Friday, May 31, 2013

Rocks, Water, reflections and shadows

Marilynn did one final demonstration on painting rocks; pebbles on a beach and rocks in a stream.

We had limited time to work on a final painting.  I choose another photo that I had been waiting to paint, one from a 2011 sailing trip to the BVI.  The photo of the 'Baths' on Virgin Gorda is filled with tropical blue water and sky, large boulders, shadows and reflections.  As amazing as it is above water, it was even better under water.

Carol had a great suggestion on how to achieve the color of the tropical water; by using an under painting of staining yellow.  Marilynn helped me work on the shadows and reflections in the water as well as on the rocks.  I used a variegated wash for the sky, starting with yellow at the horizon and adding blue at the top of the paper and letting them mix.  Since the photo was taken at mid day the reflections and shadows are subtle, but still add a lot to the painting.

Finally we cleaned up the studio and got ready for the student exhibit where all the classes displayed what they had spent the week working on.

Finally we cleaned up the studio and got ready for the student exhibit where all the classes displayed what they had spent the week working on.  Ours were just two of the thirteen classes being taught that week.  It is always amazing to see what we all managed to accomplish in just a week!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Water across the landscape

Water was the final landscape element for the class.  Marilynn did a great demonstration on reflections in water.  Water is almost always darker then the sky.  The reflections in the water always go from the object toward the viewer, and are never larger then the actual object.  Reflections can be dark or light, since they exhibit the same color as the object.  Also the depth of the water and angle of light effects the reflections.

The clouds had finally brought rain.  The ground was very wet and the sky was overcast.  Instead of trying to find a spot outside to paint I picked a photo that I had been wanting to paint for a long time.  A photo from a 2007 trip to Scotland of the small town of Dornie.  Dornie sits along the shore of Loch long close to one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, Eilean Donan.  I found the town to be as picturesque as the castle.

While there is only a bit of water in the photo, there are lots of clouds, hills, trees and rocks.  It seemed like the perfect time to try this painting.  I selected Phthalocyanine Blue, Lemon Yellow, Yellow Ocher, Quinacridone Red for my palette.  The mixture of Phthalocyanine Blue, Yellow Ocher and Quinacridone Red made the perfect gray, which I used for the sky and rock wall.  The sky was done wet-on-wet to make the blanket of clouds.

Marilynn and Carol helped me make some adjustments to the values of the water, houses and rock wall to make a much improved painting

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Composing a landscape

We were finally ready to put the elements we had learned about together in a plein air landscape painting.  Marilynn did demonstrations on controlling your wash, creating perspective though size and color, color harmony and selecting pigments to use in your painting.

We reviewed color temperature, and then painted cool and warm color wheels using limited palettes (showing primary, secondary and tertiary).  We discussed the concepts of employing analogous colors to bring harmony, and complementary colors to create contrast in our paintings.

We were then sent out to practice what we had learned on our own plein air landscapes.  A brilliant red tree caught my eye in area across the road between Davidson Hall and the herb garden.  The expansive lawn around that area had large patches of Mustard (Sinapis arvensis), known locally as 'Yellow top'.  

I found a place with a good view and composed a painting of the landscape around that wonderful red tree.  The day was warm and bright, providing the perfect opportunity for me to test out my new ShadeBuddy Umbrella which worked great!  I should have taken a photo of it in action but was preoccupied with painting.   After testing different colors, I selected a pallet of Ultramarine Blue, Crome Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Quinacridone Red and Raw Siena.

Later I went over to the to the garden to identify and sketch the bright red tree.  It turned out to be a beautiful Redbud cultivar.  The wind had picked up and to take closeups of the flowers I had to hold the branches.  Each time a gust of wind shook the other tree branches, thousands of bumble bees that were feasting on the nectar in the blooms were blown off the branches into a buzzing cloud surrounding me and the tree.

