Monday, February 23, 2015

Spring has Sprung in the Pacific Northwest!!

Beautiful weather here, daffodils, crocus, and various flowers are blooming, grass needs mowing and the flowering trees are bursting with color. Kind of scary really, it's only the last week of February and all those little tender shoots have a long way to go before they are safe from cold weather. Usually this time of year I am chomping at the bit to get out and do some gardening, so to inspire myself I try to do some spring flower paintings. I found this photo of some lovely pink and yellow tulips sitting on an old distressed chair with dandelions blooming in the grass, perfect, everything I love about Spring in one photo!! Yes I even love dandelions!!

This painting is a little more difficult than the waterlily, lots of greens. Green can be a difficult color to work with, and because there are green in green areas in this painting there is a tendency to want to use different shades of green. Doing that can cause the painting to loose its harmony. In a painting like this I use one color of green, in this case I used Sap Green, I changed the values of my green by

what I add to it. For the back ground on the bottom third I added Paynes Gray and some Ultramarine Blue, as I moved up I added New Gambogue and Yellow Ochre. Before I put the green down at the top I painted in the dandelions, let them dry, then finished painting in the Sap Green with a bit of Cad Yellow around them. I found when I finished that the green was a bit bright so when it was totally dry I did a wash of Quin. Pink over the entire background (not the dandelions). That grayed the green down to where the flower leaves would stand out.

One of the things I do before putting paint to paper, is to check my drawing. Using a No. 2 pencil, I connect broken lines, make sure the entire drawing has been transferred, darken any lines that are too light to see easily, erase confusing lines. The little bit of time you spend doing this will pay off big time when you are painting the picture.
After the background is in and dry, the next thing to get painted in is the the back of the chair. Cerulean Blue for that soft sky blue color. In this painting I did not wet the paper first before applying color, here I put the color down then wet as needed. It is a much more controlled way of painting. As the blue was drying drop in a little more pigment on either side, pull a little color out of the center, this gives the illusion the back is bowed. When dry a little line of darker color along the bottom to give it depth. The crackle lines are put in with a small brush, short straight lines angled into another straight line, very few curves. Paynes Gray works great for this task.

Next were the spindles, paint them all, including where the paint is peeling off with watered down New Gambogue, as it is drying add a little more pigment to the edges to create roundness. Get your edges clean and put in the shading where the knobs are. When it is totally dry it's time to do the peeling paint. The color is
a mixture of Sap Green, Quin Pink (or Alizarin Crimson), and Cerulean Blue, mix together until you get a reddish brown. You can make it lighter by adding more water or darker by adding a little Paynes Gray. Looking at the photo you can see where the paint is chipping off, dab the color on with short strokes. You can see in the photo I used some of the same brown for shadows in areas where the paint is not peeling. These areas should not be just a flat color, try to get variations in the brown by adding more pigment in some areas or pulling some out with a damp brush. the more variation in color you get the more is will round out the spindles.

When that is all done it is time to move on to my favorite part of the painting the tulips. For the pink tulips it is Quin Pink (or Alizarin Crimson), for the yellow New Gambogue. Leave the paper for the tops of the tulip, starting at the bottom of the petal, drop in your color, clean your brush, leave damp and drag the color up towards the top of the petal, leaving the top
of the petal uncolored. The inside of the tulip will be darker towards the bottom, lightening as it goes up toward the edge. In some cases I left a small line of white, in others took the color all the way to the top. The yellow tulip that is pitched forward has  a few dark pieces that are Paynes Gray.

Next was the stems and leaves. Just Sap Green, Cerulean Blue and Paynes Gray. No Yellow in the leaves, any yellow would make them disappear into the background. If you look at the photo, you can see that the leaves do not stand out that much, they are there but the tulips are
the center of attention. There is some yellow in the tulip stems, but more towards the inside. When doing leaves like the two branches sticking out to the sides, have a lighter side the overlaps the dark of the leaf underneath. That builds volume and dimension. The little dangling flowers are white paper with the same green as the leaves along the bottom.

The chair seat is Quin Pink and Rose Madder, and some of the brown from the spindles. You can leave some white areas or whatever to make the seat look old and battered.

