Posts Tagged ‘glaze’

Lessons of Value, Part 2

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

To help my students recognize the importance and effectiveness of a good value range in their work, I had them begin a project, as I wrote about last time, with a monochromatic under layer to establish their values. The second stage of the project was to introduce supplemental color.

I limited my students to the use of only two additional colors, of their choice. I opted to use brown madder and raw sienna over my own indigo base in “Stones in Shell Dish” (#110307).

110307 Stones in Shell Dish (final)

I began with a light wash of raw sienna across the entire dish, then glazed more localized areas with one or more of my three colors to achieve the effect I wanted. The more I worked, the more I continued to increase the value range that even the initial monochrome study had not reached. I cannot tell you how many glazes I applied, because I didn’t keep track. Layer after layer after layer went on. I worked on the piece for several weeks, both in class and out of class, until I was finally satisfied with it.

My students weren’t the only ones who learned from that lesson. But that’s part of why I enjoy teaching. There’s always something more to learn. And one of the best ways to learn is by doing the assignments right along with my students.

Lessons of Value, Part 1

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I thought it would benefit my students this spring to see how to create a good range of value without simultaneously dealing with the complicating factor of variable colors.

There were several previous lessons I wanted to reinforce. But the primary lesson I wanted them to learn was to focus solely on value changes, ignoring color entirely. So the assignment was to create a monochromatic painting in the single hue of their choice to act as a base layer, over which supplemental color would later be glazed. I elected to work in indigo as my underlying shadow color for “Stones in Shell Dish” (#110307).

110307 Stones in Shell Dish (monochromatic study)

I began with a drawing that depicted only the hard edges of the still life. We used gradation to achieve soft lines and lost edges. It was not an easy assignment. But I think it’s safe to say that everyone learned a lot about painting shapes instead of objects, creating graded washes in both large and small areas, achieving smooth transitions from one value to another, reserving highlights and reclaiming light areas that had been lost. They also learned to recognize that visible lines meant there was still work to be done—increasing value on one side or the other of the line until the drawn line disappeared and the value change itself was all that marked the division of elements.

Next time I’ll discuss the finished, full-color version.

Staying Out of the Mud

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

One of the banes of novice watercolorists is that old bugaboo “mud.” It took me a long time to realize what caused mud to develop both on my palette and in my paintings. Part of it, I knew, came from overworking the paint, combining too many colors to create the hue I wanted. Yet I wasn’t sure how many blended colors equaled too many.

I began working on the theory that cool-slanted colors shouldn’t be mixed with warm-slanted colors. But that theory didn’t prove true in every case. At last I realized that when opaque or semi-opaque pigments were mixed with transparent ones, the transparency was sacrificed, and the result became a muddied concoction.

The question then became, “How can I tell which pigments are transparent enough to work well with my palette, and which will I need to be careful using?” I eventually found the answer to that in the color charts most paint manufacturers provide. One of the paints that had been a staple for me from the beginning was yellow ochre, which I discovered was considered either opaque or semi-opaque (depending on the manufacturer). That pigment proved to have been the culprit in many of my muddy blends. Another popular color that caused problems for me was cerulean blue, which is often actually a mixture containing white, and is also semi-opaque.

I still use opaque colors, but with considerably more discretion than before.

There is definitely a place for opaque and semi-opaque pigments in watercolor work. And there simply seems to be little option for some hues. But I’ve learned that it’s usually more effective to use the opaque pigments in the base layer of a glazed painting or for detail on the top layer, rather than to blend on the palette with transparent paints for a widespread wash over the paper.

Unless you understand the components of the paint you use, it’s difficult to know what to expect of it. When a single-pigment paint is available for a certain hue, I try to use that rather than a blended version so it is easier to predict how it will react with other paints, how transparent it will be, and how stable the hue will remain over time.

Most paint manufacturers provide a chart that reveals most of this information for their own paints. To see comprehensive comparison charts, including transparency, opacity, and permanence of a wide range of colors and manufacturers, I’d recommend that you refer to Hilary Page’s book Guide to Watercolor Paints. Because the information changes continually, the author also provides free updated information online at www.Hilary Page.com.

If you like this discussion of paints, you might also be interested in reading “A Palette to My Taste” (December 1, 2010) and “A Limited Palette” and “Selecting Paints” (both to appear later this year).

A different look at an old subject

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Last time I wrote about the value of using an unfamiliar subject to break out of a rut and to experiment with different techniques.  This past week I used some of the same “new” techniques on an old subject to see how the results compared.

Pink Waterlily and Pad

I chose a water lily that I thought I could give a more effective treatment using wet-on-(really)-wet rather than the wet-on-dry and wet-on-damp approach I’d used before.  Using the wetter method, I found that the colors flowed in such as way as to allude to a more rounded shape, with fewer distracting brush marks.

For the more recent version (#100503), I used warmer colors and a larger format than in the earlier version (#060901) shown below.  Which do you like better?

Pink Waterlily

I still find myself trying, out of habit, to return to the faster, more direct method, but I think it’s worth taking the extra time needed for the wetter technique.  The process takes longer to allow for thorough drying between sessions, but I find the results more pleasing and the illusion more convincing.