Category Archives: Don Rankin watercolors

The Surface Makes a Difference

Have you ever noticed that some watercolors by the same artist  have a different look or impact?  While there are many possible variables there is one element that can have a profound impact on the effect. All else being equal, that is the same quality paint and brushes, the choice of paper can really change the dynamic. Most painters paint upon either cold press or rough watercolor paper. A few adventurous souls work on hot press and/or plate surface paper. What is the difference?  Basically, one is more absorbent than the other. Hot press and especially plate surface or finish paper is slick. The moisture and the paint have a tendency to crawl and creep across the paper rather than blooming or blossoming across the paper in the usual expected way. A slick surface brings on a whole new series of effect. Some of it can be quite magical while for some painters the whole thing becomes a nightmare.

My first encounter with the idea of painting watercolor on a less absorbent paper surface came about while learning to paint with egg tempera. While the gesso ground for traditional egg tempera is absorbent to a degree; it can be modified by the degree of polish one produces on the surface during the layering of the gesso. By the way this is NOT  the canned gesso you buy in most art supply stores. Traditional gesso is a mixture of hide glue and and ground chalk with or without pigment  and requires a rigid support to prevent cracking.  Very often beginning painters develop their painting skills on plate finish papers using watercolor washes. After a few maddening hours, if the student is willing, they began to see some intriguing results.

I would encourage any watercolor painter to work with hot press and plate finish papers and boards for the effect that can be achieved. Yes, it is different.  I’m going to share a few examples of watercolor on hot press boards. I keep a decent supply of the paper in my studio for those times when I want to get a different feel to a subject. Often the color is brighter and more vibrant. The reason is that the color dries mainly on the surface and has less tendency to sink into the sheet.  One word of caution.  Since the paint is on  the surface it can easily be disturbed and create mud. Melting OffMelting Off ,  16″ x 7″ (40.64 x 17.78 cm ) Watercolor on High Surface/ Plate Finish paper board. From the Collection of Sonat, Inc.

The palette was simple combination of vermilion, thalo blue with some gamboge and a dose of black India ink in the foreground, with much of the tree line poured onto the dampened surface and allowed to blend and puddle.

Compare that with the following effect on a traditional sheet of watercolor paper with a coldpress surface.

MarchDSC_0372_185March,  18.5″ x 32.5″ (48 x 38 cm) Watercolor on 140lb. D’Arches paper. Private Collection

While the palettes are similar the dark passages are softer, the blending is more subtle, creating a quieter image.  The basic message is that the paper surface can contribute to  making a big difference in the presentation and the feeling in a work.

The QuarryDSC_0345_165

The Quarry, 10.5″ x 21.25″ (27 x 54 cm) Strathmore hot press rag illustration board. Artist Collection

The mood and the palette are different. But note the sharp edges in defining the rocks on the edge of the waterline.  If you look carefully you can see hints of Gamboge in the upper edges of the treeline and in the limestone rock of the quarry’s edge. The colors in this work are Thalo Blue, Gamboge and Winsor red blended in with blue to create the darker passages.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol I by Dr. Don Rankin:                             BUY DIRECT at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

ON LINE WATERCOLOR COURSES: Join Don and learn more about watercolor glazing techniques at your own pace in your own home. Level I covers the basic techniques for developing wonderful glazing effects.  The course is designed using simple exercises to acquaint you with the underlying principles of watercolor glazing.  It also directs you in the better choices of color selection and the proper sequence of application. You can stop the video, do an exercise, master it  and continue or review as you wish.

https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/

Level II is a full (real time) demo in the artist’s studio.  The only editing is the omission of the drying time between some of the washes. See the progression from beginning to end.

https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

MemPhoto_Generic6a  2017 recipient of Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achiever Award in Art and Education

A Place Remembered

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December Mist 2December Mist             Watercolor      40″ x 25.5″

Perhaps this painting needs a bit of explanation. This goes against the old maxim that if you have to explain it, its no good.  There is a story here, at least for me.  I have painted at least three pieces on this site.  Each one is connected to the place. This area was once a bustling American Indian community.  Portions of this stream was lined with white clay and the running water was clear.  I recall being shocked at finding the white clay tile lining a portion of the stream. Who put them there?  Was it done by the original community?  Questions for which I have no answers. Many of the trees are magnificent Beech trees. Their bark is smooth, yet rugged, and in some ways resemble concrete pillars. The light changes with the season and the time of day.  Time and water  has eroded portions of the stream bed wall revealing a network of roots that nourish the growth along the banks.  There is a presence here.  You can feel it if you quietly sit or walk  among the giant trees.

Even in the dead of winter the Beech trees often hold on to a few of their summer leaves. At times they curl and become almost transparent in the winter sun but they hold on none the less. I see them as a silent testimony to the original people of this land.  They remind me of the ones who did not get swept away in the Trail of Tears.  The ones who still call Alabama their home.

