Intermediate Homework 10/17/19 Invent, Exaggerate, Explore
Invent? Exaggerate? Explore?
You know what I'm talking about...
Reality is just a jumping off place. In class we all got involved in holding onto accuracy of values and letting go of everything else. Color, for example:
Not as wild as it first seems, perhaps.
Below are a few images that rely on a simple dark/light pattern for their structure. Desaturating a photo makes it easier to keep track of the values.
Beginning Watercolor 10/17/19 Seeing in layers
Being able to see the light, middle and dark layers through which your subject will progress takes you most of the way toward a graceful translation of reality into the language of watercolor. Not everyone paints the lights first and the darks last, but for our immediate purposes let's all work that way this week.
The first step, as usual, is to identify the major shapes. Roughly speaking, the "Major" shapes are those that need to be separated in order to understand where they are in the pictorial space.
In this scene, the "white" house is a major shape. It is below and in front of the sky, which is also a major shape. The house overlaps the telephone pole a tiny bit, but it's enough to tell us which shape is closer to us. The pole also reveals where the more elaborate house is in the illusory space. That humble pole turns out to be quite important. Everything in the scene can be located relative to it.
it's the funky house that really interests me, though, first of all because it isn't white. It's a middle value warm neutral, that we call white because of what we know rather than what we see.
Let's focus on the values of the major shapes. The sky is the lightest, for sure. The house is middle, or dark middle value, and everything else is dark.
This scene was chosen because it unfolds nicely into two or three layers in each shape. There is nothing that needs to be reserved. You can simply apply each successive layer on top of the previous ones (OK, I see that little highlight on the red car. Shall we put it in?)
Give this image a try, if you like, or choose one of the others, below. See if you can paint each major shape with a pale first layer. For each layer of each shape ask if there's anything that you need to paint around. 3 or 4 layers are usually enough to tell the story.
An unusual composition, with just about everything in the middle distance. Maybe you could make that into a single shape.
Intermediate Watercolor, 10/10/19 Separating shapes
We have spent some time practicing how to decide which edges in a shape are hard , soft, or both. As a means of separating shapes and creating an illusion of depth this is a skill every realist painter can use. It's not the only one, of course, so let's extend this investigation to include other variables: How do we decide which variables to use to get the major shapes to appear separated by space?
In this painting, by Joyce Hicks, just about every shape has a hard edge, but there is no confusion about where things are in space. Consider, one by one, what she has done with color, value and composition to make it easy to read depth in the scene.
By contrast, Josefia Lemon's landscape comprises almost entirely soft edges, yet she, too, creates a feeling of vast space. Go down the list: Value, color, composition and wetness. What decisions has the artist made to bring about this illusion?
These are deliberate decisions, the result of experience in both the nature of the medium and understanding how we see.
Here's a scene with a real collision of shapes.Some work must be done to simplify the picture and get the shapes to separate. Can any of the shapes be combined to make the space easier to read? Which variables would that involve? What can be done with color to keep the background more distant? How about value? Edges?
How many separate buildings do you see in the background at the end of the street? Could they be combined? How can you keep them separate from the group of buildings in the middle distance, right behind the car? Don't forget color temperature as a spacial tool. As a rule, warms advance and cools retreat.
Make a couple of sketches of one of these photos, or, better yet, find one you'd like to translate into watercolor. Experiment with manipulating variables to separate shapes in space. Keep track of the decisions you made so we can discuss them during critique.
Beginning Watercolor, 10/10/19 Monochrome Value Study
Please read this slowly before you start painting.
In the image above, which is darker, the door of the shack or the shadow on the bow of the boat? Where does the sunlit grass fall in the range of dark to light? It can be difficult to tell, especially with color complicating the task. A value scale would make this much easier. Here's how to make a rough but effective version:
Cut a piece of watercolor paper about 8 x 3 inches. With pencil, divide the paper into 10 strips that run across the narrow dimension.
Leave the bottom strip white, and paint the rest of the paper very light gray. Dry the paper.
Leave the strip next to the white one light gray and paint the rest of the paper a little darker.
Continue making layers and leaving consecutive strips until your last layer is a single black strip at the top. Ideally, each step on your scale would be an equal size jump from the previous one, but the scale will still work just fine even if your steps vary in how much they change.
