Friday, July 31, 2015

Wet Paint.....or How I learned to LUV watching paint dry.

Wet Paint
approx 8 x 10 inches
various watercolour brands, bit of acrylic paint, and some salt
on approx 140 lb watercolour paper, unknown brand
done from my drawing

Both this blog post and watercolour sketch comes from an experimental watercolor piece that came to be Wet Paint. It started out from an old phrase.....”That (whatever is being disparaged) is just about as exciting as watching paint dry”. Well I happen to luv to watch paint dry. I can learn a lot from the experience.
I have a very old stash of various sizes, weights and kinds of watercolour papers. After my disastrous experience with some watercolour board, a kind soul on a FB forum reminded me about stretching watercolour papers.

So off I went on a watercolour voyage of re-discovery. I took a 11 x 14 piece of approx 140 lb watercolour paper and tried holding it down with binder clips and masking tape. I decided I wanted a figure and to do a lot of washes for the background. I took a figure drawing I had, and laid in liquid misket for the whites and started wetting the paper for a watercolour pour. Even tho it was held down it immediately began to buckle. The washes of colour pooled in the “valleys”. So I took the paper and put it on an old piece of chip board and proceeded to staple it down stretching as I went along.

The second wash buckled as well. So more random colour pools. But the paper did dry flat....after the washes got really random. If I'm gonna get smoooooooth transition washes, I marked that in the “need more research” column.

So I went with the random colours. The next item I wanted to try was salt blooms. Since I'd never really given this a “scientific” trial, I did multiple doses of salt. This resulted in a LOT of salt blooms in just one piece. But I did sorta kinda learn just when to drop in the salt. It does leave a lovely random lacy pattern.

The next thing I learned was not to be timid when mixing darks. I really went wild with multiple watercolour hues.....holding mostly to blues and purples. They stained the deep colours without too much pigment remaining on the surface. I called that trial a win!
I then went onto “rub outs”......where you take a hard bristle brush and a lotta water and rub on already painted paper and remove some of the already applied colours. It results in a soft ghostly outline and is a lovely effect.

After everything else dried, I then removed the misket on the figure's face. Here I wanted to try just emphasizing the main features and expression with as little details as possible. As it measured only less than an wasn't too hard to do. Just a bristle brush of paint could change everything. I finally convinced myself to “let it alone”! Yet another lesson learned.

I next went onto a colour “lesson” I'd learned in acrylics....but wanted to try in watercolours. The figure had a white T shirt most of which was in shadow. I wanted that shadow to be luminous so I ghosted in yellow/rose madder genuine/cobalt blue in a light wash. Once the misket was glowed!

Finally at the bottom I wanted a real intense shadow. I laid down misket on either side and really poured on the blues/purples. When I thought, “This is too much paint” I stopped. When it “matched” the rest of the painting's light perfectly!

So to recap:
I need to learn more about watercolour paper prep.

Drop in the salt on barely wet paper....not too wet and not too dry. Really helpful, right?

You can't overdo the watercolor color for a deep color never is TOO much.

Rub outs” are a lovely way to find your “soft edges”.

If I can make myself “leave things alone”.....just a few bit of shadow can “tell my story”.

Ghostings of the three primaries will give a lovely glow to a “white” shadow.

Let graduated colors of a watercolour wash “do the work for you” when working on shadows.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Street Scene or Lemon into Lemonade

watercolour, 8x10 inches,various watercolour brands with a bit of gouche
my own photo reference

This watercolour is the result of a “lemon” kind of thing that happened to my watercolour board......which led to my title for this blog post.
I started out with my reference photo of a long ago street fair in Nashville. I wanted to focus on the crowd scene so I positioned that in the center of my composition. I've done plenty of buildings before so I figured I would ghost in some architectural details and let sunlight do the rest. I started out with my pour technique.....laying down some misket to reserve whites and pouring a yellow, then a red and finally a blue. This was done with a lot of water sprayed on the board.....and the very liquid watercolour wash done on top.

