227. A View from Above

More gouache!

Gouache apparently is best used straight out of the tube.  I put a bit of each color I have into a covered palette, and the result is the gouache dried out fairly quickly.  Today, I managed to make a hybrid painting it seems – rather watercolory and transparent, and rather gouachy and opaquish.  To see if I can rehydrate the gouache, I put a couple of drops of glycerin into each well along with a spray of water.  I’ll test them out tomorrow.  I hate to think of wasting a lot of paint – it’s not cheap, even on sale for 40% off.

There are some “rules” for painting with gouache.  One is thin to thick paint, and dark to light paint.  Each layer of gouache is opaque(ish) depending on how diluted it is.  Thus, you can begin with a watercolor-thin wash and end up with a straight-out-of-the-tube thickness.

To begin with, I laid down thin layers of color for all areas – sky, background, middle ground and foreground.  From there it was playing around.  Ultimately the sky and the foreground are more like gouache insofar I used heavier paints, but the middle to background remain less so and more along the lines of watercolor.

Besides using paint in different manners here, I tried to convey depth using atmospheric perspective.  to some degree it worked.  Being able to paint over things was really helpful.  I’m not really sure if things “worked” or “didn’t work” here – but I do know a bit more about how gouache can be used, and, as with everything, practice helps out a lot.

As fascinated as I am with the gouache, I also know I need to continue working on my other artistic goals of drawing and watercolor and perspective . . . so easy to go down a path and ignore everything else I want to do!

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!

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.

216. The Red Barn: A Matter of Perspective

Of course, we all want our fans to tell us how talented we are and what perfect paintings we do!  Sadly, that is not reality.  In and of itself, The Red Barn is not a bad painting – I am rather pleased with it.  However, my husband is my nearest critic, and as he knows my issues of late with perspective, he pointed out, “The barn looks warped, like one side is buckling in.”

“Of course!” came my snarky reply.  “It’s old.  See?  There are holes in the barn.”  I pointed out the ones on the right, in shadow, under the eaves.

Well, I knew there was something wrong, but couldn’t pinpoint it.  This morning, I took it out for another look, and just with casual measurement between my fingertips, I found the problem.  The right front edge of the roof is shorter than the left edge.  The same applies to the right and left sides of the front of the barn.  Given the perspective of the painting, it is totally illogical!

This was truly a breakthrough moment.  I thought I had done the perspective correctly – in many ways I have, as with the road, and such, but the building itself was the problem.  I plan to re-do this painting today, working specifically on the barn roof and walls.  Hopefully success will follow!

Stay tooned (as my friend Fraggy likes to say!).

211. Atmospheric Perspective, i

Day 5 into retirement found me with finally enough time to sit down and start my “class” on perspective.  No, not a classroom setting, but rather following the exercises in a book.

The book is The Art of Perspective:  The Ultimate Guide for Artists in Every Medium, by Phil Metzger.  As an individual, I found no web pages authored by him, but I did find numerous books which get good reviews.  I picked this book up because it dealt with not only the traditional perspective found in drawing and architecture, but the perspective produced by color.  As someone working in watercolor – or anyone working in any medium – color and how to use it is so important.

Atomsopheric Perspective has a few rather obvious points.  Metzger says “paint what you see”.  This is sound advice.  The reason it is sound because the natural world is out there.  You actually see atmospheric perspective.  What this means is:

  • colors become more blue the further they are from the viewer.  Mountains are cooler.
  • Bright foliage can create brilliant swaths of color, even at a distance, so this belies the idea of “things become cooler with distance.”  They do have less detail with distance.
  • Things are simpler the further away they are – this makes sense of course!
  • Air pollution of cities makes for browner (perhaps) distances rather than bluer.  What is important here is to note that edges become more soft and colors, while still colorful, begin to fade.  White buildings become greyer unless a brilliant flash of sun is on the building.
  • At times, hills will appear darker than the ones in front or behind them – this could be caused by a cloud passing overhead.
  • Fog softens the landscape or the cityscape.

Exercises

I decided to do a number of paintings.  Actually, I figured I would just do the first exercise, on trees, called “Receding Woods” on pages 18-19.  This is it below.  I followed Metzger’s steps – pale wash, distant trees, mid-ground trees, stream, shadows, details.  This is the result.

