Hue, Value, Intensity

Since February or March of this year I have been taking a series of online classes, complete with live Zoom meetings, with Ian Roberts. He has been the best online teacher because he is so diverse in his interests and he brings them into the world of creativity. I admire his artwork, too, and think his book on composition is an excellent resource. For me, art is more than a pretty picture – it is an expression of a person, a skill, a view point. All of this, in a painting, is more akin to me than any other form of art, such as photography or music. While I enjoy them, I just am not as I entranced by them as I am by color, paint, and the process of painting.

That said, the first of the three courses was about drawing and values, not as an art in and of itself, but as a means to move forward into preparing for a painting. Next came brushwork, using black and white to render shades of grey and to learn about value. By adding yellow ochre, the next step was discerning warm and cool variants of color – or monochrome. Finally, we have come to the third and final class in this series – colorwork.

What is color? As the title says, color varies with hue, value and intensity. This week our job is to mix greys from complementary colors. Easy enough – or is it? Part of it will depend on medium used, and then, it also depends on warmth and coolness of colors. Our preliminary palette begins with a warm and cool color of each of the primaries, along with white if necessary. Cool colors are Cerulean Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and Cadmium Yellow Lemon. Warm colors are Ultramarine Blue, Cadmium Red Light, and Cadmium Yellow Deep. I have stuck with these three colors and a bit of titanium white gouache where I couldn’t keep the highlights, or lost them in my painting, or forgot about them altogether!

Pretty dull painting! It makes me think of the Upside Down. The point of this study was to take the clashing and garish still life Ian Roberts provided and tone it down – dull down the colors. I am using watercolors here, and I used complementary colors to tone things down but still leave the original color recognizable. The foreground cloth was bright lavender-violet; back behind squash a dark blue, wall on the left a sea green. Bowl is pinkish rose, apples green, and squash an orange with ridges casting shadows. Some shadows were hard edges, others blurred together. It was a hard exercise because I had to test my colors over and over again on a piece of scrap watercolor. This was on Arches 140# CP.

Our next study was a very low key (low key in color intensity) landscape. Evidence of a hazy day dulled all the colors so that while they were warm and cool, they all were similar in tonality. The above scan of my painting in black and white showed me I did accomplish by and large, especially in the field that makes up the lower 2/3 of the painting. The colors were very soft without a lot of bright or intense colors; rather, they all sort of blended into each other when I squinted my eyes. Only a few areas of dark contrast stood out – on the right of the field in the curve, and the bottoms of the trees at the edge of the field.

As you can see, there are no colors of high intensity. They are soft and subtle, even when dark. Hue means variations of color – and there are several, and as this is watercolor the colors are transparent and can be laid over one another or blended, depending on the wetness of the paper. The values are all in the middle of the spectrum. I used Kilimanjaro 300# Bright White paper, and this is a 10×10 inch square. My palette here are only the 6 colors I mentioned above, without any white at all.

In many ways, the still life is more “my style” insofar as the colors are laid in rather heavily. The landscape involves a more delicate and patient approach to the colors. Both were very challenging in their own way, but each taught me a lot. I liked the limited palette as I was forced to stay within its parameters, but could still achieve a lot of lovely colors, as well as darks and lights.

More to come . . .

Water, Water, Everywhere

More practice paintings. Negative painting will return in the not-too-distant future. Before all those negative painting exercises came in, I ran across the watercolors of Javid Tabatabaei. He has a wonderful way of painting skies reflected in water. His YouTube channel shows his tricks – definitely watch him if you want to see what magic he creates with a very simple method.

Normally, I paint the sky first, and then I do the distant hills. Water on the ground is left to last. Tabatabaei strokes in the sky and the water where the colors of the sky are reflected, but he leaves areas of bright water white or with a light tint of gold or yellow or blue, depending on his needs. For the sun, he paints around the circular shape of the sun; he does the same for the moon. Other times he will lift the paint. This technique creates a lot of drama.

Below are a couple of studies I followed on YouTube as well as a copy of a painting from Tabatabaei’s Instagram account, to see if I had learned from his demonstrations. I did. And to tell you the truth, this is one of the most fabulous ways I have ever seen for painting water and sky in watercolor – a big thanks to Mr. Tabatabaei for sure! Very simple, very elegant.

The above is my first attempt to follow Tabatabaei’s technique; this is from a YouTube study I seem to be unable to find at present. This is also on HP paper by Fabriano, and I was not really in a comfort zone as far as using it. Still, it worked out quite nicely. Here, I tried to lift out the image of the sun, but it really didn’t work. White gouache failed too. So, a painting lacking in success in a lot of ways but that water and reflections are yummy!

The one above is also from a YouTube video by Tabatabaei. He has a couple of YouTube channels, come to think of it. That may be why I am having problems finding them! This one and the one below are on Arches CP paper.

Finally, my version of one of Tabatabaei’s paintings using his water / sky technique. It worked out pretty good, I think, and I can see I am going to have a lot of fun painting water! Expect a monsoon or flood . . . of watery watercolor paintings.

Thanks, Javid!

In the Canyon

Another rendering of another artist’s work! This is from a (what else?) YouTube video by Roland Lee, an American watercolorist who paints the national parks of Bryce and Zion with a beautiful and delicate touch.

The subject here, of course, is landscape, but here are more subtle renderings of nature – here, more trees – using negative painting. I added a few of my own touches, of course, but the point of the lesson was observed and learned to a degree. Not easy to do, not easy to follow, but I rather like the results. More practice to come, too.