Now use the scale to measure the value of the door, the shadow on the bow, and the grass. Which one is darkest?
For homework, find an image that resolves into just a few major shapes - fewer than 12, let's say. You can use the Cape Cod scene, above, or this one, below, or one of your own.
Make a monochrome value study that deliberately over-simplifies the image. Just shapes, for example, no texture.
The following is a fairly long excerpt from my book. It describes a process for making a five value (white, light gray, middle gray, dark gray and black) study in monochrome. It may be that the image you select can be nicely simplified down to only three values; white, middle and black. Your first job is to decide which is the appropriate treatment.
Remember, please, that the whole study should take no more than 20 minutes. If it takes longer, you are probably trying too hard to make it a handsome product. It's supposed to be kind of dumb. If it's too simple, it will tell you where you need more subtlety. Don't use the same image I used to illustrate the process.
Then, paint a color version of the image you choose. Limit your palette to one red, one yellow and one blue. Any combinations of these three colors are welcome.
What role does value play in the relationships between the big shapes?
As a first treatment of a new subject, it would be hard to find a better exercise than a value study. Understanding the dark/light relationships between the big shapes in your composition is an essential step to making a painting that is cohesive. A five-value version (white, light grey, middle grey, dark grey, black) can be done quite quickly over a simple drawing of the big shapes. It also provides good practice for seeing in layers.
Look for an image that resolves nicely into just a few shapes - no more than a dozen. You can use the one you brought home from class, or one of your own. Choose a color (just one) straight from the tube, that can get dark enough to represent black. It’s better not to make a color by mixing, since that introduces another variable. This exercise is designed to focus on value only. Similarly, all paint should be applied to dry paper, to keep wetness from distracting your attention from value.
If you are tempted to get fussy about edge quality, or texture, or any kind of detail, remember, this is NOT A PAINTING, and it is supposed to be too simple. A door may be important, but the doorknob probably isn’t. I have seen some so-called value studies that are, in fact, very carefully observed monochrome paintings. They may be quite beautiful, but as tools designed to reveal the essential elements of the scene, they are not very useful. The best way to find out if something needs to be in the picture is to leave it out.
After each step, while you’re waiting for the paper to dry, assess how complete the illusion of light and space and substance feels.
Light is an important component of this image. Isolating the variable of Value should reveal the role it plays in creating the illusion of sun and shadow.
In your drawing of the big shapes, try to keep the number down to ten, or fewer. The profile of each shape is all you need to draw. The idea is tolocate
the shapes, not to describe them.
· Starting with the light grey, paint the entire page, except for any shapes that need to stay white.
Is there a feeling of light in the study? What about space? Substance?
· When that layer is dry, paint the whole page middle grey, except for the lights and the whites. If you can’t decide whether a shape should be light or middle, round it off one way or the other. The finished study will reveal whether you made the right choice.
Again assess the state of the illusion: Light? Space? Substance?
· When layer two is dry, apply the dark grey over everything except the middle, light and white shapes. Now that the background figure has a dark grey layer, and the section of wall behind him does not, notice how effectively the two separate, compared to the previous stage.
Finally, paint in the darkest darks.
The role of the darkest darks in creating an illusion of light, space and substance is clear even in a radically over-simplified image.
Where do I need more subtlety or specificity?
When the value study is finished, it can be compared to the source image or the scene to see where adjustments need to be made. Having come way over into the realm of too little information, we now have a basis for judging how much more needs to be included. Don’t skip this step. A study, as the name implies, is a learning tool. Your painting process will be more efficient and your paintings more cohesive if you extract all the lessons you can from your preliminary work.
In the photo, the two mounds of dirt are so similar in color and value it seemed sensible to treat them as a single shape. But the study reveals that it would be better to separate them, making it clearer that the one on the right is in front. It is also clear that the mound on the left does not separate sufficiently from the wall in the background. It looks ok where there is a shadow behind it, but where the wall is sunlit only the pencil line separates the two shapes. Perhaps lightening the left mound a little could solve both of these problems. Five values, in this case, are not quite enough. This is an example of the need for more subtlety.
The little raised frame beside the doorway that catches the sun is a fine feature of the photo that I miss. It does an important job, describing the light. It is a bit of specific information that will add significantly to the picture without becoming a distraction.
