Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 12

Oh what fun! Developing the red flower heads was lots of fun. I love how the greens and red act against each other and really make the focal point pop. The dark values in the shadow areas help to create the illusion of depth.

I used many different reds on my palette to work around the flower heads including, Burnt Sienna, Perylene Maroon, Permanent Rose, and some Quinicridone colors. I wanted to keep the yellows glowing through some areas, so I was careful not to cover them with too many glazes or with cool glazes.

I used some Burnt Sienna and VanDyke Brown in the shadow areas around the thorns. Be sure to leave the white areas wherever you can! This just adds sparkle to the piece.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 11

The shadows are even deeper now, as I have added another glaze of Perylene Green, mostly on the right and under the flower heads.

The dark shadow works like an arrow to carry the viewer's eye to the focal point.

I played with different applications of colors to create some textures in the warm shadow area to the left and under the flower heads. I am enjoying the shapes that are emerging from this piece!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 10

Back to the Cactus Flower lesson!!!

Now it's time to add some depth and details.

Using Hookers Green I have glazed over some of the other greens, especially where I added shadow glazes previously.  I glazed this green over the parts of the leaves where the cool Cerulean Blue was applied earlier. Now the yellow greens in the sunlit areas begin to contrast more with the cool blue-greens of the other areas. Look at your photo reference carefully and you will see that none of the green areas can be painted exactly alike because the light hits each leaf differently and each leaf has a small shift in color from the others.

I have also used VanDyke Brown in a richer mixture than before and developed some details in the lower left area of the painting. This area in the reference had some woody growth, and I wanted to capture a bit of that. I also liked how it warmed up that corner of the painting.

I have worked around the painting adding small touches and glazes for depth and interest.

To see more of this lesson, please visit earlier posts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 9

Today I am going back to the flower heads for a bit.

I have added Permanent Alizarin Crimson to the shadow areas of the flower heads. I worked patiently all around the flower heads, softening some edges and leaving the crisp lines at the darkest edges of the shadow shapes. Try experimenting with different reds on your palette. Some reds are cool in temperature, like Alizarin Crimson. This pigment has a hint of blue or purple and it works really well in shadow areas of red objects. Other reds like Winsor Red are more warm in temperature an have a yellow-orange cast to them. The are more appropriately used in areas where the sun or light is shining on an object.

Next, I have used Prussian Blue (very wet) in some more shadow areas. This is a very strong color and should not be used too heavily. It will deaden your painting if it is overused. I like to try to keep my glazes transparent, even when developing strong, dark values.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 8

Now that I have my shadows developing nicely, I want to give them another glaze of a nice dark Perylene Green.

This is a gorgeous color that looks like a pine green to me. It has a bit of warmth to it, and it glazes nicely.

Now the shadow areas really have some punch. Notice the soft edges where the cactus leaves have soft, flowing nooks and crannies. I have applied the Softened Edge Stroke to the areas where there is a clear edge and to the edges of cast shadows. If you hold it away from you, you will begin to see the illusion of depth and perspective! This also makes the flower heads really POP!

It is really important to step away from your work occasionally and get a fresh perspective. I like to take the piece and stand in front of a mirror, or set it up in a different room where I can get about 10 - 15 feet away from it. Sometimes I turn the piece upside down to get a fresh look at the composition and to see more objectively how the piece is coming together!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 7

To develop the shadows even further, I have used a very wet puddle of VanDyke Brown and applied it to a few areas where I want darker or more striking shadows.

One theory I like to use for shadows is that if I glaze a relative opposite of the local color, the colors will visually blend (not physically blend) to create a darker value. For instance, if I want the dark green shadows to be very dark in value, just adding green will only make the paint thicker, it won't add to the darkness of the value. By adding a relative opposite, like a red or warm brown, I can add to the value, then glaze over it with the local color (green in this case) and the green becomes what the viewer sees, but the warm tones add darkness to the value. Hope this makes sense.

