Thursday, August 19, 2021

Watercolor Homework 9/2/21 How Did You Color in Your Coloring Books


This photo has been desaturated. Since we're not at the scene, you are encouraged to color it in using any colors you please. What if you wanted to make a serene version? How about a lively palette? 

How do the colors you choose affect the mood you create? Try deliberately using colors that produce the feeling you want to display, rather than being hap hazard in your selections. See if you can think in color, mentally "coloring in" selections that give you Peacefulness, for example, or Anger. What color do you think the little building really is?
Make more than one version. Can you control the color/mood relationships?
Have fun!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

6/10/21 Everyone's Final Homework Exercise of the Term ; As You Like It


Traditionally, the final homework of a term is your choice, but a few folks have requested some particular images for inspiration. Maybe you would like to start with this photo, 

Or this close-up. I think I'd leave out the dead tree behind the madrona

 Here are a few studies of similar scenes painted in plein air. 
Perhaps you can put the photo and one of them together.

have fun


Thursday, June 3, 2021

Intermediate Homework 6/3/21 Neutrals Warm and Cool


Here are some images that feature neutral colored shapes. Comparing the shapes in terms of color temperature will reveal how warm or cool they are.

The deck, for example, is much warmer than the shingled wall, but cooler than the yellow bumper. 
Feel free to move things around.

This hay shed may not seem to involve neutrals at first, but if you tried copying it
you would see that with the exception of the tarp, everything in the picture involves all three primaries.

Subtle, i'd say. Watch out for texture. It wants to take over.

Beginning Homework 6/3/21 Do You Have a Plan?

 Here's an image that could progress very simply from light to dark and from general to specific. 

What should you do first? Then what? Is there anything you should do while the first layer is still wet? Is there anything that you should reserve? These are the kinds of questions you might need to answer in advance. 
Having at least a rough idea of the sequence of washes and strokes can make the painting process much simpler. For example, seeing this image for the first time you might be most attracted to the beautiful trees.
It could seem natural to paint them first, until you discover how tricky it is to paint what's in between them. 

Planning ahead needn't always be a complicated process. It can reveal a way to simplify a painting that at first seems very  complicated. Here's a scene that invites just a little planning. You might benefit greatly from a very simple road map:
Light, middle, dark. 

Have some fun with these. Maybe try painting one without a plan. Just dive in and see what happens.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

All Levels Homework 5/27/2021 Compared to What?

Is this barn warm or cool? Neither? Both?

It depends what we compare it to. When we see it juxtaposed against the grass it looks cool, but when it's next to the mountain it looks relatively warm. 

When you ask how light or dark a shape is the answer is always, "Compared to what?" The same goes for color temperature. How warm is this barn? Compared to what? It's warmer than the mountain, but cooler than the grass.

And yet, even though this old gray barn can change its temperature, it is still  a bit dull. It can be livened up by taking advantage of its complexity.

Since it has both warm and cool tendencies in this scene, why not mix a warm and a cool? Would you agree the barn has a dominant color? Blue, right? So start with blue, then add its compliment to neutralize it. You can allow the component colors to mix on the paper, leaving evidence of your process.

Notice how the barn boards leave the warm and cool components of  their neutral tones unmixed. This is an invitation to the viewer to mentally finish the job.

For homework, copy the painting or interpret the photo 

Friday, May 21, 2021

Beginning Watercolor Homework 5/21/21 Simplify!

If you have to choose between too much information and too little, go for too little. 

Here's a painting that uses no more than 3 layers in any given area to tell its story: Light, middle, dark.

And here's a photo that has the potential to do the same.


Leave out the detail. Please copy the painting or interpret the photo. Keep it simple.

Intermediate Homework, 5/21/21 Full Tilt

 Here are a few images that feature deep, heavily saturated paint. Many painters find them challenging, taking several layers to get the saturation rich enough. This exercise is an opportunity to practice getting it right on the first try.

Given that the paint will dry lighter than it appeared at first, it is logical to assume that you have to make it too  dark. Go ahead! Take the risk.

 If you can't see anything but black in large areas of one of these, feel free to invent the shapes and strokes that could be there. Maybe you can make them soft edged.

