Today I spent the afternoon doing watercolor exercises. Positive and negative space. Lost and found edges. Shadows. This is the best result, though the shadow side of the tomato sucks.
Today, an ink study of orange slices on a bit of peel.
I am / was trying to do a bit of watercolor painting every day, but I find that such commitments, while good, can be stifling. Drawing is integral to painting, and it is a pleasure to do in and of itself.
I’ve been working on the exercises in Alphonso Dunn’s Book Pen & Ink Drawing Workbook, so an ink drawing after exercises seems like a good thing to do! I know I certainly enjoy drawing after the practice. It’s also relaxing and, I find, a good way to loosen up for a painting session.
In addition to using Dunn’s book, I am also working through Tom Hoffmann’s Watercolor Painting: A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium. Right now I am working on simplifying forms and determining the 5 shades of grey – the lights and the darks – in pictures. I am not very good at that, so combining his exercises along with ink drawing, I think it may sink in. Then, let’s see if it can be applied to paint.
Thus, a dose of vitamin C for painting health!
I took this picture awhile back in the local botanical garden. It is an oak against the sky, with the Santa Monica range in the distance. In the photo, the tree is silhouetted against a yellow sky, and the foreground is mottled with dried grasses. The California oak is not deciduous, but shows leaves year round.
The process here is along the lines of yesterday’s post, and is more successful I think. It is very simple. The steps I took began with a wash on the entire paper (8×10) in raw sienna. The mountains on the left were done next using a bit of sap green with the raw sienna, followed by some cobalt blue for the darker range. After that, the lower half of the painting had a wash of a greenish color, later followed with a darker green of sap green and cobalt blue. The tree and brush in the center were of burnt sienna and cobalt, with perhaps a bit of ultramarine as well.
That’s it. Fairly successful in moving from light to dark, general to specific. The simplicity of the subject matter makes it an easy painting to do – yesterday’s fig tree through the window was more complex, and accordingly more difficult. I really wonder if I will ever successfully paint complex scenes, such as a forest and creek or a city street filled with cars, people, buildings, and whatever – rather daunting, actually.
I’ve been doing a bit of reading . . . the gist of which is work light to dark, then general to detailed, and the last is more important than the first. It is from Tom Hoffman’s excellent book on watercolor, should you wish to know.
Anyhoooo, following this advice, I made a foray into a rather abstract painting. The corner of my house has two windows, set perpendicular to one another, and are furnished with plantation shutters – wooden shutters with wide slats. This is from a photo I took. I tried to catch the graphic lines of the shutters in contrast to the curves of the fig tree and its autumnal leaves outside, next to the sidewalk and street.
Wetness in watercolor varies. There are times when a very dry brush on dry paper is necessary to give sharp, clear edges to an object. Then there is wet-on-dry wherein washes are applied to dry paper with a lot of water. And finally, wet-in-wet, where wet color is applied to wet paper. As the paper dries, the color behaves differently. There is so much to learn in watercolor!
Of late, I have been painting with a lot of water and a lot of color. It’s a challenge, but daily painting is yielding better results overall. Not every day, but overall! Yesterday, I watched a number of videos, and did two studies based on videos by Rick Surowicz and Edo Hannema.
This one is from an early video by Surowicz. He used some frisket, but my bottle was not working, so I painted without it. I really needed it as his style is not just wet, but sopping wet! He uses a fine mist sprayer to scoot paint around. The result can be quite nice as you build layers of colors on layers of color. I did this painting on Strathmore 400 paper, a paper I don’t especially like, so I was quite pleased with how it handled all the water. The palette consisted of three colors – sap green, indanthrene blue, and a bit of Indian red.
Edo Hannema is a master of the wash. I enjoy using his videos as study guides. The above painting is my favorite of the two I did yesterday. The palette was limited to raw sienna, burnt sienna, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue. The green was a mixture of cobalt and raw sienna. One thing I really like about Hannema’s videos is he tells you when he thinks he makes a mistake, or needs to fix something in his painting, as well as tips on using colors. It’s rather like eavesdropping on the artist.
I decided to look at mists and soft edges because the other day Rick Surowicz posted a video about mist rising below a mountain ridge – Overlook:
This was a good video to watch on how to create a mist or fog. He also has another one called Misty Lake which was the one I used in my above studies:
Edo Hannema is a master at wet-in-wet techniques, which are great for fogs and soft effects. The horizon of this painting video demonstrates this quite well. The thing that is especially fun about the video below is the fact he took a painting he did of this scene in the summer and converted it to winter:
I find using practice videos helpful in learning techniques. They are also helpful in thinking about how I paint versus how I want to paint. Like many beginners, I put in far too much detail, and my own impatience impairs final results far too often. Letting the paper dry is important, and I am learning to do that – my hair dryer is hanging within easy reach! Leaving white paper is getting more “natural” in feeling, so I am thinking ahead as well.
Nowadays, I find I am plotting out paintings in my head. Daily painting is another big step forward as I now have the time to spend on it without a million other things demanding my time weighing me down with guilt – chores and duties or the pleasures of a hobby.
In a number of circles, there is an “urban sketch” style done with ink and watercolor. Drawing and painting are combined. Some people are masters of it, in my opinion, having a good balance of ink and clear watercolor, with one or the other predominating, and the other not overwhelming its partner. (I hope that made sense!)
I am trying to find that balance. I’d say I am okay with ink, but heavy-handed with color.
Today I decided to try two things. The first is above – a simple “country” scene with trees (and green! remember yesterday?), a fence, and a building. The idea was for the sun – the light source – to be coming from the left, behind the barn. I’m not so sure what that big blue thing is to the right of the (obvious) three shadows of the trees, but it’s too late to do anything about that!
This one is an urban scene, one obviously not in downtown Los Angeles, but in some older part of the world. Here, the light is coming from the right, perhaps, but the alleys and buildings create their own logic. Shadows are broken up with bright spots. One can only imagine that to find the light, looking up will reveal a world much different than the one on the ground. I think this one was fairly successful; there are parts which seem to work, and others that make no sense at all – like, what is that thing? Scribble more ink on it and let the viewer guess!
After playing with yellows yesterday, I decided to try to mix greens. A very green landscape seemed appropriate. Most of the greens were mixed using hansa yellow, quin gold, and cadmium yellow along with cerulean blue, ultramarine, and cobalt. At times, I pulled in Hooker’s green, which I really like, along with some sap green. Others at times, too, mixed with yellow or blue, or even orange!
Looking at the painting, the sky seems to not really match much of the linear quality of the rest of the picture – technique, I expect. I had wanted the trees, foliage, and foreground to be softer, more blurred perhaps, but still full of greens. One thing I should have done is to have not painted the sky across the entire upper portion of the picture – this kept the green foliage from being more discernible or distinct.
Overall, I am rather pleased with the final result. The goal was green, which I certainly got, but the composition and style, while not what I envisioned, are not too bad.