I was there on a chilly winter morning with the rising sun burning through the morning mist with only the sound of the quietly running water as it slowly made its way through the old camp.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol 1 by Dr. Don Rankin  buy direct at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

ON LINE COURSES: Join Don and Learn more about watercolor glazing techniques at you own pace:   Level 1: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/

Level 2: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

MemPhoto_Generic6a

2017 recipient of Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award in Art and Education

Revisiting Old Paintings

Milking Time final cropMilking Time                                           27″ x 14.75″                    watercolor

This painting is a part of a larger story.  The actual piece  had its beginnings a little over 30 years ago.  I just recently finished the work but I think there is a valuable object lesson to be shared.  From time to time in my career I have been involved in painting portraits. One of my most unusual as well as gratifying opportunities came when a land owner commissioned me to do a portrait.  Not an usual request.  However, there was one exception.  This “family” member was a prize bull. I accepted the challenge and the painting was well received and was hung in a prominent location in the house.

During my time in the pasture I had an opportunity to see the light change and create many wonderful shapes as it played across the ground and the cattle. Milking time was inspired by that portrait session. Even though these cows had nothing to do with the bull and were kept in a separate pasture I was attracted to the light and the shapes they made as they patiently awaited milking.  A few weeks later I began to piece together my sketches and ideas and began the painting in my studio.  After a few days I just seemed to lose energy and questioned my original idea.  I set the watercolor, still secured to one of my plywood boards, aside.

Losing the energy:

As I wrote in the beginning that was a little over thirty years ago.  Perhaps the rest of the story will support my wife’s contention that I suffer from packratism!  Thirty years is a long time to ignore a piece of work that just somehow wasn’t clicking.  At least in my mind I just couldn’t get up the enthusiasm to finish the painting. A few days ago I discovered the old watercolor after I had completed another work. It was patiently waiting, still secure and no worse for the wait. I looked at the old piece and decided that it did have some potential after all. I began to apply new washes with a great deal of intent. After a few days of glazing and dry brushing I consider it finished.

milkingtime30yrMilking Time in it’s beginning stages. 

This photo was taken before I added any more work to the piece. It is a good opportunity for everyone to see what happens as more washes and refining strokes are applied.

The Moral of the Story?

While I don’t really recommend waiting thirty years to solve visual challenges in a painting; it is often good to put a painting away for a bit of time. I recommend this if you are having a problem trying to figure out what is going wrong in the work. Putting a piece out of sight for 2-3 days can do wonders for your process. If you are terribly impatient placing your painting so you can see its reflection in a mirror will help you see  areas that are not working.   If you are a painter don’t be too hasty to trash a work just because you are having trouble solving your visual puzzle.

Want to know more about glazing techniques in watercolor?

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor by Dr. Don Rankin  is available direct from the artist  at  http://www.createspace.com/3657628 

Online watercolor instruction about the watercolor glazing techniques with Don Rankin available:  LEVEL I: Building a foundation in watercolor glazing techniques with short and simple watercolor exercises.  Learn at your own pace. https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/

LEVEL II: mDesigned for students who want to see the application from start to finish on  a more complex level: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-waterolor-level-II/

 

MemPhoto_Generic6

Marquis Who’s Who Award Recipient 2017

 

Are your paints fresh?

From time to time I get questions about the strength of color in my paintings. Some want to know how I get such powerful luminous washes in watercolor. While the glazing technique plays a large role in the creation; there is another component. This is something that perhaps I have neglected to mention. old-hackberry-2

                Old Hackberry Lane                     approx 8″ x 6″               watercolor*

FRESH PAINT: In order to fully explain I must digress to 1983. I was writing one of my first books on watercolor.  Since I was writing I felt that I should get some technical data from the manufacturers that made what I considered to be the best watercolor paints.  While there are a number of excellent paints these days; in 1980 there were two very popular brands in the USA.  I made contact. Winsor & Newton was very open to discussing their paints with me. Wendell Upchurch was my contact. When we first began to talk, I asked him what was his job. His reply shocked me.  He stated that his primary job was traveling around the country correcting all of the erroneous information that was found in so many of the watercolor books that were being written! He was delighted to spend time with me explaining the processes and the actual facts concerning producing and using quality watercolor paints. Needless to say we spent many hours discussing watercolor paints.

Two Choices: Most watercolor painters in America tend to use watercolor that comes in a tube. Many painters in the UK and parts of Europe  prefer to use tub colors. What is the difference ? Aside from the consistency the most important aspect is the degree of binder and preservative found in the paints. The colors that are packaged in tubs are a bit more tacky and they allow for constant re-wetting in daily use. Tube colors have less preservative and binder and it is suggested that one should only put out as much color as will be used in a day’s session. Many are accustomed to putting the tube colors on the palette and wetting and re-wetting the color until it is used up. Then more color is applied to the palette and the cycle resumes. In my early years I followed this pattern myself.

Everybody Does it or Do They?  Be honest, most people follow this pattern. However, a lot of painters have found a better way.  You can test this yourself.  Put out a little fresh paint, dampen your brush and apply a wash to a piece of paper. Rise out your brush and moisten a portion of the same color that has dried on your palette. Look at the results.  Surprised?

Old Hackberry Lane is a memory painting. Years ago it was one of the routes that would bring you to the eastern edge of Shades Mountain. The narrow two lane chert road made several switchbacks up the side of the mountain.  At times you would feel hemmed in as the orchard tree branches would scrape across the fender or roof of your car. Luckily,  I never encountered an oncoming car. There were no street lights and often in the fall and winter as the night began to fall the bare branches would be cloaked in the gathering gloom of mist and the settling of smoke from the numerous fireplaces.  Painting luminous darks can often be a challenge. I prefer to create the dark using a wet into wet technique, layering fresh dark colors over a vibrant under painting. The fresh color is more powerful and luminous. Simple to apply yet profound in effect. If you are new to this the power of the color can be scary. However, it is a good idea to practice and see what it can do. *Original on view at Andrew Wyeth Gallery, Chadds Ford, PA

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques ?  Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin is available.