This is where I ran into a bit of a quandary. I really didn't like the clear jar the tulips were in and although I had dropped a bit of the blue in the chair seat, the back was the only place with a noticeable blue in it. So I decided to make a change to the color scheme of the painting, by making the jar blue and the ball of string green.
To get the color of the old Ball jars I mixed Cerulean Blue and Sap Green. In areas where it needed to be a bit darker just adding some Paynes Gray did the trick. First decide where you are going to leave the glass reflections, if you are not confident about leaving those areas white use some friskit. Paint in the stems, using the same colors as the top, where the stems enter the water leave a little line of white paper. When dry put in the blue shadows on the jar, remember too that there will be reflections of the pink chair bottom and the green twine in the jar. All the colors and shadows get put in place now, When all of that is totally dry,  do a wash of the blue over the entire jar, except where you have left highlights. The wash should be light in color and go on in one or two light strokes. If you keep brushing it will pick up the paint underneath and it turns into a muddy color. If you want to pick out more reflections, use your 1/4" flat. The green ball of twine is green because "why not?". There is so much green in the painting it just seemed to fit in.
Here is the final piece, although I may end up doing a few more things to it after I have lived with it for awhile.

I harp on values a lot in class because they are so important for a successful piece of art, no matter what medium you choose to work in.  I read a quote today that really hits the mark.

Values do the work, Color gets the glory.

Think about it!!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Waterlily - 2-10-15

The Waterlily

This week the painting we did was of a white waterlily in bright sunlight. One of the peculiarities of painting with watercolor is that for the most part not using white paint to show highlights or to lighten colors. The white of the paper is left unpainted to show highlights and as far as lightening colors it is just a matter of adding enough water to lighten the color. If you have used oils, acylics or pastels, you know that for highlights you add white paint for highlights as one of the final touches to complete a piece of art. In watercolor, whites must be planned in advance of laying down any colors, especially if you are using dark colors. Once color is down it is almost impossible to get your paper back to its original sharp white. That being said, this painting needed the pure white of the paper to show the light coming through the petals.

So in the areas where I wanted to keep white I applied masking fluid. I used PEBO masking, which is a water based liquid, nice and very easy to apply. One of the other things I normally do before beginning a painting is putting artists tape all around the area that will be the painting. This gives me nice sharp edges when it is removed. I use a white artists tape, available at most art supply stores, but you can also use painters tape, the same tape you would use when painting rooms in your home.
The background was the first thing that I painted. I mixed a combination of Antwerp blue and Payne's gray, about a 50/50 mix. I wet the paper being careful to not let the water go into any areas of the petals. I wanted a pretty solid background so after the first coat of paint was completely dry I added a second coat of the same mixture. While the  background is drying I started working on the shading on the flower petals. The photo's above show the shadows after I rubbed off the masking fluid. I used the same mixture of colors that I used on the background only adding lots of water to make the color much lighter.
Next I painted the stamens with New Gamboge (yellow), as the paint started to dry I added another coat of paint to the left side of each stamen to give the illusion of roundness. The base of the petals also gets a a light wash of yellow, the reflection of the stamens through the petals. Also now is the time to look at the shadows on the petals, perhaps adding a little more dark in some areas or lightening some others. There is a pattern of shadows underneath the petals and the water, I used the same colors as the background to lay them in.

Sometime, even though I had planned the painting out a certain way, as I work on the
painting I may decide to make a change to the plan. In this case I felt the petals were too stark and they need just a touch of color. So I did a light wash of very watered down quinactridone rose over some of the shadowed areas on the petals. I liked the little bit of warmth it gave to the shadows.

The reflection of the flower in the water was next. Using the same colors as the top, with the addition of a lot of water, I quickly brushed in the reflection of the shadows on the petals, added a bit of the yellow and rose. When almost dry I used my 1" flat, wet but not dripping wet, and dragged it across the reflected petals. Brushing in one direction only, if you brush back and forth it ends up just muddying the paint. When the petals
are dry I painted in the rest of the water with just the Antwerp blue, added some Payne's gray next to the petals and while slightly wet, using the 1" flat brushed the blue across the reflection of the petals. Last I put in the yellow reflection of the stamens.

