Monday, March 16, 2020

Intermediate Homework 3/15/20 Reading the Layers

The standard approach to making a watercolor goes by many names, such as, "wash and stroke", or , "wet to dry", but the common denominator is that most paintings progress from general statements to specifics. Here are a couple of finished paintings that were created mainly as a succession of layers beginning with pale, soft edges and becoming harder and darker;

Trevor Chamberlain

Can you imagine what the first layer looked like by itself? When did the soft-edged grey shapes become trees?

Trevor Chamberlain

The tree in the middle distance, although it is treated as a single shape, is more complex than those in the background. It displays a few specific marks (branches and openings).

In the following paintings the layers remain visible as successively darker and hard edged;

Torgier Schjolberg

Torgier Schjolberg

Light, middle, dark. Some images may require more than three layers.
Please make a simple, three or four layer painting from one of the photos, below, or try copying one of those, above. You may want to desaturate the image to more plainly see the layers.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Thinking Abstractly to Keep Your Realism Fresh

This dramatic sky wanted to be painted! It's a little intimidating, though, with all that activity in the sky. Rather than try to duplicate that complex array of marks, I'll look for guidelines that will lead toward an interpretation that feels similar. 
The warm wash across the upper sky portion seems simple enough, but the array of grey brushstrokes requires some analysis. It helps me to ask a few questions the answers to which provide guidelines for approaching the subject in a general way.

What proportion of the sky will become grey?
60%, roughly.

How are the grey strokes distributed?
The majority of the marks are spread across the center of the top half of the page, extending from one side to the other, running right off the page. Mostly clumped together, with a couple apart from the group. Only one or two strokes touch the top of the big shape.

What kind of marks are they? (organic? geometrical? Horizontal? Vertical? Hard? Soft?) 
Soft-edged but still distinct, roughly horizontal, irregular and varied.

The answers to these questions are abstract, in that they don't refer to content at all. Theoretically, following them will lead to a passage that reads as a tumultuous sky. It should be possible to turn your back on the scene (or turn the photo over) and still make a convincing version without mentioning the words "sky" or" cloud". Thinking abstractly eliminates the profusion of associations that come along with naming content. 

This approach is basically an act of faith. It requires letting go of the usual process where we keep checking to see if we've made sure the viewer will know what they're looking at. The viewers may be hypothetical, but they still deserve respect! Trust that they'll be willing and able to make sense of what you offer, and that they'll appreciate the opportunity to participate in the interpretation. 

The following images might seem more approachable if you observe them as pure form and leave content at the door:

Beginning Watercolor 3/5: Essential and Optional

How do you know what has to be in the picture and what can be excluded? Take a look at the pictures, below. As painting subjects, do you feel more attracted to one than the others? Can you tell what it is that appeals to you? What gives the picture its uniqueness? What would you not want to change?
Go down the list to see what jumps out as the important thing;
Value, color, edge quality, composition.
It's perfectly OK to be drawn to an image because it looks relatively easy, by the way.

Value and color


Shape first, then texture, if necessary


Let's use this industrial cityscape as an example.

 I like that the sky and the water are soft-edged, while all the man-made stuff is hard edged (EDGE QUALITY). I also think it would be fun to mix several neutrals, some warm and some cool, and use them in all three areas of the scene (COLOR). I see the strips of docks, containers and skyline as opportunities to combine adjacent shapes (COMPOSITION). As is so often the case, I'll want to get the (VALUES) in the ballpark.

Identify the major shapes and make a  simple pencil outline. 
Decide whether and where to wet the paper. 
Block in the lights.
Take a little more care with the middle values.
Place the dark strokes. Remember, the best way to find out if something belongs in the painting is to leave it out.
Stand back. You're done.