Sunday, 30 October 2016

Five-Value Monochrome Study

St Peter's For Bob
Five-Value Monochrome Study
Watercolour On Paper
26cm x 18cm (10" x 7")

Liz Steel recently recommended Watercolor Painting by Tom Hoffmann.

The subtitle of the book is “A Comprehensive Approach to Mastering the Medium”. It contains an interesting mixture of guidance, exercises and experiments. In the introduction Tom says:
The focus in this book is on awareness rather than technique. it is important to know how to make a warm, neutral, graded wash, but it takes a different set of skills to know when that particular technique is called for.
I want to spend more time learning to paint in watercolour and this book provides exactly the sort of structure I need.

The first exercise is to create a Five-Value Monochrome Study. Tom recommends this as the ideal initial study for a new subject because it helps to explore the role that value plays in the relationship between the major shapes.

He stresses the purpose of the exercise is not to create a carefully observed monochrome painting. The result is supposed to look too simple because the best way to find out if something needs to be in the picture is to leave it out.

I tried the exercise on a relatively unpromising photograph.

St Peter's For Bob - Source Photo

The first instruction is to break the subject down into at most 10 shapes. This turned into a challenge and I resorted to printing the picture and drawing shapes on it, but still couldn’t get below 14. I will try harder next time, but bent the rules just this once.

St Peter's For Bob - Sorting Out The Shapes

The study was a sequence of disasters. I mixed the first pale wash too dark and didn’t make enough of it, so I ended up with some blooms and a quite unpleasant looking result. I didn’t leave it to dry sufficiently, so when I applied the second wash, it just bloomed into the first. Making everything look even more unpleasant and not leaving much differentiation between the lighter tones.

With all these difficulties, the study is still a success because I’ve learnt a lot from it – the obvious lessons about mixing enough paint and leaving washes to dry, but also some subtler ones about how I want to paint the subject.

My intention for the picture is for the church and memorial to appear imposing, but the overall atmosphere to be positive and full of light - early on a bright summer morning.

The simple study indicates both of these objectives are possible. The church is commanding and there is a sense of space and light around it.

The shaft of sunlight in front of the church joining with the highlight on the right-hand bushes and trees is an important part of the picture. This is something I need to emphasise in the final work along with the light spilling around the edge of the church.

One of my biggest concerns for the picture is the copper beech on the left. Will the tree be believable without including its trunk in the picture? I think it is going to be ok.

Perhaps the most important result is the study has enthused me to paint the picture. The second exercise is a two-layer geometric sketch which I’m looking forward to trying next.

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