Sunday, May 22, 2022

"Queen Anne's Lace Lake" (watercolor and gouache on paper; 12" x 9")


"Queen Anne's Lace Lake"


The following is the description of what we did in the fifth week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week we explored the mixed media of watercolor and gouache. Whenever you add a little white gouache to watercolor, the latter turns into an opaque medium of gouache. Please check out James Gurney's YouTube video on "Painting Peonies with Watercolor". In this video, you will learn the nuts and bolts about plein-air painting and how to paint tree peonies in watercolor and gouache. He is a world-famous painter of many mediums; he is one of the most creative artists I know of.

"Queen Anne's Lace Lake" involves the hard/soft edge handling as well. After drawing the design, we wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly and first painted along the horizon (both above and below) with a very pale winsor lemon (if you are heavy-handed with lemon, your sky will turn green!), then painted the rest of the sky and water in cobalt blue.

After drying the paper, we wetted this time the sky shape only and dropped the greens (lemon and cobalt blue) and purples (French ultramarine and permanent alizarin crimson) to suggest the distant trees. If your paper is too wet, you will lose control and the distant trees will be as tall as the middle-ground tree. Drop purples generally along the horizon, but don't be automatic. Refer to my painting. At one go, I created the impression of the soft-edged distant tree line with layers of tall and short trees.

After the paper dried, we wetted this time the water and tall middle-ground tree shape. We dropped purples for the reflections of the distant trees along the horizon and the reflections of the tall tree and middle-ground land shape. We also dropped greens and purples for the tall tree. Make sure the tall tree shape looks like a tree, not a mitten! If you haven't wetted the paper thoroughly, you will have hard edged reflections!

While the paper is still damp, make grass strokes in the foreground with various greens and even some purples for dark shadows in between grasses. 

When the paper dried, we pained the middle ground land shape (now hard edges are happening for definitions).

Time for gouache! Whenever we use gouache, we have to use it with much less water. If you use it in the consistency of watercolor (with lots of water), gouache practically disappears. Whenever we mix watercolor with white gouache, the mixture dries about two value scales darker (the opposite of watercolor).

Keeping these two things in mind, stipple dots with the watercolor/gouache mixture of appropriate colors in the tall tree, middle-ground land shape, and middle-ground reflections in the water. These dots suggest the tree foliage, distant Queen Anne's lace and their reflections in the watercolor.

For the foreground, we are also using the watercolor/gouache mixture, but in a more controlled manner, tiny dots for the Queen Anne's lace flower heads, elongated strokes for the cattails, and long grass-like strokes for the tall grasses
Make sure that the flowers or cattails don't have the same heights or are not evenly spread out as if they are a marching band. The grasses should have different heights and some should reach all the way to the middle-ground land shape. Grasses should have a variety of greens; stroke in some ocher-colored grasses and dark blue shapes for a variety as well. 

At the end, as the icing on the cake, I painted the tiny water lilies in the water using permanent rose and gouache.

As you can see, introducing a white gouache to watercolor opens a whole new world to the watercolorist. We can go not only from light to dark as the medium dictates, we can also go dark to light. Freedom it allows us may not be for all watercolorists, but I embrace it whole-heartedly!

"Amsterdam Jordaan Neighborhood" (oil on linen; 6" x 8") sold




 In 2017  my husband and I visited the Netherlands. For me, it was to visit its world-class museums. We stayed in Amsterdam at the beginning and end of our two-week-long trip. I loved this charming city! Do you know it has the highest density of museums in a square mile in the world? It has even a museum of purses, which I had to stop by! People are easy-going and speak English better than us. You have to watch out for the bicyclists, though.

Admire the neat row of townhouses by a canal in the famous Jordaan neighborhood of Amsterdam. In the foreground, red geraniums bloom in planters hung over the bridge. A quintessential Amsterdam view in a miniature! This is the second time that I painted this particular image and the painting sold right away in both occasions. Another reason why I love Amsterdam!


