Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The role of the middle value shapes

  As visual artists we often take note of the role played in our work by the darkest darks and the lightest lights, but we tend to overlook the mid value shapes.

Take a look at this study by Stanislaw Zoladz. What  Lovely, convincing light! Just one or two small triangles are enough to create a believable illusion.  But what would the illusion be without the subtle mid  values?

Here are a few images to experiment with. Paint the large, simple shapes very dark , or very light instead of middle value. If the shape you are about to paint is closer to dark than to light. paint it black. If it is closer to white than it is to black, leave it white. Read that last part again.


Friday, November 12, 2021

November 12 Color Temperature: Compared to What?

We've had some fun this week following Jane Blundel around the fascinating world of color mixing, a fitting end to our ten weeks with a definite emphasis on color in general.

I'd like to take one last look at warm and cool colors. Here are some images to consider  for an exercise that involves choosing a limited palette. Begin by selecting two colors, one warm and the other cool. They don't have to belong to the same hue family. For example, you could choose Prussian Blue and  Yellow Ochre. The colors are cool and warm only compared to each other. They have no intrinsic color temperature. 

To make this part easier, choose colors that are distinctly warm and cool when compared to each other. If it's hard to see the difference, use compliments.

 In  the picture above, let's say you chose to work with blue green and yellow orange.

Ask yourself , "What is the warmest thing in the scene?" The yellow curb? OK That's where you should use your warm color in its purest form. 

What is the coolest part of the image? The sky? I agree. Use the purest form of the color you chose to be cool for the sky. Everything in between your warmest and your coolest will be a mixture of warm and cool.  Got it? Good. Now read it again,  No hurry

Have Fun!


Saturday, November 6, 2021

November fifth Triad Playtime

This week we'll experiment with limiting our palettes by selecting only 3 colors, the primaries; red, yellow, and blue. You'll need one of each to make a triad, such as Ultramarine for the blue, Raw Sienna for the yellow and Burnt Sienna for the red. Any way you want to combine your colors is ok, as long as you only use the three colors you start with. The idea is to duplicate the colors in the photo as closely as you can. If your color keeps coming out wrong you may have to change one of the colors in your triad and start over.

Many realist artists, including Sargent,  Zorn and Wyeth used limited palettes all the time, and most of the rest of us have explored the process now and then to take advantage of the cohesiveness the technique provides. I'll post a couple of images to choose from, but feel welcome to use one of your own.

The palette I'm using in this example was one Sargent favored. The color choices would make a pretty good version of this photo, though he would have gotten stuck on that sky. It changes color as we go from left to right. What would you do? Try it and see what happens. 

The image below looks challenging. Do you think you'l need a red?


Here, to make that purple light below the bell tower on the right you might need two colors only. Hmmm.

Can you see why you will definitely need a piece of practice paper? Depending on the triad you choose it may not be possible to make all the colors in the image. It's best to see that before you get too far in a painting. If your triad can't make an accurate version of the image you'll have to go back to the beginning 
and switch to a different set of primaries. Or just get as close as you can and accept the result. You'll still see the cohesiveness we're after.

Friday, October 29, 2021

October 28 Make it easy on yourself

 Here are a few landscapes in which your main job is to invent a top or a bottom. That, and making them beautiful, of course.

The beautiful part comes mostly from not correcting or overpainting. This is an opportunity to see if it really is better to leave the paint alone once it's been applied.  An invented landscape can't be wrong , after all,, unless you insist  it is by trying to improve it. If you leave it alone you send out the message that this is the way it's supposed to be.

Invented corn field

If the color in your invented top or bottom is saturated, try and put enough pigment in the puddle to make it satisfying on the first try. Stay out of the water bucket unless your plan requires that you wash your brush.

You can use these images and try switching tops and bottoms, or make them up entirely. Have fun!

The Winter term Zoom-based class is full now. There are a couple of spots left in the in person class and the abstraction workshop. Send me an e-mail if you would like more information.

