Thursday, September 26, 2013

Intermediate homework September 26 2013 Paint it Again

The first attempt at a new image can be difficult to assess objectively. Most of us focus on how the image disappoints us, overlooking the positive aspects that should be carried over into the next version. When I walk around the studio looking over your shoulders, I can tell when you sense that I'm there behind you. There's a lot of head shaking, and hands palm down, waving back and forth, as if to say, "I renounce this entirely". We could easily skip this stage of the conversation, since neither of us really expects that the painting is going to be a complete success in the first round.
What if we could shift the emphasis so that our exchange was aimed at identifying the elements of your attempt that are going in the right direction? The next step, then, could be to select one single feature of the painting that should be done differently.
For homework, then, paint the picture you were working on in class again, with an eye toward just one element that you want to change. For example:

The blue part of the church in the middle ground lacks substance. It's made out of jello. I want it to be farther away than the warm, dark buildings along the bottom edge of the page, and the blue color is useful for that, but it needs some kind of opacity or grittiness.
Proceed as if the rest of the painting is OK. By focusing on a single change, you increase the odds that you'll make a positive difference. I can certainly see other issues (those domes are too warm, or too dark?), but one thing at a time is enough.

Beginning Watercolor Homework September 26, 2013 Limited Palette

In theory, with one red, one yellow and one blue you should be able to mix every color you need, right? That's the premise behind the ubiquitous color wheel. Well, in practice there are a few problems. If your yellow is just a bit reddish, like Gamboge, you can't make an emerald green. That little bit of red will turn it toward brown. Or if your red is slightly purple, like Alizarine Crimson, how can you get a snazzy orange? The blue that comes along with the red will mix with yellow to make - guess what - brown, again. And so it goes. The theory is about absolute primary colors, but the reality is muddier than that. So, why bother limiting your palette at all? Why did the masters restrict their selection to only three or four possibilities? Why not just reach for the color that will give you the most accurate match?
The answer can be summed up in one word, "Cohesiveness".  Painters usually want the elements of their pictures to fit together, and color is a too powerful a tool to overlook, whatever your goal happens to be.
In the watercolor below, Doorway to the Palazzo Barbaro, by Anders Zorn, Only three colors have been used: black raw sienna, and permanent red. The bluish tints are simply the black thinned with water. The painting seems to portray an integrated light phenomenon and a believable space.

Now, take a look at this landscape:

Alright, I know I'm overstating the case, but I want you to see what the danger is in being a profligate colorist.

For homework, choose a set of primaries that appeals to you; one only of red, yellow and blue. Make a simple version of a color photo or a live scene, in which all the colors are made by mixing the three primaries you chose. here are a couple of potential images:

There will; be compromises in this process - some colors will not be possible to duplicate - but have faith. The result will be an overall cohesiveness that cannot be achieved with an extended palette. Have fun.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Beginning Watercolor Homework 9/18/13 Wet on Wet Sky

Let's review the steps for the soft-edged, cloudy sky we practiced today. First, wet the paper. Very wet, but not quite dripping. No puddles.
Paint the warm body color. Don't wash the brush.
Add color to the brush to make the first layer of shadows. Again, no need to wash the brush.
Add more color to make a slightly darker gray for the second layer of shadows.
Wash and partly dry the brush. Mix up a blue, and paint around the cloud shapes, leaving some white on their tops, but letting the blue touch the gray along their lower edges. Before you launch into applying the blue, make sure the brush is not too wet, and the paper is not too dry.

 If you skip the warm first layer and just go for white clouds, you could paint the blue first, around where the clouds will be. Then you could just add color to the brush (and no water) to make the gray shadows, then more color to make the darker gray. That way you would not risk having the brush wetter than the paper. The downside of this sequence is that you have to "color in" specific shapes when you apply the grays. Try it both ways.

Make up your own sequence of colors to make a more subtle sky, or a more dramatic one. Whatever you invent, try to keep all the edges soft. It's actually the soft edges we're practicing, more than the clouds. have fun.

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 9/18/13 The middle value wash

In class today we began a study of a new image with a middle value wash that stood in for everything except the lightest lights and the darkest darks. The lights were left white and the darks were added later as a second layer of black.

Now, start as before, by making an overall mid-value shape, with the lights reserved as white shapes. This time, though, allow the middle value area to be more subtle and complex. While the wash is still wet, make graded transitions from middle toward dark (but save the very darkest darks for a second layer).  Add color, if you like, such as the pink and yellow and green in the bottom image here. Finally, apply the darkest darks, like the doors and the tire in the top image, below. Use one of these photos, or one of your own.

In all three of the above images, the darks are mostly distinct, hard-edged shapes. They give final definition to the middle value shapes and the lights. The pink and green in the bottom image, for example, could have been applied very casually, and the darks would clarify their identities and locations.