Watercolor Demo 7.5″ x 10″ image 140 lb. cold press D’Arches block
I believe in demonstrating procedures and ideas when teaching a group. My weekly class at Artists on the Bluff gets impromptu demos a lot. The old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words!” is so true. Very often a student will have a question that is best answered with a demonstration. I’m going to share the steps below.
Step 1…the beginning
First move: You can see some pencil lines. Usually I put these in so my students can get an idea of my plan. The basic pencil lines help to set boundaries. You can see the horizon line, some rough indications for the shape and size of the barn, etc. In short I have set up a basic road map. It is a road map I may or may not follow. The guidelines are there for orientation. Pencil lines and painted shapes of color have a different dynamic. I’m painting; so color rules.
Order: Everyone had an idea of the placement and composition. Now comes the execution. I usually paint sky and background elements first. Not always but usually. Why ? It is easier. The sky was painted wet ‘n wet. That is the paper was flooded with clear water first, taking care to avoid the shape of the barn. Hint: The wet wash will not freely migrate across into the dry area unless you have too much of an angle or too much water on your paper. As the initial sky wash of Holbein Marine Blue with a touch of Perylene Maroon was drying I carefully dropped a stronger wash of the same mixture into the dampened sky area being careful to avoid the silo and the barn shape as well as the foreground. While that area was drying I carefully applied the foreground of M.Graham Gamboge with a bit of the residue of Perylene Maroon and Marine Blue still lingering in my brush. The resulting bronze color is a perfect winter color. By the way most of this wash at this stage was executed with a 3″ flat brush. The exception was the pale vermilion red and blue wash on the front of the barn.
Study the image:
At first glance you can see some not so clean wash edges, in some places pretty crude. The white edge on the left side of the piece was left in order to prevent the wet sky and wet foreground from mingling. The white edge of the barn on the shadow side was inadvertently left and will soon be refined.
Why this demo, why this approach?
At times I think that we all think too much. This is especially true of beginning watercolor painters. Note I wrote “painters.” Like many of you I run across the woefully ignorant who like to think that watercolor isn’t a painting medium!! I’ve even run into this idea among so-called educated teachers with a lot of alpha bet soup tagged on the end of their names. My point is that painting is painting, period. The medium we choose does not negate the fact that certain concepts of painting are largely universal and only altered by the requirements of the media we choose to use. If you study the works and methodology of painters like Richard Schmid and David Leffel you will find that many of their approaches can be applied to other painting mediums. Certainly watercolor, like other media, has its own requirements and approaches.
Do you recall the first time you attempted to paint a watercolor? Did you make a lot of preparation, planning what you were going to do? While it is desirable to have a goal in our work; at times, students came become a nervous wreck by planning too much. It is almost as perilous as the brave soul who just jumps in without any plan what so ever. In many ways I favor the student who bravely dives in throwing caution to the wind. Having written that I need to clarify. Looseness in a painting methodology is NOT the same as being sloppy. Looseness comes from confidence and relaxation after one has mastered a few basics.
All washes were dry when I used a size 6 Winsor & Newton Series 7 brush to paint in the general shape of an old oak tree. The wash was American Journey Andrews Turquoise. The fence line was a mixture of the Marine Blue and Perylene Maroon. Note the fact the the shadow side of the barn was now repaired and a bit of Marine Blue w/ Perylene Maroon provided a shadow for the edge of the roof line. A dilute mixture of the same color was used to cast the shadows on the front of the barn.
Darker washes were mixed to define the tree. At first glance the turquoise wash was not too powerful. However, alternating a stronger pattern of a mixture of dark blue and maroon created a strong optical black. Note where the darker wash was applied to the limbs and where it was omitted. Take time to study the patterns of light and shadow on trees to help make your images more convincing. The same dark was used in the space between the barn and silo to help clean up and define the edges of the barn. A portion of the fence appears to have a highlight as it approaches the barn. No masking or scraping out was used to create this effect. Recall that the shadow side of the barn was once a lighter color. Here the sequence of painting was reversed. The dark shadows between the fence rails was painted leaving the lighter wash to appear as a highlight. This is refined even more in the final stage of the painting. As an added thought, a bit of turquoise was applied to the shadow side of the roof.
The last refinements have been added in this small demo. You can see the planks in the barn siding as well as in the door. Some would think of the structural qualities of the building but I chose to use vertical lines on the door in order to break up the rhythm of the horizontal lines. While it is probably more accurate in terms of construction; I wasn’t concerned with that. I was thinking of harmonic rhythm and contrast. Contrast exists in all forms, not just in lighter and darker values. The fence gate was defined using the same technique of negative painting. That is the shadow shapes were painted and the lighter underlying wash was left exposed to create the illusion of highlight. Many wise painters stress introducing color into various areas of the picture plane. One commented on making an excuse to introduce color into various areas. Look carefully in the foreground and you will see some hints of turquoise and hints of red. It just helps to balance out the color.
I have written all of this to say….RELAX. Too many tall tales strangle the flow of watercolor. Examine each step and you will see how darker/stronger color has been used to clean up or refine the image. An attempt to produce perfect washes in every application often breeds frustration or a terribly stiff watercolor. I did this little watercolor to assure my students that you have the ability to refine and polish your work as you go. This is a small demo that required a short period of time but the principle applies to more involved works as well. As the layers dried I used smaller brushes for the defining moments but in the beginning I used the largest brush I could find. In the words of Delacroix, “Start with a broom, finish with a needle.” I can’t say it any better.
