Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beginning and Intermediate Watercolor 2/20/13 Letting Go

Once you've had some experience oversimplifying a subject, it remains to practice deciding how much additional information to plug back in to your painting. Today, we spent some time selecting the one stroke among all the darks, for example, that would do the most work toward locating a given shape in space relative to all the others. Creating a hierarchy of significance helps you make incremental steps toward subtlety and complexity. Then you have a better chance of stopping before you over-paint the scene.
Most people took a photo home today, after spending some time looking for its basic structure. Lots of squinting, and lots of letting go. I find it useful to look for similarities between shapes, rather than differences. Then it's easier to notice structural realities, like the fact that the image below is basically warm below and cool above, with a strong dark shape in between. Lots of soft-edged lights are sprinkled in the dark zone. If that was all you took care to present in a painting, it might just be enough to tell the story. Specifics, like figuring out what that dark shape in the lower left is, are not essential information, compared to the basics. Let that one go. if the composition can use a couple of dark strokes down there, put them in, but don't worry if you have no idea what they represent. In fact, don't worry, period.

Make a very quick sketch of the bones of your image. It can be in monochrome, or maybe in a palette limited to one warm and one cool color. You might decide to try painting the middle values around the lights, and then insert the darks one at a time, according to their relative importance.
Let these overly simple studies influence where you go with the paintings that follow. Not everything you let go of needs to be reclaimed.

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