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Tag Archives: cityscape

I am trying something new again! This technique is one that will keep me trying for years to come. I always like techniques that take time and that don’t allow me to be so hasty as to ditch what I am working on. This technique satisfies my desire to explore and to fix things in an existing watercolor that has taken a wrong turn. The above painting is my first attempt.

I learned about this technique from an article I read in the February 2017 issue of Watercolor Artist. There was an article about the artist Nadine Charlsen. She shared a step-by-step tutorial of one of her paintings, so I tried it. Please understand that my first attempts probably leaves out a whole host of things she does that I have been a bit hesitant to jump into in this first try. I strongly encourage you to look for this article or watch how she works on a few You Tube videos. I think this technique lends itself to a whole host of individual ideas as to how each artist may approach doing the same thing.

My first step was to draw the image I wanted to paint and wash in my darks with paynes gray. I think you could use sepia or van dyke brown in this stage, too. Whatever you think lends itself best to rendering those darks.  Nadine Paints her paintings on easels, so the paintings are upright as she paints. I was chicken, so this was painted with only a slight tilt.

Once the first step was dry, I dropped large puddles of water all over the painting. This breaks up some of the hard edges and softens the background. I wait for this to dry. I took stiffer brushes and rubbed out some areas where the color bled too much to my liking and to save portions of the painting that I wanted to appear lighter.

The above step was the most time consuming. I painted the color of the items in the booths and and on the opposing side of the alleyway. My painting was becoming  full of edges, again, and looking too perfect and not at all atmospheric. After the color dried, I tilted my board and began washing white gouache over the surface, top to bottom. I dabbed areas of darks and some of the color areas so they did not become too overpowered and washed out. I allowed this watered down wash to trail down the surface of the paper. I did this three times until I got the above look. I waited for that to dry before moving on.

I thought the previous step had washed out too much of the roof area and softened some of the foreground too much. I went back in and touched up some of the colors, the roof and the foreground chair. I spritzed water on the surface to break apart some of the edges that were created by that. Once that dried, I tilted the board and washed white gouache all over areas where I wanted it to show up. I blotted some of that wash with a tissue and rubbed small areas with a stiff brush to further soften an edge.

In the final step I worked on the foreground chair and the people, brightened areas of color and filled in things that looked a bit unfinished.

I think the point of dropping and spraying water onto the surface of the watercolor is an attempt to bring out a mood and to soften the edges of a scene. I think it gives air and depth to a scene. I felt like I could do anything I wanted and still bring something worthwhile back to the scene. Sometimes it looked like it was destined for the trash. At other times it began to look better than anything I had ever painted before.  I will be teaching these things to my students in their next class. We will probably have a messy good time of it. I hope!

Oh! Nadine uses Khadi paper, mostly, and sometimes 140lb Arches rough. I used the Arches rough because that is what I had on hand. I will try the Khadi at some point.

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subway

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.

subway2

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.

subway3

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.

subway final 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.

Henn Laidroo2     by Henn Laidroo

 

Nancy Longmate2  by Nancy Longmate

The above paintings were done as part of assignments for a six week course in composition.

We studied creating a center of interest and learning where to  place it on our format.  The students created different formats to paint on such as squares and long and narrow rectangles. They explored emphasizing one or more elements in their paintings to attract a viewer’s attention. These elements included simplification, exaggeration, repetition, emphasizing the focal point, movement and contrast. They created paintings by combining two or three photographs. They also created portraits or figures utilizing the guidelines of composition.

Please check out the results of our class by visiting the “Student Art 2” page  here.

Thank you, once again, to all my students for a great class!

blackwhitecity

I posted this painting in an earlier post. It was a black and white sketch of an image that I wanted to eventually paint in color.

Since that time, we have discussed composition in our landscape class.  I realized I had not payed particular attention to where I had placed my center of interest which I wanted to be the Empire State building and the lit space that separated it from the other buildings that I took to be a street.

Knowing there are “sweet spots” located in each quadrant of my format I went back to the original reference photo and cropped it so as to place the Empire State building where I wanted it.

Image showing "sweet spots"

Image showing “sweet spots”

I divided my paper into three sections vertically and horizontally and circled where the lines crossed.  These areas are called “sweet spots” and are good places for a center of interest to be located in a painting.

The painting, in color, came out like this.

newyorktransition

There were other considerations that went into this final painting, as well. I chose the sweet spot that ran from the lower left quadrant because the rays from the sun seemed to lead to that area and  created a rather nice pathway for the eye to follow. I was also intrigued with the long pathway of artificial light running across the dark back drop of buildings that curved around and led to the street running next to the Empire State building. The strong diagonal lines in the water in the foreground led the eye to the city, also. Prior to having studied composition, I would just select pretty photo references I wanted to paint and paint them as they were. I really had little understanding of creating a pathway for the viewer’s eye.  This is but one element of composition to consider but has made quite a difference, for me. I always examine my reference material for the best placement of a center of interest.

