Nothing like a slushy pile of dirty snow alongside the road to make you really appreciate bright, white clean snow!
I thought I would do this for more practice painting snow, using some of the things that stuck in my mind from the Shari Blaukopf’s class on painting snow. Add to that, I tried to recall and implement some of the things I have learned over the past several months from my courses with Ian Roberts. Something seems to be shifting!
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.
I just finished a course on drawing as a preliminary to one on brushwork, and then color theory. Between will be challenges, and the challenge between drawing and brushwork is a 30-day challenge to do small, preliminary sketches in pencil.
One of the things I have enjoyed about the course, taught by Ian Roberts, is the development of drawing as a preliminary to a painting. Initially, as in the first few weeks, shapes were simple and the point was to carve out space on a 2D surface to create a 3D image. We ended with a challenge of doing one such sketch a day for 30 days – or however many sketches we could do. I have time to do 30, so 30 it will be.
I never do value studies, but I admit to laziness and impatience on my part. So, I decided that I needed to do something which will shake up my approaches to painting. As well, values are always hard for me to see as color always gets me. Roberts says, “Color gets all the attention but value does the hard work.” Or something like that. So true!
What I have enjoyed in particular is how Roberts approaches composition – leading lines, horizontal, verticals, and all leading to the focal point of the picture. I think I am getting that. The direction of the pencil lines indicates, too, the vertical, diagonal, and horizontal. Brush strokes can indicate the same.
Obviously the first picture has some verticals – and things we expect to be vertical, even if tipsy, such as the fence posts on either side of the road. The second one, a picture of low tide at a local beach, doesn’t seem to have any verticals except in the cliffs. But wait! The lines of the ocean and beach are nearly vertical – something I never considered until Roberts pointed them out.
I admit, I am curious how I will get my black and white studies onto a painted surface in color, but I guess that will come with time and practice. All told, I will be in his class through August, and I hope by that time to see some improvement.