Mountain Hut: A Study in Warm and Cool Greens

If you have been following along here, besides Inktober 2019, I am also working my way through Rick Surowicz’s online class “Abandoned.”  Here I am trying to apply some of the points learned in his class about greens, how to mix them, and how to create warm and cool greens to demonstrate environmental temperature and distance.

To mix a cool green, Surowicz used Cerulean Blue (to give coolness), Sap Green at times tempered with Pyrrol Red, Raw and Burnt Siennas.  Varying the mixture in strength and dilution determines if it is light or dark.  Here I applied the mixture to the hills behind the hut, as well as put a few streaks into the foreground.

Warm greens hold the same formula as cool greens except the Cerulean Blue is not used.  The result is a warmer green, and depending on need, the Pyrrol Red is added, creating a darker green while keeping it in the warm arena.  The Raw Sienna creates a warmer, yellower green, and the Burnt Sienna creates a more autumnal tinge to the grasses in the foreground.

In addition to creating warm and cool greens, I also worked on lines to demonstrate direction and texture, as well as to break up horizontal and vertical.

As a study, this has been successful.  Critiquing it, I would say that the right lower portion of the stone hut should be lighter so as to contrast much better with the middle ground.  Right now it recedes and gets lost.

Practice is important in all we wish to master – here, a practice study to apply some lessons.

Painted on Fluid 100 CP 140# paper.

Clouds Above the Fields

I don’t know about most people who paint, but I expect every painting to be a masterpiece.  Of course, this is silly.  I don’t think about practicing things, such as painting clouds.  However, I watched a few YouTube videos on cloud painting and decided to give it a go.  I found a picture on Pixabay I liked, filled with clouds, and a plowed field stretching to the horizon.  To me, it just seems a bit ridiculous not to try to paint a masterpiece each time – really, practice – so a finished picture it is.

Clouds really are variable, but there is a tendency to overwork them.  Here, I simply tried to get a sense of white-white-white and ways in which clouds have contrast, shadow, distance, and how they look in the sky.  These are rather poofy ones, without any defining characteristics other than that.

Since this was practice, I put in some black ink lines just to see how they “feel” in a painting.  Don’t know if I like them . . .

An Afternoon’s Study

After spending the last month working small – on 7×10 paper – and using both gouache and regular watercolor, I felt the need for something big and expansive!  This means broad strokes, rapid washes, focusing and thinking ahead at the same time.  That is what I find when I work with really wet watercolors, and much of this study was done with washes bleeding into another.

Not feeling especially original, and totally delighted that Edo Hannema uploaded another tutorial after a few months absence from YouTube, I decided to follow along with his video.

If you are not familiar with Edo Hannema, he is a watercolorist located in Holland. As Holland is a very flat country, he is much influenced by skies and extensive landscape. Water is also a strong element in many of his landscapes.

For me, it is a real pleasure to follow his practice videos, in part because I live in such a dry part of the world! Additionally, he is candid about what he is doing. For instance, if he doesn’t like a bit of his painting, he says it right out loud. As someone who struggles to paint and make my watercolor look good, it is so reassuring to find other painters get as frustrated or annoyed as I do when something doesn’t go the way I want it to. At one point in his video he talks about the tall tree in the left center of the painting. “I hate this!” I can understand that frustration. When the houses nearby don’t go as planned, he tells the viewer to make the best of the situation. That is what you have to do in watercolor.

As you can see, my sky is quite violent compared to his gentle one – I kept getting blooms for some reason, and struggled to get rid of them.  Another element of my own painting was my determination to keep my brushes clean!  World Watercolor Month 2019 really brought that point home to me.  I managed to do it pretty well.

Daily practice takes work.  Tomorrow, I hope to work on gouache color swatches, using whites to create variations in tonality of a given color, as well as working with complementary colors to achieve greys.  That should prove to be an interesting adventure.

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!

