It has been said that paintings are like footprints on the paths that the painters have walked.
The ultimate challenge for all of us is to create paintings which express who we truly are.
However, to achieve this, a painter must learn many "rules" about color, perspective, paint properties and then practice to make these "rules" part of their work.
I am late to the pursuit of becoming a painter and yet I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to try to be a better person and improve as a painter every day.
I was a scientist in my first career. Truly, the yearning to develop, research, question and understand is hardwired. I believe that being an artist (like a scientist) is a way of thinking, seeing and understanding.
The weekly exercises that I set for my classes (and share in this blog) aim to find or create a way to illustrate and test art "rules", concepts, or understanding.
Local people can see whether this is working with my students.
There will be an exhibition of their work in October at Nash Arts. No doubt you will see that the path to being an artist is exciting, regardless of the age that one begins. For my students who read this, the experience of showing your work is difficult to describe. It will be exciting and equally frightening: perhaps because you will be revealing a little of yourself.
In addition to meeting the students, seeing (and purchasing?) their wonderful work, the painting above will be float framed in an elegant gold frame and auctioned at the exhibition opening on Oct 12 (5-6:30 PM). Thirty percent of the proceeds from this will go to Nash Arts and the remaining 70% will go to Hurricane Harvey relief with the choice of agency to the new owner of the painting. Hope to see many of you there. Please share this newsletter with anyone who might be interested.
The instructions :
Frame three small (2-3 inch) rectangles on exercise canvas. 1. In the first rectangle, paint an orange from memory. Include its form and cast shadows, a highlight and a background. (No example of this)
2. In the second rectangle (top left) paint another orange painting the orange with opaque paints and the background in transparent paints.
3. In the third rectangle (bottom left) , paint the shadows (both form and cast) shadows with traent paint. Paint the lit part of the orange with opaque paint. In the background, directly beside opaque paint use transparent paint. Directly beside transparent paint in the shadow areas, paint opaque paint and then vary the remaining areas of the background with a variety of paints, small color or value changes.
What should be seen from this exercise is that the opaque paint physically advances and the transparent paint recedes. The progression from your first rectangle to the third rectangle should make this apparent.
An easy way to decrease the chroma (intensity, saturation) of a color is to mix it with Richeson Shiva Series ice blue. Ice blue can be made by mixing cobalt blue with titanium white and a tiny amount of transparent oxide red (or burnt sienna). Look at the wonderful desaturated colors that ice blue can make
This is a beautiful painting by Kenn Backhaus, This painting is used in his educational downloadable, video that describes how to paint the illusion of light. You can find out more at http://www.tucsonartacademyonline.com/kenn-backhaus-dappled-light-video
To understand how to paint the effect of sun dappled light, we closed in on one of these areas and copied it.
To achieve the best "glow", a clean tint (tint is white plus color) of yellow, pink or orange is surrounded by a mid value unsaturated color (a grey blue, or grey lavender).
Note also the lit red flower on the wall that has been painted with a more saturated red in the sunlight.
Flesh color contains the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue in different amounts depending on the skin pigment, whether the skin is in light or shadow and whether the skin is over an area with less muscle (where it appears cooler (temples)) or over an area with more capillaries (where it appears warmer (cheeks)). Skin color (like all color) is also painted "in relation to" so it depends on what is adjacent to it.
Practice by mixing your own flesh color that you see in the highlights and shadows your hand. Dab the mixtures directly onto your skin to see how close you are to matching the color.
Practice the effect of light and shadow on the skin by painting a christmas tree ball ornament with a uniform flesh color. Now, light the flesh-colored ball and paint the dimensional change in the lit flesh-colored ball.
Once a basic flesh color is mixed, you must ask:
does this need to be lighter or darker?
warmer or cooler?
more or less saturated?
