Friday, February 26, 2010

Regarding Yellow

One of the wonderful characteristics about watercolor is its ability to appear luminous. Because watercolor is a transparent medium, the colors that are put on the surface first will influence the following layers. I consider yellow to be one of these "foundation" colors. If I want a finished area to have a warm glow, I will first put down a layer of yellow. Much of the "yellow" in this painting, for example, is foundation for what will be rich, warm, luminous dark spaces.
I have covered most of the surface with the first steps in describing the textures, shapes, and forms. Now I will begin to "push and pull" shapes building up the darker transparent layers and developing depth in the painting.

Friday, February 19, 2010

First steps: Lights and Glazing

Painting with watercolor is simply applying a sequence of layers or "glazes" to build value, develop form, and create the illusion of light and depth. My process begins with recognizing the various "lights" in a painting (warm vs cool intense white light). For a painting in which the "light" is mostly a cool, white light (like the Iris below), the white of surface serves as the "light" and I will begin to build subsequent values around that white, beginning with the lightest values. I apply paint "wet-into-wet" for a given area typically using "glazing" pigments for this step. Glazing pigments when diluted with water are transparent, liftable, usually non-staining, and will not appear "heavy" or "muddy" over the course of adding layers. (Below: cobalt blue, viridian, permanent rose, aureolin yellow, and dioxazine violet) The challenge in watercolor...preserve the light and not cover these areas with paint...look first, then paint.

For yellow-warm or combinations of light, my first step in the layering sequence is to paint in the warm "light" with the appropriate yellow (usually Aureolin or Hansa Yellow Light), but still using the surface to reflect the white, intense light. See previous demonstrations.

My method for applying paint to aquabord: Wet-Into-Wet. Wet the surface of the area you want to work. I will often work in "compartments" (i.e. one pedal at a time). Saturate the area until the water stands on top of the surface. Drop in paint toward the edges where you want the most color, leaving the white areas. Drag your brush toward areas that you want value. Drop in more color as needed. Lift and tilt the board to allow the water to mingle the paint until you are happy with where the paint will settle. Let the water do the work. You will see subtle changes in graded value that will begin to describe the form. Once the paint has set on the surface, you can move to an adjacent area. Continue the process until you have covered all areas as needed for this initial step.

Happy Painting

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Finding Value in Value Sketching

Almost 2 feet of snow and 2 blizzards over the past 5 days, I observed many "white out" views of the landscape. Snow covers the ground, insulating and simplifying forms and, at times, abstracting the landscape. The near "white out" conditions muted the color and also aided to simplify the value shapes.
In both my watercolor and pastel classes, I spend the first day of a session explaining (and often trying to convince beginning painters) the value of value sketching. For me, the "dreaded" value sketch is fundamental to the success of a painting. I am a value painter first versus a colorist. I use the sketch to evaluate and simplify shapes, identify composition structures, and describe, literally, the black and white design of the composition. The subject and details are not what it is important in this exercise, nor the representation of the landscape. I am simply testing the underlying design and value shapes created from solid masses of value.

The above exercise was done on white pastel paper using a method of constructing and deconstructing shapes with black pastel stick and various erasers.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mary Washington Hospice Presents: Arts Healing Journey

Over the past few months I have had the joy of helping coordinate an exhibit that partners Mary Washington Hospice and artists from the community. The exhibit features a collection of artwork along with statements from the artists relating their connections between art and wellness.
You can read more about the exhibit in the Free Lance Star.

In healthcare, we often recognize the relationship the mind and spirit have on the health of the body. However, we often fall short in using this link to promote wellness. Until I became a painter, I had not really internalized this concept. Through creating art I see how the silent connection made between the artist and the observer speaks a visual language that can often soothe and quiet the spirit. In this way, art can be a valuable healing experience, both in the creating and viewing.