Other considerations for this painting were a primary color scheme and accentuating contrast (to enhance depth).

My techniques were use of liquid frisket, color washes, and using the primary colors to render black through wet-in-wet applications.

This was painted on Lanaquerelle 140 lb rough watercolor paper.

Thank you to Wet Canvas reference library for the photo used as reference for this painting.

The above watercolors were painted with the idea of studying value transitions in the landscape. It is the first assignment for my Watercolor Landscape class this session. We were to use one or two colors and enhance the depth by making decisions on how to divide the space in the landscape with value changes. We were to pay attention to not dividing our scenes in half with value and to make dramatic enough changes to provide contrast and depth. The above two paintings were painted with  neutral tint watercolor paint and the bottom one was painted with burnt sienna and prussian blue.

I felt a sense of freedom painting these studies. It allowed me to pay attention to the composition and division of space as well as to concentrate on my brush techniques by taking the pressure off of having to think about color. I learned that we need to push the contrast in order to enhance the feeling of depth in a scene.  I will do more of these in the future. It was fun.

A New Year brought me a new adventure, already!

I read an article about the artist, Kathleen Conover,  in my February copy of Watercolor artist, February 2012. I was so taken with her work that I decided to try this “gesso juice” mixture she spoke of to surface her paper with. The recipe for “gesso juice” is 1/2 part white acrylic gesso, 1/4 part clear acrylic matte medium and 1/4 part water.  After mixing this up, I poured some on my taped down watercolor paper and spread it with a credit card, making slashes and dashes and all kinds of shapes on the surface.

I waited for the gesso juice to dry and painted in my initial washes. The surface is very much like painting on gesso. The paint does not sink down into the surface of the paper and mingles differently on this surface. It required more pigment to achieve the above effect.  I had to paint quickly so the side-by-side colors mixed without a hard edge. I waited for the above washes to dry and the surface go flat again.

I drew my composition on the surface and began painting the varied shapes in, being mindful of my values.  This was probably the most difficult phase for me. On this surface, I found, the darks had to be painted with strong dark colors as dark lights just appeared light still, unlike painting directly onrto watercolor paper. So, I learned a lot about my palette through this exercise. I, now, am getting a better feel for their properties.  Value is all important while painting on this surface.

I finished blocking in my composition of shapes and buildings.

In this step, I changed a few colors of the buildings and lifted paint in a lot of areas to show the different patterns, especially on or around the Empire State Building. I darkened a few of the darker value areas and put in a few details on the smokestacks and the antennae on the tops of a couple buildings. I lifted out a lot of the blue on the point of the Empire State so it would show up more.

   final painting

To finish, I splattered some darks I’d used and lifted lights out around the buildings by scumbling some water in those areas and dabbing with a paper towel.

I want to do more of these and explore and explore!

The above is my attempt at exploring an exercise we did in the first creative drawing class this session.  The assignment was to draw the topline of a cityscape across your support paper. From that line you were to continue drawing and painting and design your own cityscape with the use of line, value , texture and shape. 

I drew the entire cityscape on drawing paper with graphite, first. I used drawing paper from my sketchbook.  Because I was intrigued with Amber’s crumpling of regular paper, here, I decided to crumple my drawing and then glue it to watercolor paper.  I then painted my city scene. I had read that I could draw on tissue paper with waterproof ink and glue that to a painting and decided to try it with this piece. The window and the figure were drawn on tissue paper and then glued to the surface of the cityscape. Whoops! I tore it in places. Will need to be more careful in my glueing process in the future.  I think I could have encouraged a few more tears, however, as they may have been better incorporated into the painting that way.  Once the tissue paper dried, I painted on top of that surface, also. This layering, crumpling, painting is really opening a door for me. Such fun!

Today my Granddaughter and I worked on another painting idea from The Usborne Complete Book of Art by Fiona Watt.  We changed it up a bit, and added a watercolor wash to our paintings as well as a little wax resist but the technique with the acrylic paint came from her idea in the book. I highly recommend this book for anyone’s art library,  young and old alike.

The first thing we did was to draw a ground line across the bottom of our paper (140 lb Arches coldpress)  about one fifth up from the bottom.  We decided to include a moon or sun in our cityscape and traced a circle using the bottom of a small spray bottle. We then colored that in, applying pressure,  with a white crayon to act as a resist to the following wash. We then created our watercolor wash using two colors.  We thoroughly wet the paper, first, with a one inch flat brush and then fed in two colors. My Granddaughter used diox violet and cerulean blue in the wash pictured above. She stroked in her colors one next to the other (one inch flat brush) and tilted her board so the two colors would run and mix  together. We were careful to wipe up any water and pigment surrounding the edges of the paper so they would not run back into this wash, creating blossoms.