It is surprisingly easy to see what is missing and what needs to be changed when the image has been over-simplified. If I had made a complex first attempt it would be difficult to know which of the (too) many elements were not necessary.
Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 10/3/19 Foreground, Middle Ground, Background
When a scene resolves neatly into a foreground, middle ground and background composition it has a ready-made structure that can make it easier to paint.
Thanks to the size of the figures, it's pretty easy to read the space in this picture. Everyone is either big, medium, or small. The shapes do get a little bit tangled to the left of the vendor's cart. I'd consider putting some of that same purple glow the figures on the right have on the woman on the left. It's no sin to change the composition to make it easier to read sometimes.
Here are a few images that could use a little tweaking to make the space more obvious. You can adjust the color, value and edge quality as well as the composition to strengthen the spatial structure.
Beginning Homework 10/3/19 Translating Your Subject into Watercolor
At first glance this watercolor by Lars Lerin looks like it was painted with great attention to detail, but a closer look reveals that the artist used an economy of means to make the goblet so real.
It's not so much that he was careful and thorough, as that he knew what mattered.
Taking care to put the darkest darks and the lightest lights where they work makes it unnecessary to get all the middle value shapes exactly right. Lerin has an eye for the essential, which allows him to be carefree with the optional.
To see so clearly the few parts of a subject that have to be correct is a tremendous help in translating it into washes and strokes. For us mortals, it takes more than one attempt to sort out what matters most. For homework, find a simple object, like an onion, or a teapot. Use an actual object rather than a photo. Set it in a spot where it is lit by a single light source, so the shadows are not too complicated.
First try painting it in monochrome, using a single color straight from the tube rather than a mixed color. Make sure your choice is inherently dark enough to represent the darkest parts of your subject, like carbazole violet or pthalo green.
Once you have a sense of the relative values, paint a color version, then a couple more. With each study, see if you can let go of more specificity. Pay attention to where the darkest and lightest bits occur. They usually play a more important role than the middle values.
After you've gotten to know what comprises a good representation of your apple/beachball, put the subject back where you found it and paint a version from memory.
Bring in all your studies.
Intermediate Watercolor, 9/26/19 What is Style?
Style is what makes one artist's version of a subject different from another's. How we use color, value, edge quality, composition, and complexity varies from individual to individual.
The trees in these two paintings are similar in composition. In both they form a band of green across the top half of the page. But the feeling we get from one version is very different from the other. What have the two artists done differently?
Let's consider one variable at a time, edge quality, for example. Couch lets his trees merge where they meet the ground, making them into a single shape. Post maintains a hard edge between the individual trees, keeping them more separate. As a result, Couch's trees play a supporting role in the scene while post's are the stars of the show.
Try looking at The differences and similarities of color and value.
Style emerges from our distinctive use of the medium; How one painter loads a brush, which brush is selected, where on the handle the artist holds the brush, everything, in other words. You don't need to deliberately seek your own style. It will find you.
Here are two images. Choose one or paint both if you have time. We will see how we approach the subjects in our own way.
Beginning Homework , 9/19/ 2019 What color is a shadow?
These shadows are not all the same color, or are they? If you're making a watercolor painting of this array of shapes couldn't you use the same gray to darken the shadows of the grass and the pavement, and let the local color show through? Or would you have to make separate colors, one dark green and one dark blue-grey?
Try it both ways and see which technique you prefer.
Below is a painting by John Singer Sargent. Can you tell which method he used?
Here you can see that not only does the color change as the shadow passes over different local colors, the value of the shadow also depends on how dark the local color is. The shadow on the red shingles is darker than the shadow on the white window trim.
Here are some images with sunlight and shadows. You can make a painting from one, or you can just paint patches of local color and the appropriate shadow color.
Intermediate Watercolor 9/19/19 Light, Middle, Dark
In terms of the progression from light to dark, this is a very well-behaved image. You can easily tell what is lighter or darker than what. There really are just 3 values. With a good grip on value, then, perhaps you could play around a bit with color or edge quality.
I see a little more complexity here. It still progresses nicely from light to dark, but with more stops along the way. How few values would you need to keep the feeling of light and space?
Does the tree need to be black? For that matter, does it need to be so tall? What about the range of values in the group of buildings? A bit of adjustment could improve the composition. Limit the palette? Expand the palette!?
