Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Spring Class - Foggy Morning

Spring break is over and it is back to class! The watercolor class is evolving from just painting flowers to painting a little bit of everything and experimenting with different techniques. So expect some different looking art on here.

This first week we are working on values again. Values can make or break a painting, I know many painters worry about the temperature of their colors, warm or cold colors, but without a good working knowledge of values in those colors the paintings don't work very well.

 This is the reference photo for the painting in class. It was taken early in the morning before the fog burnt off. I found it interesting because of the depth created by the fog on the trees and vegetation. Plus the color of the sky against the silhouettes of the trees created  a mysterious mood to the whole scene.

What I didn't particularly care for was that the trees bled off the bottom, so I made several changes to the final drawing for the painting. The trees have a base in the painting and I added a path and a birdbath.

After getting my drawing on the paper, 140# Arches cold press, I worked out the colors that would be used on the painting. The reason I did a color chart on this painting is because I really wanted a limited number of colors to help keep the mood of the painting. So for this painting I used Cadmium Yellow, Quinacridone Pink, Cerulean Blue, and Paynes Gray.

The Quinacridone Pink was a wonderful color to work with, mixed with Paynes Gray it made the perfect "foggy" mist, then adding a touch of Cerulean Blue  turned it into a more "smokey" ground mist.  I was surprised when I added it around the sun how a bit of an orange color around the bottom of the sun happened. One of those happy accidents that Bob Ross use to talk about!! I hope you all remember Bob Ross, he is still in reruns today.
 Okay, to start the painting I wet my paper, the paper should not have any puddles on it, but you want to make sure that there are no dry spots either. If you tilt the paper to one side you can see where it is wet and where you might need to add some more water. I have found a small fine spray bottle works great for this or a haku bush. Be sure you are using clean water. I started by putting the Cadmium yellow in the sun area, then added the Quinacridone Pink going towards the top of my paper, and tilting my paper towards the top to make the colors run. While the paper is still wet I started adding the Cerulean Blue below the sun, adding some pink and even some Paynes Gray as it moved more to the bottom.
When you are doing a wash of color like this keep in mind that once you have put the color down don't try to add or lift color while it is still wet. It will cause marks that are very difficult to remove. When you are doing a wash it has to be done all at once in a timely manner, before the paper is dry.
As the paper was drying I used a wadded up kleenex to blott out some clouds in the sky.

If you are working on a large piece of paper, do the wash in areas rather than the whole paper at once. In this piece the wash could be broken where the sky and fog meet. After the first few you do it becomes easier to do the whole background at one time. All it takes is a bit of confidence and a some preplanning on where you want to put your color. You can manipulate the colors in a wash by tipping and tilting your paper as it dries.

When the paper is completely dry, it's time to paint the foliage that is the farthest away. To give the illusion of distance and atmosphere a mixture of Paynes Gray and Quinacridone Pink and lots of water. This is the lightest value we will be working with. The composition has three main tree groups, the bushes and trees behind each group of trees is
 painted with the light value.

Where the bottom of the trees meet the ground I dropped in a little darker value to give the trees a base to grow from. This  also helps give shadow in the areas where there are many branches but not many leaves. 

At this point only the light value should be painted, everything is very flat and no sharp edges on anything. As objects move to the back, edges are softened and lost. If your edges do look sharp, run a clean damp brush along the edge until the sharpness disappears.

Now on to the trees. The trees on the left are the farthest back, then the middle group and the trees on the right are the closest. So value wise the trees on the left will be the lightest, but darker that the bushes behind it, the middle trees are darker, than the first trees and the bushes behind, and the trees
 on the right will be the darkest of the three groups of trees.

The trees are painted flat, what I mean by that is there are no marks on the tree of bark or holes. The light is dimmed by the fog so the trees are only silhouettes. Again, the edges of the trees may need to be softened to add to the illusion of distance, so take a damp brush and run it along the sides of the trees until it is softened.

Once the main trunks are in place add branches to fill in the upper area of the painting. Small groups of leaves can be put in place using variations of the lightest value to the middle value with an occasional pink leaf. Don't use the darkest value on the upper leaves of the trees.

Once the three groups of trees and branches are done it's time to put in the bushes and other foliage in front of the trees. This is where I changed the composition from the
 photograph. I added a birdbath in the lower right side, grass and rocks and more branches fill in the space. This is where the darkest values are. Using mostly Paynes Gray with just a touch of Quinacradone Pink, here the edges can show a bit of sharpness as these items are close. In some of the foliage there is still light and medium values to give them depth.
At the very bottom it is straight Paynes Gray, the branches coming in from the edge of the left side are the darkest of any on the painting. The fog is still covering the ground so much of what is on the ground is covered with only little bits showing through here and there.

This was a challenging painting, keeping track of the different levels of depth. In working on the painting I lightened some areas and darkened others, adjusting throughout the time I worked on the painting. I will be looking at this painting for a few days and perhaps  making even more adjustment.