Friday, May 16, 2014

"Bob and Gus" is a full sheet watercolor based on several photographs taken by Nancy B.  The commission painting was finished May 2014.

No one photograph was exactly the scene we wanted, so I played around putting the elements from several together until the composition worked.  I like the triangle shape formed between Bob and Gus and the feeling of movement with both of them walking toward each other.  The reflections on the wet sand were an important element. See the lines I drew to remind myself the reflection must the a mirror image, directly under the figure.
I transferred my drawing to the watercolor paper and began blocking in the major shapes.  This was a foggy day with glimmers of bright light so all the colors will be muted.  I work with a limited palette.  All the colors so far are mixtures of phalo blue green shade, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, and quinacridone gold.  I'm saving as many whites as I can at this point.  I want to get a feel for how my light and dark shapes will work in my composition.

I add some pink using Quinacridone rose to my greys in the foreground and begin putting some shape shadowing on the figure.
The background is almost finished.  I've put most of the darks onto Gus but something is still not bringing him out for me.  Bob is blocked in further and I've done another layer of color on the water.  The reflections on the wet beach are added with a thin very wet wash.  Ripples in the sand are accented with careful darks.  Note the narrow undulating dark shadows under the lips of the waves which make the white foam edges stand out more.
I use sap green mixed with the phalo blue and burnt sienna  in my last layer of the water.  I darken the flat water between the waves and now, with the whites in stronger contrast, the waves look like they are curling and crashing, Gus stands out better too.  I finish Bob with nice dark shadows and his yellow hat which overlaps the dark background hills.  A bit more dark is added to the closest hills to make them have more depth.  The darkest shadows on Gus are lightened to make his golden brown coat more lively.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

By The Church

This painting was my latest demo for my advanced watercolor class at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda.  The class topic was working with figures in your composition.  During the six week class we walked through the painting in steps. 
The first day was a discussion of drawing figures and the importance of seeing the gesture and the silhouette.  I painted several figures actively fishing and working on a sailboat.  Once the silhouette was defined then shape shadowing was added.

The following week I began the demonstration of "By The Church."  The first step was to consider where the figure should be placed.  When I had taken the source photo, the figure had already walked past the dark open door to the church.  The doorway had been a very dynamic position with the figure entering the picture from the right and her bright colors set off by the dark surrounding.  In the the photograph she has walked past, into almost the center of the picture and her head merges with the line of the shelf behind her.  So I moved her position in the painting to the more appealing place in front of the dark doorway. 
This will be a painting that plays grays against the bright colors of our figure.  To make the grays interesting, I will play cool colors against warm in successive wash layers.  I want the door to recede so I have started with a cool blue in that area and warm pinkish browns for the rest of the stone church.  My colors for most of this painting are Phalo Blue, Quinacridone Pink and Burnt Sienna, which will form all the gray and black shades.  I want my figure to have fully saturated colors so I have left her white at this point except her dark hair and the blue green shawl.
The next week I came back and built the darker areas with the opposite color from the first layer.  Pink on blue, and blue on pink.  The silhouette of the figure was painted to completion, in bright colors.  I have used cadmium red for the blouse, added a hint of quinacridone gold to the phalo blue to make a brighter turquoise on her shawl and the painted the apron and purse with cobalt blue.

My next step was to further develop the light and dark spaces to accent the center of interest:  Our lady looking at the statue on the church.

The next step was to mix two gray/blacks, one warm leaning toward the warm brown reds and the second, cool with a hint of blue tone.  The scattered feeling of the previous layer is tied together with this mid tone wash.  Once it is dry the dark shadows are added.  Notice how well the bright figure now stands out.
To complete the painting I have waited a day to think about what was needed.  I added a few more dark spots and a few light lifted areas like the border at the base of the church wall.  The woman's shadow was lightened so her dark shoe now shows. You can see more of my work and purchase it, on my website

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

sharing my Painting process

I've decided to start a blog about my painting processes that I share with my students.
"Brown House" from a demo in Plein Air Painting

Plum Blossom Lagoon ~  The power of negative painting while capturing reflections

"Pathways" ~ Balancing light and dark passages in a painting to lead the eye in a journey through the image. Using the power of the human figure  as well as color and value contrasts to make a strong center of interest.

Puerta Vallarta Beach sunset

This watercolor painting, Puerta Vallarta Beach Sunset, was painted in three steps. 

First the entire sheet was wet until it was soaked, where the water wants to run off the sheet.  Quinacridone Rose, and Ultramarine Blue were charged side by side into the wet surface to create the lightest colors in the painting.

After it was totally dry, the darker beach and lower waves were painted in sections using Quin Rose, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, plus a touch of Sap Green.  Soft edges between colors were created wet in wet.  Hard edges happen where wet meets dry areas.

Once the beach area was dry, I did the same in the sky to create the clouds, leaning toward blue in my greyed mixture instead of brown.

 Lastly I mixed my black using the same three basic colors,  which was used to paint the hill and very small people in the distance.  Biggest hint:  Paint boldly and do not go go back in to fuss in the dark passages once they are laid down.