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 ..firstname.lastname@example.org (888) 265-3356 (800) 227-2788