Saturday, January 26, 2019

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 1/26/19 E Pluribus Unum

These rocks look like a challenging subject when you think of them as separate shapes. Let's start by combining all the components into a single shape by emphasizing what they have in common rather than how they are different.

If you ignore the darks and middle values, you can see that the whole wall of stone has a light gray first layer.

If you make your gray from a warm and a cool color you can adjust the initial wash with touches of  those components, creating a soft-edged pattern that begins to suggest facets.

While the initial wash is still wet, add the middle value rust stains and a few soft-edged shadows. Not too many. Better to err on the side of too little information. At this stage of the translation you can shift your attention from the photo to your study, asking whether you have done enough to tell the story rather than if you have duplicated the image.

All that remains are the hard-edged, dark mid-value shadows and the dark, skinny cracks. I have to be especially careful not to overdo these. They are so potent I want to make lots and lots of them, but remember Eliot O'Hara's advice about how many specific little dark marks are enough, "Fewer than half as many as you think". 

It is helpful to avoid surrounding individual rocks with dark outlines or hard edges, even if you see them in the photo. Let the wall continue to be a singular thing.

Make a few studies. When you are confident of your sequence of layers, try putting the rock in context.
Have fun

Beginning Homework 1/25/19 Shape first, then Texture

Take a long look at the image, below. 

What do you see first, texture or shapes?

Look at the green grass, for example. Does it register as a yellow green rectangle before you get lost in the rich variety of lights and darks?

To keep a painted version of the scene simple, it helps to start with the most general statement, in this case, a green rectangle. The texture of the long grass is of secondary importance. It would probably be best to keep all those swirling brushstrokes soft-edged, so they wouldn't get too busy and distracting.

In terms of technique, the overall green wash should be applied nice and wet, so it will stay wet long enough for you to add the texture without getting hard edges. As long as your strokes are soft, you can make lots of them without overworking the area. The soft edges become part of the general statement, where hard edges would stand out as separate entities.

This would be a good passage to practice. You could make a couple of versions of just the grass, out of context. The mountain would also benefit from a wet into wet treatment. In both cases, try thinking of the initial wash as your whole water supply. You can make the second and third layers -  the middle values and the darks - by just adding more pigment to your brush, not more water. It can be hard to remember that you don't have to wash your brush before you darken what is on your brush. It helps to push your water bucket out of reach as soon as that first was has been applied.

Here are a few more images that present opportunities to look for shape first. When you are ready to apply some texture, you can proceed by increments, stopping often to assess whenever you have done enough.

Note that the barn roof shape has soft-edged texture - the rust stains - but it has a hard-edged profile. The same could be true of the dark trees, below.

Use good paper for these studies. The back of a failed painting works jus fine. You can fill a page with various attempts. These are studies, not paintings. 
Have fun

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Intermediate Homework 1/17/19 When to be Careful and When to be Carefree

When you are just beginning a watercolor the usual procedure is to block in the major shapes with the lightest tone that is present. At that stage, it is not necessary to make sure the viewer can tell what the subject matter is. Broad statements about color and value serve as underpainting for the more specific work that is yet to come. They are often nebulous and indistinct. 
In many cases the second layer, too, doesn't describe specific content, nor does it provide a context that might give the viewer at least a clue as to what's what. It can be disheartening to have laid down a couple of layers on your page and still not have much narrative content to show for the effort. Don't give up, though. Chances are your image is one where the shapes don't get their identity until the darks go down. 
With a little practice you will get in the habit of asking when the shapes become recognizable before you begin to paint. If you can see that the darks will do the work of bringing out the meaning of your strokes and washes, this is very good news. It means that you can be casual in the early stages of the painting, giving the paint room to flow. 
The following images are part of a new crop of photos, including some in which the final layer can be counted on to pull the whole painting together. To identify these, imagine what they would look like if you painted only the darkest darks. For homework, please choose one or two that you think will work and paint the pattern of strong darks by itself, just black shapes on white paper. Stand back and see if, in fact, the darks tell the story. If so, dry the study thoroughly and, in a carefree manner block in the middle values and the lights right on top of the darks.
Most likely, what you will see is that this is an image where what is usually done first could be done very loosely.
It might be a good idea to read this again before you start your homework. It asks you to work backwards.


Beginning Homework 1/17/19 Soft Edges

 A hard edge is a hard edge. There's no such thing as a slightly hard edge or an extremely hard edge.  If your paper is dry, the strokes you make will have hard edges.

Soft edges, however, can, indeed be slightly soft or extremely soft. How much the paint on your brush diffuses when it touches the wet paper is your choice

 How can you make edges that are just a little bit soft? Is it possible to make a stroke that is hard on the bottom and soft on top? How do you avoid blooms?

Consider the variables;

The wetness of the paper

The thickness of the paint on the brush

That's it. The entire range of edge quality possibilities is created by adjusting those two variables.

For homework, experiment with the relative wetness of the paper and the brush. You can use the photos and paintings below for your attempts to copy specific edges that interest you. It's not necessary to make complete paintings for this exercise. It would be fine to fill a page with unrelated experiments. Make notes on your practice paper so you will remember how you adjusted the wetness of the paper and the brush.


Have fun!