Thursday, January 25, 2018

Beginning Watercolor Homework 9/20/18 Painting Skies as an Edge Quality Lab

A good first step here would be to make a list of the wetness problems that showed themselves in class yesterday. This works best when you are willing to take responsibility for both the successes and the failures. Saying, "The paper got too dry, so all the marks I made after that had hard edges" sounds like a form of pleading, "not guilty!" The fact is, it's all your job.
Generally speaking, wetness issues involve the relative wetness of the brush compared to the paper. When the paper is wet but the brush is wetter, blooms are likely. When the paper is dry all your strokes will have hard edges.

Nothing in nature looks more like a brushstroke than a cloud, but not every brushstroke looks cloud-like. Re-working your clouds to make them "better" usually accomplishes just the opposite. The sky is such a varied subject almost anything will work, as long as it looks like it happened by itself. Clarity and transparency. Weightlessness and insubstantiality. These are the qualities of a flawless watercolor sky.

For homework, please make as many sky studies as you have time for. Vary the colors, the values, the sizes, the edges. Let some of your shapes go off the page and some float inside the rectangle of paper. Experiment, don't correct. Work on wet paper and dry. Try wetting random portions of the page. Make some so wet the paint flows downhill when you tip the paper. You might put a strip of land along the bottom of the page to see how the sky fits into the big picture.

You can copy these, find your own, paint out the window or invent the cloudscape entirely. Have fun. Bring in everything!

Image result for clouds

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 1/25/18 Designing a Study to Meet Your Needs

Before you begin painting a new subject it's a good idea to check and see if you're really ready. I'm always eager to get started, so even if I remember to ask myself if anything looks tricky I tend to gloss over any uncertainty and dive right in. Fast-forward one hour and there's now another half confident, half hesitant would-be masterpiece to add to the pile. I know I can learn a lot from failures, but it's a shame to spend all that time finding out how not to do it. It makes more sense to first spend ten to twenty minutes making a small study that is designed to answer your specific questions.
Simply articulating your questions often focuses your attention well enough to reveal a good answer without even making a paint and paper study.

When a question remains unanswered see if you can identify which variable is involved. In the picture below there are not very many major shapes, but some have more than enough texture to give me pause. Those light green shapes on either side of the path comprise way too many individual leaves and blades of grass to keep me interested. I'd like to simplify them considerably. "Too many shapes" sounds like a composition problem, but this looks more like it's about specificity. How can I make a more general statement in those areas? I'll go down the list. I've already decided that the COMPOSITION is simple enough. There are not too many big shapes, so moving them around or combining them won't solve anything. It's the tiny shapes within the big ones that look like trouble.

I think the COLOR is fine as it is. Besides, changing the colors won't eliminate any detail.

Bingo! I can make as many blades of grass and leaves as I please. As long as they have soft edges they will feel like part of a single larger shape.

Let's try another image:

Here's one with a definite foreground, middle ground, background composition, which should be fun, except the upper left middleground is trying to push forward into the foreground. What is it about that area that makes it so assertive? Let's zoom in...

Going down the list to find the culprit in the sand dune picture never got to the fourth variable, VALUE . Be sure to include that one when you analyze this scene. 
Start by stating the question you want to answer as simply as possible. Then, see if a possible solution arises from your inquiry. If so, onward you go! If not, go down the list.
If you can picture the changes you want to make, and you're confident that they will solve the problem, you may not need to make an actual study. If you're not sure you've got the answer, get a small piece of paper and try out your idea. Remember, a study is not meant to be frameable. Keep it very simple and quick.

For homework, choose an image, then ask yourself, "What looks tricky?"

Write down your observations in the form of a question that might begin with, "How can I...?", or, "What can I adjust...?"

Write down what your analysis reveals.

Design a study that will provide the answer to any questions that linger.

Paint the study.

The assumption here is that it's OK to deliberately diverge from accuracy. Are you onboard with this? Personally, I think that's our job. There's a reason we call it "art", as in artifice.

Have fun! 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 1/17/18 Looking at the similarities rather than the differences

In class, we began our observation of a fairly complex subject (the jar full of brushes) by looking at it as a single shape. It turned out to be relatively easy to add a bit of color and a few darks to the middle value silhouettes we made and bring forth a decent representation of what could have been quite daunting.

Let's try that same approach with either the image you were using in class or one of the following:

 Paint the overall shape before you start counting individual boards. Chances are you won't need to put them all in.

Squint! See those buildings in the distance on the left? they are trying to be one shape. The lines of parked vehicles are also on the brink of being single shapes.

How many shapes comprise the shady side of the street? Hint: Point at the ceiling and look at your hand.

First, paint the pile, then the logs.

Beginning Watercolor Homework 1/18 Creating an illusion of space

In class we generated a short list of variables that can be adjusted to enhance the sense of one shape being in front of another.

Composition seemed to top the list, since overlapping shapes is such a powerful way to represent one being nearer than another.

Value is a relatively easy variable to adjust in order to create a significant difference between adjacent shapes. Remember that the range of values you use in one shape compared to another suggests its position within the illusory space. If a shape is made of a wide range of darks and lights it appears closer than one made of mostly middle values.

Color differences between shapes are also easy to create, and serve as a very effective way to make a convincing illusion of depth. The prevailing wisdom is that ( relatively) warm colors seem to advance and cool colors recede.

Edge quality may require more technical prowess than the other variables. Hard edges separate shapes while soft edges tend to connect them.

In the photo above, look at the figure on the left. The diagonal shadow above him seems to be perched right on his head. What might you change to make clearer where the figure and the shadow are relative to each other? Remember, it may take more than one variable to do the job.

Here I find the roof to be a distraction. I'd like to diminish its influence on the space. Could it be pushed farther back, or somehow made less assertive?

There are a couple of problems with this photo, above. The shadows on the building to the right are so black they look like holes in the wall, especially the one on top. I also want to untangle the telephone pole from the stuff behind it. While you're at it, could you turn down the dials on the whole group of buildings back beyond that car?

For homework, please take on one of these images and make a study to try out whatever adjustments occur to you. A study is meant to provide the answers to any lingering questions. It is not a painting, and it doesn't have to be a handsome product to do its job well. If your ideas are revealed to be less than satisfactory, then the study has succeeded in providing information that you need.

Have fun