from the inside of the form and working toward the outside edge, instead of drawing the profile and then coloring it in. I know nobody's watching, so you could just draw an out line and fill it in, but really, try it the other way, at least a couple of times. Use your brush to make shapes rather than lines.
Make some of your silhouettes in a very pale wash. Remember the tendency we saw in the portraits to make the first layer too dark. Better to make it too light. Well, best to make it just right, but too light leaves plenty of room for the shadows to contrast sufficiently.
Next, paint the shadow shapes as a layer by itself. The idea is to get used to seeing it as a separate layer that you can hold in suspension while you focus on the lights.
Finally, put the two layers together, adding a few accent darks where they are needed (creases, hair, eyes,. etc.)
Remember, it is not necessary to have a flawless figure present right from the start. When you are applying the first layer, you still have 2 or 3 opportunities to clarify the edges and proportions. Putting in a background can be a powerful tool in this regard.
Have fun, and don't spend all your painting time on the web.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Intermediate watercolor homework: Figures, Letting go!

Here are a few images that might inspire you to make more general statements in the figurative work we'll be doing for the next two weeks.
Kim Froshin

David Park
Richard Diebenkorn

These paintings are based more on shapes than lines. Even in the Diebenkorn if you took away the lines, the figure would still be fully present, much as it is in Kim Froshin's exciting painting. An edge, rather than a line can make a more convincing object in space. 
Take another look at these three images with the relationship between the figure and the ground in mind. There's a big opportunity here for defining shapes, and it can come late in the sequence of layers. Be sure to take advantage of that from time to time.
So, your homework? If you can get someone in your house to hold still, great. Otherwise, look for photos online, or in magazines that feature distinct shadows on a figure, clothed or not. Keep the drawing to a minimum. Paint shapes!

Beginning Watercolor Homework: Layers: 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. 
If you prefer, try working in monochrome, so you won't be distracted by color. Remember to choose a single color rather than a mixed one, and make sure it's a color that can get dark enough to represent the deepest darks.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 11/1/13

 What color are the darks?

Socks                                                           Mary Whyte
              The colors in the background of Mary Whyte's gorgeous portrait are clearly related to the palette she has established in the figure. As a result, figure and ground are part of the same world. I would not jump to the conclusion, though, that the darks must be a version of the dominant foreground color. There is plenty of blue in the figure, and the artist could have made the background mostly dark blue instead. The resulting image would have had a very different feeling, but the integration of the parts would still have been strong. If she had chosen to make the background neutral black, however, the figure would have been floating in a context that might as well be outer space.
Make  a study of a high contrast image in which you allow the darks to have a noticeable color. Base the color on the palette you have used elsewhere in the picture. If you have time, try another version, using a different color as the link to the darks. And, of course, try out the colors on your practice paper to be sure to get them dark enough on the first try.

San Pablo y San Pedro Etla, Oaxaca 

Mercado Merced, Oaxaca

Beginning Watercolor Homework 11/1/13

Shape before texture

I imagine some of you would like to make a more personally expressive version of the photo we worked on in class. I would, for one. Whether you repaint that street scene or start a new subject, keep in mind that the shapes are essential, while the texture is optional.
Blue Wall, Methow Valley
Get outside, if you can, and find a scene that can be understood in terms of three or four layers (light, middle, dark, super dark). Working from a photo is fine, too.

Identify the major shapes. These are the ones that need to appear separated in space to promote the illusion of depth.

Paying close attention to relative value, block in the shapes, layer by layer, keeping texture to a minimum.

When the darks have been applied, decide where you want more specific information, and put in texture a little at a time. 

Stop before you think you’ve got enough, and go for a walk. When you come back, if you still feel like the painting needs more detail, give yourself a limit for the number of strokes you will add. Then, if you still want more, give yourself an even smaller ration of additional marks. 

Have fun