Friday, October 14, 2011

Golden Moment

"Golden Moment" Watercolor on 300lb Arches Cold Press

Oh my, it’s been so long since I posted last. Whatever have I been doing?

Well, I embarked on my study of watercolor. One needs paints. Which ones? That lead me to books on techniques that specialized in glazing, mixing, textures, and color theory for palette selection. 

Along the paint education path I found Hillary Page’s encyclopedic reference book, Guide to Watercolor Paints. I learned a great deal about pigments, light-fastness, why certain ones mix better than others according to their light refraction curve, paint names, and how paint handling varies by manufacturer. Wow. I love this stuff. I sadly dumped some Holbein favorites that were not light-fast, others that were opaque, and ordered some Winsor Newton and Daniel Smith paints to go with the remaining Holbein favorites.

I spent months mixing colors and creating charts to explore and document proportions between 2 mixed colors. In every chart was a surprising discovery. I could be a professional chart maker. (LOL)
Finally in June I felt ready to try putting the elements together into a painting. The first one worked out well enough, but I won’t publish it here, because it was soon eclipsed.

The second pass was with a very flawed photo of Alocasia leaves as seen in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Fortunately I had a good memory and my trusty Photoshop to help me find my way back to inspiration.

I used wet in wet to mingle complimentary colors into browns. I carved in veins while wet. I masked to save hard edges. I mixed and glazed and painted wet on dry. Finally, I used Pitt Pen to build in texture and contrast in passages.

**I have since darkened that pale stripe up the center leaf...but have not re-photographed because it is now framed.

The knowledge gem that this piece delivered was about the additive property of colors in glazing.

The background was giving me fits. Having removed it twice, this final pass produced results I could accept.

I began with a rich coat of Hooker green (which is PG7 and PY150-Nickel Azo). It was grass ‘green’ so I glazed it with a coat of Holbein Peacock Blue (PB15-Phthalo blue + PG7) which I had used in the large leaf already. I did not get blue green. I got a richer Hooker green. Why? The extra layer of PG7 and the fact that PB15 and PY150 make green, I had nothing BUT green on the paper! Note to self.

I wanted it to be earthier and much darker, so I mixed Hooker green with Quinacridone Burnt Orange (also already in the painting) until it was a perfectly balanced coffee brown. What I got was a rich forest green now with a granulated brown texture. Hooker does have a slight granulating tendency, but it doesn’t always show up. Another batch of rich coffee-colored glaze, and I had finally found the value and texture I had been seeking. Lucky me!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fortunate Event Number 4

This fall stacked up to be a series of fortunate events that began when the printer head clogged beyond repair. Weeks of brain-draining research and assessment later, that decision was made which opened up art card printing right about the same time I was making concept break-throughs that needed a different media than Pastels. I just didn't want to even think about these using pastels.

That's where I was back in November when I discovered Joseph Raffael. He was featured in Watercolor Magazine. After a visit to his website I bought his book, (which I highly recommend). I fell in love with his process and especially his older work. In it I saw what floats around in my head: A mixture of abstraction, realism, and jewel-tone color. It combined neatly with what I was discovering about value, color inversion, and abstraction through Photoshop.

So in the first week of December we had a morning with pretty light. I went to the garden to see what could be found – Joseph Raffael abstraction+realism still strongly in mind. For an instant I was disappointed-what will I find in a garden of brown bushes and sticks? And then I kicked myself. “Think like an artist, look for the shapes of shadow and light, the edges, the movement of these shapes and spaces…color can come later.”

Here is 'Spirea Dreams 3' from that session. There were quite a few that worked out (7) and I had fun turning them into cards…which I’ll post on the card blog. I keep thinking they would make really cool watercolors if done much larger than life. It will be a while before my watercolor legs are strong enough to take on a project like that, so until then, the digital versions are really cool.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Year, New Directions

Happy New Year everyone. It’s been a while since I posted, but a series of fortunate events has kept me quite distracted.

Since I first entertained this idea of learning to paint and becoming an artist I have been racking my brain to get a fix on my visual voice. Knowing what it looks like drives selections in reference work, media, and focus. I knew it was nearby, practically underfoot, but I could not get a solid glimpse of it. This led to a feeling of creative resistance as I made myself do ‘something’ until I could figure it out.

 Two of the fall events led to what you see today. First, I began to explore the Photoshop filters and an adjustment layer I had never tried. These tools allowed me to explore the relationship of nature’s values in an image to the visibility of the architectural design in the image. I found that frequently the brights and darks were in the wrong places, and the mid-tones suffered from tonal muddiness. This is just nature, but it is also why we don’t even SEE what’s right in front of us. I don’t have any qualms about turning values and colors on their heads if it helps me find the music. Reality is overrated.

In this image we see the photo crop of the tree canopy. The sky is brightly overcast and the branches dark. This means that the sky fights with the red canopy for attention, and the branches are a non-item.
However, change the sky to black, the branches to white, and tweak the mid-tones into a neutral...and vio-la! Now the branches and canopy are subject and the sky recedes into graphic support.

That was so much fun I tried different color combinations of sky and foliage and found that I could do a whole series with one image. Now I really think these would benefit from watercolor as the backgrounds have lost their luminance, and with dark branches they would benefit from a ‘cleaning up’, but it’s exciting to see the possibilities laid out so clearly.

This break through begged the question: Now what? Is digital art 'the' medium or is this just a step towards painting? Is Pastel really what you want to use for this crisp graphical look? More on the answer in the next post.