I am always looking for something beyond basics ….technique/design/composition/color/value to sharpen my painting inabilities. Guess I like challenges like I’m not the major challenge….make sense? If not keep painting and you will arrive on your own front porch.
While reading a watercolor book written by Claude Croney the word tangent jumped off the page lightening fast. I knew what it was but hadn’t grasp the broader meaning of that little word. Tangents are common mistakes usually overlooked because we don’t recognize their importance. I dug out some old paintings, those hidden in a drawer only family will find one day, and had a jaw dropping moment. The ‘tangent connection’ had not been dissected to it’s fullest in the beholders eye when these paintings were conceived. If you paint from photos I strongly suggest taking some extra time examining your references for the ‘tangent connection’.
What am I looking for…..two shapes sharing the same edge….bottom line. A row of trees sharing the same edge as a mountain range/a vertical fence pale married to the tree trunk behind it….are a few examples. All of these unexpected surprises need to be dealt with by overlapping /shrink/enlarge shapes or eliminating what is not necessary. Enjoy the photo for what it is…. a nice photo then create a great painting. Print the photo out on computer paper then circle all the hidden tangents before you began the drawing.
Below is a nice photo of a lady selling her wares. The photo was copied to my computer where it was enlarged and carefully analyzed. The very first thing is the figure it is in the center of the photo. I don’t have a problem with her being the bulls eye as long as there is good balance with the other shapes that make up the composition. Circles are given to each tangent that needs correction and an X on shapes that will be eliminated. When I am confident that the Easter egg hunt is over I proceed to sketch my subject which is the second image.
This is the photograph…nice color and interesting shapes…with several tangents to recognize and alter.
This is the quick sketch with a gray watercolor stick…on cold press #140 watercolor paper. The figure has been moved off center and because I like the red chairs they were included. The steps needed to follow through to eliminate angels that would detract. Pots of flowers were added behind the iron rail and the window added interest. Only one column was needed and behind the lady would give a contrast for the head. Although color choices were not changed values were more important.
This was the first wash of colors of reds/orange/blue/turquoise/quinacridone burnt orange. The colors mixed and mingled on the paper leaving soft edges for the negative shapes to be painted after the wash is dry.
The paper is dry and ready for the negative darker values in the background. There were various color changes to work with using a little imagination. Although the original drawing is followed…I don’t always stay in the lines if color presents a different shape. Pigment is more important than water because of the dark values that are required for hard edges. When I am satisfied with the overall shape connection calligraphy lines are added with a rigger brush. These lines declare or connect shapes.
It has been way to long since my last posting. Not because brushes and canvas were on stand by, electricity/water turned off or a studio melt down…well there was that one day. The current studio scene…painting discords overflow in the trash, stacks of maybe’s in the bin and a messy wet palette….no question someone has been working. Will someone identify themselves because help is needed… not more supplies. Like most artists, ‘most’ used loosely, it seems there is more to do in a day than hours permit. So thought I would share a quick demonstration born out of the chaos. Generally speaking a brush is wet everyday except when priority calls. The demonstration below is on a 11 x 14 stretched canvas. A quick response to a photograph in my files of many waiting to be painted. A yellow ocher watercolor stick was my choice for drawing.
watercolor stick sketch
My beginning is a sketch rather than a drawing. This gives me the freedom to change direction while laying in color…
Ultra Marine Blue/Raw Umber Violet/Cerulean Blue/Quinacridone Burnt Orange are the pigments used for the first washes. My attempt is to paint the value needed for the finished piece from the first wash of pigments. Reason being the first washes will lift from the canvas because the pigment remains on the surface. Paper absorbs pigment so glazing is effective.
Defining the subject
Halloween Orange/Andrew’s Turquoise/Naphthol Red are added to the palette to mix and mingle with the first pigments. I enjoy seeing the pigments engage conversation with their next door neighbors. At this point I am ready to stop and say ‘fini’ but the painting needs line.
