LAYERED LEAVES

During the last workshop we experimented with a technique that produces interesting results if it doesn’t drive you mad first. The idea is to start with a background wash, draw the shapes of stones, leaves and twigs onto it, then, with a slightly darker tone fill in all the negative spaces. More leaves, twigs etc are then drawn into the darker negative areas and the negative spaces around the new shapes is made slightly darker. This incremental darkening is done 3-4 times then the shapes are modeled, ink and pastel lines are added, colors splashed on and gesso washes are used to simplify areas.

The process is a lot of fun and often triggers interesting ideas. The example below was done as a demo on aluminium composite panel primed with watercolor gesso. The heavy vertical marks were masked up and painted over the top with more watercolor gesso then the tones were adjusted.

These next images give an idea of the build up using negative shapes.

Once you get the hang of it this can be great fun. The subject can be any reasonably defined object – tools, utensils, paint brushes, pencils – anything that can layer one over the other.

STUDIO WORKSHOP

For the last two weeks I have been busy conducting a workshop looking at selecting, manipulating and extracting the most from a painting subject. It was a lot of fun, but we worked hard – doing a couple of paintings each day and squeezing in a few critique sessions, where we examined everybodys work and discussed various problems and solutions.

Studio Workshop John Lovett Nov 2011

It is always a pleasure meeting new students and catching up with students from previous workshops. One of our new students for the second week was Carol and her assistant, Kim. What an inspiring lady – taking up watercolor a couple of years ago after a severe car accident ended her career as a lawyer and left her a quadriplegic. Forgetting about her disability, the standard of her paintings is excellent, but to see how she has overcome so many physical hurdles to produce the work she does is just amazing. On top of this, she is determined to keep on improving and works hard to that end.

Thumbnail sketches and simple monochrome collages were used to simplify and rearrange our subjects.

The demonstration paintings below illustrate some of the techniques we explored.

Manipulating a large foreground to lead up to a focal point while not causing a distraction.

Creating depth with hard and soft edges

Flat Ultramarine gouache used to squeeze more vibrancy from the warm, transparent watercolor.

Confining detail and using empty space as an element in the painting.

Practicing the random placement of suggestive abstract marks

Blitz Truck Watercolor

 

Sometimes an unusual subject will free you up to try new techniques.

Making a strong focal point in what was a flat uniform facade.

Starting loosly with a big brush and no preliminary drawing, then adding detail as the painting progresses.

Experimenting with techniques to break up a symetrical subject.

WATERCOLOR CANVAS

While we were in Italy one of the artists in our group, Lety Herrera, from Mexico, asked if I had ever tried Watercolor Canvas. I hadn’t, and she suggested I should, so when I arrived home I picked up a pad of small sheets. I was amazed how good it was to work on and how well the washes reacted to the primed surface. I did a couple of small paintings then ordered a roll of the canvas.

It needs to be stretched or mounted securely to a board before you paint on it or it will buckle and twist badly, making it impossible to work on. The paint tends to sit more on the surface than it does on paper, and can easily be washed back to clean canvas. This may sound like a problem, but you soon get use to gently working over underlying washes so as not to disturb them. Eventually, the ability to easily lift off pigment becomes an advantage, allowing tones to be adjusted and whites to be retrieved at any stage.

You may wonder why work on watercolor canvas when there are so many excellent watercolor papers. For me, the big advantage is not having to place the finished painting under glass plus the option to work on a larger surface. Once finished the paintings need to be treated with a suitable varnish.

Palermo Geraniums

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Sorrento Breeze –  Marina Grande

I still love the feeling of painting on watercolor paper but this watercolor canvas offers a new way of working and different way to present your work. I see it as an extension to the traditional format of watercolor on paper. Acrylic, ink and pastel can also be incorporated into these paintings.

Fredrix Watercolor canvas is acid free, 100% cotton canvas, primed with a patent pending, specially formulated Gesso for all water based paints. It is available in pads, boards and in a 58″x 3 yard roll.

