Thursday, November 12, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 11/12/20, Too Fast to be Fussy


There's a wonderful kind of warm-up painting called "the 5 minute study", or sometimes "the 10 minute study", or the 2 minute study', depending on how strict your teacher is. However many minutes are allowed, the idea is to make the painting so quick you don't have time to paint in any detail.
I like it because it reveals how good we already are at zeroing in on the essential information and letting go of the optional.

So, dig out the timer from the potholder drawer, set it for a few minutes and paint! You can work in monochrome, or full palette. No need to let the study dry between layers. Squint! 

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 11/12/20, Which Edges Should be Soft and Which Hard?

 The images below display a mix of hard and soft edges. This exercise will produce a device that helps you decide where you want the specificity that hard edges provide and where you prefer the generality of soft edges. The concept is simple; paint a version of one of the selected images using only soft edges.

When the painting is dry you can look for places where you really want hard edges. Be conservative, choosing the places that you feel most require hard edges. Paint the hard-edged shapes right over the initial soft ones. stop after each hard edge and stand back a little, to get some distance on the big picture. Just because a shape has hard edges in the photo doesn't mean the painting needs them, too.

You may have to wet both sides of your paper to get it to stay wet longer.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 11/5/20 Trees, Green and Otherwise

 Before all the leaves are gone let's shine the spotlight on trees for a while. If you have a tree view by all means paint from life. Working from photos is also fine, as well as copying other painters. Here's a bunch of images to get you started

david taylor


Tom H

Andy Evansen


Beginning Homework 11/5/20 While the Paper is Still Wet...

 Large sections of these two landscapes were painted just after the initial wash was applied , while the paper was still wet. 

Zooming in on the one with the fence, we can see some of what was done while the paper was still wet. The blue hill  has a hard edge where it meets the sky, and a soft edge where it meets the yellow.

 Look at the edges of the clouds; some are hard and some are soft.

In both paintings there is a casual feeling regarding edges. In the one directly above you can tell that it wasn't essential for the trees to all be hard-edged or soft. A mix of edges was considered acceptable.

In the backyard painting, above, it seemed important to keep most of the edges hard. Since light and shadow is the main subject, there should be no uncertainty about whether any given shape is sunlit . Keeping the shapes separated with hard edges helps support the illusion of strong light.

Choose one of the photos below and take your time deciding which edges you want to keep hard and which soft. Plan how you'll bring this about.

Remember you can keep the paper wet longer by using lots of water in the initial wash, and you can keep your shapes from feathering too much by using thick paint for the secondary wet into wet strokes.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 10/29 /20 Planning the Sequence of Layers

 Watercolors often look like they happened effortlessly, at least the good ones do. but the truth is there is usually quite a bit of thought that makes that fresh, clear fluidity possible. 

Here's an image that displays a simple sequence of layers that progress from light to dark in an obvious order. The sky is lighter than everything else. It can be painted first, with the confidence that comes from knowing that each successive layer can be laid almost completely on top of the previous ones. Can you see what comes directly after the sky? We''re looking for a shape that is darker than the sky, but lighter than everything else. The tall grass looks like a candidate. It's darker than the sky and lighter than the hills and the barn. And so it goes, each successive shape is darker than the previous ones. The only place part of an earlier layer needs to be saved is that open barn window through which we can see a hill and some of the sky. Not every scene translates this easily into a simple sequence. Most of the time we need to ponder where some of each layer will be reserved and remember to strategize where, when and how that should happen.


                       This image requires a little more of a strategy for reserving the lightest part. It also has subtle soft edges that seem to be an important part of the mood of the scene. Good luck!

For homework, choose an image and make a plan. Then paint.

This one will work, or you can use one of the following:




Intermediate Watercolor, 10/29/20 Symbolic Realism

There is a grand arena in which many marvelous artists find room to invent their own  interpretation of the real world.  Painters such as Matisse and Braque simplified their versions of bushes and birds by identifying the essential components and leaving out the optional.

                                                                         Henri Matisse   


                                                                         Georges Braque

Charles Burchfield

Jill McElmurry



                                                                                 George Post

These are definitely realist paintings in some ways. We can recognize their subject matter even though it is more symbolic than descriptive. It seems fair to say that the artists want the viewer to be able to identify what is being interpreted, but rather than simply observe and duplicate the subject  they devise a symbol based on the essence of the content.
An emphasis is put on abstract elements, such as shape and color, by distilling the subject down to a simple but unmistakeable form. In context, MclEmurry's sage brush is easy to recognize, even though she is not describing specific individuals.

Here are a couple of images to experiment with:

                                 These clouds are a candidate for a symbolic treatment

Masses of green and gold supported by big dark vertical strokes

Feel free to use parts of these photos. You can combine the sky of one with the trees of another.