Few dark marks for windows….lines to separate or connect…a quick touch of pure pigment and it’s done….or at least it is done for me.
Hope you enjoyed the journey…thanks for participating.
The image below is a set up I created in my studio for a class demonstration. Computers are a helpful tool for cropping photographs providing visual variations for future formats and compositions.
Below the images are square/ close up/and smaller rectangle that emerged from the cropped original photograph.
Demonstration on Paper
The demonstration is on A’rches CP 140# paper using transparent and a few opaque watercolors. Pigment was applied to damp paper in a direct approach to create soft edges. When paper was dry darker values were added creating hard edges bringing the painting to a finished state. The image size is 15 x 22.
Watercolor on Canvas
This image is a 16 x 20 canvas using the same reference set up with the exception of an added object. The paper is 15 inches wide and the canvas is 16….just one inch in width made a difference in the composition. To maintain unity a red clock shape was chosen for the left side adding balance along with repeating the red flower pigment. The background is darker than the paper image which demanded a light value on the left side. The white face of the clock provided that quiet value. Below is the canvas painting….
Workshop students often follow the instructors demonstration in class sharpening their technique/color/design/ and other elements to improve their talent and creativity. Recently, I was surprised again when a painting was posted online that looked familiar. My first thought was ‘when did I post that painting.’ Immediately it was one of those ‘what’ moments my painting was supporting another signature. It looked like mine at first glance but upon closer look a class copy became evident. The posted painting had been done in a class environment the drawing and color scheme were the same as my demonstration. Not only was it posted as original work by the artist displaying the painting, it had sold. This ah-ha moment is happening far to often and should be addressed. So..I am compelled to explain copy work again to those who don’t get it, don’t know it or think it doesn’t apply to them…..the ethics of paint by number with students in mind.
Students and this also applies to me….when you follow along with the instructors composition/design in a learning mode, this doesn’t give you the license to claim the work ‘your original’. An instructor has worked several weeks on a focused plan to share with you their method of painting. They are sharing their knowledge/experiments/and failures so you can grow and not fall into a pit of despair. Using your paint/brushes/paper and hands allows one option, to use the class project as a reference. The ‘paint along’ is graciously permitted by the instructor to make your day happy, eventful, excited while your role is put into practice what you have learned. The masterpiece you leave the class with is not your painting. The only original part of the painting is the labor of blood sweat and tears you produced while in class. Entering the painting in shows or selling it deprives you from your own creativity showing disregard for an instructor who has invested her time for you.
The two portraits below were done with my paint/brushes/ and hands in a workshop several years ago. They have remained in my flat file all this time because they were the concept of a good instructor. The photos/drawings during the workshop were furnished and the demonstration gave insight into the technique….it was a paint along. Being proud of the fact I could follow instructions…few people have seen them. Many years have passed and few would remember the workshop…I could enter them in a show frame them to sell and who would know. Me….I would know they were not my brain work. From the drawing to the final brush stroke was done by me but with little thought to the concept. Why would I want recognition for something I didn’t create with my paint/brushes/ and hands.
There are many books and articles written on composition and design. Many of these informative publications have not reached my shelves which is probably a determent to my painting. All in all this is brief view for stepping out of the box and visualizing what is not there….
Click here for shape up
Recently I entered, Splashes of Red, a local watercolor show. The advertised theme was a clue for the requirement…..use red. Of course, red is probably my favorite color so the requirement started the wheels in motion. The next question on my mind was what to paint red…flower, barn or something unexpected. I chose the unexpected like many of the other entries.
What a refreshing sight to view everyone’s individual painting styles using red. As I strolled through the show it occurred to me painting with red is a challenge…who would think. Red is that brilliant color that springs from pink to crimson in a second and because it is mid value it must be handled with care. A red flower for instance….most load a brush with red pigment and precede to fill in the borders. The red saturated pigment is established, from the beginning, with little thought to other values in the painting. This also applies using other mid value pigments such as Cobalt Blue. Double or triple loading a brush resolves the issue of one value shape or single color hue. Everyone develops their own technique when applying color….therefore a style is born.
