Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Glaze and Wash Demo

I came across this painting a few days ago, still taped to the foam core, stacked in the corner with some frames and glass.  I started this painting a few months ago – not sure when – because I’d reached what I call an impasse state where I had no idea what to do next for this painting.  The best thing to do was to put it away and go on to other things.  

After finding this painting in the corner, I brought it out and leaned it against a wall where I’m sure to see it often in passing, where I think about it a little, study my responses to seeing it....

In my class this past Friday, someone asked me the difference between a wash and a glaze, which is something that I’ve been thinking about off and on all week.  I thought of that conversation this morning and decided that this painting needed a good wash – and a good glazing.

In this painting I used a medium glaze made of Prussian Blue.  I chose Prussian Blue because I felt it would ‘cool-down’ the background but is transparent-enough so that the background will still shine through.   I mixed a large amount on a clean pallet.  After I was satisfied with the ratio of paint to water, I applied the mix to the painting full-strength, starting at the lowest part of the Parcheesi Board behind the horse and the cloth the horse is on.  I applied this glaze quite thickly at first, then graded it toward the top of the painting until it was about half & half of the mix I started with.

This is a good time to mention that in order for me to work this glaze into the area I designated, I turned the board so that the paint & water would run downhill.  One of the beauties of watercolor is being able to turn the board any way that works for the artist.

After the large area behind the horse was glazed, I then glazed areas throughout the entire painting.  The glaze layers ranged from full-strength from the mix to lightened with more and more water.  I glazed into deep shadow and background areas in varying degrees of paint/water strength.


The way I used the Prussian Blue/water mix as a wash:

I felt that there was a heavy build-up of paint on the front shadow side of the horse figurine and wanted to take some of it off.  The way I did this was by wetting the entire area with a thin amount of the PB mix, scrub & lift it a little with my brush, clean the brush in water, dry it out until I feel it’s thirsty-enough to lift the wet paint off the area.   I did this a few times.  Often I may need a q-tip or edge of a paper towel.  I could’ve washed this with plain water but I find that washing an area works better a complementary color.  I think that the glue in the paint may also help in collecting the dried glue on the paper.  In this case, the area that needed to be washed was the red/orange-hued  shadow area of the horse, PB seemed a good choice for washing-out. 


I’ve put the before and after versions of the painting together and find that with both eyes open, it doesn’t look that much different than it did when I started.   When I squint, I can see a slight difference, the focus is much sharper, the depth a little deeper.  When I look at the painting itself, with both eyes open or squinting, I see a vast difference.

 Before and After Glaze & Wash

Work on this painting is on-hold for awhile.  But with the change in appearance due to the Prussian Blue Glaze and wash, I feel that this painting is back on track and I’ll work on it again, soon.


Later, same day>>>> I had no idea I’d be adding to this page again today but here I am.  I’d planned on working on something else for awhile but this painting was ‘calling out’ for more work.

Above find the painting after I put on the Prussian Blue Glaze and wash.  The copy to the right shows where I’ve repainted the background and washed out the horse with glaze and q-tips.  I’ve also done quite a bit of work on the blue-checked towel.  Despite the fact that the horse obviously needs more work, I’m liking this painting a lot better than I did when I placed it in the corner, a lot better than when I decided to work on it this morning.

When I painted in the reds, yellows and blues in the Parcheesi board , I used a medium-thin mix of pure color with its complemented color, enough complement to take the color down without drastically changing the hue.  I applied the paint rather thinly, a tiny bit more water than paint.  There’s more I might possibly do on the background but I’ve decided to leave it for now and concentrate on the horse.

To be Continued....

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Painting is an arrangement of Pigment on a Flat Surface....

Painting Outside! West Cemetery, June 18, ‘10


Here’s the page with sketches and painted sketch from this past Friday at West Cemetery.  I’ve decided not to do any more work on it because I see this sketch as ‘working.’  The painted sketch was done using the pigments Ultramarine Blue (UB), Cadmium Red (CR), and Cadmium Yellow (CY).


Keeping it Simple is one of my ‘rules’ ( a principle governing conduct or procedure within a particular sphere)  for Painting Outside!  Which is why I travel with these 3 pigments in my paint kit.  I can make reasonable facsimiles of anything I see using these 3 pigments.


Mixing all 3 of these pigments together makes a gray, that I use to establish the Tone, the initial, underlying Dark to Light, lightly indicated value pattern, upon which I plan to build my painting.  Further on, if I need a Black or Dark, I mix these three pigments together with less water, apply them to the paper with less water.  In the beginning phases, however, I use a lot of water.  Because the day was hot and sunny & sure to dry my paper rapidly, after I mixed my gray tone, I applied a grayish-blue watery wash to the entire surface that was to be painted.  This had the affect of taking the surface away from the white and also preparing the paper for more paint.

