Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Advancing art class: 3 the color palette and sketch

Color palettes:

Modern artists often build a palette based on the three primaries of "color theory", but that is just one way to build a palette.   Renaissance artists used a four color palette: red, yellow, green and blue.  The 'Velazquz palette', an even older palette used for centuries uses just three colors: yellow ochre, burnt sienna and ultramarine blue.

Color sketch:

Once the value study was done I thought about the palette for the painting.  I wanted a three color palette that would capture the warmth of the scene as well as provide colors similar to what is seen in the photograph.  The blue pigment I used for the value sketch matched the sky colors very closely.  I then selected Yellow Ochre, not the yellow in either my warm or cool color wheel, but a close match for both the float and the sea oats.  For the final color I selected a vibrant red.  You can see the primary colors (blue, red and yellow) and three secondaries (purple, orange and green) made form mixing the primaries to right of the sketch.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Advancing art class: 3 value sketch

For my third assignment I picked a photo taken a few years ago on Sapelo Island Georgia.  It was taken just after sun rise, and the light at that time of day is very warm and soft.  The objects almost glow with rich warm color.

For my value sketch, I again used a dark blue pigment which can represent both the lightest and darkest values in the sketch.  The dark reds and greens in this photo made making a value study challenging.  While the colors are distinct, the values of the colors are quite close.  While doing the sketch I noticed how close the  values of the distant trees and shadows of the buoy are.  For the buoy to stand out from the background it needs to have a different value (lighter or darker).

Monday, May 28, 2012

Advancing art class: color wheel

This month's exercise was to make two color wheels, one warm and one cool.  Warm colors usually have some red in them.  Cold colors usually have some blue in them.

A color wheel is more then just the rainbow of colors in a circle.  It helps you envision how the colors will work together (or not).  Colors that work together well are either analogous or complements.

The most intense secondary colors come from mixing two primary colors that contain a bit of the secondary color already.  True greens lack any hit of red, which means they are made from cool yellow and blue pigments.  Likewise, bright oranges are made from warm yellows and reds.   True purples do not have any yellow, which means they are made from cool reds and warm blues.  These mixes are displayed in a split primary color wheel.

Limiting the number of pigments that are combined to three or less is best, because as more pigments are combined the color becomes duller and duller.  Mixing colors from the opposite sides of the color wheel (i.e. orange and blue) will create a muddy grayish color.  Although, these colors have their place in the painting too.

As an interesting side note, we owe our color wheels to Isaac Newton, who did numerous experiments with light and color eventually creating the first geometric model of color perception, the 'Hue Circle'.  While researching color wheels I found the "Color Sphere" proposed by Philipp Otto Runge.  Newton's 'Hue Circle' circumnavigates the equator, and a white to black value scale that runs north to south is superimposed on it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Little yellow pond flowers

This spring we noticed numerous small bright yellow flowers in our pond.  We debated what they might be, and finally got around to actually going and picking one out of the pond.  It wasn't any of the plants we thought it might be.  Instead it turned out to be a Bladderwort!  

Bladderworts are very interesting plants.  They float on the surface of the water, and their small bright yellow flowers appear on erect stems above the plants.  The plants submerged branches contain air spaces which allows the plant to float.  What is easily mistaken for roots are actually numerous submerged leaves that have small 'bladders'.  These plants are carnivorous and the bladders are used like a vacuum to trap very small aquatic animals for food.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Advancing art class: 2 color studies

Once the value study was done I started working on a palette for the painting.  I refer to the figurative 'palette',  the range of colors used in a painting.  To help me decide I did three additional sketches using sightly different set of pigments.

I also used these sketches to work out a few additional problems.  The castle should be the center of interest but it is fading into the mist.  The rocks in the foreground have a lighter value, but if they are too light or distinct they become too interesting.

There are several shades of green, yellow and brown that are very different, but still need to fit together.  What shade makes the grass look like grass, but doesn't make it standout?   Does adding brown to the castle bring it out?