Friday, October 22, 2021

October 23, 2021 What Looks Tricky?

Whenever you come face to face with a new subject it helps to ask yourself "What looks tricky?" Then you can design a study that reveals a simple solution to the puzzles that remain unanswered. In the night scene, below, for example, you may find yourself  entangled in the direct presentation of the streetlights. If so, it would be a good idea to experiment until you find a sequence of layers that approximate the brightness of the lamps and the impact they have on their surroundings. 

I see half a dozen bright streetlights we are looking at directly, and as many buildings that are lit indirectly by the lamps. Some of the buildings are darker than the sky and some are lighter. Just to complicate things, some of the buildings are both lighter and darker than the sky. By comparing things to a single shape , the sky, in this case, we gain a basis for understanding how dark the other shapes are.

The lamps are obviously lighter than the buildings. They have soft edges, and a ring of pale color that radiates out from a white center. One of those glowing rings is cool, the others are all very warm. These  sources of light might be a good feature to practice. Would it work to make the edges hard? It would certainly make it easier when the sky closes in on the halo of color. Try it and see. You wouldn't need to paint the whole scene to find out, just a scrap of paper would show you the answer.

Then what? What if you look at the buildings on each side as single shapes rather than as a collection of numerous entities? Think of the overall composition as a big bow tie made up of 4 triangles; the sky is a triangle. The street is another, and the groups of buildings are the other two. 

When you have experimented enough to put all your pieces together use this image, or one of the other night scenes from Oaxaca for your homework. If you don't see the bow tie send me an e-mail.

Friday, October 15, 2021

October Fifteenth Finding an Easy Way

  For many realist watercolor painters the primary job is to discover how to simplify the scene or image they want to paint. The real world doesn't always resolve into a neat sequence of layers that can be laid simply on top of one another. In the photo below, for example, a scattering of very light blades of grass sits among an array of darker ones. 

To paint this subject accurately it seems that one would have to paint around the light grasses to avoid making them appear farther away than the middle value and dark strokes. This is a good example of the branch of watercolor painting known as "No Fun".  Surely there's a way to suggest the mixture of values without resorting completely to negative painting. Fortunately, we are not obliged to be accurate in our interpretation of the subject. Maybe just a few of the separate light grass blades would be enough. 

OK? Refining the image down to the smallest number of essential units sounds good. It still remains for you to discover how you would apply the paint to read as grass? Do you have answers to the following questions?

(1) Is there a way to paint the grass with an overall wash that can underlie everything that will come later?

(2) Is there anything that should be reserved?

(3) Is there anything that should be done while the shape is still wet? 

If so, carry on. If not, get out a piece of practice paper! You could try scraping out a few pieces of grass, just a few. Or maybe you could lift a couple of lights. You could also try masking fluid, once the paper is dry. And there's always opaque paint. Finally, you can usually make it easier by redesigning the look of the image. For example, what if you  make all the grass you invent darker than the previous layer. True, it  would look different, but it might look good.

For homework, experiment with these techniques. Try combining them. Try making an all soft edged version. Maybe all hard edged. Use one of the wetland scenes, and remember, err on the side of too little information.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

What Isn't Neutral ? 10/7/21

                                                                      Joseph Zbukvich

What isn't neutral in this interpretation of fishing boats? Maybe the blue stripe on the boat, bottom left,. Or is that only colorful compared to all the greys and browns that are so subtly represented? The sail in the center seems downright yellow until you look at it by itself. Certainly yellow is the dominant color, but it's more like a mud puddle than it is like a lemon.

Note how subtly  the two distant hills display warm reddish brown in the nearer hill and blue-grey in the one that is farther away. Zbukvich understands how little color is required to show us what we actually see.

Most of what we see in the country and plenty of what we see in town is neutral. Let's try putting color back into these desaturated images. Just a little.