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!

213. 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.

202. 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.


179. Orange Slices

Today, an ink study of orange slices on a bit of peel.

I am / was trying to do a bit of watercolor painting every day, but I find that such commitments, while good, can be stifling.  Drawing is integral to painting, and it is a pleasure to do in and of itself.

I’ve been working on the exercises in Alphonso Dunn’s Book Pen & Ink Drawing Workbook, so an ink drawing after exercises seems like a good thing to do!  I know I certainly enjoy drawing after the practice.  It’s also relaxing and, I find, a good way to loosen up for a painting session.

In addition to using Dunn’s book, I am also working through Tom Hoffmann’s Watercolor Painting:  A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium.  Right now I am working on simplifying forms and determining the 5 shades of grey – the lights and the darks – in pictures.  I am not very good at that, so combining his exercises along with ink drawing, I think it may sink in.  Then, let’s see if it can be applied to paint.

Thus, a dose of vitamin C for painting health!

167. Lines

Every now and then an outstanding artist and instructor shows up on the scene.  When they write books that are accessible and practical, it’s even better.  Alphonso Dunn is one such person!  He has a personal website, a YouTube channel full of information and wonderful tutorials, and two fantastic books.

The workbook was published after the simple guide, but is used in tandem with the exercises found in the workbook.  Besides using the two together, head over to YouTube for a really great set of instructions.

Today, rather than paint, I finally sat down and did some exercises from Dunn’s books.  The exercises were on lines – direction, shape, shift.  It takes a bit of patience and time to understand what may be going on.  I had to think about how I had my pad of paper, how far up or down my fingers were on the pen, whether to use my fingers, my wrist, or more of an arm movement.  In many ways, doing these exercises made me think of learning printing and cursive back when I was a sweet young thing.  Lines, repetition, thinking about how to do things, and doing them over and over.

Skill is bought with repetition – but repetition of itself is rather dull.  Rewards sure help!  Thus, a few drawings – one of a hat from Dunn’s book, and one of a Christmas cactus on my patio.  In each, I used straight lines, or slightly curved ones.  I thought about light and dark, repetition and straight or curved lines, or placing more lines over ones already laid down.  

To aid with the line studies, I ruled pencil lines onto my sketch paper.  It helped.  Sometimes I also drew vertical lines, or extra horizontal lines, either in pencil or pen.

Nothing like a pen in hand to make me happy!  Altogether a pleasant way to while away an afternoon.  I shall continue!

164. Sky and Water

More practice using wet-in-wet in varying degrees of paper dampness.  Again, this is Canson XL watercolor paper.  In my opinion, as a student paper, it is one of the better ones, having a pleasant texture as well as a responsiveness to water and color that other student papers lack.  Here, the final picture is not the point, but the laying in of washes, lifting colors, and other techniques – the practice, not the product.

As I said yesterday, I have not really taken time to learn about the paper.  This is important when you paint in watercolor – each paper has its own personality.  Once you are familiar with it, it becomes intuitive.  In my crazy life, I finally have the time to get acquainted with my paper.