Sunday, November 14, 2021

"Annie" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")

"Annie" (watercolor, 12" x 9")


I decided to blog about my online Zoom classes with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA. This is what we did in the eighth week of the fall term, 2021 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class. 

First, I finished "Siberian Tiger" by glazing using the same colors as the last week to make the painting more vibrant and model the form a little bit.
"Siberian Tiger" (pen and watercolor, 9" x 12")

 The main business of the day was painting "Annie" in sepia. To make sepia, we used only burnt sienna (my favorite is Daniel Smith) and cobalt blue. The below is the value scales and color swatches I made to test values. The value 1 is the white of the paper (highlights). The value 7 is as dark as it gets with the mixture of the two colors. The value 9 is black.  

"Values Scales and Color Swatches"

Many beginners have trouble reading values and translating them into colors. By using a sepia (or black and white) reference, we can remove the puzzle; by using only one neutral color (sepia in this case), we can remove the difficulty of reading colors in values. This value exercise is invaluable and used by many instructors. We are trying a portrait, which is a whole new ball game with its snares and pitfalls, but here we go. You can do it!

I first painted the background wet on wet with the value 3 wash (slightly bluer than the subject). When the paper dried, I started with the lightest wash, covering the entire area of the subject, except the lightest parts (highlights, including the catch light of her left eye). Don't make this layer too dark!

In between layers, dry the paper thoroughly. We are glazing, so paper should be bone dry. At each stage, we mixed a slightly darker batch; mix more than you think necessary. By the fourth layer, we got everything done, except the pupils. The darkest bits in the face are usually the upper lash lines, nostrils, and the line between lips. The pupils are black (or near black in this case).

The biggest challenge in a value study is to read values correctly, of course. With a soft and round face of a young girl, it is not easy, but I believe the exercise forces you to be decisive in your value reading. Do your best to preserve the white of the paper for the highlights at the beginning and don't forget to put in some darks at the end. As you can see, the majority of the painting was done in mid-tones. Most paintings require five to six values and you rarely need full nine scales. Without the highlights and darks, however, the painting will lose its impact.

Let's revisit "Holmes Run Rocks" of three weeks ago. I turned my class demo into a black and white and it still reads, doesn't it? From now on, if you are having trouble reading the values of your reference or your work in progress, do the same. Things will be much clearer to you! 

"Holmes Run Rocks in Black and White"

"Homes Run Rocks" (watercolor, 12" x 9")

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