223. Crocus

This became more of an impression of crocus rather than a detailed study.  To tell the truth, I have never seen a crocus in my life!  I can imagine the joy they bring, though, as they peek through the last of the winter’s snow.  Hyacinths were the bulbs that bloomed in the snow in the midwest, soon followed by tulips and daffodils.  I tried to work with negative space to define the flowers, as well as blur the background and put a bit more detail in the foreground – perspective in action on a conscious level!

This is the reverse side of the paper I used yesterday, St. Cuthbert’s Millford.  This paper has a really nice tooth, not smooth or CP, and smoother than rough.  It catches the brush bristles rather nicely.  Colors are dreamy when blending together.  It also lifts well – some color ran into another area and I was able to lift it out and recover to a degree from the mischief.  I don’t know if Arches would handle it as well as this paper, but that is something I should check out.

In addition to no longer making masses of mud, I find I am actually remembering things – make long brush strokes, lay down large areas of light colors and leave the whites in the process; think about the direction of the light; a few rules about perspective.

222. Late Afternoon

I used St. Cuthbert’s Millford paper. What a difference from Arches! The colors lie on the surface longer it seems – a totally different painting experience. First time trying out this paper and I really like it!  Can you believe it came all the way from England!?

Anyway, this whole week has been a wash – just craziness and little odd details, appointments, and so on.  My head is spinning.  Finally, having time to paint, I made myself sit down and do it, without thinking ahead.  I just needed to get the brush and colors and paper going again.

221. Lichens on Tree Branches

I have finally gotten out to the local botanic garden after a month long hiatus.  I went a couple of days ago on a bright sunny day.  Today, in the foggy gloom, I went again.  Both times, camera in hand.  The sunny day I was accompanied by a friend while this morning one of my dogs came along.

In today’s gloom, the bright green lichens on this tree caught my eye.  I’ve photographed it a number of times, in different seasons, under different lighting conditions.  There are spots of green, white, and dark grey.  Textures range from smooth to rough.  In the textures of the garden – leaves, flowers, critters, stems, branches, – it is easy to overlook the subtle beauty of a couple of branches.

220. Detail and Edges, iii

In the spirit of details and edges to convey perspective, as well as the fact I was really intrigued by the water and rocks and such from yesterday’s painting, I went to Rick Surowicz’s YouTube channel.  I know he has a lot of videos, some which feature flowing water.  I chose his study “Rushing Waters” to practice detail and edges along with perspective.  

I am rather pleased with the way my version of this study came out.  As I do these practice studies, I find I am beginning to rely on myself more and more for painting.  In other words, 6 months ago I would bemoan the fact that my painting does not look like the photo or the painting I was using as a study.  Now, while I look and learn from the instructions, I also am comfortable making my own painting decisions.

I really like Surowicz’s work.  His attention to detail and ability to explain his process of painting really helps the person attempting to learn.  This kind of knowledge sinks in with time, and it’s a lot of fun to see one’s own progress both on paper and in one’s head . . .

Some Thoughts

When I do studies like this one, and am pleased with the results, I think one day I will be a good painter.  When?  That is the question.  Copying someone’s work is pretty easy once you get the hang of it – but what about producing original paintings which are not copies and practice studies of another’s?

I know that we all need to practice what we want to learn.  Sometimes, though, it would be nice to “get there” more often than not!

219. Detail and Edges, ii

Phil Metger’s chapter on detail and edges compares a photograph, with different focusing levels, to a painting.  By this he demonstrates the area of interest – foreground, middle ground, or background.  In general, the foreground or middle ground will contain the area of interest.  Therefore, the edges and details will be greater in these areas.

In this painting, the focal point is the lower right corner, where the rocks meet the small waterfall of the stream.  The two rocks carry the greatest amount of detail, and as we move away from them, details gradually become less and less.  In the background, the right side is a bit more dominant than the left background because the rocks and tree trunks are a bit darker than those on the left.  (What logical lighting reason exists for that, I have no idea!)  I tried to simplify everything the further I got from the lower right rocks and the center foreground water.  Additionally, I limited my palette and tried to tie together all “grounds” of the painting by using the same colors to some extent throughout the painting.

This is my first attempt at water in a stream.  I’m rather pleased with it overall.  Not a masterpiece, for sure, but I am getting where I want to be more each time I paint.

218. Detail and Edges, i

Moving on from Phil Metzger’s studies in atmospheric perspective, we now begin considering details and edges, and how they portray depth and dimension in a painting.  Essentially, as with a photograph, areas of interest are generally in focus, and areas of lesser interest are out of focus.  In painting, this becomes detail and edges – how much of each, where to use them, and why.

In Chapter 2 of The Art of Perspective:  The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium, Metzger points out that in painting, perspective is portrayed (in addition to color) by the amount of detail and sharpness of edges.  Areas which are not of interest, or further away, have less detail.  Edges are softer.  Areas of focus, whether in the foreground or middle ground, will have more detail and sharper edges.  He begins this with a pencil sketch, with areas of light and dark, in between which are medium values.  His drawing is wonderfully detailed and is done with hard, soft, and medium pencils on bristol board.  I have no bristol, and worse, I cannot find my drawing pencils!  Thus, I was stuck with a bit of old drawing paper and a #2 pencil.  Nonetheless, his points were clear.

The depth of field is found in the values, details, and edges.  Varying shades of graphite indicate if something is in front or in back of adjacent branches.  The tree bits in the foreground are more detailed than the ones in the back.  Light and dark work together to create depth, and medium tones help as well.

