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

Thursday, March 11, 2021

3/11/Intermediate Watercolor Homework, Not Yet!

 I promised we'd continue inventing wet on wet dwellings for homework this week, so here we are. I wonder, though, if anyone can come up with a way to paint some still lives where the paint is free to flow wherever it wants. Mangos, for example...

Meanwhile, can you picture this house before the walls and windows were made visible by stamping the edges of the shapes with a credit card? Some of the shapes ran together, making suggestions of three dimensions. Some of the straight lines are colors other than black. Can you get an interesting mark with lots of paint on the card. Do you have a spray bottle? You may be tempted to outline every shape. I recommend giving the paint a chance to mingle before you tame it.

Most of these neutral shapes came from scraping with a card.

Have fun!

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Beginning Watercolor Homework 3/4/21 Hard or Soft Edges

 How do you decide what kind of edges your shapes will have? When do you decide, for that matter? Can you put off the moment when you have to commit to hard or soft?

You may have seen that it's not easy to convert a hard edge to a soft one. Once a stroke has dried it gets stubborn. Soft edges, on the other hand, can easily be made hard. Just let the paper dry and make a new stroke on top of the soft one. 

Here's a painting by Trevor Chamberlain that uses almost exclusively soft edges. 

Once the paper dried the artist made a few hard edged strokes on top of the layer of soft edged shapes.

A good way to find out which edges want to be hard is to make a painting that has no hard edges. choose an image with a few simple shapes. Wet the paper thoroughly, then paint your shapes before the paper has a chance to dry. wetting both sides helps prolong the drying time.
Stand back and ask where, if anywhere, the painting needs greater clarity or density. Make a couple of strokes where they seem most needed. The strokes needn't be entirely hard. You can make a stroke and immediately soften part of it with a damp brush.


Intermediate Watercolor, 2/4/21 How much is enough?

                                                                                   Eugen Chisnecean

Take a look at the boats in the lower right of this painting. The artist has allowed two separate shapes to intersect. What is he up to? It seems as if he'd rather we paid more attention elsewhere on the page. Given the role Chisnecean wants the boats to play in the big picture They have been sufficiently described as is.
There are several other places in the painting where adjacent shapes run together. Look at the buildings in the middle ground. The washes that describe the colors of the walls merge along partly soft edges. But the artist is keeping track of how much the shapes combine. He takes care to use hard edges, value contrast and color to keep the buildings separated enough to describe how the town is one thing made up of many.
The painting is a balancing act. Just where the artist is letting go of control of the movement of the paint, he is assessing how accurately he wants to describe the identity of the shapes.
Starting with a general statement and moving toward specificity, every artist finds their own stopping place, where the balance between accuracy and individual interpretation is realized.


Is this enough information for you?

                                                                   Michael Reardon

How about this one?
How do you know when to stop? Do you want to show the viewer how you created the illusion of space or light, or do you hope to leave them marveling at your skill? Secrets and tricks...

Here are a few similar images. Choose one, identify what looks tricky and practice that. When you're ready, make a simple version in which you allow shapes to merge.

I want to put a mountain in the background!