Thursday, April 26, 2018

Intermediate Homework 4/26/18 Who's in Charge?

You are in charge. Don't let the photograph boss you around! You can change anything that doesn't support your interpretation of the image.
The photo below has a moody feeling that would be enhanced by softening some of the edges. What if everything farther back than where the two story buildings begin were soft-edged? And maybe lose that transformer (but keep the telephone pole).

Here's another photo that could use some adjustment. 

Too much information! I like the dark light pattern, but all those windows make me tired. It looks more paintable when I squint. Or, what if I crop it and zoom in a little? I think I'll un-paint that fence, too:

Give one of these a try, or, better yet, use an image of your own and bring in the original so we can see the changes you decided to make.

Monochrome Value Study and Value Scale 4/26/18

Begin by making a value scale. A strip of 140# watercolor paper about 3" x 8" will work well.

1) Paint the whole strip #9 (the lightest grey), except for a patch left white at one end.

2) Let the strip dry, then paint the whole thing #8, except for a patch of #9 and white.

3) Let it dry, then paint the whole thing #7, except for the patches of #8, #9 and white.

4) Continue getting darker by increments, always leaving a patch of the previous layer. It's OK if the steps are not perfectly even,  as long as each one is darker than the last.

Don't leave white between your patches.

Five Value Monochrome Study
Here's a n example of the process for making a quick  5 value monochrome study. With a hair dryer handy, you should be able to  make one in fewer than twenty minutes, once you get done reading all this text, that is. The process is very similar to making a value scale.

What role does value play in the relationships between the big shapes?
As a first treatment of a new subject, it would be hard to find a better exercise than a value study. Understanding the dark/light relationships between the big shapes in your composition is an essential step to making a painting that is cohesive. A five-value version  (white, light grey, middle grey, dark grey, black) can be done quite quickly over a simple drawing of the big shapes. It also provides good practice for seeing in layers. 
Look for an image that resolves nicely into just a few shapes - no more than a dozen.  The major shapes are those that must appear separated in order to understand where things are in the illusory space. You can use one of these photos or one of your own. Please read this entire post first. The step-by-step example (below) will help you know how to proceed.

Choose a color (just one) straight from the tube, that can get dark enough to represent black. If you have a tube of black, by all means use that. It’s better not to make a color by mixing, since that introduces another variable. This exercise is designed to focus on value only. Similarly, all paint should be applied to dry paper, to keep wetness from distracting your attention from value.
If you are tempted to get fussy about edge quality, or texture, or any kind of detail, remember, this is NOT A PAINTING, and it is supposed to be too simple. A door may be important, but the doorknob probably isn’t. I have seen some so-called value studies that are, in fact, very carefully observed monochrome paintings. They may be quite beautiful, but as tools designed to reveal the essential elements of the scene, they are not very useful. The best way to find out if something needs to be in the picture is to leave it out.
After each step, while you’re waiting for the paper to dry, assess how complete the illusion of light and space and substance feels.

Light is an important component of this image. Isolating the variable of Value should reveal the role it plays in creating the illusion of sun and shadow.


In your drawing of the big shapes, try to keep the number down to ten, or fewer. The profile of each shape is all you need to draw. The idea is to locate the shapes, not to describe them.

Starting with the light grey, paint the entire page, except for any shapes that need to stay white.
Is there a feeling of light in the study? What about space? Substance?

 When that layer is dry, paint the whole page middle grey, except for the lights and the whites. If you can’t decide whether a shape should be light or middle, round it off one way or the other. The finished study will reveal whether you made the right choice.
Again assess the state of the illusion: Light? Space? Substance?

· When layer two is dry, apply the dark grey over everything except the middle, light and white shapes. Now that the background figure has a dark grey layer, and the section of wall behind him does not, notice how effectively the two separate, compared to the previous stage.

Finally, paint in the darkest darks.
The role of the darkest darks in creating an illusion of light, space and substance is clear even in a radically over-simplified image.

Where do I need more subtlety or specificity?
When the value study is finished, it can be compared to the source image or the scene to see where adjustments need to be made. Having come way over into the realm of too little information, we now have a basis for judging how much more needs to be included.  Don’t skip this step.  A study, as the name implies, is a learning tool. Your painting process will be more efficient and your paintings more cohesive if you extract all the lessons you can from your preliminary work.
In the photo, the two mounds of dirt are so similar in color and value it seemed sensible to treat them as a single shape. But the study reveals that it would be better to separate them, making it clearer that the one on the right is in front. It is also clear that the mound on the left does not separate sufficiently from the wall in the background. It looks ok where there is a shadow behind it, but where the wall is sunlit only the pencil line separates the two shapes. Perhaps lightening the left mound a little could solve both of these problems. Five values, in this case, are not quite enough. This is an example of the need for more subtlety.
The little raised frame beside the doorway that catches the sun is a fine feature  of the photo that I miss. It does an important job, describing the light. It is a bit of specific information that will add significantly to the picture without becoming a distraction.
It is surprisingly easy to see what is missing and what needs to be changed when the image has been over-simplified. If I had made a complex first attempt it would be difficult to know which of the (too) many elements were not necessary.

Friday, April 20, 2018

BeginningWatercolor 4/19/18 Seeing in layers

Here's a watercolor from around 1965 by George Post. Because he uses only hard edges it is not difficult to see each of his shapes as a series of layers. Look at the dock in the foreground. Before the middle value shadow and the dark lines between planks were applied the whole shape was given a light layer of a warm neutral. Light first, then middle, then dark. Three layers. 
How many layers do you see in the water? What about the red buildings?
Image result for george post

Shape by shape, Post's paintings resolve neatly into a sequence of layers that proceed from light to dark and from general to specific. Here's another by the same artist:

Here's a portrait by Mary Whyte:

It's not as easy to see the layers when colors are blended on the paper. Shapes grade from one value to another with soft edges in between. Here's another Mary Whyte painting done more quickly:

Here the different values are easier to locate. The hair, for example, displays white, light gray, dark gray and black.

For homework, translate one of the following photos into a three layer watercolor. Some areas may only require two layers, others may need four. You may find it helpful to work with mostly hard edges, in the George Post style. Have fun

Intermediate Watercolor 4/19/18 Deciding what's hard and what's soft

In class this week we worked on increasing awareness of what kind of edges best suit our purpose. Since it is easier to add hard edges than to soften them after they dry, let's begin with all soft edges and add hard ones as needed in the later stages of the painting, as Trevor Chamberlain did in the painting below.

Look closely at the big tree in the mid-ground. It began as a large gold shape applied to a wet sky. While it was still wet violet and darker gold were added. After that had dried Trevor made a few hard-edged strokes for branches and massed foliage, leaving most of the tree soft. To give emphasis to the glowing sunrise atmosphere he made the background extremely soft, so that we would see light rather than objects. In the foreground a range of edges fills the space with bushes and fence posts, just distinct enough to have substance.
On a piece of good paper, practice duplicating the array of edges maestro Chamberlain chose to use. Then make a copy of the painting. The original, by the way, is 7 1/2 x 10".

Here are a couple of photos that display a range of edge qualities. If you have time, try translating one into watercolor. Feel free to change the edges to better suit your interpretation.

What if the foreground figures and the awning were hard-edged, and the sunlit shops across the street were all soft? 

Will you make the coco palms hard, soft or both? Will you count how many there are?