Just go to http://createspace.com/3657628

Watercolor Classes online:  Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor with Dr. Don Rankin.  Lifetime access of beginning principles at http://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/

LEVEL II: an in studio demonstration of the watercolor glazing technique.  Preview at: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

 

 

 

Revisiting old sketches, places

Nova Scotia corrected_

                   Nova Scotia                                            21″ x 14″                                  Watercolor

The end of July is come  and like other parts of the country, Alabama is under sweltering heat. Currently I am sitting in the cool of my studio waiting for a wash to dry. Momma red-tail hawk is outside my studio window calling in a shrill voice urging her young children to fly.  Her sound reminds me of younger days and being outdoors in all sorts of weather sketching and painting. These days my activity is a bit curtailed.  Geneal and I spent the last part of  April and part of May in northern California.  She had never been and I got to revisit places of my youth when I would spend time in California with relatives. Of all the state, I prefer northern California.  However, it is a beautiful state with a lot to offer any visitor. My travel has been restricted for several years and perhaps this was a bit risky. The only down side was a case of HAPE, high altitude pulmonary endema.  I’m still working through that.  If you are getting on in years be very careful about airplane rides.

At any rate we came back with tons of videos, photos and sketches. Memories in a can, if you will.  Those things are great but the personal experience is worth more than all of the reference.  A lot of folks are anxious to see my California pieces. Knowing my way of working, it may be a while.  I like to let things percolate inside of me before I put brush to paper. Sometimes it happens quickly, at other times it is a slow, perhaps painful, process. In the meantime I am working on a piece that I sketched many years ago in Nova Scotia.  Talk about hopping the continent!  While publishing two of my first watercolor books I spent time in Maine and Nova Scotia. I think viewing the Pacific and the Big Sur prompted me to compare it to the Atlantic coast. While both are beautiful, they are different.

I remember the day I reluctantly left Maine to board an overnight ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. The rest of the family was up for it but I really loved Maine and felt that anything else would be anti-climatic. Well, I was very wrong. Nova Scotia was incredible. I made two trips up while writing my books.  The first trip was in the Spring and the return was in the Fall after all of the tourists were gone. I have always been drawn to wilderness and the population was not crowded. In some cases the foot print of mankind was not as evident as in other places. The color of the water, the trees and the salt in the air  has a presence that is different from any other place.  The light is incredible. As I looked at my recent efforts in California the effect and contrast became very evident.  While there are several physical differences  there is an atmosphere that any coastal area seems to possess.  While the atmosphere has similarities, it also has striking differences. Those differences are extremely important.  Those are the things that I seek to embody in my work.

Nova Scotia:

This current work has haunted me for years. It has haunted me every time I looked at my sketches or the photos I took,but I kept delaying.  Finally,  I told myself it was time to paint. I have no explanation for the delay. It just happens. I wasn’t ready.  Now the time had come.  I’ll digress and provide a little history.  I remember that it was an early morning well before midday.  The light is very different and in combination with the atmosphere it renders objects in a more dramatic way than in other latitudes.  At least that is my experience. The light, the air, the stillness was like a magnet that drew me in.

Materials:

I used a 140 lb. cold press sheet of Kilamanjaro watercolor paper. The paints were Andrew’s Turquoise from American Journey (available at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff). M. Graham Gamboge,  Holbein Marine Blue, Holbein Leaf Green, M. Graham Sap Green, Holbein Marine Blue, Winsor & Newton Perylene Maroon, and Winsor & Newton Red. The reds and blues were mixed to create some of the stronger dark passages in the watercolor.  The painting approach was very simple with a number of layers of color applied with brushes as well as a natural sponge for some of the foreground , especially near the edge of the building. The tiny flowers were suggested by using a combination of incredible white mask with a handy little gadget called Cheap Joe’s splatter screen. masking toolsTexturing and masking tools: Natural sponge, Incredible White Mask and Cheap Joe’s splatter screen.

As a general rule I don’t ruin my natural sponges by dipping them in masking fluid. In the past I have used plain screen wire at times but Joe’s screen with a handle is a bit easier. A word of caution if you choose to use brushes in the masking fluid make sure you lather them thoroughly with soap first. If you don’t you run the risk of losing a good brush. Also  dried masking fluid in a screen, brush or sponge is almost impossible to remove.

How I use it and why:

Hopefully the arrangement of the flowers in the foreground looks fairly random and natural. The idea that one would want to sit and methodically apply each drop of masking fluid to the page would border on insanity to my mind.  However applying a bit of masking to the screen and then BLOWING a short breath of air creates a more natural, random pattern. If you hit spots you don’t like you can blot the masking fluid out or better yet, cover the areas you don’t want to mask with bits of paper.  For the uninitiated we use the masking fluid to preserve either the white of the paper or previously painted areas.  In this case both methods were used. Some wet ‘n wet wash areas of bright Winsor Red and Gamboge were applied first.  After they dried masking was applied.   Once the masking was dry, then I used a combination of washes (from light to dark) and a natural sponge to create texture. Some areas of dry brush and fine detail should be evident. If you are not familiar with dry brush technique, I’ll give a brief explanation. Literally it denotes that there is more pigment than water in your brush. It allows you to draw and create texture with your brush that is different than a broad wash. It requires a bit of practice but is a very effective technique for enhancing an area of a painting. Like any other approach,  avoid over doing it.  Too much pigment can produce a dull over worked effect. The same is true of glazing with layers of wash. Some painters go to extremes  killing the natural beauty of glazes.   Above all PRACTICE.  Get to know your materials, it will pay off.  We often learn a great deal more from out set backs than we do our fleeting successes.