Beginning Watercolor, 9/19/19
In class yesterday, we experimented with working wet into wet. We also spent some time mixing neutral colors. The next step is to practice juggling both those balls at the same time.
The horizon in this photo is the only hard edge. All the clouds are soft. If you were painting a version of this scene, therefore, the first step would be to wet the paper.
You may have found yesterday that mixing your colors took quite a while, and by the time you were ready to apply the first layer of paint the paper was dry. If you intend to make soft-edged shapes and you get hard ones, stop painting as soon as you notice. To be sure, you can make a very small mark toward the edge of the paper to see whether the paper is still wet. If that test mark comes out soft, carry on. If it comes out hard-edged, stop painting. You are in charge, not the paper. Remember, you can re-wet the paper once it's thoroughly dry and create just the kind of edges you intend.
I wet my paper on both sides so it would stay wet longer. It helps to think of the wetting as a process of getting some water into the paper, not just on the surface. I go over the sheet lots of times with a BIG brush, in both directions. Put a little extra on the edges. They dry faster than the middle. After the clouds had all been painted the paper was still wet, so I dried it thoroughly so I would get a hard edge on the horizon.
Here are a couple more good skies to consider.
About those colors:
My one sentence theory of color mixing goes like this, "To get the color you've got to look like the color you want, add red, yellow or blue".
For this exercise, limit your palette to one each of the primary colors. That is, one red, one yellow, and one blue.
Please bring in all your attempts. Part of what we're practicing is diagnosing what went wrong in a failed study.
Everybody's Homework 6/7/19 What Looks Tricky?
The last homework of the term has traditionally been "do it yourself", where each individual designs their own exercise. This term I want to suggest that you assess a photo for difficulty by asking "What looks tricky?". When you believe you understand the nature of the challenge, practice it until you become confident.
For example, this photo looks clear enough at first, but when I imagine putting in that tree I get the feeling that it will take over the painting. The buildings and the sky are subtle and soft edged, while the tree is harsh, all black and hard. I'd like to find a way to make it more gentle.
If I make the tree soft maybe it can stay very dark. Or maybe it can stay hard if I make it lighter and greener. Either adjustment will turn down the impact the tree has. Maybe a little of both; adjust the value and the edge quality.
You get the idea.
Here's another image to analyze:
Finding your own image or painting from life gets you extra credit. Feel free to move or remove anything that creates unwanted ambiguity.
Intermediate Watercolor, 5/30/19 Who Needs Gravity?
We took some bold liberties with the decorative complexity of the Gasworks structures yesterday. If you enjoyed that process, perhaps you'll be encouraged to let go even further by looking up John Marin and Lyonel Feininger:
You can use the sketches and studies you made at the park and see what happens when you set the shapes and lines free.
Meanwhile, I hope everyone is entering something in the Best of Gage show. I've seen plenty of terrific work this term. Let's flood the halls with watercolors!
Beginning Watercolor, 5/30/19 Taking Your Time
When a painter wants to "loosen up" their brushwork, it might seem counter-productive to bring a lot of thoughtfulness into the process, but I am convinced that it is clarity of intention that gives rise to confident paint application.
Asked if he painted as quickly as his work suggested, Charles Reid replied that, in fact, he painted slowly. "I work very slowly, which may come as a surprise because most people think I paint loosely. That's an illusion. Each stroke counts. Fewer strokes with more thought is better. " Reid applies the paint quickly once he had made up his mind, but first he thinks for a long time about what to do next .
In class yesterday there was a palpable quality of attention to edges. We had talked and visualized enough that everyone was tuned in once we started painting. I've selected some images that welcome a variety of soft and hard edges. Think about your intentions and make decisions based on which kind of edges will support them. Take your time.
Please submit a painting to the "Best of Gage".
I think everyone has gotten an email about the process.
Let's fill the walls with watercolors!
Intermediate Watercolor Homework, 5/23/19 Rocks
Water, animals, cars...Do you have painting subjects that you avoid? How about rocks? They should be easy, it seems, since they hold still so well. But, somehow, they tend to come out over-worked.
Copying other painters rocks might light the way, especially if the artists have found effective ways to simplify the subject. George post comes to mind, and Sargent. Hopper, Wyeth. Painters who do a great job of elaborating rocks, like Stanislaw Zoladz or William Trost Richards, might also open doors for you, even just to borrow their shapes.