There are 4 drops of water on the lily, very easy to paint. Using Payne's gray, put a shadow line around the drop where is overlaps the white petal, inside the drop leave a white area all around the inside of the line, then there is a shadow the goes from dark to light starting on the left side and then graduating to pure white
on the right side.  The three drops on the far left petal are a little darker. When I was sure all the paint was totally dry I removed the tape, used my kneaded eraser to take off any pencil lines that were still visible. Done!

Here are two more finished barn painting. Very successful!!

Saturday, February 7, 2015


I've been teaching watercolor classes for over 20 years and one of the problems that many artists have is seeing the values and translating them onto their paper. First of all I should explain what I mean when I talk about values.
VALUE is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. It defines form and creates spatial illusions.
CONTRAST of value separates objects in space.
GRADATION of value suggests mass and contour of a contiguous surface.
If values are close, shapes will seem to flatten out, and seem closely connected in space; none will stand out from the others. If values contrast, shapes will appear to separate in space and some will stand out from the others. This works whether the colors are just black, white and gray, or whether hues are involved.

So when I found the photograph of the barns I thought they would be perfect to do a value study of, wonderful shapes and shadows. After the value study to do the same photo in full color would be a great learning experience.
 This is the value study I did using one color.  When choosing a color to do a value study it is better to pick a color that will give you a good dark. Remember that you can add nothing to the color you pick to get a darker value than what 100% of the pigment will give you.

To get the different values in watercolor it is just a matter of adding water to the color you have chosen to get the different gradations. Your darkest values are from the pigment with the smallest amount of water, just enough to make it move. You can get it a little darker by doing more than one coat of paint, but be sure the first coat is really dry. The lightest values are achieved by mostly water with just a touch of pigment.

If you get too much pigment down it is easily lightened with a bit of water and dabbing with a paper towel or tissue.

This is my finished color piece. I used a warm red, cad red med, and a cool red, alyziran crimson, plus paynes grey.  I also put in a little yellow ochre on some of the closest barn.

In both paintings I started with the sky, wetting the area with clear water then adding a light wash of paynes grey across the top then tilted my paper so the color would run down. I wanted the darkest sky at the top of the page and then fading as it went down towards the roofs. Anywhere there was snow I left the white of the paper, so where the roof of the tallest barn meets the sky there is only a small value change between the sky and the snow on the roof. I then painted the dark roofs to get my pattern of dark and light on the paper. Then I progressively moved forward painting the back barn first then the middle and lastly the front building.

Many times as I am painting I will go back and rework an area, either lightening or darkening.

When working from a photograph like the one at left, you as the artist need to make some decisions. In this instance I chose to leave out the grass in the foreground, changed the shape of the windows and darkened the shadows a bit more. I have a tendency to go for a more dramatic feel to the colored piece, although in the value study I followed the photograph a bit more closely for values. You, as the artist, can make changes in the composition, color and atmosphere if you feel it would make a more interesting painting. The more you paint and play with the colors the more confidence you will acquire and the more fun you will have painting.
 Here is a close up of the front building. Interesting how the one on the left photographed about the right color and the one on right so much darker. On both you can see how I left the paper to show snow and then used a very light paynes grey wash to indicate shadows.

 Two shot of the roofs, one showing the sky up against the snow on the roof and the other where some has either blown off or melted a bit.

Checking out everyone's paintings.
 At the end of class, in the last 15 minutes or so, I like to have everyone put their paintings up on the board and we do a critique of each others work. The thing that always amazes me is that everyone is working from the same photograph and drawing, using pretty much the same paint colors, similar paper and brushes, but every painting is different in big right down to subtle ways. That is my favorite part of teaching.

One of the most important things you will learn from me is to NOT compare your work with anyone else. YOU are an individual and the only one to compare with is yourself. Every painting and or drawing is a learning experience, learn from your successes and your failures. There is no right way or wrong way there is only your way.
Barn paintings in work.

Some of the value studies.

Artists at work!!

 Next weeks project is a waterlily in bright sunlight. I gave out the drawings last week and suggested that you might want to put on resist to keep the sunlit areas from getting any color on them. Here is where I applied it. The photo has some reflective areas and that is also where the resist is.

 See you Tuesday, Happy Painting!!