 Want to know more about Watercolor Glazing Techniques?  You can purchase the updated version of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor entitled Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Vol.1 by Dr. Don Rankin  at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

Enjoy a remastered classic on Watercolor Glazing Techniques by Don Rankin in a remastered DVD  entitled The Antique Shop at http://www.createspace.com/350893

Study basic watercolor techniques with Don Rankin at your own pace with an online course, unlimited use of  31 lessons that cover basic watercolor glazing techniques at Udemy.com https://www.udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor

LEVEL II: online in studio demonstration of the watercolor glazing technique: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

Study watercolor techniques in person with Don Rankin at Artists on the Bluff, 571 Park Avenue, Bluff Park, Alabama every Thursday from 9:00-11:30 Am. For details contact                 Ms . Linda Williams, Director 205-532-2769 or artistsonbluff@gmail.com

The Orchard, a new video

orchard2_338

The Orchard            20″ x 16″               Ruscombe Mills, Cold Press watercolor paper

This is the latest effort to capture the beauty and the mystery of this orchard.  I confess that as I age I take more time to hit upon a subject. I want to soak up the subject and then attempt to interpret my feelings for that subject. Compulsion? Yes.  Yes, I paint the things that compel me to paint. Sometimes they nag at my mind much like a gnat or a fly often worries you when you are outside. Finally, at some point you just have to do something about it!  Perhaps some will take offense at my analogy but that is the best way I know  to describe my experience.  I offer this analogy because I am accustomed to getting inquiries from interested parties wanting to know why or how I choose subject matter. Well,  I don’t choose.  I really believe it chooses me! Illogical?  For some perhaps, but for me it makes perfectly good sense.

Memories:

I grew up in a rural area; barns, livestock, orchards and woods were my everyday existence.  These days  I find myself appreciating those “good ole days” more and more. I don’t see it as escapism.  Instead I see it as paying homage to the wonderful experiences I have been provided.  There is something wonderful about being surrounded by  nurturing plants or trees in a garden.  There is a freshness there, a promise of life.

orchard underpai_336

Technique:

For this subject I chose to use a multiple colored under painting.  The blue is Holbein Marine Blue, the green is M. Graham Sap Green, the red is Winsor & Newton Perlyene Maroon.  A careful examination will reveal the location of each color. The early strokes are preliminary shapes.  Many of those shapes go through modification and improvement as the painting progresses. At any rate, they provide a foundation for location of painting elements but even more they act as a guide to elements of composition.  At this stage everything is very fluid and can be modified by stronger washes. While there are a few small spots of intense color most of the washes can easily be modified.    So at this stage I have a combination of light and dark as well as the movement of light.  The stage is set. I confess that I spent more time on the under painting than I did on the rest of the painting.  I’m not totally sure why I allowed this to happen. I would like to think that I was planning and composing the final work in my mind. There are some pencil marks, outlining a few limbs.  However most of the work consists of painting negative shapes and allowing those shapes to suggest limb placement.  Tedious?  For some people the answer is definitely.  However, if you are in love with your subject and you are compelled to capture the essence then, no, it is not.

The Beauty of Freedom:

At this time we have not completely lost the ability to choose our personal painting path. I always advise students to  learn all they can from various sources; then do the hard work of allowing YOU to shine through your work.  Easy to write, often very hard for many to accomplish. Use what works for you.

New Video:

For a while now I have had online classes on Udemy.com. The Orchard will soon appear as a new tutorial on watercolor glazing techniques. We are currently editing and hopefully it will be posted rather soon.  If you would like to take a peek you can check the Udemy.com site.  As of today we are editing so it should be ready in a week or so.  I hope I don’t regret being optimistic!!

Want to know more about watercolor glazing? You can order Mastering Watercolor Glazing Techniques, Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

The Antique Shop, a remastered classic now on DVD is a step by step demonstration of Don’ s use of the glazing technique as well as tips on selecting and composing the scene. Available now at http://www.createspace.com/350893

Study with Don Rankin at your own pace online at Udemy.com Over two hours of short tutorials on the basis of watercolor glazing and brush technique. https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/

On going watercolor classes with Don Rankin every Thursday, except Holidays, at Artists on the Bluff, 571Park Avenue, Bluff Park Alabama 35226. Contact Ms. Linda Williams for details.   http://www.artistsonthebluff.com Telephone 205-637-5946

UPCOMING WORKSHOP:  June 20-24 Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff,  Boone, North Carolina

Contact Edwina May for details. http://www.cheapjoes.com’art-workshops

Having Fun With Glazing

paradise creekfinal

Paradise Creek , watercolor on 140lb.cold press  approx 16″ x 12″
About 150 feet from my studio door lies Paradise Creek. I never have to worry about flooding because my studio is about 35-40 feet above the creek.  That gives me a great vantage point. The location never really disappoints for there is always a visual delight awaiting me. The creek has been my constant neighbor for at least the past 30 years.  During that time I have seen a number of changes in the creek,  many of them not to my liking.  The public works fellows came in to do some “improvements”. Those actions spoiled some wonderful spots.  In spite of their actions the creek has survived. Like many of us it goes through seasons of change. In the spring and part of the winter it is often a raging torrent. In the fall it almost always sings a pleasant lullaby when we open the windows to enjoy its song.  In the hot summer the water may slow a bit and more rocks are exposed as the fish and other creatures seek refuge in the deeper pockets.