So far so good. With the multiple washes I'd laid down, the board (watercolour paper bonded to a cardboard backing....bought as a unit for watercolour painting) began to bow a bit in the middle. After it was dry I attempted to slightly bend it in the other direction, and went on painting, thinking no more about it.....BAD move! The next day I walked into the studio and found this:

In the center of the paper, the watercolour paper had separated from the cardboard backing. I tried to flatten this buckle down, by spritzing the buckle and letting it dry under heavy books....but no dice. The buckle was there to stay. So this is where the lemon = lemonade part comes in. I took a deep breath, and cut out the crowd portion of the watercolour board. It was not affected by the paper buckle. This section had the extra added attraction of really being the part of the whole painting I was really interested in, painting wise.

I was really pleased with what I'd already done on the street portion of the painting section. This older watercolour board had a tendency to show granulation (even dots of watercolour instead of a smooth wash) in some sections, so I went with that for the shadowed asphalt in the foreground. I had wanted to experiment with colourful shadows so I did a controlled heavy wash of dark compliments (a blue, red, and yellow gold) and let them meld together in this shadow space.

I did a lot of sputters and dots for the background crowd. I carefully drew the foreground walking men and the seated women to give a focus for the foreground. I wanted a really deep wash for the small columns under the awing, leaving the shadows to emphasize the crowd line. My misket wasn't as straight as it shoulda been, so the architectural detail was not convincing. So I did an experiment by wiping out some of the warm shadowed lines under the awning and relined the highlit columns more or less straight with a bit of gouche. The watercolour bled into the gouche and melded everything together. Not the highlights I would have wanted, but it read OK as that wasn't the main focus of this watercolour piece.

This watercolour piece has been a lot of fun to paint, as I was relieved from taking it too seriously....I mean it was just a salvaged piece of a biggie...right? This led me to a kind of “free place” to experiment with different kind of painting techniques without pressure. I may have to “ruin” more small watercolour pieces.....just to see how many different kind of techniques I can try!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Blue Vase or Waiting for Springtime.

Blue Vase
Acrylic 9x12 inches from my own reference photos

Now that it is high summer, this is about the last of the snow paintings I've got planned for this year. I took this pic of a cobalt blue glass vase, an antique store find, in last year's snow just as it was melting. I added in the “jump the gun” daffodils for the chance of a bit of yellow zing in all that cold snow.

I put the daffodils beside the blue vase in photoshop, liking that just the tip of the daffodil bud kissed the lip of the glass vase. I then ran the image combo thru a coupla of photoshop filters to just get a quick black and white outline. I printed up two copies on paper and I was ready to start. I wanted to emphasize the intense colour and transparency of the glass bud vase. I cut out the bud vase in the printout....and viola! I had a ready made stencil. I laid down my first acrylic glaze with a sponge roller brush.

I continued on with my glazing and moulding the shape of the vase.....just using my paper stencil. I painted in the glazes using both roller brushes and makeup sponges to lay in the various cobalt,phthalo and anthraquinone blue acrylic glazes. In between some of the blue glazing, I also laid in some layers of just clear glaze....mounding it up a bit on the vase's ridges. Clear glazing on top of coloured layers just gives extra punch to a glaze. That's why a top varnish on a painting can “perk up” the colours.

After I finished the vase it was time to start on the background. I decided I wanted to emphasize the shimmery glow of the reflected snow. Everyone “knows” snow is white.....but what about the shadows? I knew that three primaries red,yellow, and blue would make a grey if I mixed the paints on the palette so the same should hold true in glazing. So I painted over the shadow areas with first a yellow glaze, and here, a lite pink glaze and I am just getting ready for the final blue glaze.

Now that I've gotten in my shadow glazes it's time to start in on the foreground daffodils and background foliage. You can see in this photo angle the result of my raised clear glazes on the shows off the ridges in the vase's design.

You can see here I'm closing in on the finish of this colourful painting. I'm putting in the background foliage and twigs. I've painted the daffodils and am working to even out the shadows and glittering highlights of the snow.