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Relax and Refine

ATOBdemofinaletadahWatercolor 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.

ATOBbeginningdemoStep 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.

ATOBDemostage3use this oneStep 2

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.

ATOBdemo Step 3

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.

ATOBdemofinaletadahFinal step:

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.

Conclusion:

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

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 ..info@cheapjoes.com  (888) 265-3356     (800) 227-2788

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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