Watercolor Techniques: Glazing

Glazing 101 (9)b

For weeks and weeks I have been drilling my students “More water! More water!  Drop the paint into the water and let it ooze, swirl and flow….”   

Well this project is the complete opposite of that.

 

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In order to get those thin washes of color, you have to work very quickly and with very little water in order to not disturb the layer of paint below it.

So, I called this class the “STICK IT TO MARY CLASS”.  Because everyone would not have to hear my water nagging and they could possibly provide proof that you could create a watercolor painting not using the wet-on-wet painting method.  I so wanted to prove my class wrong!

Guess what?  Doing a painting fairly dry with quick layering strokes or glazing – works (however,  I am not admitting that to my students!).

So here is how I laid out this project:

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First you lay-out a very loose sketch. Pretty much, make shapes for where different colors or subject-matter will be.

Second is color-blocking. This very much reminds me of old fashioned paint-by-numbers.   You block your entire image with very simple, very light areas of color. For instance, the yellow flower has shadows in it, but for color-blocking purposes you would simply add a light shade of yellow.  All those details will be GLAZED in later. Another example of this is the splotch of light purple in the upper left quadrant. It is flat and light.  It marks the space where I will later add purple painted details.

Third, you begin to move around the painting adding quick layers of color.  For me, I like to move around and apply the darkest shadows.  The color-blocking step already established my lights.  So, if I then add the darkest darks, I can easily establish the medium tones later.  In the top right corner in the left-hand picture you can see a block of orange.  In the right-hand photo, you can see how I added the shadows between the flower petals to make that part of the image come alive. It went from orange splotch to orange flower petals.

Pretty much, you keep adding layer upon layer, detail upon detail, until you feel like the image is complete in your eyes.

Here’s another example:

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Can you see how the left-side image looks flat, blocked and like a paint-by number? Do you see how much dimension you can create by adding more and more layers of color?

Here are some of my students. They are at the color-blocking paint-by-number-looking stage…

Glazing students

I can’t wait to see how their paintings come out.

I hate to admit this, but as soon as our classes were over, I rushed home to finish my demos.  I felt like a kid in a candy store.  I just couldn’t resist adding more and more layers.  I didn’t get up from my seat until I had finished both paintings.  Secretly, I found this glazing method extremely addicting :)

In a nutshell, this is not how I normally paint.  I like to use tons of water on my paper so that I get chemistry experiments of paint combining in strange watery ways.  However, I am TOTALLY going to incorporate more of this glazing into my work.  I think the quick movement provided me amazing opportunities to add way more colors than I ever would have, the normal way I paint.  I will definitely be chasing this freedom in future paintings.

In fact, I’ve just started another painting today :)

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Understanding Grayscale in Painting

 

I have a student who complains that she never makes her darks dark enough in a painting. It’s a fair complaint. Without intense lights and darks, a painting can look very flat. With this in mind, I created this lesson.

Almost any art store will have a copy of this tool. An artist can place this gadget on top of their artwork and see if they have high contrast which is created by using colors at opposite sides of the value scale.

When we placed the grayscale/value finder on my students work, her work fell in the value 5,6,7,8. Pretty much there was no contrast.

This photo is perfect for studying value and grayscale. Do you notice the intense lights in the center of the image and the intense darks towards the edges? Do you notice that each leaf goes from light to dark but in different ranges?

Every leaf in this image provides a valuable lesson.

Doing this project in only black and white is a terrific way to understand the range of lights and darks in an image. The next level is to try to provide the same range of lights and darks using colors. Icey pink is going to present on the lighter range of the spectrum while eggplant purple will be on the dark. Greens with yellow in them will present lighter than a green with brown in it. It takes a bit of practice and observation, but like blacks and whites, artists need to consider the value of colors.

For this painting demo I created an under painting. If you look at the unfinished painting above, you can see what looks like a blended bulls-eye with yellows towards the center and purples towards the edges. Already, I am setting up my painting to incorporate lights and darks. In the same painting demo you can see particular leaves. Each leaf has darks toward the stem and lights toward the leaf’s edges. Because of the under-painting, the lights and darks of the outside of the painting will not be the same as the lights and darks of the center of the painting.

Towards the end of the class we started to play even more. Using warm colors like yellow, orange and red will make the area come forward while using cool colors like blues and purples will visually make that area of the image recede back. Ever so slightly we added a bit of warm colors to the center of the succulent and put the cool colors towards the outskirts.

Adding warm and cool colors to an image that you might not have attributed to the subject matter is great way to create visual interest.