All in all Paradise Creek has been a good neighbor and an unending source of inspiration. I have enough memories and sketches to keep me busy for another lifetime.

The power of glazing:

There are so many ways to make use of glazing.  You can use it in a very controlled manner working in a traditional way with a brush or you can try other approaches.  The beauty lies in versatility.

Don’t be negative:

How many times have you heard someone say something like; ” Oh watercolor is so hard, you can’t cover up your mistakes!”   Think for a moment about that statement. It also means that transparent watercolor can be used in glazes or layers to create a wonderful range of colors!  You can create under painting texture, wonderful color combinations and /or prepare a careful under painting likeness. (Hint: you can use splatter in one layer, let it dry and repeat or you can build color via multiple layers alternating wet ‘n wet passages or direct wash on dry paper. The possible combinations are only limited by your imagination.) The secret? Know your colors and follow a proper sequence.  So what is proper? That is largely up to you.  You can review the archives of my blog for some tips. Basically two rules should be at least observed.  I say at least because you may find opportunity to break or severely bend them. As a general rule best results come from allowing each wash to dry thoroughly before applying another wash.  Another suggestion is to use your most transparent colors FIRST.

Beginning Paradise Creek:

paradisecreelbeginningIf your eyes are keen you will see that there are no preliminary pencil lines.  My apologies but the shot is a bit blurry but hopefully you get the idea. Three colors were applied, Winsor & Newton Permanent Sap Green,  M.Graham New Gamboge and American Journey Andrew’s Turquoise. I use a three inch brush on almost all pieces.  I do not want the beginning to be picky and that is what beginning with a small brush tends to produce.  In the words of Delacroix, “Begin with a broom and finish with a needle.” Sounds scary?   Not really, try it.

Keep it simple:

These initial passages were applied to a dry piece of 140 lb. cold press D’Arches watercolor block. I find the block to be the most convenient item when I am working away from the studio.  Once the washes were applied  I used a bottle with a fine mist to hit some of the areas. You can see where the colors blend and you can also see where the edges of the wash are crisp. Crisp edges denote that the paper is dry soft edges tell you the surface is wet. As many of you will know this is basic watercolor; nothing fancy.  The real secret here is to RELAX.  Let the wet color do it thing. If you don’t like a particular run or effect, pick up the paper and rotate it and coax the color to go a different way. When you get the effect you want, let the paper lay FLAT. Watch out for puddles, blot when necessary. In this case my paper was propped up and the color ran just the way I wanted it to go.  Be ready to let the unexpected happen.

Challenge:

See if you can see where the major light areas are going to develop.  Remember the brightest bright to have is the white of the paper.  Respect and reserve the white of your paper. In this case I kept the paper dry in the areas where I would later have the brightest highlights.

Next Step:Paradis CreekFullSizeRender
The darker greens in the trees are a combination of the sap green and Hookers Green. Some of the initial washes were used with the wide side of my largest flat brush.  Note the wet onto wet blending in the tree on the right as it bleeds into the water. I couldn’t resist leaving it untouched. One of those wonderful accidents. I used a brush as well as a small segment of natural sponge to create the foliage effect. The limbs on the left side are a combination of scraping out and painting negative shapes.  Simple sweeping washes with a one inch flat brush was used on the water. As you look you can see a mingling of color that suggest reflection and ripples in the moving body of water.  Recall that negative statement? Well, I see it as opportunity!  All of those wet colors blended into a soft sheen that I could have never done as well with a deliberate brush stroke. They are transparent and the colors applied over them are transparent and we get a wonderful combination. The beauty is that we get some wonderful unexpected blending of color. Take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Jump in and give it a try!

Making adjustments:

As I looked at the almost finished piece I felt that the center area wasn’t really working for me. While I had a movement of wash going across the middle it didn’t seem to be enough to really pull the work together.  So I introduced the oak tree and some other small trees to complete the effort.

Planning your composition:  Notan

ParadiseCreeknotan

Ideally you are aware of the term “Notan”.  It is a Japanese word that describes the relationship of light and dark.  It can be a very useful tool for helping you  develop your paintings.  In some ways you might think of it like a large puzzle. This illustration was taken using my smartphone and choosing one of the editing features. If you are not familiar with the concept of Notan by all means study it. It will help you to see the large parts.  Recall that I mentioned starting the painting with a big brush. After conquering the large elements I can settle down to refine the smaller items.  As you look at your screen if you are near sighted merely take off your glasses and see the large blurry shapes. If you have regular vision merely squint your eyes. You should see how the shapes interlock with one another grays working with white and black. Plan your composition making use of Notan. It works very well with just black and white.  The shot above is a camera conversion of the finished painting. However, I think it serves to make the point.  Your painting needs a good frame work. This will help you see it. We all need to hone our skills to develop better paintings. This is a great tool. Use it.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques? You can purchase Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol I. by Dr. Don Rankin at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

