Monday, December 6, 2021

"Parc de La Tete d'Or in Lyon, France" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"Parc de La Tete d'Or in Lyon, France"


Dappled light is the spotted light which comes through gaps in a tree canopy and produces the feeling of light and the airy, cheerful mood in a landscape and cityscape. In order for dappled light to occur, we need two conditions: bright sunny weather and the presence of deciduous trees with leaves. On a bright sunny winter day, you may have cast shadows of trees, but no dappled light. On overcast days, you don't get dappled light either.


"Autumn Park" Demo Painting

After drawing the design lightly with watercolor pencils, I painted the first layer of wash, starting with the sky holes with the mixture of cobalt blue and cobalt turquoise light (Winsor Newton). I let it dry first before proceeding to paint the light yellows and oranges of the big tree leaf shape. I continued blocking in the yellow green shape of the grass, the two orange shapes along the path, and the path itself with quinacridone gold. Keep everything light (value) and bright (chroma). We are painting light! 

 Before moving on to the second layer, I talked about how to mix greens (leaves), purples (cast shadows and dappled light on the path), and browns tree trunks and branches). Mixing greens are easy enough; add a blue to a yellow. But which blue and yellow? It depends. By mixing them with one blue at a time, I proved both yellow and blue make a difference, but it's actually yellows that seem to have a bigger impact on the results: a spring green (winsor lemon), foresty green (quinacridone gold and cadmium orange), or in-between green (cadmium yellow pale).

 The bottom line is that if you want a lighter, warmer green, add more yellow and if you want a darker, cooler green, add more blue or go for a darker blue (ultramarine blue or winsor blue). When greens get dark enough, you have to switch to purples! My go-to purple mixture is that of ultramarine blue and permanent alizarin crimson.



For browns, think the complementary colors of blues and oranges/red oranges. The classic mixture is Jane's Gray (ultramarine blue and burnt sienna by Daniel Smith). You can also mix cobalt blue with burnt sienna to make a homemade sepia. Cadmium red and cobalt blue make a beautiful purplish brown. Add winsor violet to cadmium orange with enough water, you get a luminous brown (again think complementary colors)!


I layered and layered with an increasingly darker colors on the leaves, grasses, trees, and painted shadows on the path. I splattered and made leaf-like, organic-looking brushstrokes. In order to create a sunny-looking painting, you need a light, mid-tones, and darks. Many darks are purples. Greens can have many values from light yellow green to dark blue green.

As you can see the group critique on Sunday afternoon, everybody did a fabulous job! You learned a great deal about the importance of value above all else! You learned the various qualities of color: value, temperature and chroma (intensity). You learned the basics of how to control edges to create soft edges. In my experience as a watercolor instructor, students have a lot of trouble grasping the concept of color temperature. The control of edges is very hard indeed. But it's the value that stumps the most.

In terms of paint handling, I emphasized the importance of using enough water! Some of you learned to use enough paint to overcome the anemic look that is common among beginners. But in order to achieve the juicy, watery look of the finish painting, one must use enough water.

And let's not forget not overmixing! I looked at some of your palettes and I see completely mixed batches of greens, browns, purples, etc. Your palette should have batches of half mixed colors that show both colors at each ends so that you can use both warm and cool sides of the same mixture.

I hope to see you in the future either in my online classes or in in-person workshops. I will be teaching the "Watercolor Portraits" class on Thursday 1-4 pm and the Watercolor from Start to Finish class on Saturday 9:30 am - 12:30 am. I am planning to teach the "Painting Sunsets in Watercolor" workshop on April 2 & 3.

If you are on Facebook, please join my private Facebook group that is only open to my past and current students. It's safe and friendly place where you can post your art and follow what's going on in my studio and classes. 


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