I found this to be a frustrating and useful exercise.  I used the palette he suggested:  Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue, Burnt Sienna, Pale Cadmium Yellow.  Drop the colors onto wet paper, and move on.  Next step were the pale trees in the background – light blues and browns.  From there, darker blue trees to suggest shapes.  Mid-ground trees brought in some detail.  Finally, the frozen creek and shadows.  As a wonderful piece of art, I am not impressed with what I did – but I am impressed with the clarity of Metzger’s writing and example.

From this, I decided to go to Pixabay and search for things like fog, barns, marsh, swamp.   The next study is a marshland.  I figured it would be good for water, reflections, and distant mountains.

What I liked especially about the picture was the haze at the base of the mountains and the blurred quality of the green hill.  In the photo, it was less distinct.  From there, I tried to paint the values I saw, so the distant water was a midtone, the middle water dark, and the closest the most pale.  I also made the mountains more blue and violet and tried to use warmer colors the closer to the bottom of the page I got.  It worked to a degree in varied areas, and not in others.  Still, having 3 different values of water was rather interesting.

Her is a study on distance and fog.  The image was mostly green and yellow in cast,  The sun is peeking between the two center trees.  The tree shapes show lighter in the painting, as the do in the photo, but I think I could have done a better job with the sky to emphasize this point.  To show distance, I tried to make the further objects more simple and cooler, while working at a bit of detail and warmer values for those closer to the viewer.  Perspective was indicated by the road narrowing and the curve of the furrowed field.

This picture was a challenge!  Me, paint a bridge??!!

Anyway, a bridge is disappearing into a fog bank; a sail boat sails through the shadow cast by the bridge.  The distant bridge vanishes into a thick, white cloud.  Detail softens and vanishes.  On top of it all, this is a bridge!  (I don’t think I would want to drive across it if it were really were in the condition represented by my painting!)  Once more, cooler colors and less detail the further from the viewer; more detail closer to the viewer.  I liked mixing the blues for the water and found out that a rigger brush and a flat brush were my best friends for the bridge.  I like this painting a lot more now that I finished it – not a work of art, but a good practice study.

This final painting was a serious challenge.  The paper I was using for all of these is student grade, so washes are tricky and often become hard edged or have blooms.  I solved a lot of those problems by scumbling along the edges; this was good for softening, blending, and blurring the edges.  I also used a 1-inch flat brush for the majority of the painting, forming the blurry vegetation, to the barn, to the road.  Only when I added detail did I use a small brush, specifically a rigger.  While I don’t think this painting has great perspective, the goal of atmospheric perspective was met.  I used to the left and right of the barn, as well as with the weed patch on the lower right.

Some Thoughts

As a first exercise for my “class” I really enjoyed myself!  I started painting at 9:30 in the morning and only finished around 5:00 pm – time to make dinner.  I focused on the atmospheric perspective idea and learned a lot simply by doing.  Sure, I know this basic information, but to put it into practice and think about it is a lot different.  Experience in the real world is, in my opinion, one of the best teachers, and such studies are invaluable.

 

210. Across a Field of Flowers

I’ve had this painting on my easel for about a week.  There was a lot of thought put into it – an almost scary amount given my impatient, impetuous tendencies.  Sky and basic colors in pale shades.  From there, midtones, darker shades, and finally details.  The foreground was so challenging – the cone flowers want detail, but don’t want too much.  The orange ones are totally lacking in detail, and are just blobs of color.  And then the buildings . . . still some perspective issues, particularly in the house on the right, but better than anything I have done to date.  Dreams of summer now that spring is blooming here in California!

208. A Matter of Perspective

Still working on my buildings!  And in the process I realized I am dreadful when it comes to both depth of field and perspective.  If you look at the roof of the building centered in the sketch, the line for it is much, much steeper than the building adjacent to it.  The same with its door.  It was that steep angle of perspective I was trying to follow – and failed.  I have a few books on perspective – time to dig them out and study them quite seriously.  I don’t think it will be that difficult, but I need to learn a few tricks.  On the other hand, I am rather pleased with the sense of shadow and sunshine . . . there is still hope!