Don't be shy, now.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Intermediate Homewowk 5 / 12 / 21 Reading the Trees

 Now that we've spent some time looking at how some familiar artists paint trees the next step is to paint some of our own. First, let's determine what role the trees are playing in the big picture. 

These arboretum trees are meant to be decorative,

while this one plays a more practical role, providing shade beside a brick kiln.

The treatment you devise may be different one tree from another. Edges,value, composition, complexity may be manipulated to express the kind of presence the trees have in their particular context. 

For homework, please consider how you want to interpret these scenes. You may want to paint the same scene with different approaches. Never mind what George Post would do, what would you do?

Feel free to use the trees as a jumping off place. You are not obliged to make your interpretation accurate

Have fun

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Beginning Homework 5 / 11 / 21 Easy Layers

 Hi everyone. This homework is a couple of days early. It should be ready to bring to class on the 19th

Tom has asked me to fill in for him while he is in D.C. putting the finishing touches on his portrait commission for the senate chambers. Here's the work in progress:

Not bad, eh?

I am called the lazy watercolorist. You've heard Tom say that with watercolor, the easy way is the right way. He got that from me.

Today, I want to talk about layers. Once you see your subject as a series of layers, the work of planning is pretty much done. Light, middle, dark, right?

 First, look for the major shapes. For each one, block in the lightest color as an overall wash. Many painters wet the paper before applying the washes, letting them run together somewhat. This is the EASY way! Why struggle to get the shapes to stay inside the lines when most of the first layer will get painted over by the time you add the middles and the darks?

If a shape has shadows on it, paint the whole shape with the lightest layer. There's no need to leave a white place where the shadow will be. The shadow can be applied right on top of the local color, which is much EASIER than trying to match the edges of a white shape.

Look at the shadows in this scene. Each rock has at least one facet in shadow. Imagine leaving all those white and then coloring them in without overlapping or leaving any of the white showing. Way too hard for me. I'd rather treat the rock pile as a single shape, all painted the lightest beige, and then apply the shadows as a second layer, right on top of the first. Then, finally, the few deep darks on top of the shadows. On top, not adjacent. Got it?

It may seem logical to keep the shadows separate from the local color. They are different colors, after all. But, when you apply the second layer on top of the first, the transparency of the medium allows the light and the middle to work together to give a perfect illusion of sun and shade.

One more thing; look at the shadow on the red wall. You would have to paint that on top of the lighter first layer while the red local color was still wet. You couldn't get those soft edges by leaving a white shape and coloring it in with the shadow color. 

Here are a couple more images that give you an opportunity to practice laying your shadows on top of the local color. If you have time, try doing them the easy way and the hard way, so you'll see why I always take the lazy route.
Till the next time

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Every.body's Homework May 6th, 2021 Developing Your Style

 The paintings here all feature large areas of trees, both deciduous and coniferous. If you take the time to copy some of them you will see that the artists whose work we're studying were making decisions regarding edges, color, value and complexity. There are some big differences from one painter to the next, and sometimes big changes in one artist's work from day to day. 

You may want just to copy the tree part of these images, which would be fine. Please take the time to understand the sequence of layers. For example, ask yourself what layer number one looked like when it was all there was on the page.

                                                          Ping Long

When do you suppose the trunks and branches arrived?

                                                                George Post

Not much sky. Post devised different patterns for the different kind if trees.

                                                                    Trevor Chamberlain

More soft edges than hard.

Ping Long

                                                Which is darker, the sky or the sunlit foliage?

                                                                 Trevor Chamberlain

Is this a watercolor?

                                                                                George Post

The trees form a partial frame for this subject.

Copying is a potent way to get inside another painter's mind. Take a moment to ask what the job of the trees was from painting to painting. In your copies, try for a version that represents the spirit of the painting rather than the letter. 

Have fun               

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Intermediate Watercolor Homework 4/29/21 The Easy Way

 This skyline photo is either very complicated or fairly simple. It's up to you. 


Are you inclined to paint the buildings one at a time or all at once? In the background the buildings have merged into a single mid-value shape. Can you find a common denominator like that for the buildings in the foreground? What if you painted the entire foreground a vey light but intense yellow? Then you could begin to bring in a blue grey that is a little darker than the yellow, and then a darker grey as verticals and horizontals that begin to separate the buildings from each other. Put off taking inventory until you need it, if you ever do. That way the odds are better that you'll recognize the moment when you have done enough.

