Monday, March 11, 2019

Water Reflections and a Sunset

Version #1 on Uart paper with pastel and rubbing alcohol underpainting
In case my Tuesday night class quickly finishes the Red River Reflections lesson I need another "Water Reflections" lesson. This time let's add a sunset to give some strong color to the water.

I'm posting 4 versions of the same sunset. 

I took the reference photographs from sitting in my kayak. That makes the shoreline totally flat since I'm sitting right on the top of the water as opposed to maybe standing above the water on a bank or maybe a bridge. 

The first version was an 8"x11" on Uart paper with an underpainting created with pastel and rubbing alcohol wash. I used only NuPastel.

The second and third versions were 6"x9" sketches on Italian clay colored Pastel Premier sanded paper made by Hand-book Paper Co. In the rest of these versions I used the much softer Sennelier and Mt. Vision pastels. 

The last version was 10"x8.5" again on Italian clay colored Pastel Premier, but it was an older version of the paper and much more textured. Why do I mention that? Because the texture of sanded paper can very much affect how you deal with the layering of colors and the pressure you use to get the pastel to stick well and cover that texture, unless you want the color of the paper to show through.

I like to work in a series especially when I feel like I have not found the form of expression I was aiming for in the first version. Version 2 & 3 are more loosely created with more expressive marks.
Version #2 on clay color sanded paper - less uptight application of color
Version #3 also on clay colored sanded paper
Version #4 - clay colored paper. New format 
This version has a focus on the setting sun and the colors of the sunset. I like this more simplified version as it's focus is more apparent and I think the format more interesting. Because the paper is more highly textured I pushed much harder with the pastel to cover the clay color of the paper.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Red River Autumn Reflections

My Tuesday night pastel class wants to have a lesson on "water". This blog will be photo heavy since I think the progression of the demonstration is the most instructive.

The focus of my painting is not only water reflections but the play of light on the creek bank. The left side of the creek is mostly in shadow and the right side is in sunshine.

When working with water especially reflections I try not to have an exact replication of the scene similar to a Rorschach ink blot test. Reflections are also closer in value to each other than what is reflected. In other words the dark colors are lighter and the light colors are darker. That creates a closer value of colors in the reflection.

Also I create most of my reflection strokes as vertical strokes since what is being reflected is growing upward in a vertical direction. At the very end of the drawing I'll add horizontal stokes to reflect movement in the water.
Final for "Red River Autumn Reflectons"
Value study
Sketch in basic shapes
Watercolor underpainting
Start adding pastel - darker colors first
Close-up of sky colors. Add similar values but vary the colors
Continue adding more details with pastel
Add more specifics in sky and trees. Left side in in shadow and right side is in sunshine
Getting close to finish but reflection shapes are too dark and edges too sharp
Wipe out reflections using a paper towel to get a softer look to the water
final version

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Drawing Lesson 2 - Trees

My last blog was about drawing using a simple pear as the subject.
This lesson follows the same methods but I'm using a more complicated shape of a tree for the example.
Big maple tree with light coming from the right side

In this "edges" drawing I'm studying the general edges of the tree but not the very details of every in and out of the shape. I always measure the height and width of the subject. Is the general shape a square or rectangle? In this case the rectangle shape is taller than it is wide.
Study the edges of the tree. The outline edges show the character of the tree's shape

This drawing is a controlled contour drawing. I drew all the detailed ends and out of the edges but unlike a true contour drawing I looked at my paper and guided the drawing along the lines of the earlier "edges" drawing.
Controlled contour drawing.

After sketching the contour I added cross-hatching marks to depict value. The sun is fairly high in the sky but on the right side of the tree. The left side of the tree will be in shadow.

Contour and value sketch

If you can change the reference photo into gray tone you'll be able to better determine the shading.
Gray tone photo
Fun little sketch of the deer, mostly black and white. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Drawing Lesson

"It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover, to your surprise, that you have rendered something in its true character." - Camille Pissarro

"Drawing is the basis of art. A bad painter cannot draw. But one who draws well can always paint" - Arshile Gorky

Yes, drawing well is really important but the skill does not happen just because you wish it so. It takes practice, and more practice. 

The drawing book by Betty Edwards "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" is excellent and it's a drawing course classic. BUT you have to read it and DO the exercises.

Here's a couple of ways I practice drawing. 

Reference photograph: The Pear.

The first image is a photograph of a simple pear, but to draw the essence of the pear you have to see all the correct edges. Don't draw a symbol of a pear, but draw what you really see. You have to train your eyes to see and your drawing hand to follow what your eyes are seeing.