Think of it this way: relative opposites on the color wheel, like red and green, when physically mixed will make a neutral, dark gray. If I glaze these colors they will still VISUALLY make a dark, more neutral color, but they will retain some of their more pure color characteristics. Try it on some scrap watercolor paper. Glaze a red, allow it to dry, then glaze a green. The green will still look green, only darker!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 6

Be sure that all previous applications of paint have thoroughly dried.

Next, I have used Burnt Sienna to warm some areas an add the under-painting for some of my shadows. This application of paint should be very wet. Don't brush too much over previously painted areas or you will dig up and stir up the pigment layers. Try to apply the wet paint for each layer or glaze with a very light touch, and quickly drop it in. Your brush should just push the puddles of wet paint around. It should barely even touch the paper, if at all. Using a delicate touch will preserve the previous glazes of color and each glaze will stay fresh and clean.

You can view previous posts to see the beginning of this lesson. Just click on the archives at the left of this page.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 5

I want to get some more of the flower heads established in this piece, since the flowers are my focal point. I have used Winsor Red and Quinicridone Magenta to develop some of these areas. Just as I described yesterday, vary your edges from crisp to soft. Soft transitions are made with water pushed into the stroke before it dries. Crisp edges are made by directly applying pigment to the dry paper and leaving it alone.

Let your photo reference be your guide. Look for crisp edges that can be painted directly, and then look for areas which would be appropriate for that Softened Edge Stroke (see previous post).

I have also added some more Permanent Sap Green and Hookers Green to areas of the plant that have not yet been developed. In the area on the right of my image I used a little wet-in-wet technique by laying in a wet wash of Sap Green, then dropping in Hookers Green where I wanted to add soft shadows.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 4

Today I am adding some yellows.

I have used Aureolin Yellow to begin to develop the areas in the flower heads that will become yellow-orange. Be careful where you apply colors - they should not go EVERYWHERE! Soften some edges by pulling water into the stroke. I call this my Softened Edge Stroke.

First lay down a stroke of color, very wet, yet strong with pigment. Then, clean your brush and load it with water. Just touch the tip of your brush to your paper towel to remove excess water that may drip. Pull a stroke of water from the blank area into and alongside the stroke you just applied. It is important to do this BEFORE the stroke dries. Pulling water into the stroke will push the pigment into the area that already has color. If you pull the water from the stroke out to the blank area, the stroke will just be diluted and the pigment will wash out to the blank area. The goal is to create a very soft transition from dark color to nothing (clear water).

This takes practice. Be easy on yourself and remember that it is just a piece of paper! With practice you will master the many different techniques!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 3

In the next application of paint I used Cerulean Blue (Peacock Blue by Holbein would also be great here!).

Keep this really wet as Cerulean Blue is a very opaque color. I searched the photo reference for areas that might have a light blue cast to them. This application is an underpainting for future glazes. I have varied the values to show the textures of the plant. Wetting some areas or working with pigment that has more water creates lighter values.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 2

It is time for the first big wash! I used a very wet mixture of Permanent Sap Green and Aureolin Yellow.

You can see how wet the application was by the little puddle of paint at the bottom of the wash area. I used this mixture around the painting to work in the preliminary green washes on the cactus leaves.

You can vary the mixture here and there as the photo reference and your preferences dictate. I used some Hookers Green in some areas where I wanted to indicate shadows.

If you would like to paint along, please visit my etsy online shop and click on the Online Class icon. For $5.00 you will receive the photo reference and drawing for this painting. I will suggest that you print each lesson/post. This makes it easier to paint along!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cactus Flower Lesson 1

Okay, I must apologize for those of you who have been waiting patiently for a new lesson! It has been very busy with the holidays, guests, events at the Art and Antiques Studio and preparing for new classes coming in January. No more excuses! Here is the beginning of the new lesson!

You can follow along with this lesson each day, and if you like, you can visit my etsy shop and purchase ($5) the drawing and reference photo. I will email the references to you and then you can paint along!