Here is a variety of limited palettes for making flesh colors:
1. Titanium white, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, raw sienna, cadmium red light
2. Titanium white, cadmium yellow medium, alizarin crimson, burnt umber
3. Titanium white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, cerulean blue, burnt umber
4. Light Flesh tone: Titanium white, cadmium red light, cadmium yellow medium, burnt sienna,
5.Medium Flesh Tone: Cadmium red light, cadmium yellow medium, yellow ochre, burnt umber
6. Cadmium red light, burnt sienna. burnt umber, ultramarine blue
7. Light Skin Tone: Titanium white, cadmium red, cadmium yellow, naples yellow,
8.Darkest Skin Tone: Use #7 and add yellow ochre, burnt umber and ultramarine blue
9. Mid Tone Warmer Skin Tone: Use #8 and add rose madder
One of my favorite short lessons from the Virtual Art Academy describes the change in color from the foreground to the background in a painting in DAYLIGHT conditions.
To work this out, take a small piece of canvas paper and divide it into four horizontal divisions. You can make the foreground (lower most) two divisions larger than the top (background) two divisions.
In the lowest quarter, paint a patch of saturated (straight from the tube) rainbow of colors. At the division line between the first and second quarter, write: "yellow stops".
In the second lowest quarter, place colors that contain NO YELLOW and are less saturated (more dull) so: dull violets and reds only (remember that the other colors contain yellow and yellow stops). At the division line between the second and third quarter, write: "red stops".
In the third quarter place only dull blues.
At the division line between the third and fourth division write: "blue stops" and in the small top remaining fourth quarter, place dull, light grey only. Stand back from your exercise paper and see how the hue changes describe distance.
Can you see how the lowest two quarters appear closer than the upper two quarters?
Until I received my Virtual Art Academy lesson on clouds, I have to admit that I painted clouds as white shapes that I tried to make interesting by thinking about edge differences, varied texture and thoughtful placement.
Here are the take away points that I learned and shared from the Virtual Art Academy Cloud Lesson.
Note: These bullet points will be easier to think about if you are outside looking at the clouds, or have some interesting "google image clouds" references in front of you.
1. The value of the sky compared to the value of the cloud shadows tells the viewer about the weather.
2. There is a change vertically in the size of the clouds. As the clouds are farther away, they are smaller and closer to the horizon.
3. Clouds closer to the horizon lose their identity as separate shapes.
4. In the larger, foreground clouds, there is a temperature change in the halftone between the shadow and the lit side of the cloud.
5. As clouds move further away and closer to the horizon, there are changes in the hue, value and saturation of the clouds.
This is a completed watercolor batik painting. This textured, somewhat ethereal effect is achieved in part by painting on Ginwashi "rice" paper (available at Jerry's Artarama) Ginwashi paper is made in Japan from Zozo and Manila Hemp Fibers. It is lightweight and has inclusions on one side. You paint on the smooth side. It feels like you are painting on tissue paper. The paint spreads and can be washed to lighter values.
To achieve the "batik" effect, you start with the lightest values (remember value refers to light or dark) in your painting plan and preserve them by applying hot wax (the kind you use for canning "Gulf" wax) over them. Then, you paint the value that is slightly darker. You hold this slightly darker value with a layer of wax. Continuing in this manner, until all of the values have been painted including the darkest darks. A final layer of wax is then applied. Once very dry, the whole painting is balled up to crack the wax. Now different colors are worked into the cracks. An additional layer of wax is applied over the paint in the cracks before melting (ironing on "cotton" setting) the wax off.
This is incredibly freeing because every step of the process can be unpredictable. The wax drips where you don't expect, the paint drips where you don't expect (or you splatter drops of colors about), the paint bleeds into this thin surface and finally you crack it all and randomly apply different colors which destroys some edges and adds more depth and interest. Katie George has excellent paintings, step-by-step kits and directions on her web page.
This is a larger watercolor batik painting showing you the steps in progress. After selecting a number of photos of the Sylvan Heights flamingos, I rearranged the birds until I arrived at what I thought would be an interesting composition and painted the first light layers.