Ah, there is so much to think about while painting. I hope I’ve shed a little light on the subject (and darks too! :)

Teaching Glazing Watercolor Techniques

Each week I try to find a particular concept to cover during my painting class that I teach. For this particular week I wanted to explore watercolor glazing. There are two different ways to apply watercolor paint. One way is to apply clean water from a brush onto the paper and then drop pigment into the water. The colors bleed and mix together creating unpredictable color patterns and combinations. This technique is called the wet-on-wet technique (wet paper and wet paint).

The other technique popular with watercolor painting is called glazing. Glazing is a fairly dry painting technique. It is a method of applying a coat of watercolor paint on top of an already dry layer of watercolor paint. Because the paper isn’t wet, the paint only goes exactly where you paint it. The beauty of this is that you can color mix the bottom and top layer. So if there was already yellow paint on the dry paper, a quick brush of red paint over it would create orange when the paper dried and a brush of blue would create a shade of green. You can transform an existing image quite quickly and easily.

The artist has to decide when to use each technique. The rooster photograph I provided to my students offers the perfect opportunity to use both techniques.

First,each student fills the entire rooster image with clean water and drops in watercolor in different places. Where the pigments meet, you get beautiful what I call “happy accidents”. It is unpredictable but it’s what makes watercolor so pretty. That’s the wet-on-wet technique.

Next, the students are going to add the detail. Think of all of the feathers and the head. The details are applied sparingly and with very little water. This is when you use the glazing technique.

Below is the Rhode Island Red rooster photo I provided and two paint demos I did during the class. See if you can pick out the two different painting application techniques.

The rooster image truly allows for so many variations of glazing. In total, I painted the chicken 3 times and each painting is completely different!

Here are some of the paintings from my students. You’d think we had 15 different chickens running around in the class!

 

By far, my favorite thing about art making

is that no matter what, each artist provides their own unique expression.

Translucent vs Opaque Painting

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My painting II class has resumed in the new year and our first lesson is a loose abstract play on translucency vs. opacity. Here is a little write-up I did on the project:

translucent vs. opaque

 

Where I find playing with loose shapes and a ton of water free and fun, a lot of my students panick at the idea.  Too funny.  I think the idea of having no control freaks us adults out, but very quickly it is a reminder that you can adjust and work with whatever comes your way.

Gosh, sometimes art is such a great metaphor for life isn’t it?  lol

So we got going.  In essence – “playing”.  Allowing the watercolor paint to flow where it wanted… and seeing what we could find to “pull out” of the painting.

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I started to hear comments about how it truly is easier to draw the negative space or contour of an image.  The focus is on the space between objects as opposed to the objects themselves. You use a different part of your brain which I’d imagine is the special part of the brain.  It feels different and is a great way to exercise that part which we don’t always use.

It was great to see how very different everyone’s artwork turned out.  Isn’t that another great thing about art?  You can all begin in the same place, but wind up in vastly different places.

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It was a successful class.  I could see I had challenged some people and took them out of their comfort zone.

We also discussed changing the opaque color.  What if it was white, taupe or green?  The different look you would get. Also, you could loosely paint with watercolor and after it dried, do another coat of watercolor as opposed to changing to acrylic.  The project is a great stepping stone into experimenting with mediums. How about gouache?

So if in these winter months you are looking for something to do, try it.  And send me a photo of what you come up with!

 

Nothing But Blue Skies

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Back in the US and back to work :)

Below you will find the tutorials on clouds that I provided for my watercolor classes.

The interesting technique I found worth sharing is to add a little pink and yellow to the whites of your clouds as opposed to simply white and grey.  The difference is a wealth of warmth in your painting.

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These were the demos of the different types of clouds I painted in class that week:

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It’s funny, you spend a week really focusing on something and your awareness becomes tenfold.

Ever since these classes I constantly find myself looking up :)

Painting People

 

I don’t know about you, but I find painting images of people scary and intimidating.  One wrong stroke and whoever you were trying to represent is instead someone no one can recognize.  It could be the smirk in a smile.  An eye being 1/16″ of an inch off… you name it, it’s hard.

As an artist trying to sell work, here’s another dilemma.  No one wants pictures of your kids, aunts or even your dog!  They are highly personal.  I hate to say it, but with images of people who someone doesn’t know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  There’s a good chance you think you have the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  But that can’t be, because the woman right next to you has the most beautiful grandchild in the world.  You catch my drift?

So in my watercolor class I wanted to address adding people to a painting.  However, I wanted to add the “essence” of people without getting too specific.  Here in RI, we are also very familiar with the beach. So why not do an impressionistic painting of people on the beach?

