Did you know that radishes shrink to half their size if left out of the refrigerator overnight? So this was a one day effort- which I very much enjoyed. Painting in one long, intense session can be very satisfying.
I like elucidating structure, whether it's that of buildings or vegetables, faces or flowers. This amazingly odd cactus flower gave me all the structure that I could possibly want, although it did take a while to put it all together!
In this lesson, my students took a painting surface measuring 8"x 12", and divided it into six 4"x4" squares. They painted a red delicious apples six times, only being allowed ten minutes per apple.
They could spend some time mixing their colors before the first timer was set, using their View Catchers to judge where the most saturated reds were, and what other colors were actually there- not what they assumed they'd find. I implored them to use red's compliment (green) to de-saturate the reds.
The top photo is of all the apples painted by all the students, while the second image is of just one student's six timed studies.
Next, everyone had to paint one apple behind another. The idea was to create a sense of distance by under-reporting the darks in the distant apple, and placing their most saturated reds on the closer one. They also slightly blurred the edges of the one in the rear.
I think they did very well with this exercise, and they seemed to find it intriguing.
For our second lesson, everyone painted white objects that had colored papers reflected on their shadow sides. The main point of the lesson was that white is almost never pure white, but is easily (and often beautifully) influenced by its surroundings.
My students sometimes have trouble with tinting white and keeping its value light, so this was a good exercise for using restraint when mixing in other hues.
Here is one student example with sensitively observed whites:
The third lesson was focused on painting glass. Each set up included two glass objects, one with nothing but white paper behind it and the other with colored paper and a mango. Everyone had to paint the simpler one first, then tackle the one with the mango.
The idea is that when you paint glass, you aren't really painting the glass. Instead you are painting what you see behind it. If a glass has nothing behind it, it likely is just ever-so-slightly darker in value than the background. You begin by simply filling in the entire shape with this color/value. Some under-reported edges (just the ones you see when you squint) and a couple of selective highlights can complete the feeling of glass.
For the other glass object, the lowered intensity of the colors of the mango and colored paper as well as the distortions as seen through the glass give the vase its transparency.
Today was the first day of my spring oil painting class for people who have some painting experience. I find teaching to be lots of work (of course!), but very stimulating and fulfilling.
I've decided to create a post for each of the eight sessions, in hope that some people might find useful information for their own teaching, or for their own use.
This first lesson involved working with only five values. Orange and blue were mixed to create a neutral and dark color, then this color was mixed with white to make three more values. White was the fifth value. A value for a specific area was chosen by peering through a pinhole, and the value was laid down with no blending- as though it were part of a mosaic. At the very end of the class just a little blending was allowed, but only after viewing the painting from a distance and choosing just a an area or two where it could be helpful.
The goal was to see the big shadow shapes, and to be forced to make continuous comparisons of values across the whole composition. When you only have five piles of paint to work with, you are forced to think in very broad terms. You are forced to simplify. It's a good way to begin a painting, no matter how much detail you might want to add later.
Here is my example of this approach, followed by some great work by my students:
I've been staring so hard at these four tulips and their swirling surroundings that I'm not able to tell if my painting works or not. I sure did a lot of scrubbing out and repainting, making me wonder why I wasn't using oil paints! Aren't watercolors supposed to be a more spontaneous medium? I'm glad the thick paper took the scrubbing. Perhaps the close up of three tulips is more successful than the whole painting? Will I continue with watercolors or turn back to oils? Questions, questions!
I do know that I tend to work in cycles; I don't like jumping from one medium to another.
I want to share a lesson I taught my beginning oil painting students last month, as they seemed to find it especially helpful as well as intriguing and fun.
Their job was to take a color photograph and turn it into a monochromatic painting. Only a pair of compliments and white were allowed on the palette. Everyone had to premix the compliments to make one big pile, which was fairly dark. Then they made two more piles from this big pile by adding white in larger and smaller amounts. They ended up with just four piles of paint to work with- a dark color, two in-between values and white. The complex photograph with dozens of perceived values then had to be interpreted as having only four. Lots of decision making, less imitation.
Here is the photo my students worked from, along with four results.
Below is a beautiful photo of Switzerland taken by my niece Sarah. I felt inspired to try the four value technique, but I went overboard and ended up cheating. I used way more than four values! But I did begin with just four, which helped me get a strong initial statement.
I haven't been painting, as I've been way too busy lately. For one thing, I moved a month ago to a gorgeous loft-style apartment in a wooded area. I've been teaching drawing and painting classes, plus working two other part time jobs- but now I'm starting to feel settled and eager to get back to it.
While organizing my new studio situation, I came across this watercolor of Bethlehem, PA that I'd thought was not good enough to post, but now I think it's okay. Funny how stepping back can make an improvement in outlook!
After all these years, I've finally had one of my paintings successfully scanned and made into giclée prints. This seemed to work well with the medium of watercolor, and the prints truly do look and feel just like the original.
Here are two images of my last watercolor painting, the first being the one professionally scanned and the second my own photo. Anyone care to share their thoughts? I'd love to hear what you think.
Here is a watercolor I've been working on for a while, but I've become frustrated with it. It just doesn't seem to have a big enough idea for me. I'm posting it but not putting it up for sale, because it's not all bad (just not all good!)
Lately I'm thoroughly enjoying painting urban scenes in watercolor. The fine tip of a watercolor brush, or a sharp pencil or pen nib make for adding details of shape and line that I find much harder to achieve with oils. And I mustn't forget the wonders of masking fluid!
This is a revisit of a favorite scene in Bethlehem, PA. Here is a looser, smaller version from three years ago:
I like the randomness of this scene, with criss-crossing wires helping your eye go this way and that. I also like the sense of great distance as well as the greenery- a sort of constant in much of L.A.
Over the last few years I've enjoyed working with sepia wash, and have become used to working with masking fluid, so I thought maybe I could give watercolor a try again. It's been years and years! Watercolor intimidates me, sorry to say. I'm kind of pleased with this, but would like to work on beefing up my colors next time.
This is a study for a large painting. It's my mom. I'm afraid she might find it unflattering, but I don't. I find her expression complex and revealing. She's in her eighties, and I think she is still beautiful.