Here, the new bird (very right) and all the other are painted. All the light peach and pinks are complete. Again, wax is applied.
Now, the background has been started. The blues can't bleed into the lighter whites, creams, pinks etc because wax protects them. My plan was to have a gradation of blues from top light to bottom dark. Although this is an i phone image with overhead incandescent lighting, the painting has problems. The very light top area makes the bottom light in the central birds feel isolated. In addition, the top lights appear to be washed out. Plus, although overly represented by this poor quality photo, the purples that show up in this photo are too pronounced and take away from the peach colors in the birds.
Now, the blues are repainted. The painting has wax applied to all of it. Then, the painting is balled up so the wax is cracked and additional paint is rubbed into the cracks. Small droplets of paint are dried and the entire painting is waxed again before all of the wax is ironed (melted) off.
Almost done. I re waxed the top of the painting, cracked it again and added more paint into the cracks.
This is finished and ready to mount and frame.
Some of you have asked about the absence my blog posts/newsletter.
I have reduced my classes to increase my personal painting, gardening, experimenting and caring time. With this increased personal time, I have some new books to share and a new series of experimental paintings.
Starting with the paintings:
Here is a yupo watercolor. Yupo is a plastic surface, so the paint slides and pools and creates many bleed backs . A failed painting can be simply washed off.
Here are my favorite watercolor batiks. Creating one of these is great fun. You need an image with great value structure.
I love poppies so I hope to work on a series of these experimenting with reds and greens.
These flamingos have a new home:).
All of the watercolor batiks are painted on rice paper and mounted onto mat board. Because they are fairly large, they would create a new shipping challenge
Therefore, at some point, I will have a show locally for these larger paintings and some gold and copper-leaf work.
Books that I think you might add to your summer reading:
Wahls Protocol. This is an incredibly interesting book about a dietary approach to inflammation.
If you would rather listen . Here is a link to her TED talk "How I went from Wheelchair to Walking by Changing my Diet"
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande This book addresses some of the questions one faces with aging and decisions about the end of life.
An art book: Techniques of the Impressionists by Anthea Callen. Very nice discussion of the impressionists painting approach.
A fabulous PodCast series on relationships by Esther Perel.
Let me know if you find any of these helpful.
It would definitely be an advantage to quickly record important colors while painting in changing light. One way to accomplish this is to create small pieces of correct colors to use later in a color study, or a finished painting. Today, I gave everyone a daisy and a bachelor button. These two flowers have very different greens in their stems, This is an example of a color map created in class by a student.
This is a color study (painted on a piece of mat board with a coat of gesso) of the daisies and bachelor buttons in a red Solo cup by the same student.
Here is the final tiny 4 x 4 painting after the color map and color study by the same student. This student was my sister, the very talented Kate Church. If you click on her name, you will be directed to her web page where you can enjoy her fabulous work. What a treat to have her visit and paint with us!!
Looking at a collection of landscape paintings, I found that the paintings that were most interesting to me had a compelling area that seemed to emanate light, to "glow". I remember reading somewhere that in a painting, an area of glow seems to expand beyond its painted boundaries.
To discover how to achieve this in class, we each examined a painting with an area that glowed. We deliberately worked to reproduce the glow that we saw in our example.
Here is what seems to work. To achieve an area that glows, make an area of pure clean light color. Transition from this color with a color in line on the color wheel (e.g.. light pale yellow, follow with a light, pale yellow orange, then light red orange or starting with white, follow with light, pale yellow). Follow this with a middle value of a chromatic neutral. A "chromatic neutral" reads as a color's name (e.g. instead of grey, a chromatic neutral is a greyed "purple").
Here is a subtle example of the effect of a chromatic neutral green compared to a more "clean" intense green beside the area that we want to "glow". The less intense green on the left grape makes the glow more effective than the brighter green on the grape on the right.