Enjoy a remastered classic on DVD entitled The Antique Shop by Don Rankin http://www.createspace.com/350893

Study with Don Rankin online at your own pace at any time that fits your schedule.  Over 30 tutorials on various watercolor techniques more than 2 1/2 hours of content  at https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor

Study with Don Rankin at Artists On The Bluff, 571 Park Avenue, Bluff Park, Alabama. Classes are held from 9:00 Am- 11:30 every Thursday except holidays. Contact Ms Linda Williams at http://www.artistsonthebluff.com

A Few Thoughts About Watercolor Glazing

scooterliftDSC_0285_325

Paradise Creek  Watercolor  on Paper   approx. 5″ x 6″

Well, it is that time of year again.  The 34th Annual Christmas in Miniature Exhibition opens Wednesday, December 3,  at the Chadds Ford Gallery in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. (www.awyethgallery.com)

Needless to say I am delighted to be a part of the exhibit. Since we had such a brutal winter last year I opted to submit “warmer” subjects. A lot of folks don’t need snow and ice reminders! We will see if that was a wise choice.

Common Misconceptions:

It has been 30 years since my first book on watercolor glazing techniques, Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor  was published.  According to the publishers it was the first authoritative book written exclusively on the subject. Since that time a lot of other books and DVDs offering their ideas on the subject have flourished.  While that is fine; in some cases some offerings have only spurred confusion. In an effort to clarify some areas of confusion I will attempt to state my premise regarding the method. First, watercolor is a glorious medium and needs no defense from anyone. One of its greatest attributes is the ability to convey crisp brilliantly fresh washes. For me the last thing I would want to do is destroy that quality.  However, some may have carried things a bit too far. Glazing should enhance the transparent quality of watercolor not create a dull field of opaque color. I had one painter proudly proclaim that he had used 50 layers of  wash in one of his pieces!!  My immediate thought was WHY??? I have heard other questionable feats as well.  The objective should be to create and/or enhance the crisp transparent qualities of the medium. If you want to build up and eventually kill a passage of wash then switch to another medium.

How much is too much?

My reply to that obvious question is to use good judgement. While it is true that you can produce vibrant layers of multiple washes it is important to know something about the nature of your chosen pigments and observe a logical procedure. One important guideline is to allow each wash to dry completely before another wash is applied.  There is some leeway here and experience is your best teacher. However, wisdom dictates that you work with your paints to gain more insight. You can also check the archives of this site and see some exercises.

A logical sequence:

My goal is to produce rich yet transparent color. I’m going to share some sequences with you that took place in Paradise Creek.  Miniature pieces can often be more problematic than larger works. I consider them to be intricate like a fine Swiss watch.  Regardless of size I often use this approach in larger works. Part of my goal is to portray the scene while allowing “accidental” surprises to enrich the development of the painting.

Step1:

scooterliftDSC_0280_326

Yes, it IS very wet.  The sequence is critical.  Three colors were selected, M. Graham New Gamboge, Holbein Leaf Green and  Mission Yellow Orange. The paper, 140 lb. cold press D’Arches, was completely dry and the washes were applied to dry paper over a rough pencil sketch.  The sketch was there primarily to allow my students at Artists on the Bluff, in Bluff Park, Alabama get some idea of the concept. The wash was applied in broad sweeps and then I used a fine mist from a sprayer to  hit the still damp washes. Since the paper was at an angle you can see some puddling.  Beginners beware of those puddles. If left to dry on their own they will create unsightly “explosions” on your paper. While they can be removed with some care, once they are dry, the best method is to carefully blot them without disturbing the surface.

The Objective:

The object is to get rid of a lot of white paper while carefully  reserving some key areas.  What appears to be haphazard is actually a part of a plan. I want to keep the feel of a loose on the site watercolor.  The first wash helps loosen up what could become tedious and stiff. Only a small yet critical portion of the paper needs to remain white. Many of the later elements will appear to be bright when areas of the basic wash are left untouched as the painting progresses. The three colors begin to merge but if you look closely you can see some of the green on the lower left side and some of the orange on the right side. The blending is uncontrolled and will produce subtle effects that can’t be obtained in any other way.

Step2:paradisecreek4DSC_0281_327

The darker green wash was applied after the paper had dried completely. For some the drying time is nerve wracking.  However, if you paint outdoors a lot, sometimes the drying is so fast that you barely have time to work. The green was a Permanent Sap Green.   In the upper portion of the page you will see some “explosions” that were allowed to form because they suggest foliage.  In this sequence the upper part of the paper was sprayed with a bit of water in a fine mist. The green shapes in the lower right were applied to dry paper. This is one of the basic rules. A wet wash on dry paper will produce a definite edge. Edges on moist paper will be soft. While this is very basic I often see students who quickly forget  the simple yet profound basic elements.

Step 3:scooterliftDSC_0285_325In some spots you will see splatter in the foliage along with darker deliberate strokes with a pointed sable round in the foreground.   The blue in the water is American Journey Andrews Turquoise. The darker greens are a mixture of Permanent Sap Green and Thalo Blue. The darker tree trunks were applied to dry paper using a mixture of Mission Yellow Orange, Permanent Sap Green, a bit of W&N Perylene Maroon and Thalo Blue. The object is to create an optical black.  As you examine this example you should be able to see areas pf the creek where the turquoise blue was mixed with sap green in the middle ground. It is always good to make use of your colors in various areas of your painting in order to achieve a pleasing harmony.