Before each class, I scour the internet finding more than one way to do a painting technique.  I know how I would do it, but is there another way?  A better way?  I came across this tutorial and fell in love with the technique.  If you are at all interested in painting people, give this a view:

Here’s another thing.  If I have learned anything about painting, it’s that there are tricks to everything.  And I want to know what they are!  When you have 50 people in an image, it would take a month to draw each person to scale like in the diagram above.  The diagram above is how a masterpiece should be created, but a quick watercolor study?  There has to be an easier way…

I found this tutorial and I love its simple concept (click on the image above).

RECTANGLE CARROT

In an impressionistic image, you can create a human by first creating a rectangle for the torso and then making a carrot shape for the legs.  A head of course is round, but either way it works!

In my class, we sketched some quick human figures and then got to painting.  The video tutorial I included above teaches how to create human figures using blue watercolor paint that you drop human skin tones into. So you in essence start with a blue man.  We worked on all spectra of skin color, how to add clothing and how to allow the drops of pigment to bleed together giving you simply the “impression” of a person.  While all of this is happening, the blue paint that you begin with, gets pushed to the exterior of the figure.  Can you see the essence of blue as a halo around the figure?  It makes for a more colorful and in-depth image.

I’m not going to lie, painting people is just as difficult as I thought it would be.  But that’s all the more reason to push through the fear and give it a try.  I’m the teacher, and I learned a lot!  I am going to continue practicing.  and maybe next time, I won’t be so afraid to put a person in my painting (and maybe my pet in hope that no one is noticing ;)

Water Color Teacher

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Did I mention I have been teaching adult art classes?

This is new to me.  I have taught art to kids for over twenty years, but adults,  I always kind of shied away from.

The painting teacher at my local guild was retiring after twenty years and they needed someone to take over.  Now seemed like as good a time as any.

This past semester I taught a beginners watercolor class in the evening and an Intermediate all-media painting class Thursday mornings.

It was a bit scary because I had to fill someone else’s shoes. But I am slowly making my way and trying to figure out how to best serve this community.

In the next couple days I will share some of our class lessons.

The class sessions are only two hours.  This means we can’t spend the class drawing, because the point of the class is painting.  So I provide basic break-downs of the shapes of the images. This way we can get right down to it.

The flower shapes here, provide a great opportunity for practicing shadow and depth.  You really have to load the color in to create the illusion.

My lessons on watercolor focus on using tons of water to allow the pigments to bleed together (wet-on-wet technique).  The rest of the time you are lifting paint out to make things lighter and translucent while simultaneously adding more pigment to other areas to darken them.  It’s a dance between adding and removing paint.

Thus far, I have found a few differences between adult and kid students.  Kids just dive in with no concerns, while adults tend to be afraid of two things:  Using too much water and using too much paint.  The water is easy, it’s a fear of losing control.  As adults we cannot predict where that water will go and what it will do which is scary.  The paint on the other hand, is maybe a money thing?  Us adults pay for these expensive high quality paints.  Kids could care less how the paint got there and who paid for it.  I find a lot of adults afraid to really load up their brushes and use a lot of paint.   Where one would want to use a smudge of paint the size of a quarter, some will use the size of a popcorn kernel!  It cracks me up.  I can remember these similar sensations.  It’s hard to be an adult.  We work so hard to not screw up all day, that trying something new can be hard.  Failed experiments can simply feel like a fail, yet it’s the only way to learn.   So this will be my focus.  Loosening people up and helping them to see failed attempts as experiments, not failed works of art.  This will be good for me, because even though I have been painting longer than many. I too am super afraid of failure.  I think showing I am not perfect and am constantly still learning myself is a good thing to share.

I have been researching a different topic for each week.  That usually entails scouring books and web pages for theories.  Boy, there really are all different ways to reach the same conclusion.  I find my own practices have been different from other painters.  This has been great.  I am obtaining a tremendous amount of knowledge on painting simply for myself.  I can now say “here are three different ways of tackling this problem” as opposed to only having “this is what I would do”.  So I am trying new things myself.  New applications keep me young and fresh and excited to continue painting. I’ll pass on some of what I’ve learned in up coming posts.

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I do demos during the classes.  So I have been coming out with two paintings of the same subject.  I thought I’d share, because they never come out the same twice.  That’s the human aspect of art.  The best part.  Being human.

OK.  I have to run… this week we will be learning glazing techniques while painting images of roosters.

  I’ll let you know how it turns out!

UNICORNS, RAINBOWS & CATS – OH MY

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The kids got a quick lesson on Mexican Milagros and Nichos.

