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

.

.

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.

PAINT RECYCLING

Do you have a collection of dried up paint tubes you just can’t bring yourself to throwing out?

Here is a way to bring the paint back to life.  I found a small pestle and mortar hidden in the back of a kitchen cupboard. It turned out to be the perfect device for grinding the contents of all those dried out tubes into a fine powder, ready to be brought back to life.

The first thing to do is cut open the tube and empty the dry lumps of pigment into the motar

Next step is to grind them to a fine powder. The pigment sticks to the pestle, so a metal palette knife is handy to scrape and loosen the pigment.

Once the pigment is a fine even powder, slowly stir in some water. Just enough to make a thick, creamy consistency. Keep grinding the paste for a few minutes to make sure there are no small, unbroken lumps left.

The final step is to scoop the recycled paint into a container. These little plastic sauce containers come from the local Thai restaurant – a couple of dollars for a plastic bag full. A piece of masking tape with details identifying the brand and color is a good idea before you throw away the empty tube.

WARNING

Some pigments contain heavy metals such as Cobalt and Cadmium (check the warnings on the tube). Be careful not to breathe in or swallow the dust off these. Wear a suitable mask if in doubt.

.

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

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

TRIAL AND ERROR

.
When writing magazine articles, I usually try to have a nice clean start to finish demonstration, free of  problems or corrections. With this painting, however, I ran into a period of indecision and confusion. Rather than put it aside for something else, I decided to make the eventual solution to the problem the subject of the article.

This article will appear in the next issue of International Artist Magazine.
Sometimes a painting will happily sail along to a certain point, then, seemingly without reason, grind to a halt.  An indecisive moment perhaps, not enough planning, a lack of concentration, who knows? What ever the cause it can be a frustrating and time-consuming experience. Short of putting the painting aside and forgetting it, the best solution sometimes is to plough on fearlessly and see what happens.
This painting, of a small Tuscan farm, was going well right up till it was almost finished. For some reason I was not quite happy with the result. I was unsure where to go.  After looking at the painting for a couple of weeks I still could not put my finger on what the problem was. The only solution was to try out a few options – play with it till something started to emerge.
.
Mixed Media on Canvas  1200×1200
.
.

My rough thumbnail sketch certainly was rough, but I was happy with the composition. The old Fiat tractor eventually snuck its way in, off to the left of the farmhouse.

.

Initial drawing was done with a charcoal pencil and the first big areas of paint were roughed in with a 2″ brush
.
.

A little more modeling took place, then a few dark shapes were added. So far, so good!

.

.

Perhaps this is where things started to get confusing. Too much color too quickly. I threaded some strong green through the top of the painting then, rather than trying to subdue it, attempted to counter the green with strong reds and pinks.After much head scratching I decided to knock back the pinks and put more light into the large foreground. The single dark shape in the immediate foreground was causing distraction and not really saying much. It needed a little more definition and a stronger link to the main focal point.

.

.

The foreground was broken up with the suggestion of grape vines. Not too much detail – just enough information to add some meaning as the eye moves across the foreground. The line linking the foreground to the focal point was also strengthened. The pink roof was changed to a more terracotta color just to see the effect.

.

.

Not happy with the warm terracotta roof I decided to go back to the cooler pink. After much trial and error, I finally found a balance between the pink and green. Working the pink from the main focal point down the curve of the road and into the foreground.

.

.

This detail shows the vegetable garden put in with a combination of fine acrylic lines painted with a rigger brush, charcoal pencil marks and areas of colored acrylic. Although many of the details are repeated, I have varied their color, shape and tone to keep the detail interesting.

.

.

The building detail shows how the loose, spidery charcoal lines add a sketchy quality to the areas of detail. The small patches of cool green and blue add interesting relief to the areas of warm color.

.

.

Next to the masked roof of the shed is the old Fiat tractor, barely suggested with roughly scribbled charcoal pencil.

..

JOIN ME FOR A WORKSHOP IN ITALY THIS MAY.

Discover the spectacular beauty of Sicily and Sorrento
MON. MAY 17 TO SUN. MAY 30, 2010

This workshop offers 14 days of painting and adventure. Starting in spectacular Sorrento, the entrance to the Neapolitan Coast then traveling to  Sicily, Italy’s most historically cosmopolitan region surrounded by the beautiful blue waters of the Mediterranean.

Click here for details

.

