Thursday, May 19, 2022

Trees and Freedom

 When a visual artist identifies where they need to be specific and where they can generalize, then the freedom to invent and have fun with the subject is revealed. Most often, these moments involve developing an understanding of how much descriptive information the hypothetical viewer really needs.

If your painting is green in the lower area and blue in the upper, chances are it's a landscape. With that important piece of information gained  it doesn't take much to tell what the dancing forms below the sky actually are. 

Here's an example; 

And another;

What portion of the  trees  needs to be present? Are some parts more important than others?
Oh, what do you say, how about just one more?

For homework, select one photo to work from and paint a refined image that includes only the essential information.


Saturday, May 14, 2022

 The Sky

How much do the skies differ in your landscapes? Do you work on some paintings with a snarl on your face and others with a grin? Do you have a standard cloud pattern that you use on all your work?

For homework, make a painting with two different skies. You may need to make it one that has nothing but sky above the horizon, so you can just set the second sky on top of the first for the photo. Then send both images to your monitor. 

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Full saturation

  The darkest darks in this image are approaching opacity. Any more pigment in the mix and the paper would be throughly masked. But don't back away yet! Some of the most beautiful passages remain to be laid down; the red barn, the warm grey fence and the cool grey window wall. There is still room to use  color and value to contrast the shadows and the sunlit areas.

Too often we stop short of  the real limit, thinking the paint will lose its sacred transparency.  The demo this afternoon was designed to encourage you to deliberately broaden the range of what is acceptable . If you stay out of the water bucket your paint will get darker and thicker by definition.

You can experiment with how to use the fact that watercolor dries lighter than it appears. Make a wash  of a powerful dark to cover the snow. Now add some super dark, made from pthalo blue and transparent pyrol  orange, and use your homemade black to make the tufts of grass and saplings.

Here are a couple more to try. Make the darks  as dark as you can , then make an even darker dark after that one dries. You should find just enough to make a layer that that is thick and dark enough to  make profound depth  but still fluid enough for the strokes to flow into each other.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Beautiful Paint

Looking at the watercolors  of John Singer Sargent we encounter some  areas of simple, gorgeous paint and other contradictory passages of great care and complexity, often in the same painting.

Take a look at the  grass between the gassed soldiers' legs. Sargent knew that the carpet of green with just a scant specific blade was sufficient to describe lush grass. The gas mask, on the other hand, needed much greater care to  identify.

A similar comparison of Winslow Homer's early and later watercolors reveals a very different attitude toward the fluidity and transparency of the paint


A comparison of Winslow Homer's early and later watercolors reveals a similar change in Homer's brush handling. In the early years the artist was more concerned with narrating various stories than he was with celebrating the fluidity and transparency of the paint.



For Homework, select one of your own paintings, one you are very familiar with, and make a version
of it that you don't have to correct.The idea is that the painting is one of thousands of versions that are 
perfect enough.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

The Bumper Sticker

 Now and then we discuss the all important phrase ; Shape first, then texture, if necessary. The idea is to remember to keep your brushwork general until the painting calls for more specificity, if it ever does.  

One way to stay open is to work on wet paper, at least for the first layer. Take a look at these examples;

                                                                           Rex Brandt

Rex Brandt
Brandt usually began a painting by wetting the whole sheet and blocking in the major shapes.. Can you imagine what the first layer of either of these paintings looked like?.For each shape there was a solid 
wash of color into which the damp brush was touched, making mid-value forms. like the blue green pattern in the water.

Would you like to make an interpretation of one of these? If not, how about  one of the two photos?
If you have a photo of your own, by all means use that.


Wednesday, April 6, 2022

The Patterns

Here's a marine scene from Leslie Frontz, and a farm from George Post, below. Both pantings make use of simple patterns that rely on the context to help the viewer recognize the subject.

By themselves, the dark, squiggly shapes behind Frontz's rowboat have no meaning, but in the presence of the edge of the water we have all the information we need  to make a pretty good guess where we are.


Post's patterns in the Farm scene are even simpler to "read". With its pointy green strokes we can tell what kind of tree that is on the right, and those simple curves in the surface of the ground plane are unmistakeable.

The message here is that we don't have to paint everything. It is not your job to make sure the viewer recognizes exactly what everything is.

Meanwhile ...It is part of your job to make the patterns you devise engaging to look at completely apart from what they represent.  After all, paint on paper is all there is. If it's not fun to observe then  we have missed our mark.

For homework, please select one or more of these images and use patterns  to simplify your interpretation.  Karen, this might be a good time to let everyone know when the images should be submitted
Have fun


Thursday, March 24, 2022

General First, Then Specific, as Needed

 Many excellent painters begin  by blocking in the major shapes while the paper is still wet. Using pale colors, they allow the shapes to run into one another, making a very general statement that comprises all soft edges. In this stage, the work in progress is more concerned with where the shapes are than what they are.

For RexBrant and Trevor Chamberlain (and many others) this is the best time to find out whether the viewer has sufficient  information .They can pause and wait for the paint to be dry enough to receive the next layer one stroke at a time .

Look for a scene or an image that invites a soft-edged first approach and practice till you have faith that  the picture will come together when the hard-edged darks are added. The two here are meant for observation. It's best if you find an image of your own to practice on.

Can you picture these when only the first layer was present?