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Recently, I gave an assignment to my Creative Challenge class that brought up some interesting responses. The assignment was: Paint something “you” think is ugly and make it beautiful. Almost everyone questioned what I meant by ugly. Some responded that they could find beauty in almost anything. Others saw beauty in the ugly before they even began to paint. I thought all these responses were so interesting. One little assignment brought with it such thought!  As it turned out, not a one of their paintings was ugly. They all achieved beauty from something they thought was ugly.

This assignment made me think of something I learned from an instructor a long time ago. She said, “We all spend time creating drawings and paintings of things we love. The real learning and improvement takes place when we try something new. We have to rely on “seeing” the form, feeling the edges and become accustomed to something new.”  That is what happened with me, with the above painting. I chose the snake as my “ugly”. She almost immediately became beautiful when I studied all the intricate patterns and the shapes of her scales. I decided to give her a bit of a grin. The patterns of dark strips of color was there for me to do that. I learned it was not so much her looks that I thought ugly but how she had to constrict her prey and devour it whole. Just another example of how we categorize things, in our minds, without looking deeper.

If you study this carefully, you can see where I added some citra- solv collage.

I do not know what kind of Python this is. I did some searches and think it may be a Burmese Python by the markings. The Indian Rock Python has shapely patterns, also, but they do not seem to have that golden glow in the center of the pattern. Thank you to Wet Canvas for the reference image for this.

LionB

 

I need to kick-start myself into painting more frequently. Everything is getting in the way!

I had fun with this lion. I used a limited palette of about five colors. They were Arctic Ice, Raw Sienna, Copper Kettle, Halloween Orange and Sepia.

LionB2

 

I began by cropping my reference photo so the lion’s eye was near an area that is good for a focal point.  I drew the lion and splattered the surface of the painting with frisket, using a small brush. I wanted the resulting splatter to be tiny pinpricks of texture throughout the lion’s mane and shoulder. I began by mapping out where I wanted my most dominant darks. I know! Opposite of what the watercolor books say. I think that once you learn the basics, you can allow yourself some freedom of expression and there are some subjects that I build from light to dark and others where I map out the dark areas, first. I almost always push the darks even farther during my final steps in the painting.

LionB3

 

Next, I concentrated on the midtones and light wash shapes in and throughout the face area. This is where I want to draw my viewer’s eye, so I try to feel for the contours of the lion’s face, around the nose, eye, brow and muzzle. It helps to define what portions of the lion’s face bumps out and what rolls in and gives the face more of a 3-D feel and not read so flat.

LionB4

 

This is the step I washed in, very loose and wet, a background. I painted around the whisker dots on the muzzle and filled in the shapes in the eye and the nose. I added the background blue in heavy and light washes in and around the painting. I always bring my background colors into the foreground. I feel this gives a painting better balance. It takes a simple background and gives it a reason for being and helps to create a feeling that the subject is a part of the environment he is in rather than pasted on. I chose this particular blue because this painting is for a Detroit Lion fan.

LionB

 

In the final step I do all the tiny detail work and enhance some areas. I darkened and detailed the eye. I darkened the fleshtones in the nose. I defined more shapes around the eye. I darkened and defined the muzzle around the whiskers so the frisket areas would show up. I enhanced the shadow shapes under the chin, both sides of the ear and far brow line with Halloween Orange. I darkened all the shadow shapes. I removed the frisket once the painting was dry.

Thank you to Wet Canvas for the reference for this lion.

Splashing wave

 

I have painted this wave once before on masa paper here. This time I wanted to try something a little different. I had read in a book titled “Terry’s Top Tips for Watercolour Artists” (by Terry Harrison) that he sometimes uses a sponge to create the white foam on the tops of waves or I think they are sometimes referred to as whitecaps.

I have outlined how to use liquid frisket with a brush in another post here. Using the frisket with a sponge is much the same.

frisketsupplies

 

Left to right are my frisket supplies. Frisket can be referred to as masking fluid or drawing gum, also. On the left is my rubber pick up. This is used after your painting has dried and you need to remove the frisket to expose the white of the paper. You do so by carefully rubbing this across the surface. It removes the frisket much like an eraser.  I have two kinds of frisket in the photo. The incredible white mask is pretty thick and I only use that when I am not too concerned about exactness, like for splattering and such. The other is Pebeo Drawing Gum. This is my favorite. I like it because it is runnier and easier to work with when using it for tiny areas that need more detail. Next is a small jar of brush cleaning soap and last is my frisket brush.

sponges

 

Above are examples of some of the sponges I have used. When I purchase sponges, I try to look for new shapes to add to my collection so I get a variety. The large one in the center top is the one I chose for this painting. I tested several on scrap paper to see which one would be best suited for what I needed for the white shapes on the wave.

splashingwave2

 