The discussion started with Europeans invading an existing culture.  With them, they brought their religion, Catholicism. Objects such as  statues, alters, incense and gold were introduced to the native people.  What happened was a little influence rubbed off on the natives, but a little native culture remained too.  Nichos were influenced by Catholic alters, but generally depicted local traditions.  Somehow even pop-culture made its way into these works.  From there, these little pop-alters were considered more folk-art than religious icons.

I asked the kids if they were to encounter Roman Catholic alters and not know much about their significance, how would they make an alter of their own?  What would be important to them?  What would they fill it with? I told them for me, I’d choose my pet. Mi gato Willow.  I made a Nicho depicting my kitty cat because I love her and she brings me joy.

They were each given a cigar box and two giant tables of tons and tons of materials.  I also showed them how to create some aspects in 3-D.  This is what they came up with:

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I accidentally started the pet theme, but some diverged.  Oh and there was GLITTER EVERYWHERE!!! By far this was the most involved project.  I assigned this the first day and allowed them to add to it for the rest of the week whenever they had free time.  I think they all came out with something significant to themselves.  I know I was pretty stoked to bring my own home ;)

Apples at ArtLab

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EVERYTHING HAS A SHADOW.

This watercolor project is a terrific way to teach this principle.

Do you see the black arrow attached with tape in the image above?   Each kid had to choose where the sunlight would be coming from in their picture and then make sure every single object in the picture plane reacted with a shadow accordingly.

First, we talked about why we block our paper.  This is the act of taping watercolor paper to a board, wetting the paper and then letting the paper dry.  Blocking stretches and shrinks the paper.  When working with watercolor, a tremendous amount of water gets applied to the paper.  The paper absorbs the water and stretches itself to its max.  This causes waving and rippling. Normally, a piece of paper would stay in this state but a blocked paper has already encountered water in a controlled setting. It’s taped down tight with no room to warp and has been forced to stretch tight preventing the rippling. It’s a great artist practice and there’s even a little science behind it.

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Next, we started with the backgrounds. I had the kids take their pencil, follow their arrow and run it across the paper pretending it was a flashlight.  What part of the bowl will the flashlight hit first?  Following your arrow of light, where will the flashlight hit each apple? The rule of a shadow is that the shadow falls in the complete opposite direction of the light. So, the pencil pretending to be a flashlight really hits home the front and back of each object.  Many people do not notice that every single item be it a nose on a face or a pencil on a desk, has a shadow.

The third step was creating shadows in the bowl.  The deepest part of something with depth is the darkest. The shallowest part of a bowl has access to light, therefore its lighter.  The kids worked from a very dark center to a light outer ring. Hoping to convey depth.

 

 

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The finale culminated with the painting of the apples.  We filled each apple with clean water on the paper and then allowed the colors of an apple to bleed into one another.  Red, green and yellow were used and a little bit of purple to denote the shadow of the apple itself.

Watercolor is a tough medium to learn.  You are always adding paint and water as well as trying to take away paint and water.  It’s a tricky balance.

The only bummer is that I couldn’t show the kids the difference between expensive paints and cheap ones. Boy is there a big difference!  Of course we had the “affordable” paints.  With them, red looks like pink, green a faded yellow and black a light grey.  Cheap paint just doesn’t posses the pigments needed to obtain gorgeous colors.  Yeah, the kids catch the gist, but not the magic of amazing paints…

I guess that’s the prize of keeping with the arts and investing as you go along… I know my first watercolors were Crayola.  It was enough to wet my appetite for more.  I hope the same for this new generation coming up!

 

Something’s Fishy at ArtLab Camp

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This is an excellent kid art lesson in tint vs shade.

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For all of you grown-ups that forever get it wrong here is the definition :)

Tint:  A color with white added     Shade: A color with black added

Everyone calls everything a shade, but if you go further into painting, it helps to know what you need (black or white) to create certain colors from paint.

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We created the backgrounds by treating it like a game. We talked about math ratios.  To make a Chartreuse green you might use 5 dabs of yellow paint to one dab of blue.  To create a navy color, you might use 5 dabs of blue to one dab of black.  Powder blue would be 5 dabs white one dab blue.  Suffice to say, by the end of the project, each kid could tell me the difference between tints and shades and had a pretty good idea of how to create the colors they were interested in.

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Next, I wanted to make it a little fun.  I found this product online and was able to give each kid 5 sheets of rainbow scratch paper.  Like scratching off a Lotto ticket, you just can’t help but enjoy playing with these boards.  For my sample I created different patterns like checkerboard, parallel lines, dots, scales…ect.  You know, throw a little more education into it…. Here are the kids take on the assignment:

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I also printed out reference photos of different sea grasses for inspiration and all sorts of fish.  From there, I backed away and let them choose for themselves how realistic vs. imaginative they wanted their work to be.

There was a great mix of both.