Painting- Watercolor Notes

Selecting Subject: Select a subject that has interesting shapes and excites you.

Choosing a Format: Select a horizontal or vertical format to contain the subject.

Discovering and Exploring Design:
Discover the subject’s shape design by squinting your eyes and drawing only the contour outlines of shapes as they exist.

Explore the subject’s design potential by simplifying and altering the original design.  Redesign the original drawing to createunitybalancescale, and containment (The four guiding principles of visual design).  To achieve unity favor one type of shape (rectangles, circles, or triangles). To attain asymmetrical balance have a primary and secondary focus, with the primary focus located at the center of interest or impact area (using the Rule of Thirds).  In that area draw the most interesting, hard edged, contrasting shapes that overlap and interlock.  To vary the scale of shapes, exaggerate the shape sizes, favoring large and mid-sized shapes (Poppa and Momma Bear can be seen, while Baby Bear is often overlooked.).  To achieve containment, keep leading the viewer’s eyes toward the center of interest and around the painting by using such devices as shape pointers, light paths, a linkage of shapes, interesting shapes, high value contrast, pure colors, hard edges, textures, and shapes associated with human beings.

Creating a Dramatic Value Pattern:
At this point close your eyes and imagine the partially completed or completed drawing.  Try to at least see the design cartoon that, like a child’s coloring book, shows the outlines of the shapes and decide where you would place dark, mid-tone, and light shapes.  

You want to establish an organized dramatic value pattern by placing the strongest dark and light shapes containing the hardest edges near each other in the impact area.  Various mid-tones and softer edges are placed in unimportant areas.  Shade in your drawing to reflect these values.  A common mistake students make is not retaining lights shapes and not imposing truly dark shapes. This produces mid-tone sketches and paintings--oatmeal--the bane of watercolorists.  This happens because students insert mid-tones, thinking they are light.  Then they do not really create darks using soft graphite.  This gets compounded by watercolor pigments themselves, which tend to weaken to mid-tones and get absorbed by the paper, weakening dark, dramatic areas.

For your information, if your overall values are light, the painting will be in a high key.  If they are dark, the painting will be in a low key.  If they range from light, through mid-tone to dark, the painting will be in a mid-key.  Most paintings are mid-key in their values.

Selecting a Color Scheme

Select a limited palette to use and stick with your chosen colors so you don’t go insane.   It is very important to think of color as projecting value (dark, light, and mid-tones) and temperature (warm and cool) and only somewhat important to think of it as chroma or intensity (a color’s brightness or dullness) and hue (the name of the color).  Try to let one temperature (cool or warm) dominate, with the opposing color temperature being used for contrast at the center of interest.  Two other terms are often used when discussing color: Shade--the color that results from mixing a color with black or gray, and Tint--the color created by mixing it with white.  Normally you don't do this when you paint watercolor.

Monochromatic (Single) color creates unity and has strong contrast if it is treated as value.  Don’t use yellow or orange because you cannot create a dark without shading it.

Analogous (Neighboring) colors (warm and cool) will create unity but sometimes will not produce much contrast.  This is especially true when using warm colors.

Complementary (Opposing) colors will produce high contrast but sometimes will not  produce much unity.  When mixed, complementary colors create beautiful gray neutrals and semi-neutrals.  A neutral is created by mixing two complements until each pigment is nullified.  Semi-neutrals are created by mixing the complementary colors but favoring one.  When placed next to their opposing pure color, the semi-neutral will make the pure color pop.  For example, an orange-gray semi-neutral will make primary blue sing.  A blue-gray semi-neutral placed next to orange will make the orange come alive.

Primary Triadic colors (yellow, red, and blue) when mixed create distinctive color contrast.  Also, when any of the two primaries are mixed (without the addition of the third primary), beautiful secondary oranges, greens, and purples will be produced.  Any addition of the third primary will neutralize the secondaries because that primary introduces the complementary, neutralizing color.

Secondary Triadic colors (orange, purple, and green) when mixed create dull colors because they are already mixtures of primary, canceling colors. 

Polychromatic colors (a myriad combination of colors) should be carefully chosen with an outcome in mind, not randomly used.  If colors are used arbitrarily, the result will be visual confusion.

Creating Edges, Textures, and Patterns:  (Before you impose textures and patterns, ask yourself if you really need them.  They can be distracting and take away from the integrity of your shapes and overall composition.)

Glaze using transparent layers and keep and lose edges.

Use granulating, sedimenting pigments on wet rough paper.

Use dry brush on rough paper and create back runs (ouzels) by introducing clear water.

Paint actual positive or negative patterns of things such as bricks, leaves, and balloons.

Stipple by dabbing a pigment loaded brush point on paper.

Spatter paint onto dry paper using a stiff brush.

Press pigments onto dry paper using the texture of a porous natural sponge.  Apply this in layers.

Scrape off pigment from dry, rough paper using a razor or knife edge.

Stencil with a silhouette cut from a folder and swipe the shape with a damp sponge.

Impress lines into wet pigment using a dull point or credit card corner.

Mask white paper with liquid frisket, let it dry,  paint over it, let the paint dry, and lift the mask.

Sandpaper painted, dry paper.

Lift still wet pigment with a damp brush or tissue.

Lay plastic wrap on wet pigment, let it dry, and lift.

Sprinkle coarse salt on wet pigment, let it dry, and brush it off.

Drop water or alcohol on wet pigment.

Painting Directly and with Creative Joy:
Visualize the watercolor completed (the goal) and preview steps you will pursue to create the finished work. For instance, are you going to paint shape by shape using glazing and lost and found edges, or are you going to paint wet into wet, gradually establishing shapes and focus as the paper dries? This being done, compose yourself and paint with certainty and joy.
Remember that an interesting visual design is the most important ingredient in your sketch and painting. Dramatically placed values distinguish the shapes and direct focus. Colors add life and influence emotional mood. Edges, textures, and patterns, if needed, sharpen impact area focus.
Lightly mix pigments in already wet shapes or paint smaller glazed shapes on larger, dry washes. Even if you use glazing, try to create pigment variation within shapes.
Paint holding the brush at its far end, using the largest brush you can for as long as you can, and using your whole arm to move it. DO NOT LIFT YOUR BRUSH AND DAB. This creates a chopped up, disorganized visual effect. Decide what you want to do before taking the brush to the paper, paint the shape, and lift it when you are done. This is a fundamental watercolor discipline that prevents you from messing up your painting.
Paint wet to dry, creating large, light shapes first, then mid-sized mid-tone shapes, then dark shapes. This approach creates unity but may lack the focus you need to proceed. Some people like to establish the dark and light shapes first then paint the mid-tone shapes. This creates focus but may lack unity.
Think of your painting as having three distance planes--distant, mid-range, and near. Donʼt clutter the foreground with shapes and hard edges. It is the paintingʼs entrance.
Paint the entire picture to about 90% completion. Then finish the impact area dramatically by increasing the contrast between shapes and using strong value, color, and edge contrast. Look at the rest of the picture. Do parts of it need to be improved to support the impact area? Does the impact area now need strengthening? Now place a mat on the painting and finish it. 

1 comment:

  1. Do you have any classes scheduled for January or February 2014?