Right now the sun is out, and there's the promise of sun in the forecast. How about going out to look for one well lit rock that you can paint several times till you can make one without looking at the actual rock?
Here are a few images to get you started. Looking online for more images would be time well spent. At the least you'd get a better idea of what you like. Have fun!
Beginning Watercolor 5/23/19 Shape First, Then Texture, If Necessary
Here's a painting by Joseph Zbukvic in which he relies on a very general description of the buildings to make the scene believable. Although the artist has an undeniably deft hand, it is not the brushwork that is most impressive in his work. Zbukvic's awareness of what is essential and what is optional is what dazzles the mere mortals among us.
How did he know that so little specific information would be enough to tell the story? He paints shapes, and very little else, yet there seems to be more there than he has actually described. Do you see the sculpted figures on top of the building on the right side of the background? Here's what they look like up close;
It's as if he can read our minds and see just how far we will go to meet him halfway. And just when we think he's stretching the limits of what we are willing to accept, he pushes it a little further;
How about those buildings? You know Zbukvic could see lots more information that just three gray shapes. These are deliberately oversimplified. If you cover the street level area of the scene so the buildings are all that remains only the street lamps tell us what we're looking at. He's playing with our heads, and I, for one, am happy about that. As a viewer, I want a role to play in the interpretation of the subject.
For homework, experiment with putting yourself in the viewer's place. How much information is enough for you?
Try one of these, and have fun
everyone's Homework, 5/17/19 The Lazy Watercolorist
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 as 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
Intermediate Homework 5/9/19 Using Color Dominance to Focus Attention
A very good way to focus attention on a particular part of a painting is to make it warm in an otherwise cool atmosphere, or vice-versa. Look at this scene, for example, where the windows are very warm while the rest of the setting is definitely cool:
The dominance of the cool makes the warm stand out.
The difference between the cooler and the warmer areas can be more subtle, like the relative temperatures in the scene, below, and still bring our attention to the portion of the image that is not dominant:
For homework, find an image you like and make a painting where you change the colors so that either the warms or the cools take up most of the total area. You can use one of the following images, or find one on your own.
You could cool down all this green and make the boat orange. Or make the trees and grass and water much more yellow and paint the boat blue. Or both!
Can you think of a way to leave the boat blue and change everything else?
What if you made the rocks rustier and changed the trees to Golden yellow fall cottonwoods? Then you could use more blue in the water and change the sky to sunset.
Beginning Homework, 5/9/19 Shadow Color
In class yesterday we came up with a fair description of how shadows are different from local color. By comparing aspects of the two we were able to conclude that shadows are generally darker, cooler and more neutral than the surface upon which they are cast. As with just about everything pertaining to art, there are exceptions to these rough guidelines. Let's do some comparisons to see how dependable the guidelines are.
This image presents a real variety of shadows. The red chair is half in shadow, half sunlit. The beige tarp is sunlit on the upward-facing surface and shadowed on the under side. The tarp also casts a shadow onto the ground, where we could compare the color and value of that shadow to the sunlit dirt beside it.
Is it true, in this case, that the shadow is darker than the local color?
Is it cooler?
Again, yes, it is.
How about more neutral?
Well, not really. The ground is already quite neutral. The shadow is also neutral, but not more so. One is a warm neutral, the other is a cooler neutral. Hmmm. Lets compare the sunlit tarp to the shadow on its under side.
Is the shadow darker?
Yes, for sure.
Is it cooler?
No. If anything, it's warmer.
Is the shadow more neutral?
Um, no, it's not. The upward-facing surface is nearly white, which is pretty much a neutral, but the downward-facing surface is a rich golden ochre.
Some of the guidelines appear to be slipping away. All that's left is that the shadow on a surface is darker than the sunlit areas of that surface. How can we find colors that will work for shadows if we have no recipe for success?
The answer is to observe and inquire. Which is darker? Which is cooler (or warmer)? Which, if either, is more neutral?
And while you're at it, what kind of edge does the shadow shape have?
Find a photo that contains shadows and local color near or adjacent to each other, or use one of these, below. Starting with observation and inquiry, see if you can come up with answers to the questions above.