SUGGESTING DETAIL

Italian Village
.
When faced with a complex, detailed subject, the temptation is often to try and include every detail. This approach can lead to a confusing overload of information. In this demonstration we will concentrate on simplifying and suggesting detail. Our approach will be to decide on an area of interest to serve as our focal point or centre of interest, then simplify and suggest detail in the rest of the painting.
.
MATERIALS
Paper
1/2 sheet 300gsm (140lbs) Cold Pressed
Colors
Ultramarine Blue
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Quinacridone Gold
Ink – Burnt Sienna and Dip Pen
Brown Pastel Pencil
Brushes
1″  Bristle Brush
1″ and 1/4″ Flat brushes
No. 2 Rigger Brush
3″ Hake Brush
.
This little village, high above the sea on the coast of Italy makes a wonderful subject. The impact of the weathered textures and subdued colors can be amplified by focusing attention on the area of the bell tower and simply suggesting the detail in the right hand side of the village.
.
A quick thumbnail sketch will help organise the composition for your painting. I have decided to spread the interest horizontally across the painting then contrast it with a  dark diagonal band from the top left to the bottom right. The top right and lower left areas will be left virtually untouched.
.
Quinacridone Gold, Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson are all we need to mix all the colors in this painting
.
DRAWING AND FIRST WASHES
Simply block in the major shapes with a brown pastel pencil. More detail can be drawn in as the painting progresses if necessary. The entire area above the village is first wet with clean water before a wash of Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Gold and Alizarin Crimson is worked diagonally through the background. Vary the mixture from a warm, dirty yellow to a cool grey. The same colours can then be roughly washed through the dry paper in the foreground. All these early washes are best applied with an old 1″ bristle brush. (The cheap house painting type are ideal).
A loose soft suggestion of background trees works much better than carefully painting in the line of trees in the photograph.
.
BUILDING SHAPES
Using various combinations of our three colours and a 1″ flat brush, we can suggest the shapes for the various buildings. Keep the tones fairly light at this stage. We can always make them darker but it’s a bit more difficult to make them lighter if we need to.
Vary the size and shape of the buildings to keep them interesting
.
DARKER BUSHES AND WINDOWS
Once all the building shapes are dry we can use our three colors to mix up a nice rich dark – aim for a color something like Burnt Sienna. Splash it on fairly loosely with your old 1″ bristle brush, then quickly rinse out the brush, dry it slightly and run it around the edge of some of the marks you have just made. This will make the edges bleed out and soften, helping tie the shapes to the rest of the painting.
Before these shapes dry, drop a couple of spots of pure Ultramarine into the lower part of the bushes. This gives them a more three dimensional appearance. Use your 1/4″ flat brush to paint in some of the windows. Remember to vary their shape, tone and colour slightly.
When you paint the bushes, try to think of them as shapes that will suggest bushes rather than trying to carefully render a realistic looking bush.
.
Use a clean, damp brush to soften and feather out the top edge of the bush shapes.
.
BUILDING TEXTURES
To help reinforce the centre of interest, we will add some brick textures to some of the walls. Spread a few small, less noticeable areas of brick into other parts of the painting, but keep the texture in the centre of interest strong and definite
The detailed brick texture at the centre of interest holds attention in this area. Adding softer, less defined brick textures to a few of the other buildings maintains unity and helps tie the centre of interest to the rest of the painting.
.
A flat 1/4″ brush is perfect for putting brick texture into some of the walls. Keep the lines of bricks roughly horizontal and stager the brick joints.
.
IMPACT THROUGH CONTRAST
The final step is to add some depth and drama to the painting by darkening the background behind the centre of interest and the lower right foreground.
Before we do this though, a few fine pen lines sprayed with a fine mist of water will add some interesting textures to the buildings.
Burnt Sienna ink works well. Spray it as soon as it’s applied and it will produce fantastic spidery lines. Have a tissue or some paper towel handy as the results are a bit unpredictable and you may need to do some quick tidying up.
The dark contrast behind the main building is a combination of our three colours. Wet the area behind the building first so the top edge of the wash feathers out softly. A dry Hake brush can be used to help even out the wash.
Apart from the detail at the centre of interest, most of the painting is fairly loose and suggested. There is enough information there for the viewer to know what is happening but much of the painting requires some sort of viewer interpretation making it much more engaging than an overload of carefully rendered detail.
 

.