The red bloom covered branches looked lovely against the blue sky and green land.  I did a quick watercolor sketch in the field.  I used that sketch along with the photos to complete a painting back at the studio, were Carol lent me some additional colors to boost my palette: Yellow gouache (for the mustard blooms) and Opera (for the lighter shades in the tree blooms).  I think the title should be 'Simultaneous contrast'.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mighty trees small and large

Marilynn did a demonstration on observing and sketching tree shapes.  Even from a distance you should be able to tell different types of trees apart based on their shape.  Trees can convey not only general locality, but also information on the weather, season and time of day.

We practiced sketching different types of trees from photos.  Working on over all shape, grouping foliage and simplifying details without losing the identity of the tree.  When we had finished several pencil and ink sketches we did watercolors of two of our tree sketches.

Trees can also be used as an important element of perspective, leading the viewer into the painting.  Distant trees are smaller, their shapes are simpler, and details of their foliage are less distinct.  They eventually fade into an indistinguishable mass of colors.  The colors of distant trees and hills are paler and shift toward blue. 

For my landscape of trees, I picked a photo of El Capitan,  Yosemite National Park.  I used a variety of techniques to add depth to the sketch.  I used a graded wash for the cloudless sky, and limited palette of Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, Crome Yellow and Quinacridone Red.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chasing clouds

During the week we would study each part that makes up a landscape painting: the sky, the the trees (near and far) and distant hills.  We began with the sky.  Marilynn demonstrated methods for creating smooth washes that are darker at the top and lighter at the bottom, mimicking what a typical sky looks like.

Skies often includes clouds, and there are many types of clouds each with their own distinct form and implied weather conditions.  In addition, clouds are not white.  They are made up of water that reflects the colors around them.  This is why at sunrise or sunset clouds turn various shades of red, orange, yellow and violet.  Marilynn demonstrated several different techniques for creating the hard and soft edges clouds exhibit.

To start with we did studies of skies and clouds from photos to learn the demonstrated techniques:  

Cirrus are wispy upper level clouds.  I grew up calling them 'Mare's tails', and knew if I saw them we would have a good breeze for sailing, but that a low-pressure weather disturbance was headed our way.  The lower clouds were done wet-on-wet for soft edges, the upper clouds were lifted.   I used Cerulean Blue (lower sky), Ultramarine Blue (upper sky) and Windsor Orange (for sand and mixed with the Ultramarine Blue for the ocean).  

Altostratus are mid level clouds, similar to the low level Stratus clouds that form continuous layers of cover in the sky.
The underside of the clouds are reflecting the pink of the setting sun.    Additions of color can create a dramatic effect.  This sketch was done using Cerulean Blue (lower sky), Ultramarine Blue (upper sky) and Quinacridone Rose.
Stratocumulus clouds form at all levels, and have both cumuliform and stratiform characteristics (puffy and sheet like).  These clouds were done wet-on-wet using Cerulean Blue (lower sky), Ultramarine Blue (upper sky) and Windsor Orange (shadows).  Only the cloud on the horizon has any hard edges.  The ocean is a mix of the same colors, slightly darker and paler.  
Cumulus clouds are lower level clouds.   They have flat bases with puffy tops.  This was an attempt at mixing hard (puffy tops) and soft edges (flat bases).  Water was applied to the sky leaving the clouds dry.  Then the sky wash was carefully added.  There are some plumes where I added too much water when working the hard edge of the top cloud.  The color shift in the sky and the smaller lower clouds add perspective to the sketch.  The sketch was done using Cerulean Blue (lower sky), Ultramarine Blue (upper sky) and Windsor Orange (shadows)

After finishing our studies we headed outside to paint some real clouds plein air.  Earlier in the day the sky had been filled with puffy white clouds.  When we ventured outside all the big clouds had vanished.  We were left with three or four tiny clouds on the horizon between the distant mountains to paint.  They proved to be very hard to paint, as they continuously changed shape and repeatedly slipped out of view behind the trees.  It wasn't until we were finished for the day that the clouds came out of hiding and re-filled the sky.  I guess they were just shy.