Take your time mixing colors to represent the local color and the shadows you see in your images. It is not necessary to make an exact match. Instead, focus on making a convincing pair of colors. Do they describe a believable quality of light?
This is also an opportunity to practice mixing colors from the primaries. Choose one red, one blue and one yellow, and see if you can get reasonably close to the colors and values you see in the photos. Keep track of the colors you used by writing the mix beside the patches of color on your practice paper. To darken a color, try adding some of its compliment.
Don't forget to bring in your flops as well as your triumphs.
Beginning Homework, 5/2/19, Damp into Wet
A great many images and scenes involve passages where detail and texture are best added while the initial wash is still wet. This soft edges of the secondary information keep it integrated into the general statement. This prevents the detail from being too specific and attracting too much attention.
Take a look at the grasses in the foreground of this landscape. The soft edges allow the varied strokes to read as all one thing, keeping the area from becoming too busy. It manages to be complex and simple at the same time.
Here's a similar foreground in which the artist has made a general statement with an overall light green wash. While that was still wet, he added vertical strokes of varied color and value. If the green wash had been dry, the foreground would have overwhelmed the composition (it's a close call even so).
The following photos include some areas where this concept would be useful. Try out adding complexity to a wash that is still wet. The real job here is keeping track of how wet the brush is. After the wash is applied, the brush you used still has enough liquid in it to pick up some more pigment from the palette. Stay out of any puddles there, and don't stick your brush into the water bucket. If the paint on the brush seems too dry or thick, remember you are about to add water to it when it touches the wet paper.
Practice this on a scrap of good paper until you see the results you want. Then you're ready to make a proper painting.
Intermediate Homework, Where Do You Really Need Hard Edges? 5/2/19
When we study a scene or a photo to consider how to translate it into paint, the part of the scene we are about to treat is almost always in focus. It's what we're looking at, after all. And photographs in this digital era are entirely focused. You have to pay extra for depth of field, I think.
But this is not how we actually experience the "look" of a live scene. When we are interacting with the components of a location most of what is visible is out of focus. How much of a painting, then, should be soft edged? How can you decide where hard edges are really needed when the image shows you everything in focus?
Acting on the premise that the best way to see if something belongs in the painting is to leave it out, making a study with no hard edges should provide you with a tool that you can use for a road map. With a "soft edges only" study in hand, you can ask where a hard edge is essential, and proceed incrementally toward just enough.
The technical requirements for this activity are important. It's not easy to keep the paper wet long enough to get even a quick study to be entirely soft-edged, but you can do it if you resolve to put the brush down as soon as a hard edge appears. Then dry the paper thoroughly and re-wet it where you want the next soft edge to appear.
after making a simple drawing, begin by wetting both sides of the paper. Wetter, please. Even wetter! It should be very shiny, but not quite dripping. Work that water into the sheet of paper.
Remember, This study is supposed to be approximate. Look at the middle ground and background in Trevor Chamberlain's boat painting, above. Half of the page is made up of non-specific shapes. Use a limited palette, say, one red, one yellow and one blue, so you won't spend too much time finessing your colors.
When the study is done, ask where a hard edge would enhance the feeling you want. Practice restraint here. It's easy to add too many specific marks. I want to stop while I think it still needs one more hard edge. I can always add it next year, if the painting still calls for it.
Here are some examples of paintings with a variety of edges, and a couple of candidates for a soft study.
Intermediate Homework 4/25/19 Variety
The potent sky scenes you all invented yesterday in class were individualistic, to be sure, but they also had a couple of features in common: saturated color and soft edges. Having spent some time now working with relatively thick paint and diffuse edges, let's practice using those features in some places and not in others, so your paintings display a range of qualities.
Here are a couple of Gerhard Richter's watercolors:
In this painting, the paper appears to have been dry everywhere, except for that pink shape at the top.
Here the opposite is true. Almost everything is soft edged.
And here there's a mix of edges that gives emphasis to the hard edged darks. Deciding deliberately what kind of edge you give to your shapes puts a powerful tool in your hands.
Choose a photo from those below, or use one you find on your own, and adjust the edges as you please. You might try different versions that shift which edges are hard and which are soft.
