Friday, May 17, 2019

everyone's Homework, 5/17/19 The Lazy Watercolorist

Hi everyone
Tom has asked me to fill in for him while he is in D.C. putting the finishing touches on his portrait commission for the senate chambers. Here's the work in progress:

Not bad, eh?


I am called the lazy watercolorist. You've heard Tom say that with watercolor, the easy way is the right way. He got that from me.

Today, I want to talk about layers. Once you see your subject as a series of layers, the work of planning is pretty much done. Light, middle, dark, right?

 First, look for the major shapes. For each one, block in the lightest color as as overall wash. Many painters wet the paper before applying the washes, letting them run together somewhat. This is the EASY way! Why struggle to get the shapes to stay inside the lines when most of the first layer will get painted over by the time you add the middles and the darks?

If a shape has shadows on it, paint the whole shape with the lightest layer. There's no need to leave a white place where the shadow will be. The shadow can be applied right on top of the local color, which is much EASIER than trying to match the edges of a white shape.






Look at the shadows in this scene. Each rock has at least one facet in shadow. Imagine leaving all those white and then coloring them in without overlapping or leaving any of the white showing. Way too hard for me. I'd rather treat the rock pile as a single shape, all painted the lightest beige, and then apply the shadows as a second layer, right on top of the first. Then, finally, the few deep darks on top of the shadows. On top, not adjacent. Got it?

It may seem logical to keep the shadows separate from the local color. They are different colors, after all. But, when you apply the second layer on top of the first, the transparency of the medium allows the light and the middle to work together to give a perfect illusion of sun and shade.

One more thing; look at the shadow on the red wall. You would have to paint that on top of the lighter first layer while the red local color was still wet. You couldn't get those soft edges by leaving a white shape and coloring it in with the shadow color. 

Here are a couple more images that give you an opportunity to practice laying your shadows on top of the local color. If you have time, try doing them the easy way and the hard way, so you'll see why I always take the lazy route.
Till the next time
TLW














Thursday, May 9, 2019

Intermediate Homework 5/9/19 Using Color Dominance to Focus Attention

A very good way to focus attention on a particular part of a painting is to make it warm in an otherwise cool atmosphere, or vice-versa. Look at this scene, for example, where the windows are very warm while the rest of the setting is definitely cool:



The dominance of the cool makes the warm stand out.
The difference between the cooler and the warmer areas can be more subtle, like the relative temperatures in the scene, below, and still bring our attention to the portion of the image that is not dominant:



For homework, find an image you like and make a painting where you change the colors so that either the warms or the cools take up most of the total area. You can use one of the following images, or find one on your own.

                                 

You could cool down all this green and make the boat orange. Or make the trees and grass and water much more yellow and paint the boat blue. Or both!



                             
Can you think of a way to leave the boat blue and change everything else?

                                 

What if you made the rocks rustier and changed the trees to Golden yellow fall cottonwoods? Then you could use more blue in the water and change the sky to sunset.

Beginning Homework, 5/9/19 Shadow Color

In class yesterday we came up with a fair description of how shadows are different from local color. By comparing aspects of the two we were able to conclude that shadows are generally darker, cooler and more neutral than the surface upon which they are cast. As with just about everything pertaining to art, there are exceptions to these rough guidelines. Let's do some comparisons to see how dependable the guidelines are.

This image presents a real variety of shadows. The red chair is half in shadow, half sunlit. The beige tarp is sunlit on the upward-facing surface and shadowed on the under side. The tarp also casts a shadow onto the ground, where we could compare the color and value of that shadow to the sunlit dirt  beside it.
Is it true, in this case, that the shadow is darker than the local color?
Yes, definitely.
Is it cooler?
Again, yes, it is.
How about more neutral?
Well, not really. The ground is already quite neutral. The shadow is also neutral, but not more so. One is a warm neutral, the other is a cooler neutral. Hmmm. Lets compare the sunlit tarp to the shadow on its under side.
Is the shadow darker?
Yes, for sure.
Is it cooler?
No. If anything, it's warmer.
Is the shadow more neutral?
Um, no, it's not. The upward-facing surface is nearly white, which is pretty much a neutral, but the downward-facing surface is a rich golden ochre.
Some of the guidelines appear to be slipping away. All that's left is that the shadow on a surface is darker than the sunlit areas of that surface. How can we find colors that will work for shadows if we have no recipe for success?
The answer is to observe and inquire. Which is darker? Which is cooler (or warmer)? Which, if either, is more neutral?
And while you're at it, what kind of edge does the shadow shape have?


Find a photo that contains shadows and local color near or adjacent to each other, or use one of these, below. Starting with observation and inquiry, see if you can come up with answers to the questions above.
Take your time mixing colors to represent the local color and the shadows you see in your images. It is not necessary to make an exact match. Instead, focus on making a convincing  pair of colors. Do they describe a believable quality of light?
This is also an opportunity to practice mixing colors from the primaries. Choose one red, one blue and one yellow, and see if you can get reasonably close to the colors and values you see in the photos. Keep track of the colors you used by writing the mix beside the patches of color on your practice paper. To darken a color, try adding some of its compliment.
Don't forget to bring in your flops as well as your triumphs.