Atmospheric Perspective, ii

So, we continue with Phil Metzger’s studies on perspective; specifically, atmospheric perspective.  As a refresher, atmospheric perspective relies on the use of color for its depiction of depth, near and far.  The usual rule is warmer, more intense colors are closer, and the cooler and bluer or greyer colors show distance because of the intervening air – damp or smoggy or both.  Weather and climate impact both, as well as altitude.  At the beach, there is more moisture in the air, as opposed to the dry air of the high desert.

As Metzger points out, the further buildings become, the lighter their colors become, or greyer (if white), and edges less defined.  I attempted this below.

Here, I used the same shade of blue for all three buildings, but to indicate distance, I diluted the watercolor and added a bit of orange to it to create a grey.  The same concept was applied to the driveway and to the trees.  The greys made by complimentary colors is at the bottom of the sheet.

The next lesson was to consider what happens when you do not follow the rules of “warm in front, cool in back” – he gave a sample line drawing and showed what it would look like.  I did this – doing something makes it more real than just looking.  So, I did it.  The upper drawing is more traditional – cool in back, warm in front.  It works.

However, look at how strange the same image looks with cool in front and warm in back.  I used the same colors, but reversed their positions.  The bottom one is rather eerie and makes me think of that strange light you get in some storms.

Moving on, this idea is brought home on page 23.  A photograph at the top shows the classic atmospheric perspective – warm front, cool back.  However, the opposite is done in the painting “Charlie’s Place” – warm sky in the distance, warm trees.  It’s dawn or sunset – who knows?  The warmth becomes cooler toward the bottom edge of the paper.  Here, the “rule” is broken, but the painting works.

To practice the cool top / warm bottom, as in the photo at the top, I painted a similar image based upon Metzger’s photo.  I threw in some birds and added a few verticals, but overall stuck to the idea of the cool sky, bluish mountains, distant greens, and increasingly warm tones to indicate the foreground.

Next is my rendition of “Charlie’s Place” – below, my sketch and notes.

This is an excellent study to show you how to break the rules!  The cropped image is below, which shows the concept more clearly as there are not any distractions.

While the correct sense of depth is not really there – rather flat around the buildings in some ways – the lesson is there.  It really does seem to be a rather believable scene.  The sky is yellow – we’ve all seen such skies, at sunrise or in the evening.  The light is glowing.  As we move into the foreground, the colors of oranges give way to blues and greys.  To do this, I used Pyrrol Orange and Hansa Yellow for the sky.  The more distant trees have Burnt Sienna added; the nearer ones have both Ultramarine and Indathrene blues.  These same blues are used to create snow shadows and to make the shadows of the buildings – same orange, yellow, and brown as the background.  Greys were made from the blues and orange and used to tone down the buildings in areas, as well as to create the shadows on the snowy rooftops.  Perspective in the layout of the road and fence posts add to the illusion of depth.

Some Thoughts

You know, you can read a book and get the idea.  I usually do that.  However, now that I have time, I am enjoying following the exercises and samples in this book.  While these are elementary in many ways at this point, they are very significant.  Rules are there and usually work, but doing the reverse also illustrates that rules are to be broken without any ill effect.  Practicing painting along with drawing is getting easier, too, and I hope that each exercise adds to my knowledge so that painting becomes more personal and professional at the same time.

Negative Painting Practice

Negative painting is easy in concept – paint dark paint around a lighter object – but hard (for me at least) to put into practice.  You can see what I mean above – the light trunks are depicted by darker colors painted on either side of them.

The one above is the simplest, and nicest.  In the upper flowers, I found myself shaping the orange of the Peruvian Lily into the yellow above it to create the shape of the flower.  The same with the darker colors against lighter ones.

Below, a gallery of what I did the other morning – most are rubbish, but the concept is what I was working on, not producing a beautiful painting for all to enjoy!

Painting requires practice, as does anything you wish to master.  It can be rewarding and frustrating as hell.  The key is to be aware that progress is made with each step, even if you don’t see it or feel it.  It oozes into your brain and muscle memory.

Ooze, ooze, ooze.