Consider:

As you look at the last example you should notice how certain areas appear to be almost white.  In step two we don’t see that much remarkable contrast. So what happened? The steps you see here are the actual steps. So what is the answer?  Colors react to one another when they are juxtaposed. In this case the contrasting darker values begin to create very nice contrasts. A lot of this could be considered accidental. Personally I prefer to call it serendipity. Far too many times a person will carefully sketch on their paper and then try to follow all of the lines. In most cases, this results in a stiff dead work.  If you will think about the values of your color you will find that you can begin very loosely and refine as you develop the work.

Here is another example of starting off with a loose concept. The section of blue caught my eye and was the reason for the beginning of this piece. Once again a very simple palette, M. Graham New Gamboge, Permanent Sap Green, and American Journey Andrews Turquoise plus a bit of red.

BrandywineMem2DSC_0293_01_333

See if you can see the sequence of washes. It is pretty much like the other two examples. The white highlights are the white of the paper.  This piece, Brandywine Memories, recalls an experience in early May many years ago. There was a wonderful atmospheric quality.  It was almost as if I were in a time machine transported back a hundred years or more.  Read the rest of this entry

Taking Chances, a Leap of Faith

Bass Harbor Light               Bass Harbor Light    watercolor   image 14.5″ x 24″

Recently a reader asked to see a larger rendition of this painting. Here it is.  This piece has a bit of history and I’ll elaborate on the title of this article about taking chances. But first a little history.  Up until recently, after a world journey, this painting was hanging on a  collector’s wall.  We have had a great relationship for many years  and he and his wife had moved into a new place. They decided they wanted to upgrade to a larger painting. I don’t normally do trade ins but this was a special situation.

1985

Bass Harbor Light was painted in the fall of 1985 and appeared in a few articles and one of my books. . It began on a rock below the light and was finally finished in my studio. Bass Harbor Light was in a number of juried exhibitions and won several prizes. It traveled to Japan and toured a portion of the country. A noted collector in Japan attempted to purchase the piece only to be insulted by a State Department employee who stated that the exhibition was for “cultural enrichment” and not for crass monetary gain!  News to me!  We attempted to heal the wound to no avail.

Taking Chances

Now to the real story.  In 1985 I was younger and very athletic, training in classical Japanese full contact karate on a constant basis. I had started writing my first book entitled Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor.  I had traveled to New England and the Maritimes with my wife and children to do my research. I made many sketches and took numerous photos for reference as well as spots for the book.  I returned home only to find that my camera had largely malfunctioned. I had no choice but to return to Canada in late summer, early fall. All of the vacationing people had left.  School had started so my wife and children had to stay home. I took my aging parents since they were too old to travel alone. Late September we arrived on our return at Bass Harbor Light. I could see photos everywhere in all of the usual places that sell to tourists.  I wanted to paint the spot but I DID NOT want to copy someone else. It was late afternoon and the park was about to close and I was standing on the observation deck trying to stretch a bit to get just the right angle. Mom and Dad saw the sign, realized that it was closing time and began the trek back to the car.  I promised I would be along in a moment.

Leap of Faith?

Was it a leap of faith or just plain dumb? In a moment of clarity I realized that the best angle was beyond the range of the deck. No one was looking so I went over the rail. With camera slung around my neck and a sketchbook tucked under my right arm I took a mighty leap. I have heard some psychologists say that “jumpers” experience a moment of regret  as they take their final leap. That may be true for suddenly airborne I began to question the sanity of my decision. The boulder that was several feet from the observation deck was about 10 feet below me and coming up fast. Thankfully, my landing was secure I got my sketches and photos. Later I climbed out with ease.

The Quality of the Light

If you live near the sea you know about that wonderful salty veil that diffuses the light. It is glorious.  You can feel it, you can taste it! This was a perfect moment for capturing  that late fall afternoon quality of light. The glazing technique worked well.  After settling on refining the composition to get the design effect I wanted; I began with several layers of wet ‘n wet New Gamboge washes over the entire sheet except for the highlights on the house. I was careful to allow each wash to dry thoroughly. The darker layers of Winsor Red, New Gamboge and Winsor Blue were mixed to create the darker washes and were layered in sequences. No masking was used on any area. I merely painted around some spots and used clear water to blend and bleed some spots.

Reflection

This will always be a special painting for me and I’m happy to give it a temporary home until someone else comes along and falls in love with it. Was it worth it? I think so. Would I take that leap again?  Probably not, I’m past 70 now and my bones and muscles don’t react the same way these days. Why am I telling this story?  I suppose the real question is what is your level of commitment? Now please don’t got jumping off high places because of my story. In the passion of the moment I took a leap. I must add that I had had a bit of experience  with rappelling so it was not my first encounter with high places. In hindsight it was a dangerous move.  However,  I did have a great experience.       .

ARTISTS ON THE BLUFF presents Don Rankin and David Rankin ..Opening Reception Thursday, May 7, 2015- 6PM-8PM  http:www.artistsonthebluff.com 205-637-5946  

raven tableDSC_0189_298Barking Up the Wrong TreeWhite Raven, oil

David Rankin

Down in the Hollow, watercolor

Don Rankin

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?  Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Volume 1, Revised Edition is available direct from the artist at http://www.createspace.com/3657628 .