Saturday, May 4, 2019

Beginning Homework, 5/2/19, Damp into Wet


A great many images and scenes involve passages where detail and texture are best added while the initial wash is still wet. This soft edges of the secondary information keep it integrated into the general statement. This prevents the detail from being too specific and attracting too much attention. 





Sterling Edwards

Take a look at the grasses in the foreground of this landscape. The soft edges allow the varied strokes to read as all one thing, keeping the area from becoming too busy. It manages to be complex and simple at the same time.



                                                                       Tony Couch


Here's a similar foreground in which the artist has made a general statement with an overall light green wash. While that was still wet, he added vertical strokes of varied color and value. If the green wash had been dry, the foreground would have overwhelmed the composition (it's a close call even so).

The following photos include some areas where this concept would be useful. Try out adding complexity to a wash that is still wet. The real job here is keeping track of how wet the brush is. After the wash is applied, the brush you used still has enough liquid in it to pick up some more pigment from the palette. Stay out of any puddles there, and don't stick your brush into the water bucket. If the paint on the brush seems too dry or thick, remember you are about to add water to it when it touches the wet paper.

Practice this on a scrap of good paper until you see the results you want. Then you're ready to make a proper painting.









Intermediate Homework, Where Do You Really Need Hard Edges? 5/2/19

When we study a scene or a photo to consider how to translate it into paint, the part of the scene we are about to treat is almost always in focus. It's what we're looking at, after all. And photographs in this digital era are entirely focused. You have to pay extra for depth of field, I think.

But this is not how we actually experience the "look" of a live scene. When we are interacting with the components of a location most of what is visible is out of focus. How much of a painting, then, should be soft edged? How can you decide where hard edges are really needed when the image shows you everything in focus?


                                      Trevor Chamberlain

Acting on the premise that the best way to see if something belongs in the painting is to leave it out, making a study with no hard edges should provide you with a tool that you can use for a road map. With a "soft edges only" study in hand, you can ask where a hard edge is essential, and proceed incrementally toward just enough.

The technical requirements for this activity are important. It's not easy to keep the paper wet long enough to get even a quick study to be entirely soft-edged, but you can do it if you resolve to put the brush down as soon as a hard edge appears. Then dry the paper thoroughly and re-wet it where you want the next soft edge to appear.
after making a simple drawing, begin by wetting both sides of the paper. Wetter, please. Even wetter! It should be very shiny, but not quite dripping. Work that water into the sheet of paper.

Remember, This study is supposed to be approximate. Look at the middle ground and background in Trevor Chamberlain's boat painting, above. Half of the page is made up of non-specific shapes. Use a limited palette, say, one red, one yellow and one blue, so you won't spend too much time finessing your colors.
When the study is done, ask where a hard edge would enhance the feeling you want. Practice restraint here. It's easy to add too many specific marks. I want to stop while I think it still needs one more hard edge. I can always add it next year, if the painting still calls for it.

Here are some examples of paintings with a variety of edges, and a couple of candidates for a soft study.


















Thursday, April 25, 2019

Intermediate Homework 4/25/19 Variety

The potent sky scenes you all invented yesterday in class were individualistic, to be sure, but they also had a couple of features in common: saturated color and soft edges. Having spent some time now working with relatively thick paint and diffuse edges, let's practice using those features in some places and not in others, so your paintings display a range of qualities.

Here are a couple of Gerhard Richter's watercolors:


In this painting, the paper appears to have been dry everywhere, except for that pink shape at the top.



Here the opposite is true. Almost everything is soft edged.



And here there's a mix of edges that gives emphasis to the hard edged darks. Deciding deliberately what kind of edge you give to your shapes puts a powerful tool in your hands.
 Choose a photo from those below, or use one you find on your own, and adjust the edges as you please. You might try different versions that shift which edges are hard and which are soft.







Beginning Watercolor Homework April 25, 2019 Seeing in Layers

Beginning Homework  Thinking in Layers

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 idea is to show the layer by layer development of your painting.
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.

Please read all that again. It's a little confusing, I'm afraid.












Thursday, April 11, 2019

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 4/11/19 Descriptive, Symbolic, Abstract


In between realism and abstraction there is a broad arena where artists such as Jill Maclmurray, George Post, and Charles Burchfield roamed.  Image result for jill mcelmurry art website



                                                             Jill McleMurray







Charles Burchfield



Image result for george post

                                                                     George Post

These are definitely realist paintings in some ways. We can recognize their subject matter even though it is more symbolic than descriptive. It seems fair to say that the artists want the viewer to be able to identify what is being interpreted, but rather than simply observe and duplicate the subject  they devise a symbol based on the essence of the content.
An emphasis is put on abstract elements, such as shape and color, by distilling the subject down to a simple but unmistakeable form. In context, Maclemurray's sage brush is easy to recognize, even though she is not describing specific individuals.

