Thursday, June 10, 2021
Thursday, June 3, 2021
Here's an image that could progress very simply from light to dark and from general to specific.
Have some fun with these. Maybe try painting one without a plan. Just dive in and see what happens.
Thursday, May 27, 2021
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.
Friday, May 21, 2021
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.
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.
Don't be shy, now.
Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Feel free to use the trees as a jumping off place. You are not obliged to make your interpretation accurate
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Hi everyone. This homework is a couple of days early. It should be ready to bring to class on the 19thTom 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.
Thursday, May 6, 2021
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.
When do you suppose the trunks and branches arrived?
Not much sky. Post devised different patterns for the different kind if trees.
More soft edges than hard.
Which is darker, the sky or the sunlit foliage?
Is this a watercolor?
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.
Thursday, April 29, 2021
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.
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
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.
Thursday, April 22, 2021
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
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.
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.
Friday, March 19, 2021
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.
On a scrap of good paper, practice letting the wet surface make the steam.
Friday, March 12, 2021
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?