Friday, May 27, 2016

Intermediate Watercolor 5/26/16 What color are the Darks?


 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 5/26/16 Designing the Page

When you begin getting to know a new subject, whether it's a plain air scene or a photo, there is always the possibility that some aspects of the image will need to be adjusted. You may want to eliminate some altogether. Much of what you see is optional information. Only a relatively small amount is really essential. In many ways, your main task is editing.


This photo is pretty simple, light on the bottom, dark on top. Two of the figures are in sunlight and the others are in shadow. Still, it could benefit from making that light/dark structure more obvious. I'd like to exaggerate the brightness of the two closest figures. The one on the left could have lighter pants, for example, and the guy behind him could have sunlight on his hat. What about the graffiti? It's just a bit too distracting. Should it be eliminated, or just turned down a little? While we're at it, maybe the doorframe should be a little darker.
The idea is to make it easier for the viewer to get your message. If you want to display the difference between the sunlit and shaded areas, consider making adjustments that clarify that relationship. Of course, this presupposes that your main purpose is clear to you in the first place.


Many of the devises we use as painters involve deliberately simplifying complex aspects of a scene. The tradition of separating a scene into foreground, middle-ground and background, for example, often requires eliminating much of the subtlety in an image.
In the market scene, above, the figures that are near us are quite different from those way in the background, but they are not so clearly separated from the middle-ground shapes. I am inclined to make the three closest women (and their baskets) more similar to each other and less like the five or six people just beyond them. How can I use edge quality, color, value and composition to make the space easier to read?


 What has Joseph Zbukvic done to clarify the foreground, middle-ground and background here? How could you use similar tools to make the following image easier to paint?


Look for a way to group the buildings into three separate levels of depth. That,  patch of sunlight could help, as could making the most distant buildings into a single shape (look again at the domes and towers in the background of Zbukvic"s painting).

Friday, May 20, 2016

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 5/19/16 Layers, Step By Step

To extend our classwork into the realm of understanding a painting subject as a series of layers, I'd like everyone to make a demonstration piece comprising three separate sheets of paper. One will show only what the first layer looks like (the pale under painting of the major shapes. Then another that shows the first and second (lights plus middle values), and, finally, one that shows three layers (light, middle and dark).
The process breaks down like this:


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 layer 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, 5/19/2016 Separating the major Shapes

I usually define the major shapes in a realist painting as those that need to be separated in order to comprehend the illusion of space. Of course, this assumes that the painter is trying to create such an illusion, which is by no means always the case. When it is, though, keeping the foreground, middle ground and background mostly unambiguous is a very good idea.


In this scene, the fact that the entire background is in shadow and the rest of the space is not goes a long way toward making the location of the various shapes quite clear. Still, some of the background shapes are light enough to create a little confusion. Do you see anything you'd be inclined to adjust?

What about that crazy reflection in the window to the right of the stop sign? It's distracting to me, and I don't see it as essential, so I'd edit that out. And there's a sidewalk sign right behind the pedestrian's head that's not doing any good. Scratch that. Come to think of it, the car in the background is too similar to the one in the middle. I'd darken it a bit.

There. That clears up any potential ambiguity, right? Or maybe it would be easier to just make everything in the shadowy background shape soft-edged. Then value, color, composition and wetness would be acting together to set off the middle and foreground shapes.

Deciding how many variables to employ to get shapes to be separate depends on how much you want to leave to the viewer. Sometimes you may want it to be clear where everything is in the first instant. Other times you may feel it's better to allow a little ambiguity.

Eclipse                                 Mary Whyte                              Watercolor
In this emotionally rich painting The artist invites us to wonder what the world is like through her subject's eyes. It's appropriate for some time to be involved in getting a feel for his work environment. And, yes, this is most definitely a watercolor.



This coastal scene is more than a little ambiguous. There are strong compositional clues that suggest how and where the shapes overlap, but the edges between them are lost in the similarities of color and value. Experiment with ways to adjust the variables that will lead to a clearer message.




The figures under the tarps are clearly separated from the sunlit background, but the tarps are not. What might you adjust to increase the differences between the shapes?

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Everyone 5/8/16 New Images: Seeing in Layers


I’ve got very limited web access out here, so I hope you’re browsing the blog archives for old posts that engage you. Beginning class, I recommend looking over any that discuss seeing in layers.  If you can’t find any, try looking for images which display obvious light, middle and dark values. Here are a few from Haida Gwaii. You may want to try one in monochrome first.









Identify the major shapes.
Make a simple outline drawing of those shapes.
Block in the first layer for each shape (lights).
Then the middle values.
Then the darks.
Nice work!

Intermediate class, you can be the first to interpret these images. Two of the three look to me like great candidates for being carefree in the early stages. Pay attention to the edges. 

See you all soon.