Thursday, October 17, 2019

Beginning Watercolor 10/17/19 Seeing in layers

Being able to see the light, middle and dark layers through which your subject will progress takes you most of the way toward a graceful translation of reality into the language of watercolor. Not everyone paints the lights first and the darks last, but for our immediate purposes let's all work that way this week.

The first step, as usual, is to identify the major shapes. Roughly speaking, the "Major" shapes are those that need to be separated in order to understand where they are in the pictorial space.

In this scene, the "white" house is a major shape. It is below and in front of the sky, which is also a major shape. The house overlaps the telephone pole a tiny bit, but it's enough to tell us which shape is closer to us. The pole also reveals where the more elaborate house is in the illusory space. That humble pole turns out to be quite important. Everything in the scene can be located relative to it. 

it's the funky house that really interests me, though, first of all because it isn't white. It's a middle value warm neutral, that we call white because of what we know rather than what we see

Let's focus on the values of the major shapes. The sky is the lightest, for sure. The house is middle, or dark middle value, and everything else is dark.
 This scene was chosen because it unfolds nicely into two or three layers in each shape. There is nothing that needs to be reserved. You can simply apply each successive layer on top of the previous ones (OK, I see that little highlight on the red car. Shall we put it in?) 

Give this image a try, if you like, or choose one of the others, below. See if you can paint each major shape with a pale first layer. For each layer of each shape ask if there's anything that you need to paint around. 3 or 4 layers are usually enough to tell the story.
Have fun!


An unusual composition, with just about everything in the middle distance. Maybe you could make that into a single shape.

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