I decided to demonstrate a glazing technique, so glazed a very thin & watery layer to the sky area that was barely tinted with CR, then left it to dry while I worked in the neutral tone throughout the painting, starting with the middle ground, which was the trees behind the mausoleum.  I worked in paint where necesssary to show Dark, lifted out paint with the brush or edge of paper towel to show where there was more Light.  As the paint in the middle ground started to dry, I mixed in a little yellow to the gray mix and started working on the middle ground.  The little bit of yellow I added turned the mix to a dark green.  As I worked in more paint, I added a bit more yellow, which gave me variety and made the background appear as if dark and light.  The final touch to the middle ground was to paint the bushes near the building with the most yellow added to the mix, making the bushes appear to be getting more light.

After that, I picked up some more of the gray mix and thinned it down a great deal to work into the sky.  I tried to grade it from dark to light with dark being at the top and the light being at the horizon, behind the trees.  When the paper was covered this way, I added a bit of UB to the top of the paper and after that had diffused a bit into the wetness, I added in a little more UB across the top.  The day wasn’t bright but semi-overcast.  The red glaze underneath helped to ‘dull-down’ the appearance of the sky.

I painted in the light-struck side of the building with a little red mixed into a little gray and added a little CY to make a thin, watery reddish-orange.  Because the building was so far back, I needed the mix to be red orange as well as thin and watery.  While the paint was drying, I mixed a little gray into the red-orange and applied the paint in such a way as to represent the warm and colorful shadow on the Light side of the building.  For the roof that was in the light, I applied a very pale tint of pure orange made from CR and CY.  I decided upon Orange because the day was somewhat dulled by an opaque blue sky.  Had I wanted the roof to be brighter, to appear more sunstruck, I would've used CY.  I think that the Orange pops, appears to light up the roof, because it's the complement of the much blue I've used in the painting.

At this point someone asked what I was going to do about the cross on the roof of the building, toward the middle ground area.  I’d totally forgotten that I’d drawn it in and by now had covered it with paint.  I showed how such a thing could be ‘saved’ by scratching out with a razor blade – or utility knife or jackknife – whatever kind of scratching tool may be available. to indicate that a cross is on the roof.

To finish off the painting,  between the building and the foreground gravestone,  I started off with a watery mix of gray to which a tiny amount of yellow had been added.  I graded that down (from dark near the building to more watery) to almost the middle of the area between the building and the foreground at which point I added in a little more yellow, then ran the wash down to an area behind the foreground gravestone, then added even more yellow and ran it down to the bottom edge of the paper.  While that area dried, I mixed UB and CR into the last of the gray mix and applied it more thickly, but still, semi-watery,  than any mix I’d used so far, to the foreground gravestone.  I left the other gravestones as they were since my Value Pattern wash as this is only a sketch, an exercise, a way of painting that can be used on a larger, more finished painting on ‘good’ paper.  It’s my personal opinion that many small studies such as this make for stronger paintings in the future.


I had a conversation with my students where I told them that if the only thing they remember from my class is to Squint, then I’ve given them some of the best advice that was ever given me and that I use all the time.  When eye-balling, gazing at, thoughtfully considering the subject at hand, close one eye and examine the subject through the open eye with a squint, sometimes squinting through half-lowered eyelid through eyelashes.  This has the effect of ‘flattening’ the space, making it more relatable to a flat surface, showing where the strongest darks and lights are to be found, reduces the power of color and detail, forces the artist to see the general picture with more objectivity.  The details come at the end – if one still thinks details are necessary.

Another thing I think it important to remember, A painting is an arrangement of pigment on a flat surface.  If one hasn’t arranged the pigment on the paper to one's satisfaction, especially in a quick sketch, do another and another and another.  I find these sketches quick, easy and forgiving –  and are a great learning tool as well as a great memory.  

Our next session is Friday morning in White’s Woods.  I’m looking forward to it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Above is a reference photo from the scene and a copy of the page with my thumbnail sketch and my enlarged sketch for painting as it was when class ended at noon this past Friday at Topsmead.

As a reminder of a few very pleasant moments in a spot of timeless beauty with 5 interested and enthusiastic painters, I’m happy with the sketch/painting as it was when noon rolled around and it was time to stop.  On my own, I probably would’ve left it and gone on to another but as an experiment and demonstration, I decided to continue on with it to a place of more finish.