The bridge is the darkest object in the sketches and so it draws attention, but it also leads the eye to the castle.  Will adding purple to the deepest shadows add depth to the bridge or make it too dark?  Will adding purple to the rocks in the foreground help them fade?

Doing multiple sketches is more productive if you use tracing or graphite paper to transfer a single sketch multiple times.  The first two sketches used a transfer of the same pencil sketch as I used for the value sketch.  For the third sketch I used a different transfer, in which the castle is a bit smaller and there are more rocks and wrack in the foreground.  The third sketch is the one that most people have liked the best.

The pigments and mixes used can be seen as small dabs to the right of each sketch, and are in order: 
  1. Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Sap Green
  2. Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue,  Sap Green, Dioxide Purple, Cadmium Light Green
  3. Yellow Ochre, Sap Green, Cobalt Blue, Dioxide Purple

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Advancing art class: 2 value study

My first small study is a value study.  Value refers to the levels of light and dark, and have nothing to do with color.  Many people do pencil sketches, but I like using a single watercolor pigment.  A dark blue works well since the same pigment can be used to represent both the lightest and darkest values needed for the sketch.

The results look similar to an 'open grisaille'.  A grisaille is a monochrome painting, and open means the white of the paper shows through representing the lightest areas of the painting.  Grisaille are often done as underpaintings for oil paintings.

For me a value study is an opportunity to take a closer look at each part of the sketch and see how it all fits together as a whole.  The study should accurately represent the values in relationship to each other.  Doing this sketch I noticed how the door and some of the trees were as dark as the underside of the bridge.  It can also help you see what needs to be highlighted or darkened to improve the composition.  It might even help you decide on color choices for the painting.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Advancing art class: 2

For my second class I had a lot of homework to do:
  1. Small practice lessons each day (a few are in the previous blog post, all of them are in a flicker set)
  2. Pick out a subject for a big painting
  3. Do at least one value sketch
  4. Do several small sketches using different pallets
  5. Do several small sketches using different angles and central focuses
  6. Do a big painting
While I haven't managed to do a practice lesson each day, I have managed to do several journal entries.  I wasn't having much luck picking a subject for the big painting, and all the other tasks depend on that!  I narrowed my subject to a landscape, and then further narrowed it down to one of the landscape photos I had taken and planned on doing a painting of 'some day'.  I gathered the photos up and looked for the ONE.

I ended up picking a photo of Eilean Donan in the Mist.  The castle has been called the most photographed castles in Scotland.  Once you see it you can see why.  It sits across a rock bridge at the point where three lochs meet.  From every angle the castle presents a picturesque view, with rocks and water and hills in the background.  Quite often it is also surrounded by mist.  I had painted it before but wasn't really happy with the results.  I hope this time I will do better!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Advancing art class: watercolor studies

Watercolor studies should be:
  1. Small
  2. Quick
  3. Focused (one technique or one problem)
  4. Done each day
I've had problems doing the studies daily.  I have managed to do at least one or two studies a week.  In addition I do an entry or two in my watercolor journal, which I take with me when I sit on the porch in the mornings or traveling.

One thing I found was for me to do a study quickly I need to work small.  Small paper, small subject, limited pigments.  Fruits seem to be the subjects of choice for now.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Advancing art class: 1

I am excited to be taking another art class at the Spruill Art Center with Marilynn Brandenburger.  This class is focusing on the process; Moving from planning the painting (selecting a pallet, making sketches and draft paintings) to creating a final product.   The class meets once a month for three months.  For the first meeting we each brought a recent piece of art to share and critique.  I took one that I had been working on (this was the second version) and I still was not happy with the background.
One of the things that came out of the critique was that the center of interest in the painting, the reels, was lost.  This was due to some hard lines that competed for interest and lead your eye away from the reels (the rods, timber walls and chairs).  By cropping the painting to include less of the chairs, wall and rods the painting's focuses returns to the reels.

The hard part is determining how much to leave out.  I need to leave in enough of the wall and chair so the viewer can understand what they are seeing, but remove enough to that it no longer completes with the reels.