Category: Watercolor

By the Water

I am taking an online watercolor class, and I am sort of this way, that way about it. There is feedback and some great videos, but I find that I like to have a more personal contact than such. Another online class I am taking has weekly Zoom meetings and even though we aren’t all yacking with the instructor, it is more personal.

Anyway, despite what I would like to see different, there is a lot of value in pursuing online learning. To a degree, you have to motivate yourself. You have to have the discipline to do it. One thing that I do find especially hard in all my classes is the making of value studies – oh, how I hate them! I don’t have them as part of my routine when it comes to painting, and the discipline of doing them is what I hate. I expect that doing them will pay off in the future – but it may be a bit down the road as I force myself to do them without appreciating what I know they are supposed to provide.

Above, a study from a photo in my watercolor class. Below is the first value study showing the midtones

All the white area is supposed to be sky and the lightest areas of the picture. The grey is the middle value. These are used to help shape the painting before refinement with darks and details. Below is my dark-added value study.

I actually really think this idea of doing middle values for the first step of a value study is a good idea. Do these values first, paint your lights and mid values in color, and then move on to the darker ones in the value study and the final painting. Doing this is very nice, really, because the dark values and details get distracting.

Like I said, this is a thing I am not enjoying doing but know it is probably going to reap bigger rewards than I can imagine at present. Values and edges are what I am trying to see in anything I do.

Birch Trees

Birch Trees – from a photo in Module 2 of Andy Evansen’s Class

If you have been following me for a bit, you know that I have enrolled in a lot of painting classes. This is a study from my watercolor class, online with Andy Evansen. His work covers a lot of subjects, but I like his ones of the natural world the best. So, lazy me, I stick with his photos of the wilds, but will, at some point, take the dive and do something with buildings and people, and maybe even cars.

I used frisket to create the hard edges of the birch trees and the snowy areas of the logs in the foreground. The other white areas, the snow, is plain paper, no frisket. After the frisket dried, I did the sky, sunlit mountain, and dark background. Then, a bit of the foreground. Finally, the frisket was removed.

When the frisket was gone, I worked left to right, creating the shadows of the birch trees. Upon those shapes I added heavier paint to create the blacks characteristic of birch trunks. Various other details got worked in. White gouache came in handy to clean up some of the birch tree trunks as well as to create the fine branches of the trees toward the top of the painting.

The only thing I have some issues with is the very large birch tree on the right, the one which stretches top to bottom. It is not quite right, but that is something for correcting later on. Despite that, I am pleased with what I am learning, and creating, with all these classes. Painting and drawing and artwork is in the forefront of my mind these days, and it is beginning to show in more “successful” paintings from my viewpoint.

9×12 CP 140# Arches paper; primarily watercolor with a touch or two of gouache. (Maybe 3 or 4 or more….)

Out in the Midwest

Module 2 – Study 2 – Andy Evansen’s “Watercolor for All Seasons” Class

This is my second foray into the series of photos Andy Evansen has posted for studies in the second module of his watercolor class. Here the focus is on value studies.

One of the things I am attempting to do, from both my classes with Evansen and with Ian Roberts, is to work on value. Evansen is a watercolorist and Roberts is an oil painter. Evansen demonstrates the use of a value study on his YouTube channel by creating the middle value(s) as large shapes. Roberts emphasizes shapes rather than things as well. Unlike Roberts, though, Evansen begins his value study with simply the middle value, leaving lights as white. After he has painted the middle values in his painting, he returns to the value study to put in darks and perhaps details.

I managed to do the middle value study, and then painted in what I considered to be the middle values, working left to right as I am right handed. But, before that, I laid in the sky with paper turned upside down as I wanted to have a darker value at the horizon.

I am not sure if the paper is improperly sized, but the paint and paper did not interact well. This is a 300# CP Kilimanjaro paper, natural white, and the first time I have used it. I also wet both sides of the paper, which is a habit I have for watercoloring with 140# paper. I need to see what happens in the future with other paintings.

I don’t really think this painting has a focal point, but that is not the purpose of this study. This module is to paint left to right, working in midvalues and sky first and leaving areas of white or light colors intact. From there, darks.

Evansen has provided a number of photos as references for the basis of a painting, and for values, I think I will work on that and try to apply what I am learning from Roberts and Evansen to create some things worth the time I spend. The reference photos range from landscaapes to cityscapes – animals and people. I will begin with the landscapes and then try the harder subjects for me. Here, there are cow shapes – blobby things. I have also done geese – more blobby things. All thesse blobs have characteristic shapes for the critters.

So! I am dipping my toe into new territories . . . let’s see where it takes me!

Along the Shore

It is always worthwhile looking at the works of various painters, regardless as the medium in which they are creating. The works of Edward Seago have a charm to them which is old world, peaceful, and hearkens to a quieter and simpler time. This painting is based loosely off one of his oil painting of the eastern English coastline. What attracted me was – and is – his vast skies. The low lying shoreline beneath such a magnificent sky is worth trying out. The same may be said of the watercolors of Edo Hannema – he, too, finds the work of Seago, and Edward Wesson, as sources for inspiration.

In Southern California, the sky, where I live, is almost always blue. No clouds, little haze. Humidity sits at zero. (I won’t discuss the vast amount of lotion I use!) However, the big skies of the midwest with towering clouds, or the piles of clouds over New Mexico, are in my memory, and so the clouds and moist skies of a wetter clime draw me.

