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!

 

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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).

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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.

Art Lab – Art Camp for Kids

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Good Morning.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve created a blog post. That’s because it’s been summer camp time!!!

One week was devoted to creating lesson plans and the subsequent two weeks were all about kids ranging in age from 7-14 making all kinds of art.  This week I will show you my example of what we were doing for the day and the amazing work the kids turned out.

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This project begins with studying tons of leaves of all shapes, sizes and textures. From there we discuss layout on our paper.  Maybe putting one leave dead center is not as interesting as creating a path of leaves around your paper for people’s eyes to travel?

Next, the entire sheet of paper must be covered in very heavy wax.  What is the most affordable way to provide wax to kids?  CRAYONS.  you bet!

Before we started working heavy with our crayons, the kids needed to understand the difference between warm and cool colors.  If the kids simply colored their paper using any old color, there may not be enough contrast to tell the difference between the foreground and background.  So they had to pick warm for one and cool for the other.

Now this is where some kids may have told you the true name of this place was “Mary’s Torture Camp”  because kids started moaning, trying to quit and complaining that they couldn’t “color-hard”, another stinking minute!

But very soon after, a few campers finished filling their entire sheets with wax.  Next they were told to fold and crease their paper as much as the possibly could.  Each time they made a crease, it made a crack in the wax.  When their papers were fully crinkled, I let them apply a watered-down black acrylic paint to their work.  The black paint only absorbed into the cracks, leaving their images intact.  We wiped off the excess paint revealing some truly fabulous art pieces.  This batik-style process brings so much visual interest to the art work.

The kids that finished their work became totally giddy and began to show the complainers their finished pieces and this turned everything around.  Not another moan was heard.  They all broke out into a frenzy to work harder and finish the project. And for good reason.  These wax resist artworks are amazing! Check them out:

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 I was truly inspired. I am going to try to incorporate this technique into my own work in the fall. I loved this project!

I look forward to posting some more projects as I get them off my camera ;)

Crazy Hair

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One more project for you as school is about to begin…

I don’t know how much the parents appreciated this project, but since I’m still 89% kid at heart, this project made me laugh my head off!

While the kids were busy working on another project, I asked to take their pics.  I told them to look at me as if their finger was stuck in a light socket.  They had no idea what they’d be doing with the photos, but like all good kids, they simply did what they were told!

I took the pics with my phone and at home converted them to black and white. I printed out a full page image of each kid and then carefully cut everything away from their faces -hair and all. I then glued each kid to the center of a poster board 3-4 times the size of their heads -a blank slate.

When I unveiled what we’d be doing for the day, for an extra laugh, I gathered the kids around and said “let’s take a look at what everyone in the class looks like bald”.  Oh their were some red faces and some really loud laughs… all good sports though!

So it wasn’t hard to get them to want to fill in the posters.  1-make yourself not bald 2-have fun creating something out of this world!

I think it’s a great thing about camp.  Sometimes teaching people to not take themselves so seriously can be just as useful as seriousness.  It’s a great lesson in releasing control.

I find the 7 year olds draw with reckless abandon while the 11-14 year olds sketch with pencil, then erase, then erase, then erase…. the session is done and they never got past sketching.  Which reminds me.  I gave the kids a black sharpie, not a pencil.

Such an early age and everyone is already worried about being perfect.

If I can leave the kids with anything from Art Camp, it’s this.  Laugh –period!  Don’t take yourself so seriously –it will ruin your creativity!  And finally, KEEP ART FUN. If you can manage to do that, art will be your friend for life.  You have to work at this though, society has a way of wanting to suck the joy and spontaneity out of one’s creativity.

Laughing is the key!

 

 

Think Outside The Box

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In the summer, my own art-making gets put on hold because I’m home with my kids for school break.  I always manage to teach a few weeks of camp to help pay for my own kids camps and thus it works out – all kids are happy and busy :)

So, here are some pics from what I called the “Think Outside the Box Challenge”.

The kids were given some plain old brown boxes I found at a recycling center.  Then they were shown a world of materials that they could use to transform their boxes into something else.  When they were done, their teacher shouldn’t be able recognize their creation as a “box”.

I had a black hefty garbage big filled to the brim with fabrics.  I had yarn, scrapbook paper, wall paper, 1980’s colorful buttons, feathers,basket fill, paint, markers, card board thread bobbins , glue, old jewelry components and a giant lump of polymer clay for each kid. I also had old clear transparency paper for the kids to use for windows… The sky was the limit on odds and ends that could be used to CREATE.

Here were some of the Think Outside the Boxes…

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When the kids were done, one of them said “Ya know, I could actually play with this at home.  I have little dolls I could put in there”.

Yes dear.

In the olden days, that’s what we used to do.  We’d create something to play with!

It’s a great skill to be able to think outside the box.  It’s a life skill that if started early will show up in everything you do later in life.

I promise!