Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Beginning Watercolor, 2/1/17

Most of the visual information we perceive in a subject does not need to be included in a painting. A big part of the artist's job is to identify what is essential and what is optional. Which elements of your subject describe its fundamental nature?

Choose a simple object, like an apple or a persimmon, a milk jug, a glass of water - something that will not require fastidious drawing.

Set up the light source so that there is a clear and simple shadow pattern. Including a cast shadow is a good idea.

Paint a monochrome version first, emphasizing the darkest darks and the lightest lights. Leave out most of the subtle middle values to find out how important they really are.

Paint several versions in color, with an eye toward discovering which features do the real work of defining the subject. Let go of accuracy as you learn what matters.

When you feel that you have a good sense of which strokes and washes tell the story, put away the actual object and the studies, and paint one or two from memory. Now that you have answered the basic question, you are free to give all your attention to laying down some juicy paint!

Comments are welcome, by the way.

Silver Cup                   Lars Lerin


  1. Working on apples, which, thus far, resemble other fruits. Had trouble establishing an unambiguous light source to create distinct cast shadows. Apple-ness is simple to deconstruct, more complex to execute. They are not strictly round, having five or six or so bumps as shoulders and "feet" which create irregular shine. They are also quite varied in color, which influences my perception of Shadows. I think I'm being "dishonest" in interpreting my perception of relative monochrome shades, and will need to look at an unsaturated digital image for a reality check!

    1. One reason to aim for a loose and fluid interpretation of an apple is that the paint, when it has plenty room to flow, will create its own subtleties, making it unnecessary to duplicate the actual bumps and transitions. I like the term "dishonest"as a description of the process of translating an apple into paint. It reminds me that, as artists, we must lie, cheat and steal to get paint to stand in for reality. Dishonest in a good way. Art is short for artifice.