First of all, the drawing must be traced onto the watercolor paper. I like to use a Chunky Graphite Stick from I scrub a healthy amount of graphite on the back of my drawing, wipe it a little with paper toweling, and then tape one edge of the drawing to my watercolor paper. Trace from the right side of the drawing. Don't press hard or you will leave indentations on your paper and the pigments will puddle into these grooves and cause unsightly marks.

Now, tape your watercolor paper onto a foam core board or gator board that is at least an inch or two larger all the way around. I like to use two-inch Scotch masking tape that is beige. The wide tape allows for good coverage both on the paper (at least one-half inch of tape should cover the edges of your paper) and on the board. Good taping will result in a nice, finished painting that dry very flat. The taped edge also provides a nice gripping area when working with large wet washes.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Teaching Watercolor at the Melbourne Square Mall

Last week I volunteered to teach seniors a little bit about watercolor painting at the Melbourne Square Mall. As a member of the Art and Antique Studio and Fine Art Gallery, I volunteer here and there to give demonstrations and mini workshops. Once a month the mall holds a Seniors Day and provides bingo, health screenings, informational booths about local services, and little art and craft workshops.

I brought in small 5 x 7 inch watercolor pages and some little palettes and brushes. I also brought in a small sailboat photo reference and a little drawing that they could transfer. It took about an hour for each session. I showed them how to transfer the drawing to the paper and how to apply washes to the sky and boat. Each participant took home a little painting. It was a lot of fun! I will be doing this again in February, but we will be painting a small rose, since it will be just before Valentine's Day.

For more information about my ongoing watercolor classes click here to visit my website. Classes begin in January!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Preparing a Thumbnail Sketch

Successful watercolor painting takes planning. Even the most impatient painter should take the time to plan by doing a thumbnail sketch. These quick, scribbly-looking, small sketches take only a few minutes and can save lots of grief later on when the painting is in progress! Much of your composition and value decisions can be finalized by developing a few little thumbnails. Working through your thumbnail sketching process will help you to see things that you might not see until later in the painting process, when it is too late to correct it. So, how do you begin?

First think about what view of your subject you want to portray. Do you want a close up view? A traditional view with a horizon line just above or just below the center point? Do you want to show only part of the image or do you want lots of “background” around the object? Try several quick little sketches to see what might please your eye.
Next decide if you want to paint your subject in a horizontal or vertical format. You may do a quick, scribbly sketch to see what might look nicer. Or, you can simply draw a vertical, horizontal, or square quadrangle around your image area.

Remember to use your viewfinder (a small piece of card stock with a rectangle cut from the center) to help you decide and isolate the objects that appeal to you.

Once you have a very simple line sketch of your layout or composition, check it by using the 3/4 Rule. Draw two vertical lines and two horizontal lines equidistant in the image area. Your focal point, or point of interest should not fall exactly in the middle of the picture plane, but should rest near one of the points where the lines intersect.

Then, start working in values. You can use your value chart and actually number the areas one through six, or just use your pencil to scrub in the darker values.

A Value Chart is a simple set of squares painted with pigment that ranges from dark to white. I make one that is about 3 by 10 inches with six equal squares in a row. I first paint the number 6 square with the darkest mixture of French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna that I can make, and keep it transparent. Then I add water and continue to paint each square lighter than the previous one, leaving the number 1 square white. After this dries, I punch a small hole in the center of each square. This is a great measuring guide for values.

Classes will begin again in January. Check out my website for more details:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Inspiring Scenery

Just another inspiring scene from Melbourne, Florida! This is another painting from my miniature series. Since we go to the beach a lot, I have decided to study the motion of the water. I am trying to capture it in small sketches. As the waves bump into the shore you can usually see right through them!

The skies here in Florida are always beautiful, too. I love how the clouds seem to hang onto the horizon line!

This little piece fit into a 4 by 6 inch frame! What fun.

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.