Want to know more about Don’s watercolor glazing techniques?
Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume I by Dr. Don Rankin is available direct from Don 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, easy to follow tutorials on the basics of watercolor glazing techniques, color theory, brush techniques and paper selection. BEGINNING LEVEL I https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor/
Level II..a full real time demonstration of the glazing technique: https://www.Udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor-level-II/
Come join on going watercolor classes with Don Rankin every Thursday, except holidays, at Artists on the Bluff, 571 Park Avenue, Bluff Park, Alabama 35226. Contact Ms. Linda Williams for details. http://www.artistsonthe bluff.com Telephone 205-637-5946
WORKSHOP:WITH DON RANKIN: June 20-24, 2016 Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, Boone, North Carolina. CONTACT: Edwina May for details ..email@example.com (888) 265-3356 (800) 227-2788
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
If 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.
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.
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!
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
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
The Tunnel, to be featured in Level II on-line Udemy course
Sorry for the delay in posting a new article. Health issues have intervened but I am now back on track…for the moment. My on-line course with Udemy.com is attracting students. In fact, we are about to launch “Level II”. It will be an on-line tutorial of one painting from start to finish. The drying time has been removed but the basic critical steps are recorded. While it is not productive to record every step we have sought to preserve the key moments.
Subject matter: Process and Purpose
As I have stated before everyone is unique and we approach our work in different ways. No one can truly be anything other than themselves. While we may admire the work of others and often be inspired; at the end of the day we need to find our own way of working. There is no question that we can gain valuable insight in process from observing the works of others. However, the bigger question is to what purpose do we observe and absorb? Various writers have elaborated upon these two words noting the intertwined relationship between them. Consider it simply as a part of developing a painting or completing any task. Perhaps you would prefer to call it putting ideas into action. All successful art has a concept. It may be the play of light upon a given object or the interplay of a selected color range. Once the art concept is conceived, if it is to be realized, then comes the necessity or process of developing it. This is one of the reasons I always encourage my students to develop sketches with loose color studies. The ones that follow the advice have a greater success ratio than the ones who don’t.
Why do they have a better success ratio? I think it is because sketches help get the process started. Putting marks on paper begins the cycle that brings us forward in the march to realize our goal. This previous statement is only valid provided the person making the marks has some idea regarding design, color harmony, etc. I interject this because regrettably we have too many voices today espousing “do your own thing” without any regard for basic fundamentals.
This is a painting that I have been sketching and thinking of for several years. As a youngster, I was accused of being impatient with a tendency to rush things. I received excellent instruction from gifted masters about how to develop a painting. As a youth I ignored the advice. I wanted to paint! I didn’t want to fool around with boring sketches, charcoal studies and color value studies. So I just jumped right in. Then I would lament that my painting didn’t work out too well. Finally as I got a bit older I learned to take one teacher’s advice. I was verbally spouting contemporary art theory when very abruptly I was told, “Shut up and paint!”
I have lived with this subject of this painting for 23 years. I have lectured, sketched and done quick watercolor demos for students on this site in all sorts of weather. While teaching, my focus has been on teaching my students; leaving little time for a deeper personal on site exploration of the subject. There have been a few quick watercolors of various spots and numerous plein aire demos in relation to class. Now I am gaining the time to really develop some serious pieces.
Why name it The Tunnel?
Great question. The open space is a gathering spot on campus named Ben Brown Plaza. It is a popular gathering spot for students and makes a logical location for various events. The large building is the Harwell G. Davis Library with a slight hint of Reid Chapel off in the distance. The beautiful oaks form a canopy along the sidewalk with wonderful shadows and playful light hitting the ground as well as the people and the buildings. In this piece the tunnel is not fully realized but come spring and full summer and it will be a different mater. I have work on progress that depicts that tunnel effect more strongly. However, for most of the students if you mention the tunnel they know what you mean. Hence, the title.
Preliminary under painting:
This is the foundation. Take note of the various colors and their position as well as relationship to one another. As the work progresses these colors will play a stronger role in the painting. Do note that some of the passages were executed in a wet ‘n wet technique while the washes with sharper defined edges were painted directly on dry paper. All of these techniques can be used in glazing. I have left the edges of the paper showing so you can see the staple marks. This is how I mount my paper to a 3/4″ marine plywood board to prevent the paper from rippling. Yes, unfortunately even 300 lb. paper will buckle these days. My plywood boards are quite old and I sealed them with marine grade varnish over 30 years ago. Some prefer to use gator board and that is fine. I see no need to toss out something that still works for me.
The colors I used were Andrews Turquoise by American Journey, Winsor & Newton Permanent Magenta, M. Graham Gamboge, Holbein Leaf Green, 300 lb. D’Arches cold press watercolor paper full sheet,and a 2 inch showcard sable flat brush, with assorted Winsor & Newton Series 7 rounds.
The Tunnel 20″ x 30″ watercolor
The final piece. Very little activity on this day. It was very cold and few people were stirring. Other pieces will probably have more people.
Want to know more about watercolor glazing techniques?
The revised, updated edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Vol 1 by Dr. Don Rankin is available at http://www.createspace.com/3657628
Watch and learn about watercolor glazing techniques from Don Rankin. This is a perfect companion to the book.
Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor https://www.udemy.com/mastering-glazing-techniques-in-watercolor
Classic video tutorial The Antique Shop, a remastered classic favorite now available on DVD
The Antique Shop http://www.createspace.com/350893