The above three drawings were drawn without looking at the paper. It is the first skill my beginning drawing students learn. I am always amazed at the ability we have to actually feel the surface of what we see and transpose it to the paper with just a few directions.
In class, the students learned blind continuous line, continuous line, negative space, one point perspective, cross contours, value and gridding. They worked from both live objects and photos. My main goal was to help them to see and then feel the contours and decipher the angles and values of what they see.
This class was a joy to teach and it is my hope that they continue to explore drawing and art in the future. If you would like to view a gallery of their work this last six weeks click here or the link at the top of the page titled “Student Art: Beg. Drawing”.
The above painting was produced by following the guidelines of another of Betsy Dillard Stroud’s exercises. I was to select a busy and detailed landscape as my reference. I was to create a silhouette of the landscape in black, simplifying the scene. Next I was to paint the landscape again using color. As I painted, I was to simplify and change the scene again.
I began with this simple pencil sketch, removing a bicycle, fruit stand, all lettering, the chairs by the restaurant and some of the people. I simplified the building in the background. The old man at the top of the steps was added because there was too much empty space at the top of the subway steps once I had removed the fruit stand.
This was my black silhouette. I decided that the addition of the man changed the story from fruit stand to people in this reference and balanced the empty space by re-inserting some people into the scene that I had removed. The lit ad screen atop the railing required a little something so I added that. At this point, I had decided I had what I needed for the finished painting.
What an experience when I began to work in color! I saw I had simplified the restaurant or the bar, in the background too much, so re-added some of the lettering. I really simplified all the color and lettering in all those windows on that building. They had a lot of different colors and lettering on them. I just used them to cast the glow of light on the scene. I thought the building in the background was too busy so had the fall tree expand and reach across it. I imagined more light coming from a building to the right of the people and indicated that in the cast shadows from the people. Since I had changed the center of interest to the old man and omitted the busy fruit stand and bicycle, I decided the scene was more about the people heading to the subway and followed my guidelines for painting “little People”. Refer to posts here and here.
This was a great exercise that I will use again.
I followed a suggestion from the artist and author, Betsy Dillard Stroud. She wrote a book titled The Artist’s Muse in 2006. The book comes complete with decks of cards that have creative art exercises listed on them. I tried one of them for the above self portrait. The instructions were to choose one color to represent your spiritual self; one to represent your physical self and a third to represent your mental self. Then you are to take those three colors and create a self portrait. I chose quinachridone orange (copper kettle) for physical self, quinachridone gold for spiritual self, and phthlocyanine blue (arctic ice) for mental self.
These three colors are the three you see on the top row of the image above. The other blobs are example mixtures of those three colors.
I was very skeptical as I began to work on this, but was presently surprised by the results very early on in the painting. It was relaxing to be concerned with only three colors (not as daunting as I supposed). More than any other exercise I’ve done, I quickly began to realise the importance of value as compared to the small role that color plays. I also learned a great deal about how I could stretch these three colors and what they looked like combined with each other. I also learned how they behaved and looked when applied dark, applied light and when I used them to glaze, one over the other. I will try more of these three color paintings in the future. Maybe I will choose my colors for other reasons for other subjects. Colors that I think look angry or colors that may reflect the colors of a rainy day. There’s no end to how I could assign three colors to a painting!
I rate this exercise worth trying!
The above painting is one I have done for a friend of mine. This is her half Halflinger mare, Lilly Mae. I used frisket for the white strands of mane and whiskers and highlights on the eye and the hardware and stitches on the bridle. After painting strands of mane in for hours!, I had to do some lifting with a sponge to blend some of the lighter colors. Her mane is lighter than her body, but not white. I worked extra hard on sculpting her face and capturing the veins and the jawline to lead the viewer’s eye to Lilly’s huge soft dark eye. That took several layers of very light washes. After removing the frisket from the metal hardware of the bridle, I went back in and shaded areas of it. I used Harvest Gold, Raw Sienna, Halloween Orange, Copper Kettle, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Prussian Blue and Blue Stone to create this portrait.
Thankyou to those of you that have enquired as to my whereabouts. I have been fine, but the Holidays and all the shoveling and blowing of snow that I’ve done has kept me away from painting and blogging. I will try to be more present!
Shine Upon You and Yours this Holiday Season!
Thankyou to Ahmed Farahat from Paint My Photo for the reference for this painting.
Something seasonal, at least around here, in winter.
Our watercolor landscape class just ended this week. The artists that take my classes are kind enough to allow me to photograph their work and post it to share with all of you.
We broke the subject of landscape into five parts. In order, we studied landscape composition, trees, bushes and snow in the landscape, sky and water, buildings or man-made objects in the landscape, and little people in the landscape. On the last night of class, I gave everyone the same photo reference to paint from. It is always amazing to see the different renditions of the same reference.
If you would like to see more examples of art by these artists, click here or above on the title Student Art: Watercolor Landscape page .
