Sunday, 27 May 2012

Traditional Colour Wheels

Colour Wheel  2
Winsor Yellow, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and Permanent Rose
Watercolour on Paper
9cm x 28cm (7.5" x 11")

I’ve been living in a hotel this week and it has given me the opportunity to follow another of Maggie Latham’s Exploring Colour in Watercolour tutorials.

Her first tutorial explores traditional colour wheels.  You divide a circle into 12 sections, pick a yellow, a blue and a red to act as primary colours and paint them them at 1 o'clock, 5 o'clock and 9 o'clock. You mix the secondary colours (green, orange and violet) and paint them midway between the primaries. You mix the tertiaries (yellowy green , bluey green, etc) and paint them between the secondaries and the primaries. Finally, you mix all three primaries together to create a variety of neutral browns and greys.

I am surprised how much I learnt from this simple exercise. There are the simple practicalities about mixing big enough pools of the primaries to mix the secondaries and tertiaries. I also learnt about paints I've been using since I started painting.

Colour Wheel 1
Indian Yellow, French Ultramarine and Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Watercolour on Paper
19cm x 28cm (7.5" x 11")

Colour Wheel 1 (Indian Yellow, French Ultramarine and Permanent Alizarin Crimson) are stalwarts of my palette. I always thought they were bright colours until I painted Colour Wheel 2 (Winsor Yellow, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) and Permanent Rose). I knew these colours were brighter, but I am amazed by how much they leap off the page. The secondaries and tertiaries are vibrant, but the neutrals are not very neutral. Unless you get the colours perfectly balanced, one of them jumps to the front and shouts look at me.

The colours in Colour Wheel 1 are more subdued, but the neutrals are more sophisticated and easier to achieve - these are colours that are going to discretely slip into the background of a painting.

Colour Wheel 3
Transparent Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Windsor Red
Watercolour on Paper
19cm x 28cm (7.5" x 11")

Colour Wheel 3 (Transparent Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Windsor Red) was a revelation. I’ve only used Cerulean Blue in very pale washes. Maggie mentioned that it granulated, but it is crazy. It doesn’t want to mix with water or any other paints. All the mixes with Cerulean are highly granulated. If you are looking for a smooth wash, they are a disaster. If you are trying to create texture, this might be just what you want.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Extended Gesture Study of the Head

Extended Gesture Study
10 May 2012
Graphite Pencil on Paper
36cm x 47cm (14.25" x 18.5")

The extended gesture study begins with a gesture drawing (see Gesture Drawing), which you refine to show contours and to make the proportions more accurate (see Section 13).

The drawing at the top of the post is an extended gesture drawing of Elaine's head. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look much like her. It has long hair, the right number of eyes, a nose and a mouth, but that is about where the similarity ends.

Kimon Nicolaides stresses the purpose of the exercise is to create a study of a head and not to think about creating a portrait or likeness. This is difficult advice to follow. It is an easy concept, but when we draw someone’s face, we want it to look like him or her. I can pretend that I don’t. but I do.

Nicolaides acknowledges this and even suggests using strangers as subjects so that creating a likeness becomes less important.

The extended gesture drawing exercise is a bigger challenge than I expected. I am finding it difficult and time consuming to accurately measure and draw the relative proportions of a face or body.

This drawing of Elaine provides a good example. I became so bogged down in measuring angles and relative dimensions that I lost the gestures in her features, which is why it doesn't look like her.

Nicolaides talks about the need for effort and I am working harder on these exercises than on any of the previous exercises. They are a struggle, but I feel as though a breakthrough is imminent.

I am beginning to realise:
  • If time is limited, I need to focus on gesture and sacrifice accurate proportions
  • I should align things correctly before trying to measure them

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Be Brave With Colour

English Bull Terrier
Watercolour on Paper
21.5cm x 26cm (8.5" x 10.25")

The subject for the May meeting of the Shelford Group of Artists was Be Brave with Colour. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t the exercise Tony Slater had planned. He started by laying a tarpaulin over the floor. We mixed up a load of paints, wet our paper and then tipped the contents of our palettes over the paper.

After the paint had settled and dried, we tried to identify imagery in the mixtures of colours. We spent the rest of the sessions bring these subjects to life.

I couldn’t see anything in my wash apart from a variety of animal faces - everything from a little bunny to a hippopotamus. Tony was keen on the hippopotamus, but I decided on the English Bull Terrier. The deciding factor was that I have a blurry photo of one on my laptop and I didn’t fancy painting a hippopotamus (or any animal) without some kind of reference material.

I developed the picture with the techniques I used when painting  Moo! and Jack. I was a little rusty and could benefit from watching Jean Haines' Amazing Ways with Watercolour DVD again.

It’s not a masterpiece, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon and it’s inspired me to paint some more animals - I'm particularly inspired to model the physique of the dog.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Tonal Studies

Porthmeor Beach
Watercolour on Paper
13.5cm x 18.5cm (5.25" x 7.25")

Maggie Latham is writing an informative series of tutorials about Exploring Colour in Watercolour. She is being very generous with her knowledge.

In the third post, she explores the use of water in creating tonal value.

For some time, I’ve intended to experiment with painting tonal sketches. Maggie’s tutorial has provided the spur for me to start. An extra incentive is I am spending a lot of time in hotels and I’ve been looking for something to do in the evenings. Until now, I have shied away from painting because of transporting my painting paraphernalia, but I can cope with the one brush and one tube of paint I need for this tutorial.

The first assignment is to paint a value scale from black to white in 10 steps – starting with almost pure pigment and then adding more and more water to create lighter and lighter greys.

Tonal Scales
Watercolour on Paper
28cm x 38cm (11" x 15")

In my first attempt (the leftmost), I added a brush full of water between each step. In the last few sections, I added more water because the mix wasn’t becoming light enough.

In the second attempt (the middle one), I added 2 brushes of water between each step.

In the third attempt (the rightmost), I started by adding one brush of water and gradually increased the amount of added water as I moved down the page.

I intend to repeat these scales using a more scientific approach. I will print a 10 step grey scale, and attempt to replicate the tones while making notes about how much water I add.

After the scales, the tutorial progresses to painting tonal sketches. Maggie’s guidance is to work without a preliminary pencil sketch and to build the pictures up in layers working from light to dark.

Saint Michael's Mount
Watercolour on Paper
18cm x 13cm (7" x 5")

The pictures on this post are coastal views from Devon and Cornwall. I painted them with a number 10 round brush. It would have been nice to use a rigger to create some finer lines, but I need to practice painting details with a larger brush.

Towards Stoke Fleming
Watercolour on Paper
18.5cm x 13cm (7.25" x 5")

When I am next away from home I will paint more of these studies. I may even start working on the rest of Maggie’s tutorials because if I can cope with packing 1 tube of paint, I must be able to manage 3 or 4 tubes.