Here is anther skyline image that would benefit from this approach.

And here's one where most of the work of combining adjacent shapes has already been done:

If you do this one, try one of the others, too, and have fun

Beginning Watercolor 4/29/ 21: Value Scale and Shadow Colors

 A value scale is a simple tool that identifies the relative darkness or lightness of a shape .

It takes about 15 minutes to make one.

Making a Watercolor Value Scale

Cut a strip of good paper, about 2 x 8 inches.

Use just one color that will get thoroughly dark. 

Leave a white strip at one end and paint the rest of the paper very light (2).
Dry thoroughly between layers.
Leave a strip of number 2 next to the white and paint the rest medium light (3).
Keep leaving a strip of the previous layer and darkening the rest till you have 10 patches with white on one end and black on the other.
Try to make uniform value jumps with each layer, but don't worry if it's not perfect. It will still work.
You don't need the numbers on your scale. 
It's also not necessary to save a white border around your strips. Let the tones continue right off the edge of the paper.

                                                           Part 2
Set up a shelf or a table where you can have a single light source. Lay out a sheet of monochrome  paper or fabric on the table. Use a solid color, not a pattern. 

Put a simple shaped object, like a piece of fruit or a mug, on the colored paper or fabric and turn on the light. Move the object around until you can see its cast shadow. Paint a simple version of the tableau. Patches of color would be fine.
Now replace the colored paper with a different color sheet, and look for the cast shadow. Paint this new tableau. Do as many as you like. 

How is the cast shadow different rom the illuminated sheet of color?
We know the shaded area is darker. How else is it different? 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

All Levels Watercolor Homework April 22, 2120 Listening to the painting

 What makes letting go of accuracy so difficult for so many of us? It often seems to be about needing a measure we can use to see if our paintings are any good. We know how to compare a painting to the photo or scene before us; it either looks the same or it doesn't. Take away the means of comparison, though, and we are lost. 

Here is an exercise that invites you to take a break from "getting it right".  In fact, let's say we're not painting at all. Instead, we're following a set of guidelines, making marks according to a narrative of form.

For example, select a red, a yellow and a blue. Then wet your paper thoroughly. Using one of your chosen primaries, make a pale, simple shape, or two.

Now, stand back and ask if the page in progress feels well balanced. If not, add another shape. Follow this same compositional development for all three primaries. 

Where your shapes overlap you'll find secondary colors. You may also notice that the overlapping shapes are darker than the first layer. Stand back again. Decide which of your shapes you'll choose to leave as they are and which you'll change. What happens when you let the secondary shapes overlap or mingle?

Do you have any white paper left? Leave it alone, for now. 

Soon your paper will begin to dry. When hard edges start to appear, remember that you can still make soft edges, if you prefer. Let the paper dry thoroughly, and then rewet it wherever you want soft edges.

Mix all three primaries to make a profound dark.  Work with care not to make too many dark strokes. Stop and stand back after each dark. Ask yourself  "Is that enough?"

Now that the paper is dry you may want to glaze portions to combine shapes that need something in common. If you saved some white areas, now is the time to get out the big brush.

Were you able to make any decisions about what worked and what didn't?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Intermediate Homework 4.15/2021 What Looks Tricky?

 It makes sense to take a good look at a new image or scene with an eye toward what is likely to interrupt the flow of translating the subject into watercolor. It's wonderful to allow the painting process to unfold steadily, with some room reserved for inspiration. Coming to an unresolved passage of the scene can bring the painter to a complete stop, and interject tension that undermines the pleasure of bringing brush to paper. 

Identifying the tricky parts in advance offers an opportunity to practice the technique and approach you think might work. It is often not necessary to paint a full version of the subject to get answers to your questions. For example, The cliff and the water in this scene are in extreme contrast to each other. If you simply want to know how it would look for the contrast to be lessened, you could adjust the value of the adjacent shapes on a few scraps of paper.