Here, I used the 1.5 inch flat brush for 90% of the painting, resorting to a small flat brush – 1/4 inch – for some detail. Large washes, wet into wet, some glazing. Paper is Arches 140# CP, 16×20. The large brush is becoming a favorite for sure!

The large brush helps me keep my colors clean and think about masses rather than details. Big to small. I am also refreshing my water as I move along – this took about 2 or 3 refreshes – and cleaning off my palette, too. With a large brush, large washes, a lot of color is used. Clean palette, clean water, and, of course, a clean brush. The results are beginning to be seen.

Winter Storm

When I first started to paint in watercolor – like when I was a teenager! – the advice was to use a brush bigger than what you think you need. Yeah, right. Over the years, I have resisted this, but lately I have been doing the majority of my painting with a 1.5 inch flat brush. From there, different brushes with different ideas in mind.

Here, 16×20 CP 140# Arches. I sponged the entire paper with water and then set in the sky. From there, the water and grasses along the shore, working to get blurring of colors into the wet paint. Then, the horizon with the same 1.5 inch brush. I let it dry.

From that point, it was a matter of thought. Initially, the sky dried to a pale color, so I laid in more dark paint for the sky, using a spray bottle to move the paint around, and holding the painting by hand, tilted the paper this way and that to run the paint in various directions.

Looking at it upside down always gives a new perspective, sometimes good, sometimes not. I added some dry brush for the weeds, and used a wet mixture of blues for the snow shadows. I also painted a darker version of the same snow blue into the distant water, moving it into the weeds / reeds. Then, more dry brush once the water had dried to overlap the paint I applied.

This is a stronger painting than some of my more more recent ones, and I will credit the large, flat brush forcing me to work simply. It’s actually much more fun, and easier, in many ways, because I am not getting finicky to the point of crazy.

Progress is being made!

Water Thaw – 4 (Final Version?)

Water Thaw 4 – Final Version??

The end! Or is it?

Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, more blue in the lower front, some other touches, and then let it sit overnight.

This morning I took another look at it, and the only way I can describe what I did was to refine it. I increased contrast in some areas to create harder edges. Other things were designed to lead the eye toward the center of the painting, toward the whitish rock at the top of the water. I also looked for areas that just didn’t look right, somehow too symmetrical or distracting. In the end, little bits here and there made it better to my eye. But – that was during morning coffee when I was trying to wake up!

I have never worked on a painting – a watercolor – for this long a time period. Total time is probably 8-10 hours. Time was spent laying down frisket, colors, letting things dry. Then frisket was rubbed off. Water was sprayed at different times and salt sprinkled. Rubbing alcohol was also sprayed on. I think the last round of frisket took about 30 minutes to rub off, along with salt. The result, though, are transparent layers of color which I could not have accomplished otherwise.

While the perspective seems a bit off – or maybe we are looking down into the water from above? – I like this painting. It’s a new adventure for me in watercolor, and while bright, I don’t think it is overly so. I deliberately did not use any orange!! New ideas are coming to mind for painting in a transparent medium. Mood and impression work here for me – not realism, but suggestion. So, spring thaw, melting ice, new leaves.

In this final version, I cropped it and changed the perspective a bit in Lightroom. Post-processing artwork is much like post-processing a photo, an din the printing industry it is done all the time. You can see the uncropped version in the gallery below.

Arches 16×20 140# CP, acrylic, gouache, watercolor.

Water Thaw – 3

Water Thaw – 3

Getting there, but not quite.

I added more frisket, colors, salt. I also began adding acrylic paint thinned down quite a bit. Now, another night of letting it stew, but I already think I know what I want to do with it. For instance, I want to add more blue in the lower left foreground in that rather large white blob. Perhaps some sense of geometric texturing by adding tape and then painting over it. White streaks for snow on trees? It’s hard to tell.

Waiting is a good thing to do.

Water Thaw – 2

Round 2!

First, I removed the liquid frisket. From there I added more color to increase contrast, again using the wide 1.5 inch flat brush. While the paint was still wet, I sprinkled on some kosher salt. After letting it dry, I again added more color, salt, and then spritzed it with rubbing alcohol. This morning I shook off the salt and now am contemplating what to do next. The first step, though, will be to add more frisket to help preserve the existing whites as well as some of the areas of color.

Such a crap shoot at times!!

Below you can compare the first image to the next.

Water Thaw – 1

Water Thaw #1

As I mentioned in my last post, I am trying to change my de facto style into something a bit lighter in color, less intense, and more abstract. This round I am working in layers with an idea in mind. The idea is the spring thaw – frozen water broken up (perhaps), or a stream suddenly overwhelmed by waters pouring down from mountains, as spring warms and melts snow in the higher elevations

I used a liquid frisket with a bamboo pen, drawing with the resist, smearing it around, and finally using a brush dipped in detergent to create different shapes. From there I painted using a 1.5″ flat brush to place colors where things could be. Above is the result with the frisket removed.

Watercolors on 16×20 140# CP Arches.

Twilight at the Bird Refuge

I am not really sure what I am doing these days. I don’t really like what I am painting. Moving into abstraction to some degree, trying to loosen up, trying to be more suggestive than representational. Like anything new, or different, it can be very uncomfortable. A part of me wants to work with less intense colors, and for me, that seems like an impossibility! So, I keep trying. Let’s see where it all goes.

Watercolor, Arches 140# CP, 16×20.