Thursday, January 25, 2018

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! 

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