In the redwoods scene below, finding the sequence of the color and value of the surfaces looks pretty tricky.  You could easily paint yourself into a corner. How might you find out what color and value should come first? Could you work out the solutions on cheap paper?

For homework, Ask yourself what looks tricky in one of these photos, and find a simple way to practice your solutions. 

Beginning Watercolor Homework 4/15/2021 Taking Advantage of Opportunities

 Some parts of a watercolor painting require careful attention, others invite a carefree application of the paint. Recognizing in advance which category the part you are about to attempt is can make a big difference in the look and feel of the finished work.

The barn boards in this sketch are splashy and spattered. Very little care had to be taken to get them to feel recognizable as rough boards. As long as the first layer is loosely vertical it will be perfectly fine.
What makes it possible for that first layer mess to turn into a barn? Just a few specific skinny lines applied with a little more care bring meaning to the page.
For homework, make your own barn. Take advantage of seeing in advance what needs to be careful and what can be carefree. Move the openings around. Add a loft. Zoom in or out. Let the hints of color be more obvious. 
What about the trees? Do they need to be carefully stated? Can the paper be wet for them. it's your call.
Have fun.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Everyone's Watercolor Homework Careful or Carefree 3/18/21

 Fluid, transparent watercolor on paper is beautiful to look at. As painters, we get to observe how the paint behaves when it is first applied; hues merge and change as liquid colors interact. For a brief moment the paint is at its natural best. Then we make a few more strokes, perhaps in hopes of seeing  more of the grand display. Instead, the paint seems murky, the flow diverted, reapplied elsewhere. Streaks of uncertainty appear.

How can we preserve the beauty of confidently applied paint? Have you noticed that the bold, clear stokes tend to appear in the early stages of a painting, and then get covered by paint that is, in comparison, neither here nor there? By the time the final layer has been added very little of the first one is still visible. As our paintings approach the 3rd and fourth layer we  paint over the bold statements of the first and second, making corrections and covering mistakes.

 This is when we tend to worry that we have't given the viewer  enough information. If the painting feels flawed, we assume it is because something is missing when it is more likely that we have already overloaded the painting.

It is not the painter's job to describe everything accurately. Leave that to the viewer.  The painter's job is to lay down gorgeous paint. 

I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I mean it literally. The range of what works is much wider than we think. Many of the corrections we make are not necessary.

Here are some images to work from. It is not necessary to make your interpretation the same as the one you choose. Take off into whatever territory you please. The only criterion is to keep the beauty of the paint foremost. If the strokes or washes you make come out different from your intention don't be too quick to correct them. First ask yourself if you can learn to love whatever happened.

If you choose a monochrome image, feel free to add color.


The fewer layers it takes to tell the story the better the odds are that your pain will be clear and fresh.

On a scrap of good paper, practice letting the wet surface make the steam.

                                                                        Leslie Frontz

                                                                            George Post

Kurt Jackson

Friday, March 12, 2021

Beginning Homework 3/11/21, One More Time

 Watercolor is all about the edges. Lets make sure you can get the edges you want every time. First of all, how do you know whether you want hard or soft edges ? And if you mean to make soft edges, how soft do you want them to be?

It's very clear the foreground trees were meant to be separated from the background in this sketch. There's a big color difference between the two. Where the two areas meet there is also a big value difference. What else is separating the two big pines from the trees on the mountain? Edges, right? The paper was wet when the blue strokes were applied on the green wash.
It;s not always this clear that you want all the edges in a given area to be hard or soft.

                                                                               Uma Kelkar

At first it may seem that all the edges in Uma Kelkar's painting are hard, but when you look again at the pink wall it is clear that the artist wanted the stains and splotches to be softer than the window and the door.

As you know, I often say the best way to tell if something belongs in the painting is to leave it out. Let's do one more study with NO HARD EDGES!. Then you can use the study to help deciding where you want a hard edge.

Wet your paper on both sides so it will stay wet longer. If you see a hard edge, stop painting.  Dry the paper thoroughly, then you can re-wet it and return to soft edges. Choose one of the photos below, or use one of the  paintings (Uma's or Tom's) for your wet on wet study.We will start adding hard edges in class, after we take a look at all the soft studies.

We will add the hard edges as needed, after the critique.
Read the previous sentence again, please