Learning from a paint-along is rather fun, at times daunting. I used to think of my paintings all as “failures” because I never replicated the teacher’s work. Of course, that is silly, but until I could let it go, as well as become more adept at watercolors and skilled in their handling, my own paintings would be disappointments. Now I am getting comfortable with my own style, if there is one, as well as how I handle everything. Skills are building.

Done on Arches CP 140#, 9×12.

And here is the video to enjoy – Roland Lee is a good presenter – clear instructions and a deft hand. I know I will be looking at more of his over time.

The Forest for the Trees

Another adventure in negative painting. As I have mentioned earlier, trees are a very good way to practice negative painting.

Here, I painted around the white trunks, and then more tinted trunks. I couldn’t find myself getting rigidly graphic with this, and just did a splish-splash approach. I also think I did a fairly decent job of moving from a dark, shady forest floor to a more sunlit canopy.

In the end, I used some white gouache, too, and rather like the vibrational energy of it all.

Splotchness

Another floral study following a YouTube video. This one is by Lois Davidson, whose technique is much different than the “Bowl of Roses” video.

I rather liked this one. There were some little things in doing it that I hadn’t done before. I’ve sprinkled colors onto wet paint, but never dropped in sprinklings of water. That was fun. Also, the sheer joy in painting splotchy flowers is always a delight but I did have to think a lot more than it looks – working light to dark requires forethought and patience. To me, watercolor painting is like haiku – it takes a lot more work than it appears to need!

This is on Arches CP 140# – as always! – 9×12.

Negative Painting

Negative painting is painting around a shape. Positive painting is painting an actual shape. The first is hard to do. The second less so, but the skill of negative painting is necessary and can produce some pretty dramatic results. It is also a skill if you don’t want to use liquid frisket to block off areas to keep white. Positive painting sounds easy, but it ain’t. (My flower paintings are evidence of this!)

A common exercise to show the learner how to do negative space is to paint a tree, paint around it in a light wash, draw another tree on the colored wash, and then paint around this, until you have a lot of trees ranging from white to the varying values of the wash. Sterling Edwards has a lengthy but very good video about this method:

While I know about negative painting, and have stated it as one of my goals, along with flowers (which benefit from the skill of negative painting), I thought this was a good one of the many I watched. What I liked was how he blends his paint inward.

Anyway, I did trees. Rick Surowicz is also a master at negative painting, and if you look at Edwards’ paintings, and those of Surowwicz, you will see both apply the same techniques. In my painting, I used Arches 140# CP, 9×12. I outlined the tree, and then painted around it. At some point I was frustrated and decided to do some painting with white gouache, on both the primary tree and then adding others.

Overall, I rather like the effect, particularly after adding the gouache. I think it enhanced the painting rather than making it just another annoying experience! I used to be quite rigid about not using gouache, much less gel pens or diluted acrylics in my watercolors, but rules exist to be broken, and I expect purists would call this “mixed media” – but that no longer bothers me as much as it used to. Watercolors they are (water soluble), so watercolors these remain.

A Bowl of Roses

The above study was fun to do, but I had a lot of help in the form of (what else?) a YouTube video. Videos are such good ways to see what a person does, and how they paint. To me, watching the methods an artist goes about accomplishing something is one of the biggest ways to learn.

The video I used was one by a YouTuber called “Draw with Shiba.” There are a lot of good videos on his channel, and none of them are so difficult you cannot learn something. As my goal is flowers I found this video of his quite helpful.

Our images sort of match, sort of don’t. His paper seems to hold on to water more than mine does (Arches) so he can lift color from the sides of the roses. He also begins with a lot of wet-in-wet. In this video, he wets the paper entirely with a brush before he paints, and then drops in color so it blurs into all the major areas of the paintings. In other videos he simply drops water droplets onto his paper, thus controlling areas as he disperses the water with his brush. He paints, flat, too, from what I can see.

Overall, I enjoyed this video. The flowers are roses (thumbs up there!), the vase is simple, and the entire painting covers a lot of techniques. I liked the way in which he lifted the paint and painted the roses. I learned a bit and produced a painting that doesn’t make me cringe. I tried to apply a lot of the techniques here to my flower flop of yesterday, and some worked, some did not, but that is life. Live to paint another day!

Flower Flop

For the next several weeks I have decided to focus on watercolors, except for the remaining few sessions of my oil / acrylic class. The reason for this is we will be out and about, traveling across country by car, and watercolor is the most transportable art medium I can bring with me.

Two areas in watercolor are foremost in my mind at present. One is negative painting. The other is flowers.

Like anything, you need to practice. Here, an attempt at negative painting, and painting flowers. While not creating mud, I definitely need to simplify what I am doing and figure out how to do it. Supposedly these are alstroemeria, but not sure it anyone would think that is what they are!

I’ll just make the statement a few areas of negative painting worked and leave it at that!

Coastal Fog, Morning

I am trying to lighten up my handling of watercolor. Very often my colors are far more intense than I really want. I think part of this is the result of impatience and perhaps pre-cataract surgery days. Watercolor itself lends itself to a delicacy other media lack, I think, and to not play into the wetness and what it can do perhaps defeats watercolor’s beauty.

There is something about fog and early morning that always fascinates me. The idea that a cloud is on the ground (my father’s description of fog when I was about 5) still intrigues me. After all, clouds are UP!

So, a morning along the coast. Wet, soft, blurry, and giving way to a sunny, summer day.

Arches CP 140#, 9×12, watercolor.