NEW TOYS

I’m a sucker for an Art Supply Shop. I just can’t walk past them. While we were in Hong Kong an assortment of pastel pencils, water soluble crayons and colored inks became absolute necessities. Things that I couldn’t leave the shop without!

I have drawers full of such items. Essential in the excitement of the moment, but once in the studio and tested, they become just another unnecessary distraction. Fortunately, this bout of impulse buying resulted in some really useful new toys.

The inks are Winsor and Newton Calligraphy inks – Brilliant primary colors

The pastel pencils are a Dutch brand I have not tried before – Bruynzeel. Fine textured and good colors.

I have used the Caran d’Ache water soluble crayons before, but fell for a pile of new colors.

Red Shoes – Sketched with a charcoal pencil then colored with a red, orange and pink crayon. After the crayon was applied, a wet 1/2″ brush was used to dissolve and blend the colors. Finally a few red ink lines were drawn on and sprayed with a mist of water.

These Lemons were painted with a mixture of crayon ink and pastel pencil. A gesso wash was scrubbed over the foreground before the final yellow crayon marks were applied. Before the Gesso had dried the lemon was carefully sliced and dropped into a Gin and tonic.

WALLS AND DOORS

It’s good to be back in the studio again after our Italian workshop break. Over the next few months I will be kept busy working on an Exhibition for late October. These first few paintings of architectural subjects will probably find their way into the exhibition. They will also be used in an article on The Illusion of Accuracy for International Artist Magazine.

“Notes on a Door” – Watercolor, Ink and Gesso on Arches 300gsm paper

“Medievalness” Watercolor and Ink on 300gsm Arches paper

“Village with lake and Olive Trees” mixed media on 300gsm Blue Lake Paper

PAINT BY ACCIDENT

There is nothing like a looming magazine deadline to speed up the painting process. I had just finished an article on controlling color temperature for International Artist Magazine and realized I didn’t have an example of a dominant warm painting using a cool contrast. Rather than go through paintings I already had, I decided to work on a sketch I did along one of the little back canals in Venice.

Most of this painting was done using a 1″  bristle brush. I attacked it mercilessly using watercolor and pots of premixed acrylic and gesso, splashing the paint on and feathering it out with a 3″ Hake brush. This quickly covered the paper and provided the area of light at the focal point. Once the dark shapes were scrubbed in with the 1″ brush, I used a charcoal pencil to define the details – again very quickly and accidentally – sort of like draw first and ask questions later. After all this a small brush added all the details – bricks, window frames, striped awning etc.

It is a fantastic way to work, pushing and shoving until things somehow work themselves into place. The hardest thing is learning not to be careful until it is absolutely necessary! The beauty of building up a painting in layers like this means you really can’t go wrong – things can continually be worked over and changed.

A rough looking collection of brushes, but perfect for this type of painting.

  • A charcoal pencil
  • 1/4″ flat One Stroke
  • #1 Liner Brush
  • 1/2″  Bristle Brush
  • 1″ Bristle Brush
  • 3″ Hake Brush

WATERCOLOR CHICKEN

Over the past couple of months I have been busy working on a new book, which means I am madly leaping from one subject to another. Somehow I ended up choosing a chicken to demonstrate the different qualities of watercolor and Gouache. I hope to have the book finished before the end of the year. A step by step guide to painting this chicken will feature in book. It combines clear washes of watercolor and the opaque flatness of gouache to get that fantastic contrast between glowing transparency and flat, velvety gouache.

This type of subject is a lot of fun, I love the contrast between fine detail and loose abstraction. The face of the chicken leaves nothing to the imagination, but as the eye moves down the neck, things get a little out of control – just like a chicken tearing around in a chicken coop.

French Ultramarine Blue, Permanent Alizarin, Windsor Red, and Quinacridone Gold  with White Gouache provided all the necessary colors.

A few one stroke brushes and a rigger took care of the detail and the 1/2 inch bristle brush made all the mess.

The book should be available towards the end of the year. As soon as it’s out I will put a link on my website