Here are a couple of images to experiment with:









Beginning Watercolor Homework 4/11/19 Thinking in Layers, Watercolor Skies





Here's a good sky photo to use for practicing painting clouds. It's very similar to the one we made in class; white, light gray, darker gray and blue. For simplicity's sake, let's proceed as if all edges are soft. I recommend reading the description of the step-by-step process a couple of times before launching into your first try. Use good, 100% cotton paper if you have it. It will greatly increase the chances of success. 1/4 sheets (11 x 15") or smaller are good for this exercise.

First, wet the paper on both sides so it will stay wet long enough to mix and apply your colors. Use a big brush to work the water into the fibers. Put a little extra water around the edges of the paper. They tend to dry faster than the middle of the page.

Second, add some blue to the brush and mix it on the palette so the paint is uniform. Surround your cloud shapes with blue. If you want to get fancy, you can use two different blues, one for the upper portion and another for the lower. See the difference? Experiment on a piece of cheap paper to see which colors work best for you.

Third, add a very little bit of orange to the blue that is left on your brush. There is no need to wash off the blue before you add the orange. Stay out of the water bucket, please. You already have all the water you need on the paper,  plus whatever is left on the brush you used for wetting.
When you are mixing the blue and orange together, try to balance the mixture so neither color dominates. That should produce a good gray. If you find you're getting a purple, add a tiny bit of yellow.

Fourth, notice where the gray occurs on the clouds. I see it on the lower half of the white shapes. Apply the gray accordingly.

Fifth, add a little more pigment to your brush to make a darker gray, and apply a stroke or two wherever you see it in the photo. This step is often overdone.

The sky is a very forgiving subject. Just about anything you create could actually happen. Given this variability, resist the temptation to fiddle with your clouds. Take what you get. As soon as you paint something in front of the  sky, like a steeple, or a telephone pole, the whole thing comes together. Below, here are a couple of sky paintings you can copy for further practice.

Give this exercise a few tries, and bring them all to class. The failures are more informative than the successes. Stay relaxed.







Saturday, March 9, 2019

Intermediate Homework 3/9/19 General to Specific

Most watercolors proceed from light to dark, since it is easier to put a dark on top of a light than to do the opposite. At the same time, the trajectory of a well-planned painting moves from broad, general statements toward more specific passages.
Select one of the following images or the ones attached to the beginning homework from this week. All are fresh photos, never before painted, except one that actually is a painting.
Stay loose until you have at least applied the middle values. I believe it's not the artist's job to make sure the viewer can tell what they're looking at, especial;ally in the early stages. To make sure you don't get specific prematurely, try wetting the whole page before you block in the lights.









Gage classes will be working from a model this coming week. If you have any large sketch paper, please bring it along. We'll use it for the short poses.




Beginning Homework 3/9/19 Light, Middle, Dark

Most images or scenes can be translated into watercolor with no more than three layers. The transparency of the medium suggests that we start with the lights and progress through middle value to dark. The following images are all new. No one has painted them before. They have been selected for the ease with which they can be seen as a series of layers.
I like to start by identifying the major shapes and outlining them with pencil or very pale paint.



Sky, hill, ground, trees. Keep it simple, and notice that any white you see in this picture is in your imagination. The darks here are very linear. You could easily make too many hard-edged, dark lines. Remember what Eliot O'Hara said about how many are enough, "Fewer than half as many as you think".



                             

The key to simplifying this scene is to paint the cluster of sheds, vehicles blocks and fences as one single shape. Save a few whites within the overall shape and paint the rest middle value. Then put in a few dark rectangles and Bob's your uncle.




A patchwork quilt of rectangles. Graffiti or no graffiti?

Let's not all paint the snow scene.
Have fun

Gage classes will be working from a model this coming week. If you have any large sketch paper, please bring it along. We'll use it for the short poses.



Saturday, March 2, 2019

Intermediate Homework 3/1/19 Keep it Simple



How do you know when you've done enough to describe the subject matter in a painting? There always seems to be a little more that wants to be included. I think the key is to look inside rather than at the scene or the photo. You have to trust your gut feelings. 
In the alleyway sketch, above, the most important aspect is the sunlight. That's the story I want to tell, so if the shapes appear to be lit by strong light, the essential information is there. I could stop even though there is plenty more optional information I can see. On the sunlit side of the garage the siding is described with a few swift strokes. I haven't made clear whether the siding has corner boards or mitered corners. Should I add more information to make sure the viewer can tell? 
What about that brown shape in the lower right? I'm guessing no one but me knows what that is, but the sun is shining on it, and it contributes to the feeling of a cluttered alley. That's enough.





In this scene of headlands in fog Eliot O'Hara uses the foreground shape to tell us what the shapes in the background are. Only the closest form needs any detail for the viewer to know all they need to understand what the rest of the painting is about. Try closing one eye and covering the foreground. Without that information the background is insufficiently described, but when there is a clear context there is atmosphere and light and space. This is a painter who knows when to stop.


The following images present opportunities to tell a story that can be complete even though there is more that could be added. Decide for yourself what the most important thing is. Once that is present, that could be a good place to stop. Err on the side of too little information rather than too much.