Beginning Watercolor Homework April 25, 2019 Seeing in Layers
Beginning Homework Thinking in Layers
To extend our classwork into the realm of understanding a painting subject as a series of layers, I'd like everyone to make a demonstration piece comprising three separate sheets of paper. One will show only what the first layer looks like (the pale under-painting of the major shapes). Then another that shows the first and second (lights plus middle values), and, finally, one that shows three layers (light, middle and dark). The idea is to show the layer by layer development of your painting.
The process breaks down like this:
Start by identifying the major shapes in the image. There should be no more that 10 or 12.
Make a simple drawing that locates the shapes.
Paint in the first layer - the lights - of each shape, keeping the treatment as simple as possible (no texture or detail).
Now make two more first layer pages, so that you have 3 more or less identical sheets.
Put the second layer - middle value - on top of the first layer on two of your 3 sheets.
Finally, apply the 3rd layer - the darks - on top of one of the second layers.
When the process is finished, you should have one sheet that just has the first layer, one that has first and second layers, and one that has three layers. Please bring all three, plus the photo in to class.
In case you missed class, here are a couple of simple images that will resolve nicely into three layers. If you think there should be a fourth layer of super darks, put them on top of the three layer treatment.
Please read all that again. It's a little confusing, I'm afraid.
Intermediate Watercolor Homework 4/11/19 Descriptive, Symbolic, Abstract
In between realism and abstraction there is a broad arena where artists such as Jill Maclmurray, George Post, and Charles Burchfield roamed.
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, Maclemurray's sage brush is easy to recognize, even though she is not describing specific individuals.
Here are a couple of images to experiment with:
Beginning Watercolor Homework 4/11/19 Thinking in Layers, Watercolor Skies
Here's a good sky photo to use for practicing painting clouds. It's very similar to the one we made in class; white, light gray, darker gray and blue. For simplicity's sake, let's proceed as if all edges are soft. I recommend reading the description of the step-by-step process a couple of times before launching into your first try. Use good, 100% cotton paper if you have it. It will greatly increase the chances of success. 1/4 sheets (11 x 15") or smaller are good for this exercise.
First, wet the paper on both sides so it will stay wet long enough to mix and apply your colors. Use a big brush to work the water into the fibers. Put a little extra water around the edges of the paper. They tend to dry faster than the middle of the page.
Second, add some blue to the brush and mix it on the palette so the paint is uniform. Surround your cloud shapes with blue. If you want to get fancy, you can use two different blues, one for the upper portion and another for the lower. See the difference? Experiment on a piece of cheap paper to see which colors work best for you.
Third, add a very little bit of orange to the blue that is left on your brush. There is no need to wash off the blue before you add the orange. Stay out of the water bucket, please. You already have all the water you need on the paper, plus whatever is left on the brush you used for wetting.
When you are mixing the blue and orange together, try to balance the mixture so neither color dominates. That should produce a good gray. If you find you're getting a purple, add a tiny bit of yellow.
Fourth, notice where the gray occurs on the clouds. I see it on the lower half of the white shapes. Apply the gray accordingly.
Fifth, add a little more pigment to your brush to make a darker gray, and apply a stroke or two wherever you see it in the photo. This step is often overdone.
The sky is a very forgiving subject. Just about anything you create could actually happen. Given this variability, resist the temptation to fiddle with your clouds. Take what you get. As soon as you paint something in front of the sky, like a steeple, or a telephone pole, the whole thing comes together. Below, here are a couple of sky paintings you can copy for further practice.
Give this exercise a few tries, and bring them all to class. The failures are more informative than the successes. Stay relaxed.
Intermediate Homework 3/9/19 General to Specific
Most watercolors proceed from light to dark, since it is easier to put a dark on top of a light than to do the opposite. At the same time, the trajectory of a well-planned painting moves from broad, general statements toward more specific passages.
Select one of the following images or the ones attached to the beginning homework from this week. All are fresh photos, never before painted, except one that actually is a painting.
Stay loose until you have at least applied the middle values. I believe it's not the artist's job to make sure the viewer can tell what they're looking at, especial;ally in the early stages. To make sure you don't get specific prematurely, try wetting the whole page before you block in the lights.
Gage classes will be working from a model this coming week. If you have any large sketch paper, please bring it along. We'll use it for the short poses.
Page created: Sun, Oct 20, 2019 - 09:05 PM GMT