Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beginning Homework 4/19/17 Seeing in Layers

For this week's homework we'll use only two images. I'd like you to paint both of them. Start by identifying the major shapes.

This is a well-behaved image. It resolves nicely into only three shapes; sky, bluff and grassy plain. Feel free to eliminate that bush in the middle of the plain, or move it where it doesn't get tangled up in the bluff.

This one can be seen as having four shapes; three triangles along the bottom, and the large rectangle that makes up the whole top.

Each of these images could be approached by first looking for the lightest tone in each shape, and painting that as an overall wash. The road in the one above, for example, would be all the light pink of the sunlit spots. The grassy triangle would be entirely the light yellow green. The brown triangle on the right is not very light anywhere, so it could be painted the dark brown that will be its final tone. What about the big rectangle? When you look past the mid-values and the darks there is a large area of light yellow-green that stretches from one side to the other, and a very pale blue - almost white - along the top. It can be painted as one shape with two pale colors.

 That takes care of the first layer, the lights. Next comes the layer of middle values. Look at the road again. Most of the first layer is covered with a wash of cool middle value. There are just a few holes in that second layer that leave the first layer visible. The grassy triangle is also mostly middle value, with one light strip at the near end and one more the far end. Each successive layer goes on top of the previous one, usually leaving some of that earlier layer visible. The darkest darks come last, since they will cover the middle value shapes and the lights. It is much harder to get a light to go on top of a dark. You would need opaque paint to pull that off.

As you finish each layer, take a moment to assess the effectiveness of the illusion of light and space. When do those illusions become convincing? Is it when the first layer is applied, or is it later?

Paint both of these, if you have time. As much as possible, try to keep the whole page at a similar degree of completion.

Read this again before you start painting!
Have fun.

Intermediate Homework 4/19/17 Separating Shapes in Space

It was really fun watching everyone paint this afternoon! A new batch of photos seemed to ignite our confidence. I get the idea that the wonderful color combinations you all came up with have something to do with clearly seeing the structure of your images.
It's probably best not to overthink this. let's just dive in to some more new images.
Here are a few from my recent trip to Melaque.
Shape first!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 4/13/17 Abstracting the landscape: Shape first, then NO texture

Really. No texture.

How important is the detail?
Working from the notion that the best way to find out if something needs to be in the picture is to leave it out, let's try letting go of the details altogether.

If a shape in your scene is full of texture, try summarizing it into an overall color and value.

Right in the upper middle of this photo there's a yellow-green shape that runs all the way off the top of the page. If you lean in close you can see that it is made of many, many tiny shapes. If you lean back, however, and squint a little, there is just one shape there. OK, I know you can still see variation within the shape, but I'm suggesting that you let go of the subtleties and think in general terms. If it pains you to ignore all that information, bear with me at least till you can see what the scene looks like with everything over-simplified. If you miss the detail then, you can make a note of that and devise a way to symbolize it. If you don't miss it, you don't need it. This is where it's useful to remember that you can apply the paint so its natural fluidity provides a degree of variability
As a simple shape, that patch of yellow-green still has qualities that you might want to keep. Notice its value, for example. Is it darker, lighter or the same as the blue? What kind of edges do you want the shape to have? Holding on to color or value makes it easier to let go of detail.

In this painting the shapes are very simple, but the  surface is lively. Allowing the separate shapes to interact a bit (or a lot!) lets the fluidity of the paint create non-specific complexity.

Shape first, then texture, if necessary. Here, not much seemed necessary.

Here are a few images that resolve easily into relatively few shapes. Start with a quick study that you think has too little information. Use the study to decide where you need more interest. Paint with most of your attention devoted to the richness of the paint. The subject matter will take care of itself!


Beginning Watercolor Homework 4/13/17 The sky in context

The sky is a very forgiving subject. The variety of shapes and colors that can occur in the sky is so broad, you rarely need to correct whatever kind of marks you make to represent it. As soon as there's enough context to suggest that the bottom of the page is the ground, the washes and strokes you've made along the top must be a sky.

Try this experiment as a warm-up:
Remember the components of the skies we made in class? There were two layers of grey (light and middle value), some blue and some white. We had clouds in mind when we painted yesterday, but imagine if you could put those brushstrokes in a big shaker, shake it all up and toss the marks arbitrarily onto the paper. I think it would still be recognizable as a sky once you put a strip of land below it.
To test this theory, wet a few places at the top of the paper, leaving the rest dry. Now make some strokes and washes of the colors like the greys and blue and white from class without regard for what goes where. You could throw a little very pale warm in there, too.
If we want to keep this experiment strictly scientific, it's important not to correct your sky. The idea is to find out how broad the guidelines are for this very common subject, and what the role of the context is in making the sky believable.

Now add the context. Even just one stripe of land will be enough to see if your random mess resolves into a sky, but feel free to put in some other familiar landscape elements; Hills, trees, bushes. It helps to make something tall enough to stick up in front of the sky, like a tall tree, a steeple or a fence post. Stringing some phone wires can be very convincing. This should all take just a few minutes (it's the correcting that  takes the most time).

If you have time, make some more skies. Please keep the fiddling to a minimum. How else would you discover the real range of what works?

The purpose here is to stay mindful of the viewer's willingness to meet us halfway. Everyone likes to have a part to play in interpreting a subject.

Here are some paintings and photos of skies that may stretch your idea of what kind of shapes and colors will be acceptable:

Tom Hoffmann

George Post

Tom H

Rex Brandt