My drawing is quite lacking in much of what Metzger shows in his book, but the point is made:  edges and detail indicate the point of interest.  Additionally, by doing this study, I am beginning to realize the importance of value studies.  I don’t like swatching for knitting, nor doing toiles for sewing, but in painting, I think the value studies are becoming more important if I want to improve my abilities in watercolor.

Now we move from pencil to paint.  Metzger demonstrates his points about edges and detail with egg tempera and watercolor.  Egg tempera is a natural for great detail, while watercolor is more suggestive.  Even so, there are people who can paint incredibly detailed watercolors that look like photos – I am not one of them!

To emphasize his point about detail and edges, the exercise is to paint a still life apple and pear.  They should be fairly detailed – mine are not especially so, but do show highlight and shadow areas.  Then, this still life is cut out and set against different backgrounds.

I painted 3 backgrounds, which you can see below in the slide show.  Click on each to see what I did.  One of the backgrounds I used twice by flipping it; the red one I only used once, and the one with the stripes I did in two directions and then added texture to the stripes in the form of thin lines and chevrons.

Below is my somewhat detailed study of a pear (with its stem) and an apple (also with its stem) on a lacy cloth laid over a darker surface.

After painting this, I cut out the lower part of the painting.  I cut around the cloth, surface, and fruit – but I chopped off the pear stem in the process!  From there, I affixed the cutout onto the first of the above three backgrounds.

This background is the most subtle of all of them.  There is a sense of depth because the fruit and cloth have detail whereas the table and the background do not.

Using the same background flipped 180 degrees, we now get this painting.

The background of the above is more complex than the other; I feel as if I am seeing the fruit against an open sky.  Consequently, I have a sense of the background more so than I do of the pear and apple.  Good?  Bad?  It would depend on what I (the artist) want to express.

From here, we move into a bright red background.

Certainly here the background overwhelms the fruit.  I think the apple pops rather nicely, but the pear is quite anemic.  The red background is too much if the fruit is the picture’s focal point.

Next, the simpler striped background.

The stripes in the above painting are subtle enough not to destroy the focus of the fruit as subject matter.  Additionally, the eye considers the foreground and background along with the middle ground, but the middle ground is more important than the others.

The same background, flipped over, is a bit more intense as the upper left looms over the fruit.  Still, both are acceptable, but the first one is the better of the two.

Finally, I added thin lines and chevrons to the stripes.

Before you say “nice wallpaper!” let’s consider what occurs here.  The fruit still is of interest, but the complexity of the background makes my eyes jump around – fruit, background, fruit, background.  The foreground just vanishes and I don’t even look at it.

Some Thoughts

This was a totally fun set of exercises, especially the one with changing backgrounds.  The pencil study, though, was an eye opener for me – those pencil value studies really are useful.  Edgar Whitney also emphasized the importance of those value studies . . .

Okay, so here, what I learned was to see a painting a bit like a photograph.  Areas of interest are focused upon with detail and edges.  Areas of lesser interest have less detail and softer or more blurred edges.  I did this with the edges of the cloth upon which the fruit sits – the fruit is the area of interest, so more detail and clearly defined edges.  The cloth and surface upon which the fruit sit is softer and less detailed; the cloth has greater detail than the table, but less than the fruit.

Finally, the amount of detail in the background varies, and it has a direct affect on the fruit.  The more detailed the background, the flatter and less 3-D the painting.  And the less interest the viewer has in those delectable pieces of fruit!

Whew!  It’s gonna take a bit for this to sink in . . .

 

217. Atmospheric Perspective, iii

This is the end of the first section of Phil Metzger’s book on perspective, which is all about atmospheric perspective.  This means, colors demonstrate depth.  Cooler colors and lighter colors recede, warmer ones move forward.  Of course, this is not a hard and fast rule, but one which is generally true.  For instance, warm colors become muted with distance and atmosphere.

As you can see from this scan, page 25 of Metzger’s book, he demonstrates this principle.  While I work in watercolor, he worked this particular study in oils.  The palette is very close to many palette choices by watercolorists.   As you can see from the study, cooler colors are in the distance, and while there are some warmer colors – namely yellows – in the mid-to-distant areas, they are muted.  Further distant mountains are paler than ones closer.  Pine trees in the distance are blue-green – atmosphere at work.  Detail is less in the distance, and greater the closer the painting is the viewer’s eye.  The same with colors – warmer to the front.

This is my quickie rendition of Metzger’s study.  My colors are similar although not the same in all instances.  To move the middle ground further away, along with the mountains, I glazed the entire area with a light blue wash; I also did this to unite the areas.  The yellows in the midground are dulled with violet as well.  The closer I got to the front of the painting, the more pure my colors became.  The oranges were sometimes straight from the tube.  The greens were mixed with yellows – that is green with yellow, green with raw sienna.  Oranges and greens were also used.  I added detail to the foreground using a rigger brush to create rock cracks and branches.  Watercolor is not oil painting, so my techniques were a bit different.

Some Thoughts

Metzger’s book continues to hold my interest.  In part it does because it is practical in its approach, beginning with color as that is what most painters “get” immediately.  From here, we will be moving on to other elements of painting.

I am enjoying the exercises and Metzger’s explanations.  There is enough detail to explain, but not so much I am bored or overwhelmed or both.

Finally, there is a freedom here – so far I am not doing horrid barns that lack perspective!  I have done a lot of those (which shall soon be posted), and am looking forward to the day that my grasp of perspective will be second nature.