I began by drawing a guideline or two for the rock shapes on my watercolor paper (140 lb  Arches Rough). I then prepared my sponge by dipping it in water and allowing it to become soggy. I squeezed out as much of the water as I could. This makes the sponge “thirsty and ready to work. I spritzed some water onto my soap dish and dipped my damp sponge in that first. This makes the outer surface of your sponge shapes a little slippery and will help you get the frisket off when the time comes to rinse. I then dipped my sponge in a puddle of frisket that I poured into an old dish (small to not waste the frisket). I began dabbing the frisket on the contours of the wave, emulating what I saw in my reference photo. I am very careful to rinse and repeat these steps so the frisket never begins to dry on my sponge. I used the sponge for some of the foamy water in the foreground, also. I  immediately rinsed my sponge out when I finished so the frisket did not dry in it. I have read about a landscape artist who allows the frisket to build up on sponges and old brushes and he re-uses them. He gets some very interesting textural effects with these.  I used my brush and more frisket in the foreground to paint in some of the lines and roiling shapes I saw there. Before continuing, I wait for the frisket to dry.

splashingwave3

 

Next, I chose several blues and painted the sky and the shadow shapes in the waves and allowed that to dry.

splashingwave4

 

I  mixed a darker blue for the ocean behind the wave and painted it in very wet. Note the lighter areas around the wave that look kind of foggy. Prior to the dark blue wash drying, I dabbed around the top of the wave with a tissue (non-lotion tissue) and softened the edges of these foggy shapes. I painted in the dark rocky forms with dark earth-tones.  I allowed the painting to dry again.

splashingwave5

I removed all the frisket ; rubbing the surface with the rubber pick up.

Splashing wave

I finished by darkening some of the blues in the foreground and in the darkest areas of the wave. I splattered the top of the wave using a small #4 round and white gouache.

Thank you to wet canvas for the reference photo for this.

anewday

 

Happy New Year to all of you! Thank you for following my blog over the years. I enjoy visiting you and seeing your work and learning the new things you are exploring.

We just finished our Watercolor Landscape class for 2014. I have posted 53 paintings that my students agreed to share here.

Cherie Droege

Cherie Droege

Nancy Longmate2

Nancy Longmate2

Everyone worked two weeks on the new splatter painting technique.

David Hess

David Hess

They worked on creating a landscape with a very definite center of interest.

Kathleen Smierciak

Kathleen Smierciak

They worked on a painting of “Big Sky” or “Big Water”.

Robert Einhaus3

Robert Einhaus3

They created a painting with a building or man-made object.

Joel Alwine2

Joel Alwine2

The last night of class we worked on painting little people to insert into the landscape.

Ann Smith

Ann Smith

Jan Reche

Jan Reche

…and high praise for the two students who worked outside the box to come up with a more abstract vision of a landscape.

Thank you to all of you who follow this blog, regularly, and to the students who continue to attend my classes and share their work here.

Roxanne Yoquelet

Roxanne Yoquelet

Roxanne Yoquelet4

Roxanne Yoquelet4

We began our class with an introduction to brushes, pigment and paper. We practiced washes and glazes and were introduced to three ways to apply watercolor (wet in wet, wet on dry and dry brushing).

Laura Lindsay3

Laura Lindsay3

Laura Lindsay

Laura Lindsay

We talked about different color combinations and practiced painting some of them.

Laura Lindsay4

Laura Lindsay4

In the third class it was all about trees and foliage and the different ways (sponge, pointillism, scumbling, salt, frisket) texture could be rendered in watercolor.

Roxanne Yoquelet3

Roxanne Yoquelet3

Laura Lindsay2

Laura Lindsay2

Roxanne Yoquelet2

Roxanne Yoquelet2

Then it was on to “Big Sky” and “Big Water” and how to allow the water on your paper to mingle color. How to splatter and how to let go of the reference material a little and allow the water to help create the painting.

Roxanne Yoquelet5

Roxanne Yoquelet5

Laura Lindsay5

Laura Lindsay5

On the fifth week, we discussed buildings and perspective and that they were composed of a collection of shapes that fit together.  I was knocked off my feet when I saw the two paintings, above! What beautiful work after only five weeks.

littlepeople2

littlepeople3

On the last night of class, we practiced painting “little people” to use in our landscape paintings in the future.

A huge thank you to Roxanne and Laura for giving me permission to share their paintings with others.

fallfarm

 

keystoneconcrete

 

Those of you, who follow my blog, know that I and a friend spent the summer learning to paint from a monochromatic rendering and transform it with splatter and drips and color. The explanation of how to approach these is found here and here.

I shared this process with my watercolor landscape classes this fall. The above paintings are a result of my demos and explanations for these classes. The top one is a composite of several different photo references I had taken. The horses are from one farm, not this one. The high tension wires were from yet another farm than the one I chose to sit in the distance. Tip on “how to” wires? I lightly used a graphite pencil, first. Then I painted them really carefully with a rigger and paynes gray, resting my hand on the paper and dragging the brush at a 45 degree angle as I slid my hand across the paper. I softened and blurred those wires with light rubbings of a magic eraser so they would appear to fade and return, varying the values of the wires in spots. I used liguid frisket to preserve the white of the paper on barn roofs, white buildings and the foreground horses. I had to splatter those areas following painting in the details. That painting developed, gradually, and changed with every layer I painted into it.