Want to study at your own pace from home? Visit http://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor    Enjoy over 2.5 hours of watercolor tutorials broken into easy to learn segments. Most segments rarely over 10 minutes in length.

Painting my neighborhood on a new paper

shades crest rdDSC_0223_312                                                     Shades Crest Road                 Hand made Ruscombe paper                                   9″ x 14″

Paint what you know:

I know that seems to be my common theme.  However, I don’t think it can be said enough nor often enough.  My point is simple.  You are unique. Even if you have an identical twin no one sees like you do. No one thinks like you do. No one reacts in the same way to those things that happen around you. In short, your greatest asset is your unique individuality. To be certain all of us have shared feelings and shared viewpoints.  In spite of that; your reactions are largely personal. While some may not see it our individual traits are our strongest asset.  I am reminded of two very powerful events in my life that support my belief. When I was very young, about 14, I was admitted into the Famous  Artist School, in Westport, Connecticut. It was my first experience with distance learning. I was absolutely amazed at the ability of the faculty. I recall submitting a project that was heavily influenced by one of my idols of the time. When my critique was delivered it was a sharp rebuke.  It read something like this,  ” I see you were heavily influenced by a particular artist, etc.,etc.,…in short why in the hell do you want to copy someone’s mistakes?”   Mind you this piece was influenced by a very famous, extremely talented  painter!

Many years later I had the privilege of training for 25 years with Saiko Shihan Oyama of World Oyama Karate.  Over a period of years one fact was replayed over and over again as young and old students would be demonstrating their knowledge of kata.  Students would get nervous before and during promotion and they would glance to see what movements their neighbors were making.  Almost always the neighbor would be doing it wrong! What is my point? Be yourself. To quote Shihan, ” If you make a mistake make it DYNAMIC!”  Have the courage to stand on your own two feet and follow your heart. Sheeple get led around and never break out of the herd.

Experiment:

While I stress individuality I do not stress it at the risk of producing quality.  Learn the basics first.  At the same time feel free to break out and explore.  In the realm of exploring this small piece was produced on a French handmade paper that is well worth your time and effort. This watercolor was painted on a paper from Ruscombe Mills in France. I love the quality of the paper and the color hold out.  I really have no complaints. You can find it by doing a search for Ruscombe Mills.

However, I will give you a caution. READ the instructions that come with the paper. It will tell you to soak the paper and then mount it in order for the paper to smooth out. After all, this is handmade and it comes out with some ripples.  At first you may think the paper is a bit thin or at least thinner than a number of commercially produced papers. Don’t let that fool you. This paper is strong. My first attempt at stretching resulted in disaster. I drew in pencil upon the paper and put the sheet in a tub of cold  water.  Since the paper felt lighter than other papers I placed the staples fairly close to the edge of the paper. While the paper was still very wet I washed in some Winsor and Newton Rose Dior and some random swatches of ultramarine blue. The very wet paper allowed the color to cascade down the sheet as it sat at an angle on my board.  I left the room in anticipation of painting the next morning.  That would give the paper time to dry and I would resume the process again.

Surprise:

The next morning arrived and as I walked into the studio I could see that what I had judged to be a thinner than usual  watercolor paper had the strength of a Goliath!  The wire staples had pulled loose from the plywood mounting board, while some had ripped through the paper. The result was a wrinkled mess. I was fresh and relaxed and realized that I had misjudged the strength of the paper. I removed all staples and plunged the paper back into the a cold bath. After it soaked for about 10-15 minutes I placed on my mounting board. This time I positioned the staples at least 1/4″ from the edge of the paper. The sheet dried with a beautiful taut flat surface.

Working Qualities:

This paper doesn’t disappoint.  I’m glad that I bought several sheets. The washes in this painting are all transparent colors. I very rarely use opaque color and when I do it is for special effects only. The glazing techniques I employ do not produce vibrant color if you use opaque paints or body color. Those approaches block the light and kill the vibrancy of the washes. The surface of the Ruscombe paper I am using produces clean sparkling color. It takes dry brushing and seems to be open to washing back or lifting color if you desire.  The paper holds a wide range of values with ease.  The surface is tough enough to allow for scraping. I can say that this will be one of my favorite papers.  Try it .  I think you will like it.   As I sit here and write this I am already making plans to visit a nearby orchard. More about that later.

Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff,  Bluff Park,  Alabama 

raven tableDSC_0189_298                                                    Raven        oil                                                                     David Rankin

While this is a watercolor site I want to share a first with you. Coming in May at Artists on the Bluff, in Bluff Park, Alabama  my son, David, and I will be having our first joint father and son show.  The art center was once an elementary school that has been refurbished as an art center hosting individual studios as well as new class rooms for teaching artists. One of those new studios will be for my watercolor students.

Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?  You can purchase Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor , Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin  at http://www.createspace.com/3657628

Learn from a DVD entitled The Antique Shop that features Don’s approach to painting on the scene at http://createspace.com/350893

Study with Don Rankin On-line.  Approximately 2.5 hours of watercolor instruction that allows you to work at your own pace in the convenience of your home. https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor

Study watercolor with Don Rankin.  For more information contact Ms. Linda Williams at Artists on the Bluff, Bluff Park, Alabama 205-532-2769

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