I do love the bleak look of winter. With watercolor, a limited palette of 3 or 4 colors can express so much. Admittedly I used more, but I usually like alizarin, ultramarine, burnt sienna, and Hooker’s green for the colder time of the year.
Following through on points for some of the classes I have been taking, I am working to simplify subject matter, colors, and lead the eye. I think I managed to do this here, leading through the fields to the houses on the hilly horizon. I tried to contrast warm and cool colors, with a bit of warm on the buildings with the hope it will draw the viewer in. I also used wet in wet and dry brush, working from general shapes to more specifics; light to dark in general.
In addition to the painting, I am trying to make myself do a preliminary drawing before I touch brush to paint to paper. I did this one today. Lesson – it is actually worth the time, and I have been a silly bunt not to take on this fine habit sooner!
Watercolor, 9×12 CP Extra White Fabriano Artistico 100% cotton paper.
It is really important that if you study art that you make studies! I’ve been following along in my haphazard manner a number of teachers I like, online, and am trying to implement what I am learning. Or what is being taught – and then working conscientiously to absorb some of it. Being a magpie doesn’t help as I am so easily distracted by this and that. Focusing on one thing really helps bring mastery, but I get bored with doing only one thing. I know a lot of single-minded people, and I rather envy them. However, we all have to follow our own drummer.
The focus here is to lead the eye to the orangish, autumny trees in the distance. The water does it primarily, but I hope the curves of the field do, too, as well as the lines along the horizon. I am not too thrilled with the trees on the right, but c’est la vie.
So many artists say a value sketch is important. I like to think I can create the values in my head as I become more sophisticated in my abilities. I have decided to create some kind of preliminary sketch before painting as a habit and that is not an easy task for me – even if it only takes a few minutes. Well, the one below is not really a value study, but it did help me work on some compositional elements. Hmmm.
I just recently realized that I can use Photoshop to help me create shades of grey in a photograph. This is particularly useful when trying to render a portrait into a painting. Portraits are very difficult to produce with any reliability as a painting because the face is subtle in construction, and thence, subtle in gradation. My skills are lacking in this arena.
To begin, I found a portrait on Pixabay. From there, I imported it in PS and applied an “artistic” filter, using the “cutout”, keeping defaults. I then printed out the photo, sized to 5×7, and gridded it out to a correspondingly sized piece of paper.
Once done, I chose gouache as the medium to use – already out on the desk, and easy enough to use without making myself crazy. First done was all the darkest values on my drawing.
I just lay down the black in most of the areas that looked darkest to me. I missed a few areas, but since gouache is able to be applied over previous layers, I was not too worried. Also, as this is the first time I have ever done this, I was not too concerned about perfection – the experience was more important.
From there, some white was mixed in with the black to produce the second darkest shade. Truthfully, I did not mix in enough white as it was nearly the same shade as the black when it dried. That is the nature of gouache – it dries darker than it goes on. I had to lay on a second and third layer.
Next, the third shade of grey. This I tried to push into being lighter than I thought I needed. From there, the highlights as light as I thought I needed. Again. the white was really a light grey that dried rather darker than expected.
Finally, I increased the white, using titanium white instead of zinc white (the former being more opaque than the latter) and did some touching up and adding of detail.
This is the final image. The paint is cracking a bit as it is really thick in some areas. Given this is 5×7 or less, the detail is not too bad, but I wouldn’t like to have this a portrait of myself! The goal of doing values is what is key here – light to dark, catching the face. Much room for improvement, but what I set out to do – a value study – worked out.
I plan to use this method with PS to do more portrait studies. Tools like this aren’t cheating – they help you see what is in front of you more clearly. Gridding the photo onto paper helps keep proportions relatively correct. I would like to do this on a bigger surface with acrylic, perhaps limning in only the white and black values, and from there adding the different shades of grey before moving into a final white.
I am taking an online watercolor class, and I am sort of this way, that way about it. There is feedback and some great videos, but I find that I like to have a more personal contact than such. Another online class I am taking has weekly Zoom meetings and even though we aren’t all yacking with the instructor, it is more personal.
Anyway, despite what I would like to see different, there is a lot of value in pursuing online learning. To a degree, you have to motivate yourself. You have to have the discipline to do it. One thing that I do find especially hard in all my classes is the making of value studies – oh, how I hate them! I don’t have them as part of my routine when it comes to painting, and the discipline of doing them is what I hate. I expect that doing them will pay off in the future – but it may be a bit down the road as I force myself to do them without appreciating what I know they are supposed to provide.
Above, a study from a photo in my watercolor class. Below is the first value study showing the midtones
All the white area is supposed to be sky and the lightest areas of the picture. The grey is the middle value. These are used to help shape the painting before refinement with darks and details. Below is my dark-added value study.
I actually really think this idea of doing middle values for the first step of a value study is a good idea. Do these values first, paint your lights and mid values in color, and then move on to the darker ones in the value study and the final painting. Doing this is very nice, really, because the dark values and details get distracting.
Like I said, this is a thing I am not enjoying doing but know it is probably going to reap bigger rewards than I can imagine at present. Values and edges are what I am trying to see in anything I do.
A couple of takeaways from last Saturday’s Zoom meeting for this class. First, a suggestion to make marks simpler – horizontal and vertical. Done. It creates less noisy masses.
Obviously this is some kind of wetland. I sort of made it up. It’s missing a focal point. I should have done that, but this is sort of dashed off as we are soon to leave for a birthday party and I would like to put on my frippery!
Again, behind on the 30-Day Challenge. I do see the results. For instance, this drawing is very simple, done on grey-toned paper. It’s not an especially exciting picture, but I am beginning to think differently! That is the whole point.
What are the changes?
Focal point of the picture. Here, the lone figure.
The lines of the estuary into the distance.
Contrast – white (light) sand, crashing waves on shore.
Line direction to show changes in terrain, vertical, horizontal.
This paper – the grey – is very toothy, and the result is the lines are not very smooth. Midtones are a bit difficult to achieve – that is supposed to be represented by the plain paper – but that just doesn’t really seem to fit into my brain. This makes it difficult, challenging, and rather a bit of a visual tweak.
Overall, the point in these studies is to look at values, and to simplify. It is not easy as I am used to doing detailed work in pencil. Making simple marks on the paper which interplay well is difficult. “Noisy” marks distract from the point of the value study. In other words, lines which are scribbled and curly distract from the values. Value, value, value!
I think I am getting some of the points of this course and the usage of pencil to create value studies. First, I changed simply to an HB pencil and a smooth paper with a tiny bit of tooth. The bristol was too smooth a paper and the 2B and 4B pencils just smudged too easily despite my best efforts.
The teacher, Roberts, speaks of structure, rather than subject or detail, as the purpose of these drawings. This means masses of value, not picky details. The details can come in the painting, more so as it becomes larger. The value studies help sort out directing the eye to the point of interest.
The white cliff across the water is the focal point of the drawing, and, ostensibly, the painting. To lead the eye there I vignetted as one does in photography, but this time with graphite. The corners of the drawing are deliberately darker. A sort-of cloud or fog bank is light against the sky in the distance. I tried to use the pale reflection of the cliff in the water to draw the eye as well. Finally, I reworked the piles of sea weed and flotsam to aim the viewer toward the cliffs. The same can be said of the vegetation on the land above the cliffs.
I am beginning to get more comfortable with this approach to painting using a value study. 30 days of value studies is changing my eye and thought processes. Hopefully it will pay off in the future.
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.