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.
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….
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…..
Painting colorful loose shapes has been my focus for many years. A style that seems to be recognized by those who are familiar with my work. I am a shape painter with few details. Reviewing some old….old notes that were written years ago when taking a workshop from Christopher Shink sparked an interest in tonal values. Most experienced painters unconsciously paint the values needed, intuitively. I pulled out a drawer housing half sheet watercolor paintings and began applying principles from the cold notes. Some of the paintings were worthy to be called ‘painting’….while some could use a band-aid. What a great learning tool when those so-so paintings are put under the microscope focusing on an important principle. Because color is so much of who I am or want to be….it was overriding value ranges. The painting below is a quick study painted with value in mind with color reigned in…..a corner has been turned on my journey. As much as color dominates my creativity, my palette has been limited to about 7 colors with a few opaques. Sacrificing painting those wonderful negative shapes, which excites me, using bright opaques to enhance the neutrals…….
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…
I had an open window several weeks ago to look back through some of my old sketch books. Some of those early sketch books are now in the landfill. However, several sketch books brought back a lot of early memories when I didn’t know transparent verses opaque. Cold pencil notes from early workshops stared me in the face waiting to be read. One particular reference was luminosity, paintings that have that warm fuzzy feeling called ‘glow.’ Surely I attended the class because the notes were definitely mine, when my handwriting was more legible. At first it was like reading something for the first time….then memories began to come back like an old movie. You know that feeling when the title is foreign and halfway through the movie you remember the ending and title. Those few pages had me on my feet looking for a photo reference, grabbing a canvas, making a quick sketch, squeezing out fresh paint and trying my hand at a new experience from an old page. Below is a painting created from a look back….hope you enjoy the view from inside an antique store….JoBeth
This was a fun landscape because local color was disregarded and some adjustment of the photograph. It was a struggle keeping a figure from this composition. The painting was drawn with a brush loaded with yellow ocher which keeps the shapes suggestive. Halloween orange, Andrews turquoise, and Carmine where the colors of choice. A light value wash was first applied preserving some white paper. The wash was dried before the next mid values where established….negative and positive strokes. Before the final dark’s the paper is totally dry. Dark values at strategic points and calligraphy are the finishing touches to a delightful day.
Keeping up with life at times dries out the palette. I remember when painting everyday was common, if just an hour. I fall into one of two categories …getting slower with menial task or my plate is full. Whatever category or shoe that fits, I am persuaded to speed up or scrape the plate. However a window opened to produce a couple of new images. Don’t know about most of you reading this blog, when time is limited…….my focus, get paint on paper. My photographs are categorized with one slot labeled maybe. These are references that almost found themselves in bed with yesterdays news. This slot isn’t opened often….you have those too….where was this? Soooo…long story short, the two paintings below where several photos in the ‘maybe’ slot. I seldom use one photo for a single painting…..a maybe subject from one and background/foreground of another. These paintings are not chosen for the travel channel because they don’t have zip codes. I want to set at the table, smell the flowers, or walk down the street even better shop. Painting what could be…..
Recently while having lunch at Abuleo’s, with my husband, I was caught off guard without anything to sketch on but a cocktail napkin or my husbands shirt. (He said, No). The light reflections streaming in and around the busy scene was a painting waiting in the wings. I not only didn’t have paper, no pen….so borrowing the waiters pen, shapes that appealed to me where quickly drawn. The figures moving around changed the light prospective often and another napkin was required. Think I have enough information to compose several interesting paintings from one setting. I keep a small tablet in my purse with pen just for those inspiring moments…but where was it when I needed it…at home. So when you find yourself without, overly inspired, sketch on anything available….that is anything you can take with you. Restaurants frown on taking their tablecloths or napkins…..JoBeth
The napkin drawing
The 11×15 study on A’rches 140# rough paper
Demonstrations from teaching or exhibits can accumulate in my studio faster than the speed of sound. The yellow brick road can sull quickly when answering questions and talking through a demo. So….when the print rack becomes full…it is time to add finishing touches to complete the painting or….the chop shop. A stack of paintings with a variety of subjects became a challenge….jumping from flowers, sidewalk cafes and city scape’s….high key to dark keeps the creativity flowing . I actually enjoy switching gears using a variety of mat sizes to create different images from the original. Values or colors usually need tweaking because some shapes need to reconnect. These are a few of the crops/finishes that made for a fun day. Must confess some demos decorated the trash and others will be turned to the back side and used for studies. Below are the 15×22 original paintings and the crops are 16×20 or 15×11… 1/4 sheet of watercolor paper.
Although I liked the subject…the white awning cut the painting in half and detracted from the the action underneath. This was on Arches rough 140# paper.
The 16×20 crop below was more appealing to me with a few adjustments….glazed the awning with a warm yellow ochre.
Another half sheet on Arches 140# rough paper…colorful newspaper dispensers could take center stage on their own. I chose to add a few figures and umbrella for interest. The painting wasn’t
trash worthy but a 16×20 mat cropped out areas that were not important.
The focus on figures and newsstand’s….the windows were darkened and colors were popped up to enhance the overall painting.
This was an oblong southwest blend on hot press paper this size occasionally
creates mat/framing/hanging issues so…decided to create
two 11×14 paintings.
Twenty demos had make overs today…..hair cuts, color or new style…another advantage of cropping…paintings are simplified with a new perspective from the original…..