Below is a flower and house illustrating the flat red shapes in comparison to the double loaded shapes. The solid red flower and house are committed to a 5 value from the start…where as the double loaded flower and house grade from a 5 to 3 value leaving more value options. When mid value colors are applied in their concentrated state darker values are applied to soon….6 value to black.
Below is an illustration of double loading a brush with two different hues….notice the nice transition of dark to light/tone to tone…..
One doesn’t paint too long with watercolor before they understand ‘crop’. A few reasons to crop wonderful creative watercolors: the finished masterpiece doesn’t fit your only available mat…..so crop; a muddy ugly color appears without warning…so crop; the tedious planned composition doesn’t need all the extra fluff to tell the story…whatever the case we have all cropped. If you haven’t you probably should have.
Years ago, don’t know the exact number of years but the frame and mat housing the first Fringe painting was fifteen dollars…a bargain in today’s economy. A floral still life didn’t fit the available framing so the bottom half of the painting was ‘cropped’. The cropped portion had possibilities so it went into the ‘maybe’ stack. Maybe stacks are always questionable….are they worth additional paint or my time and the biggie do I want anyone to see this maybe. The soft wash images of fringe that was cut from the pack was a tablecloth that surrounded an urn of flowers in the framed piece. The cloth had knotted fringe all around the edge, way to much ‘fluff’….which was sacrificed so the prima donna would fit the framing. This ‘maybe’ was moved from one drawer to another one of those love hate relationships. Coming across this ‘maybe’ one afternoon the tied knots of fringe suddenly became heads and the hanging fringe resembled clothing. Immediately my brush was loaded with color and thus ‘Fringe People’. A shadow on the cloth had to be dealt with and a door seemed to fit the scene. I paint a variety of subjects and enjoy all but not like the Fringe People…it wasn’t planned…it was out of the blue..and hey! I finally have ‘my people’…
Below is the original ‘Fringe People..
A sample of other paintings from the Fringe…..
Wow! Christmas celebrations began early around my place bringing responsibility here, there and everywhere. Finishing touches on this dish, one more recipe of candy, last gift wrapped or at least I think it’s the last one feeling good about the accomplishments made just that day. Going to parties, having parties, dressing for this, changing for that enough to wish you hadn’t bought the ticket. After the last fork is washed it’s time to make room for all the things that made their way into your nest. By the time it is sorted, cleaned, stored it’s time to start again. Is this wonderful or what?
I had much planned for the start of my new year……work on some ideas that made the mind dizzy with excitement just thinking about the possibilities. Then sinus/flu/allergy made its way through the door and liking the surrounds more than outstayed their welcome. Returning to a horizontal position and reclaiming those once fresh possibilities has been slow going. Hopefully this coming year I can keep up with more dialogue for those visitors to the blog.
My first painting for the new year was a fun painting…..12 x 24 on canvas. Sketching a quick cityscape using warm and cool hues with less water and more pigment, I attempted to let the painting paint itself. Liking color can almost be a curse because rather than paying attention to values color seems to dominate. I totally enjoyed setting aside the time to listen to Andrea Bocelli and paint with abandonment…..enjoy and keep painting….I plan too…..
Do I have a favorite? No! Watercolor paper or canvas each have their own identities. Paper absorbs water and pigment with permission to glaze over dry washes…..canvas likes to be left alone. Pigment lays on top just daring any wash to disturb the fresh painted canvas.
Below are paintings using watercolor canvas…students have two options…paper or explore watercolor canvas….or both….
A color study always precedes my attempt for finished works. This short video shows the three step process. It’s on a quarter sheet 11 x 15 of A’rches 140# rough paper. The pigments are mostly transparent watercolor with an occasional opaque for body. Enjoy….
The music in the video is one of my favorite CD’s while painting….. flamenco guitar by Armik’s…