If you choose to use tour own images please send them along with your paintings.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 10/22/20 Dealing with Large Darks

 The little shop in Melaque with the blue and white striped awning offers a great opportunity to fill the large, dark doorways with interpretations of the kind of shapes and colors we see there. We are fortunate to get to study several examples of how all the merchandise can be suggested; Bags of chips, cold drinks, fresh fruit, stuffed animals? For some of us, it's sufficient to make reference to the content of the shop without taking pains to identify each item. Others take pleasure in the process of making sure the viewers know what they're looking at. 

Here are a couple more images that present the same kind of opportunity. Experiment with wet on wet, negative painting, lifting and combinations thereof.Either way, a large part of the task involves using the deep dark spaces to contain the spritely array of forms. If they just look flat black to you,  invent some way to animate the large darks.

Let's keep the submissions to the critique down to one each, and post the others in the ...what's it called; crunchy? Crusty? The photo sharing site.

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 10/22/20 Light, Middle, Dark, 3 Layers Say it All (almost)

Find an image that has a wide range of values . Use one of your owm or one of those that follow

Reduce your scene or photo to three values. Desinate each shape as either white, middle or dark. Work in monochrome, with a color that can get dark enough to represent black (Violet, Pthalo green or blue, Indanthrone blue, Burnt Umber),

Starting with a middle value, paint everything except the very light shapes, which will stay white. You may have to round areas up or down and commit to calling them either white or middle.
Next, paint all the strong darks fully dark
That’s all. Take note of where you want more subtlety . In the scene below, for example, the wall facing the viewer really wants two values to keep the door from getting lost in the dark. Don't skip the assessment, it's the most important part!

Now expand your palette and paint a picture, using what the study taught you.

Vecinos, Oaxaca

Let the adjacent shapes that are close in value merge into one another. There are numerous people but only one crowd. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 10/16,

In class on Wednesday most of us had more work to do on the Melaque street scene or the barn and mountains scene. Please send them in when they're done.

Here are various landscapes that emphasize form rather than content. Some are paintings and the rest photos that lend themselves to displaying shapes and edges. See if something stirs you about them. Hopefully, you'll feel like painting, and letting the paint have some room to surprise us.

                                 Laurie Wigham


Beginning Watercolor, 10/16, Seeing in layers


Can you imagine painting this scene as a series of layers that progress from light to dark? The lightest area is the sun, just about to disappear below the horizon. Let's call that white. The next lightest area is the open sky. It's the part that's yellow, darker than the sun, but lighter than the clouds. So, we have sun, sky, then clouds. Then comes the ground plane, which is darker than the clouds but lighter than the trees and phone poles. Got it? Sun, sky, clouds, ground, trees. 

Each layer could be an overall wash, covering the whole page except the parts of the previous layers that you want to save.  Here's the image with the color removed. This might make it easier to see the relative values:

Here's another image that behaves well as a series of layers. Choose one of these two and make a monchrome value study, that is, a simple version of the scene painted with only one color. Let the study dry between layers so your edges are all hard.

Feel free to round  up or down so you don't end up with too many values. You should have no more than five for these studies; white, light grey, middle grey, dark grey and black.  Use a color straight from the tube, no mixing. We're trying to focus on value, so we'll ignore color and edges.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Beginning Watercolor Homework, 10/8/20 Shadows and edges

 First, let's look at some shadows with an eye toward color. The shadows of the poplars in this scene are green, for sure, but not the same green as the grass upon which they fall. They're considerably darker and less yellow. Is it fair to say that the shadows are darker and cooler than the local color? Is this always true? What about the shadow on the white barn, is it cooler and darker than the local color of the barn? Yes and no. It is darker, and it is bluer, but take a look at the eave of the other white building in back of the barn. It's much warmer than the barn in shadow, even though it faces the same direction. How can we explain that? Sometimes reflected light can affect the color of a shadow. In this case, warm sunlight bounces off the roof of the barn and tints the eave a warm gold. 

The shadows in a niche on the facade of the Basilica of Soledad in Oaxaca City, Mexico are complex. While they are all darker than the sunlit areas, some are much darker than others, and some are cooler than others.  Do you see any consistent features of the value and the color temperature? What accounts for the changes? How important would it be to render these subtle variations correctly?

These shadows differ from each other more obviously than those on La Soledad. The shadows on the green dome are green, while those on the ocher doorway are ocher, and the ones on the pink walls are pink. In each case the shadows are darker. Are they also cooler? More neutral? Does it matter? What if you painted them all ultramarine?

How about the edge quality of these shadows? Some, like the sidewalk in the street scene are definitely hard-edged. Others, like the one on the dome, are soft. 

Experiment with potential techniques for creating hard and soft edges like these. When you feel ready, try putting them in a simplified version of  one of the preceding scenes, or one of the following.