The concrete works piece was purely experimental on my part. I wanted to see if I could create something a little different and unique with interesting shapes.

I will continue to create paintings like this. I like all that goes into them and the fact that I’m always creating something new with each and every one.

pmpknmonochrome monochromatic

I spent some time working with the simple color combinations we talk about and use all the time.  I try to cover these in every beginning class I teach and then keep tossing out reminders in the advanced classes.  Sometimes, our paintings just aren’t what they could be.  We confuse our viewers with too much color or don’t provide enough contrast with our colors. We know we can paint anything! any color we choose! We can create a pink horse, a green person, and change the grass to black and the sky to purple if we want! But we do need to be mindful of our viewer if we want our work to have contrast and read well for a viewer.

I sat down with 6 x 9 inch pieces of 140 lb Arches watercolor paper and practiced painting this pumpkin in the five color combinations I talk about in classes.

The first combination is monochromatic. That means taking one color and rendering your entire painting in that color or variations of that color. I chose paynes grey for this one. There could be many versions of a monochromatic. It all depends on how much of the painting you decide to leave white and how much you make your darkest darks and how much midtone values you include. I will save that exercise for another day.

pmpknanalagous analagous

The above example is an analagous color scheme of orange and yellow. Analagous paintings are those that have colors next to each other on the color wheel and one of the colors is usually dominant. I believe the orange is the dominant in this and could have stretched my color range to include red, but opted for a neutral of burnt umber instead. This one stretched my value skills because I chose to paint more of the pumpkin than in the monochromatic example. I had to use varying amounts of water to get the value transitions in yellow and orange.

pmpkncompliment complimentary

Complimentary colors are those found opposite each other on the color wheel. Mixed together, they can cancel each other out to appear black. Next to each other and they enhance contrast. I used no other colors than one orange and one blue to create the pumpkin above. Had I chosen to paint an apple, I’d choose red and green. Had I chosen to paint a lemon, I’d choose yellow and purple.

pmpknsecondary  secondary triad

This is where it gets fun! I could use three colors!  The secondary triad is composed of the secondary colors orange, green and violet on the color wheel. I liked this one, because it looks the most believable for the subject of a pumpkin. I liked how these three colors produced varying shades for all the shadows in this. I found this painting  more soft and relaxing, in appearance, when compared to the next one I tried.

pmpknprimary primary triad

The last color combination I tried was the primary color triad of red, yellow and blue. Wow! This one became so vibrant because I could use bright yellow and red to create my oranges and even the blue came through as vibrant on this one. I would call this my festive pumpkin. There seems to be more energy in a primary color painting.

Try this one with a simple reference and see what you come up with. These are the only color combinations I teach. It does not mean I stick with only those colors. I add other colors to my paintings. BUT, if I squint at them and there is not a distinct look of one of the above color combinations in them, I go back in develop the painting more until there is.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

Thank you to wet canvas for the image of the pumpkin I used for my reference.

paytonsabner    6 yr

sedonashorses  7 yr

polarbear 8 yr

The above paintings were painted by my three Granddaughters this past weekend. Yes, I have created watercolors and drawings with them since they were little. Their Mothers have also encouraged them with their art. One thing I did not do, however, was purchase less expensive paints, brushes and paper for them to use. I find many of the student grade papers and paints uninspiring, often resulting in dull colors, brush hairs falling out into paintings and paper that tears or won’t hold up to multiple glazes or layers.

All three of them begged me to be able to paint and helped me to tape their paper to the board. The oldest ran for my pile of photo references. They used to select pictures from their coloring books that were easier to draw but would have none of that this time. The 6 chose a portrait of Abner, my daughter’s dog, the 7 chose a photo of my daughters three horses and mini donkey, and the 8 chose a photo of a polar bear! I said, “Are you sure you can do these?”  The 8 said, “Yes. We can draw them by feeling the edges of the lines while we draw!”  They have all practiced drawing with a continuous line, before. I helped a little, but not a lot! Mostly just to point out an angle of a line or a bump on a horse knee or jaw. The drawing of the polar bear was totally unassisted! I cautioned them about rinsing their brushes before they went back into the palettes for their colors and that was all she wrote. They were off and painting!

Insert, here, praise for their art teachers. The conversation around the table started to revolve around what their art teachers had taught them in school. One Granddaughter stating that her teacher taught her that a painting was just lines, shapes and then add color! Another said her teacher had told her to use bright color and another talked about her teacher teaching them to use the whole page.

And they didn’t get bored! Thank you to all those Moms and Art Teachers out there who recognize the value of creativity for our children.  They may never make a living creating art, but they are learning skills that will stick with them a lifetime about exploring, creating and making choices. Plus! They will have one more thing they can enjoy doing in their free time!

 

 

 

sedonadrumming

 

sydneyposing

 

The last thing we practiced in watercolor portraits was rendering hands in a way that they are believable. One of the most common mistakes in portraiture are hands that are too small, proportionately. Another mistake is the artist not rendering the parts of the hands that bend by using properly placed cross contour lines to delineate the joints of the fingers and thumbs. Hands without joints always appear gloved and stiff.

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