While we waited for this wash to dry we:

Cut out different widths of corrugated cardboard strips about 3 to 4 inches in length to be used as our brushes……

Chose to use our set of heavy body acrylics

and layed out the tubes on some paper towels with their respective caps above them so we did not mix tube caps when we went to store them away. She chose the colors brilliant blue, phthalo blue, diox purple and white.

In the next step, we squeezed out short ribbons of the four colors, in no particular order, along that ground line we had drawn earlier.  We then picked up a cardboard strip and used it like a brush, dragging the ribbon of acrylic upward.  We worked this way moving from the left side of the paper to the right to avoid getting our arm in the paint. Lefthanded artists may wish to work right to left.  As we did this, we changed our cardboard strips from wide to narrow to create variations in the shapes and heights of our future buildings.  We discussed things about light and dark, tall and short and if we needed to change a color or two in areas that looked too boring. 

We also pulled some of the pigment below the groundline.  This stage was then allowed to dry completely.

                                              Granddaughter’s Finished Cityscape

The final step was to take black and white acrylic and paint with the edges and corners of the cardboard to furthur define our paintings.  I was amazed at my Granddaughter’s creativity at this stage. She talked about what was the road and when she was painting windows. She created a walkway between buildings.  When she saw me put in a streak of white at a diagonal she decided she needed one, also, and reached for a wider section of cardboard and did it.  This was a  fun and creative afternoon for the two of us and I can envision so many other scenes that can be created this way. The book gives an example of painting a castle.

                                                      Grandma’s Finished Cityscape 

Grandma’s colors were bronze yellow, cadmium yellow medium hue and cadmium red light hue.  The watercolor wash was aureolin and halloween orange.

 click to enlarge

Yesterday it snowed all day.  To celebrate the occasion, my Granddaughter and I sat down to do an art project. I recently purchased a wonderful book titled “ The Usborne Complete Book of ART Ideas” by Fiona Watt. My Granddaughter has paged through it, daily, and selected exercises she has wanted to try. She is 4 and a half (it is important to note the half, she says).  She has been fascinated with drawing homes and buildings, lately.  One section had a lovely example of city buildings that could be rendered using wax resist and watercolor and she asked if she could do that. We, first drew rectangles in pencil using a ruler and discussing the shapes we were creating. Yes. I have to help her hold the ruler and guide her. This is an exercise that I sit right next to her and help her with as she goes and is one that we do a little and come back to. Her attention span is back and forth. She then colored in the rectangles with different colored crayons and added the moon and the stars with crayons. In the next step, we mixed a large amount of prussian blue  watercolor and another container with a large amount of harvest gold (quin gold). She covered the sky and a portion of the buildings with prussian blue and finished the buildings with harvest gold using a large flat watercolor brush. We then allowed that to dry.  In the next step, she looked at the reference in the book and drew in her windows, doors, steps, and fences using a black crayon. To finish our snow day painting, she spattered the snow in with a round brush and white acrylic gesso.

After she went home, I decided to paint my own “snow day” painting.

One of my students  loaned a book to me that had a technique in it that I had not tried before. He thought I might like to see what I could do with it. Thank-you, Henn!  The book is “Painting Buildings in Watercolor”  by Ranulph Bye.  To enhance texture in brick and cobblestone and stone, he uses a technique with oil paint and turpentine.  He masks off everything that he does not want to texture with frisket paper. He then mixes three colors of oil paint with turpentine and splatters each color separately onto a pre-wet (with water) area that he wishes to texture. I do not have oil paints but have waterbased oils and turpenoid. I decided to texture an entire piece of watercolor paper using this technique. I mixed, separately, prussian blue, raw sienna, and sepia with some turpentine and splattered them onto my pre wet 140 lb coldpressed watercolor paper.  I took it one step further and dragged my flat brush through the paint splatters. The above is what I achieved. Believe me, this is horrendous compared to the beautiful texture that the author of the above book achieved. I liked it, though, and saw a painting wanting to be brought forward.  I went in search of  winter landscape photo references on wet canvas and came up with two that I liked that I thought had compositions similar to what I saw in my splatters.

 click to enlarge

The above is the painting that came from my textured paper . What I really liked about this is the fog was already there due to the texturing and I just filled in all the negative shapes that were darker in value.  I splattered titanium white watercolor with a toothbrush to finish.

lakeshoredrive   click enlarges

I promised to have some sort of cityscape going when I posted “Walking the Dogs”. This is my second attempt at a cityscape. I took this picture out the front window of my sister’s car on a Sunday morning in June. Lakeshore Drive brings memories of heading home to Wilmette with my Granny. She could navigate this road, beautifully.

I need work on city scapes. Mine tend to look stiff. Probably because I’m using the think side of my brain instead of the feeling side. I’m going to take my own suggestion and do some blind line of cityscapes and continuous line to try to get the feel and the flow of one.

Thank-you to Stephen for continually whipping off those landscapes and sharing your experiences. Reading your posts have inspired me to work on landscapes more.

Thank-you to Raji who accepted the challenge of a cityscape, recently. Seeing his post got me back on track.