The above is a simple watercolor sketch I used as an example for my landscape class. This week we talked about putting “Little People” in our landscapes. I look back through all the landscapes I have painted and less than a third of them have people in them. What’s that about? People create interest for the viewer and can be used to lead the eye through a landscape or support a story the artist may be trying to tell, or just give life to a scene. Sometimes they are like little stick figures and sometimes they are a little larger, like I painted, here. I will outline how I created these. However, there are two very good tutorials for this on You Tube here and here.
This is the simple sketch I drew on my paper. If the figures are really small, I skip this step or frisket them out in advance. Note that I do not include a lot of detail. If the people face me, I often eliminate eyes nose and mouth on them and just use shadows I see to suggest facial features.
I usually begin with painting my skin tones, first. If the figure is tiny I may cover the entire figure with the skin tones and let the additional colors for their clothes run through that color. In larger figures, I look for how the light hits the people and leave the lights unpainted. Note: the stripe of white on arms and legs
I then give then clothes and allow the pigment to bleed into the skin tones. If it is too dark, I lift some of the color while it is still wet. I pay attention to where the clothes are lighter and darker. Note: the light on both figure’s shoulders and shorts
Select a color that you are using and puddle a shadow at your figures’ feet. This grounds them to the page and enhances the feeling of light. I then painted the hair a on the woman and the hat on the guy. The lady did not have a ponytail in the reference photo. That was all mingling pigment, a happy accident, and I decided to keep it. Added the frisbee, at this point.
I chose to frisket the splash around the dog. The two things that made the dog work was the highlight on the body defining his form and the shadow that grounded him to the page.
The last step was to fill in the landscape around them and remove the frisket from the splash.
This week we talked about buildings or man-made structures in a landscape. We discovered that most man-made things are very geometric in form and that the rendering of them might be like putting a series of shapes together, such as triangles, squares, rectangles, ovals and circles. Arches are good examples of rounded forms and are found in many bridges and entryways. We considered values and how our building/ buildings sat within the foliage and landscape that surrounded it. Were there shadows cast by eaves or trees on the side of them? Was one side of our structure in bright sunlight and the other darker? Where would our center of interest be? Would it be the doorway, a reflective window, a person standing outside? How did our structure or structures contrast or fit into the landscape surrounding?
I chose a photo of Bodie, California that I found on Wet Canvas. Thankyou to Wet Canvas for that! I had only attempted a cluster of buildings once before and saw this reference as an excellent one to practice putting shapes upon shapes within a landscape. I was intrigued with the large and sloping landscape of the background hills against the old ghosttown and the tiny shapes nestled within them.
My first concern was gettting the buildings on my format where they belonged, so I chose to grid my paper for my drawing. If you do this, remember to erase those lines before starting to paint.
I also took the time to plot a simple value sketch so I could determine how I was going to divide the space so the lighter buildings would be visible in a largely light landscape setting.
I began with the background hillsides and worked my way down to the ghosttown.
I worked my way through the main cluster of buildings. I realisied, at that point that the cluster pointed to the road on the right, so I left that very light as I worked because that road seemed to hug the town and circle around and behind it and could possibly serve to lead the viewer’s eye through my painting.
To finish, I put a light wash of burnt orange behind the lighter cluster of buildings to help to make them more visible and defined the area of the roadway. I scrubbed (with a damp sponge) away a portion of the pigment to the right and left sides of the main cluster to provide contrast. I put finishing touches on the loose foreground grasses and darkened the areas to the far right and left of the scene in order to hold the viewer’s eye on the scene. The smokestacks and poles were the last things I painted.
I wonder what it would have been like to work live and work here in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s.
I have painted the above sky once before here. I don’t mind practicing from references I used previously. It’s nice to be able to see differences in a painting and to see if my skills have changed. I tried something new that I read about in a landscape book about skies and clouds. I used a sponge that I pre-wet and squeezed most of the water from to soften the top edges of the above clouds. I find it impossible to create interesting clouds without leaving hard edges everywhere. After my clouds had dried, I just took that sponge and lightly rubbed out the hard lines around the edges of the above clouds. I had to keep re-wetting and wringing the sponge to remove pigment that was lifted and to prevent smearing as I worked, but it really did the trick and fluffed up those upper edges. I also created that beam of light that bursts outward in the upper sky by dragging the sponge through the wet sky wash prior to it drying. The water was created by sponging liquid frisket in the center area to save the bright white of the paper. The lines of waves in the foreground were created by drawing them in with frisket, using a round brush.Once the frisket had dried, I washed on the colors for the water. This painting looks its best if viewed from a distance.
I don’t know if any of you have discovered that it is always best to get up and move to a distance of about ten feet and view your painting, in progress, from time to time. I find that a very useful practice for getting the value contrasts down. Most paintings are viewed from somewhere else in a room than right on top of them. I love going to an art museum and viewing a painting up close and then slowly backing up and see the whole thing come together. Several famous artists whose originals I’ve viewed, this way, and that really pack a punch when you back off them, are Van Gogh, Turner, Seurat and Monet. This never ceases to amaze me.