Saturday, October 26, 2013

Intermediate Homework 10/26/13 The important thing

Please see the homework assignment for intermediate watercolor from 10/20/2011, called "The Important Thing".

Beginning Watercolor Homework 10/25/13 Layers

If you haven't already found something in the archives that interests you, please try the beginning watercolor assignment from  10/20/2011, on Shadows.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Beginning Watercolor Homework 10/16/13 Seeing in Layers

When you can see a subject as a series of layers, the job of translating it into paint is mostly done. Remember that in addition to progressing from light to dark, a watercolor also goes from general to specific. The apples we painted in class, for example, started out as a simple rounded shape.
For homework, find a relatively simple object in your home. A seashell would be fine, or a teapot. A bicycle probably would not be a great choice. Something that can be seen as just one or two shapes is good for this project.

Start by asking, "Is there a way I can paint the whole shape with an overall wash that can underlie everything that will come later?" This will usually be the lightest, most general layer.

Mix up more than enough paint to make the first layer, but before you apply it, ask, "Is there anything I need to reserve?" If there are shapes to save as white paper, draw them in pencil and paint around them.

Make the first layer, then do the same thing on two additional pieces of paper. One of the three will not get any more layers. We are aiming to have a step-by-step display when the project is finished, one painting of just the first layer, another of the first and second layers, and a third of all three layers.

Now look for the middle value strokes that can be applied on top of the first layer. You may want to put them down while the first layer is still wet. Leave one of your first layer pages as it is. That will be the step one illustration. Apply the second layer on the other two.

Now look for any dark strokes that should go on top of the lights and middle values. Paint them onto one of the two layer pages. You should now have three pages that together illustrate your three-layer process.

Bring all three pages in to put up on the homework wall.

Intermediate Watercolor 10/16/13 What Looks Tricky?

Whenever you take on a new scene or image as a painting subject, it's a very good idea to consider what might pose a problem for you. Wherever you are in your skill development, you can tell in your gut what will translate gracefully and what will require some practice. The hard part is remembering to take a little time to assess your readiness.

In this picture, for example, I can foresee some trouble getting the mass of green that surrounds the sheep to be a smooth, clean wash. With all the care I might choose to take painting around the sheep I could end up with streaky, overlapping brushstrokes. This is the kind of problem I could easily overlook, though, since the grass is not the real subject of the scene. My attention goes right to the sheep, so I'd probably consider how to paint them first. If I feel confident about translating them into layers, I'd think, "OK, I'm ready to paint". Then, when I got to the grass, I'd discover too late that I was not as confident about that part.
Five minutes is plenty of time to devote to an honest assessment of what may be tricky for you, and to devise a study that will give you the answers and the practice that you need. If you are concerned about  undoing your precious spontaneity, you needn't be. A little practice will not turn the process into a dry, cerebral activity.  As soon as you make a stroke on a new sheet of paper the juices will start to flow. The only difference is that you'll be more confident, and won't have to shift gears for the tricky bit.
By the way, if you paint this picture, consider moving that fence post.

Here are a couple of images to think about. Write down what your unanswered question was, and how you chose to look for an answer.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Intermediate Watercolor 10/10/13 A Spirit of Inqiury

This scene has an irresistible combination of light, middle and dark shapes, spiraling inward toward the center. If you take some time to ask questions about which layer does what, you may gain a sense of confidence about how to go about turning it into a painting.
For example, “When do the shapes get their final definition?”

“Where do I need hard edges?”

“Can I afford to treat the lights very loosely?”

“How many layers will I need to do justice to the image?”

I’d love to see 15 versions (one from each of you, that is) of this same photo on the wall next Wednesday. Please bring all your studies, as well as any masterpieces that happen to occur.

Beginning Watercolor 10/10/13 Adjusting variables to separate the major shapes

In this photo from Oaxaca, two of the workers are in a shadow and two are in sunlight. The two in front separate from the background more obviously. If you were painting the scene, which variables would you adjust to show the difference? What if you wanted to exaggerate it? What could you do, then?

How much does the illusion of space in this image depend on edge quality working to separate the major shapes? Do you think it would be possible to make a reasonable version of this scene with no hard edges? Would there still be a feeling of space?

To practice making conscious choices about value, color, composition and wetness as tools for separating shapes in space, make a few quick studies where you adjust the variables differently.  Be prepared to describe what you chose to do.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 10/2/13 Advance Information

Before you begin painting a new subject, you can often gather useful information by addressing questions to the scene itself. You can sometimes tell, for example, at which stage in the sequence of layers the major elements of the image will take on their final definition.

In this image, the inside of the arched doorway is so much darker than the sunlit wall, you can be confident that the architecture will take on solid form only when the darks go down. This means that the earlier light and middle value layers can be applied casually, and still become meaningful later in the process.
In class we made studies of several images by painting only the pattern of the darks, leaving everything else white. when we assessed the results, much was revealed about the role the darks played in supplying the narrative content and in establishing a convincing illusion of light and space.

Now look at a new image, such as the ones below, and see what you can tell before you make any studies. Are the darks likely to make carefree work possible in the early stages? Do the middle values play an essential role in creating the feeling of depth in the scene? Which elements of the composition must be carefully rendered, and which can be handled loosely? Write down your predictions.

Then make studies that will provide answers to your questions. You might make a darks only version, or one where the middle value shapes and the whites they surround are the only forms. What did you learn? make notes on your studies, and bring them in to class.

Beginning Watercolor Homework 10/2/13 Implying complexity with soft-edged marks

Strokes and shapes that have hard edges stand apart from their surroundings. They call attention to themselves as separate entities. A painting full of such insistent marks can be difficult to take in as a whole. The viewer's eye has no place to rest.
If the clamor of too many noisy bits comes about from your desire to portray the complexity of part of the subject, consider first painting it as a single entity - a forest rather than many individual trees, or a crowd rather than lots of separate people. Start by looking for what the components of the collection have in common. Combine them into one shape with a wash of a "common denominator" color. Make the wash wet enough to stay wet while you add strokes to represent the units that make up the collective shape. Use thicker paint for these strokes than you used for the overall wash. The marks will stay where you put them but their edges will soften. Add subsequent layers of these soft-edged marks, introducing more colors and getting darker as you proceed. The idea here is that when the overall shape has a hard edge, but the shapes within it are soft, we will still see the main shape as one thing. The complexity is implied rather than specified.
As soon as you see a hard edge, STOP! Maybe you're done. At least consider the possibility. If you still feel the need for more complexity, you can wait for the painting to dry completely, re-wet it, and continue making soft-edged shapes.
here are a couple of images that have passages that could be treated this way. Look for adjacent shapes that could be combined. Do your best to keep the edges within the larger shape soft, unless you see the need for hard edges. Have fun.

You can also use one you worked on in class today, or find one of your own. It's not necessary to paint a full picture of the scene. Just practicing the wet-on-wet part would be fine, but stick with it until you become more confident.