Drawing the edges of the pear
In this drawing I'm looking at the edges of the pear and the angle of every edge. How long is each line that composes the pear? What angle is that line? Is the pear sitting straight up or is it leaning? I draw a diagonal line to indicate the angle the pear is leaning.

Contour drawing of the pear
This is a contour drawing. Yes, it looks pretty funny but to do a contour drawing you don't look down at your paper at all while you're drawing. Follow the exact edge of the pear with your eyes and draw along as your eyes see each little variance of the edges of the pear. 
The purpose of this exercise is to train your eye to really see the shape and not just draw what you think it should be - when you just draw what you think it should be you'll fall back into the habit of drawing symbols instead of drawing the reality of the pear.

Shaded drawing
This is a drawing using shading to depict the 3-dimensional volume of the pear. 
First, I sketch in the angles of the pear, getting the leaning angle correct. Then, when I'm comfortable with the shape, I start looking at the shadow values. I draw the shadow lines as they depict the angles of the planes of the shape. 

More about planes later.

Buy a pear. Make sure it has an interesting shape, not a perfect shape. And practice, practice, practice.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mingo Road

This is one of my favorite places in West Virginia.

In this painting I wanted to create a sense of atmosphere and nostalgia.

Here's the reference photograph which as you can see isn't very good, but sometimes that's better because it gives the artist room to interpret the scene.
Reference photograph
The watercolor underpainting is created with strong expressive colors which are generally darker than the planned pastels that go on top.
Step 1 - Watercolor wash underpainting
Start adding pastels but observe what has happened with the underpainting which can suggest an atmosphere of color.
Step 2 - start adding pastel especially in the sky
which sets the reflective color for the entire piece
Continue to slowly add pastel. Some of the underpainting can remain without pastel on top if the value is correct.
Step 3 - Adding more pastels to the point of interest - the road and cabin area
Finish adding pastel color - remembering to repeat colors in other areas of the painting. Try to establish a rhythm of color movement. 
Final step - Adding color and texture in the field and adjust colors throughout

Monday, January 21, 2019

Underpainting or Not

For this blog I have drawn this scene twice: 
1) on black Uart paper and 
2) on cream colored Uart paper with a watercolor underpainting. 

Why? To show how the underpainting affects and suggests the rest of the pastel painting.
The focus of this scene is to show the field glowing with sunshine.
"Buckeye Meadow Light" on black UArt paper
Uart sanded paper can accept many types of underpainting techniques including watercolor, very thinned oil painting, pastels liquified with rubbing alcohol and pastel rubbed in with paper towel.

In this demo I created the underpainting with watercolor. The loose approach of watercolor can produce some unexpected "happy accidents". Using complementary colors for the underpainting can create either a vibrant pastel which bounces off the complementary underpainting or can suggest a more nuanced approach.
Watercolor underpainting for "Buckeye Meadow Light" 
I liked the warm color of the watercolor sky so decided to go with that suggestion and keep the sky light and warm.
Step 2 is adding pastel over the underpainting.
After adding the first layers of medium and dark color pastels, I add lights to the areas that are bathed in sunshine.
Medium and dark pastel colors, then add the lights - golds and yellows
After working on the lights, the only area left is the sky which I usually deal with first. But the suggestion of the warm sky color made me leave it to the end. Sometime you just have to go with the flow and you'll know when it's right to deal with an area.
The light sky color helps tie together the warmth in the field and the light on the tree.
Here's the reference photo that inspired the series "Buckeye Meadow Light I & II

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Part 2: Making bright clean colors

I like showing the final image first so you can get excited about the colors. This image is composed of complementary colors: purples and golds/ blues and oranges with some added green because I can't seem to restrict myself.

The mountains are created with first putting down purple (which was too bright) but then modifying that color with complementary mauve - a grayed down reddish/purplish color. It serves as a way to calm down the purple and push it back. This is a case when using muddy colors can add clarity to the image by separating the point of interest from the background.

This is the final step. 
This is the reference photo which is the inspiration but not the exact image. Use reference photos to capture the basic idea but don't be enslaved to it. As you can see the color is way off and I focused on the top 1/2 of the image for my inspiration.
Step #1: Sketch in the basic shapes - don't be too detailed, just the shapes, please.
Step 2: Block in the shapes with darker colors and wash in with rubbing alcohol to establish the base color.
Step #3: adding more layers. The quicker you can get to the final layer the clearer our colors will remain.