After I photographed the sketch, I glazed over the building with pure ultramarine blue, enough to set that area back visually and enough of a paint surface to work into after the glaze layer dried.  My aim is to lighten the area in that I want to make it appear to be more colorful in the plane where it’s located in relationship to the background trees and the foreground plants.  On the value scale of the ratio of paint to water, the paint/water mix was approximately 50/50.  I put the glaze on wet and flat, then I held the paper flat so the water settled and the paint dried flat.   (Flat being the operative word for the kind of glaze I wanted.  While the glaze dried I covered the sky area with an extremely watery glaze of neutral that leaned toward a little more red than blue.  I swished the water around the sky area a bit with the brush so that there were spots where the paint settled and gave the sky area a faint, smudgy texture, to make the blue already there appear to be coming through a cloud cover.  The building area was quite dry by now, so I mixed up some blue/red with a little more red than blue and glazed it over the dry glaze of ultramarine blue.  My mix of blue/red was a little thicker in the ratio of paint to water than the previous layer but it was still a watery glaze.  I left it to dry and, using a smaller brush and a variety of paint mixes that ranged from blue/yellow to yellow/blue, glazed in spots from the background trees to the foreground flowers and bit of grass under the foreground flowers.  The consistency of the paint ranged from thin and dull to thicker and brighter with the brighter and thicker paint being used in the areas where the light from the sun had lit up the flowers against the dull red of the building to the pale, overcast nature of the sky that morning.  I finished off the painting with a black that I made from all 3 pigments and some of the darker mixes still on the pallette.  The blackest area was the roof line (hopefully denoting shingles) and the ratio of paint to water was approx 80% paint and 20% water.  For the ‘bricks’ on the building, I used a thin brush and a paint mixture of approx 60% pure Cad red and 40% water.  I made straight, horizontal lines and broke up the line by lifting the brush here and there to break up the stroke and leave an impression of bricks.  Had I to do it over again, I would’ve made the mixture of paint 40% paint to 60% water.  The pure red does help to brighten up the painting and helps contrast the blue/green of the bushes, trees and plants.  I’m calling this small painting a good experiment with much learning and a snapshot of a pleasurable moment at Topsmead one early June morning.

 We've planned that our next Painting Outside! session is going to be at West Cemetery, Litchfield, Friday June 19 -- weather permitting.  See you there!


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Painting Outside! June 4, '10

Above is a copy of the page where I did the first sketch of a new Painting Outside! session at the Litchfield Community Center, June 4th.

When I only have a few hours to paint outside, I keep my paintings small and sketchy.  99% of the time, I begin with a thumbnail sketch.  Disciplining myself to making a thumbnail sketch gives me time to settle-in and gather my thoughts before attempting to lay down a foundation for an actual painting.

During the course of teaching, whenever I mention a thumbnail sketch to students I’m met with a collective groan of protest, and remember the sinking sensation in my heart when I was told I had to memorize the 9x Table, back in 3rd grade.  And how glad I am that I have....

The Thumbnail Sketch is an entire art unto itself, and highly fascinating as to how artists express themselves and the tools they use to fill sketch books full of drawings in very small spaces with their unique and personal expression.

To me, working from a Thumbnail sketch of my own creation is the best, the fun-part of the job.

This photo shows the painting cut out from the rest of the page.  I like to do this on the computer as it gives me the opportunity to imagine this as a large painting.  I’m able to see it as if the scene is far away and give thought as to what I might like to do next.  I’ve decided to work on this painting a little more, so it will be useful to have the two small photos where I can view them side by side and make comparisons, analyses, listen to my thoughts....
  After I’ve Saved the original photo and before I close the Photo-Processing program, I Desaturate the photo and save it as a bw (for black and white).  Having this photo against the original shows me whether or not my original plan for value pattern is working or not (it is) and how I might want to change things up ahead. 

My next step was to Glaze, in Ultramarine Blue.  I’m defining a glaze as a watery layer of paint that obscures or semi-obscures the layer of paint underneath.  In the distant trees I put it on in a thin layer and then added increasingly thicker amounts of paint and held the paper in such a way that the most blue settled near the tops of the trees in the middle ground.  I added tints of blue to the grasses and the tree over the front of the building.  I thinly glazed some detail into the middle ground tree with the tip of my brush and a squiggly motion.  I glazed a very thin layer of UB over the distant part of the building and using a heavier blue glaze, painted in the shadow from the distant column and behind.

The blue patches in the upper right hand corner give an idea of how thin/thick my glaze coats were.

What is difficult to discern in this photo –  but it’s there – is the glaze of Cadmium Red with which I covered the cloud and the sky.  The patch of red I made as a sample is between the blue patches and the thumbnail sketch.  It was a very thin glaze.  I used red because it was a warm sky on a warm day.  When the glaze was quite dry – not at all cool to the touch – I glazed over the blue sky with a thin mixture of blue and yellow, more a blue/green than a yellow/green. While the sky was still wet at the top, I mixed a little more blue to the glaze and painted it in near the top, then I added a little more blue to the glaze and painted it in across the very top.

The greens are all a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Cad Yellow and in the case of the distant trees and some of the shadows, I added a little red so that it appeared as more black.  Before I photographed the painting for the last time, I cleaned up the part of that represents the building closest to the viewer with a Q-tip dipped in water and wrung out a bit so it wasn’t sopping wet.