Friday, May 20, 2022

"Sabrina at Dean Village, Edinburgh" (watercolor on paper, 8" x 10")


"Sabrina at Dean Village, Edinburgh"


The following is what we did in the fifth week of the spring term, 2022 in my "Watercolor Portraits" class (my online Zoom classes with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week I finished "Sabrina at Dean Village, Edinburgh". It is an independent project with the focus on painting a subject with glasses/sun glasses. She is wearing the shades with a metal wire frame and brown, ombre lenses. What I did was paint around the frame and at the very end of the session, I toned it lightly with yellow ochre (quinacridone gold would have worked too) with the a few exceptions of highlights (left untouched). Then I gave the frame dark accent wherever appropriate. However thin the wire is, it still has a volume, so be careful about where you add the dark accent strokes (it can be the top or bottom or the entire width of the thin frame) if you have a similar situation.

The lenses were painted at the same as when I was developing the skin tones, which required three or four further layers, each additional layer becoming increasing deeper. I used cadmium red, Sennelier helios purple, cadmium yellow pale, permanent sap green (in the philtrum and below the lower lip areas), ultramarine violet, brown madder, perylene maroon, and quite a bit of perylene violet (for the dark form shadows around the cheek and chin and in the neck as well as inside the lenses).

Lately I have been avoiding using cobalt blue in skin tones; instead I seem to be using perylene violet, which is a dark, muted violet. The reason behind is that blue (either cobalt or ultramarine blue) can lead to too blue purples in shadows.

Sometimes you may see the eyes, as in my case. There aren't going to be any pure whites of the eyes due to the dark tint of the lenses. After a few layers, I painted around the eye shapes (the pencil lines had disappeared long ago; you may want to redraw the lines with pencil if you feel nervous about "drawing with brush", which I do all the time). Suddenly the "whites" of the eyes appeared; values being relative, the lighter-valued shapes were, because of their shapes and locations, obviously now the "whites of the eyes".

I painted the irises with dark color; when it was still damp, I added the pupils with neutral tint. I also gave the darker lines along the upper lash lines, and darkened the inner and outer corners of the eyes, as I would have done in any portrait.

I didn't have any exciting reflection shapes, which you get sometimes inside the lenses. I did, however, have the exciting, wing-shaped cast shadows on the subject's cheek areas. I used warm/cool colors to develop these shadows with hard edges.

I paid a particular attention to the hard and soft edges. The form shadows have soft edges and the cast shadows usually have hard edges. The contrast of the two give the finished portrait the pizazz, I believe.

This attention to the edge quality (that is the artistic term) applies to the hair, of course. You will see in the recording how I further developed the hair (using indigo and perylene violet).

Sunday, May 15, 2022

"South Downs Fog" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"South Downs Fog"


The following is the description of what we did in the fourth week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week we explored the aerial perspective through "South Downs Fog". The aerial perspective is the phenomenon that occurs in nature in which the farther things (let's say, mountains) are, the lighter (value), duller (chroma), and bluer (hue) they appear. The details also disappear progressively as the distance between the viewer and things increases. The phenomenon is caused by the presence of dust, pollution and moisture. The following images from the internet are good examples of the aerial perspective.

How do we achieve the aerial perspective in watercolor? Watercolor is ideal for painting this sort of landscape situation. We have been exploring the wet-on-wet variegated wash for the last two weeks and that is precisely what we used to create the soft, diffused look of the distant hills in the reference. Since we go light to dark and soft to hard edges, we established the general atmosphere in the first wet-on-wet layer.

We wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly and painted in horizontal strokes, using cobalt blue, permanent alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue (the last two make purple). At the very bottom of the paper, you may want to use a little winsor lemon with cobalt blue to paint the light yellow green field. Dry the paper.

The rest of the painting was painted on dry paper to create crisp top treelines, using stippling method (reminiscent of Seurat's pointillism). A small round brush is better than a large one. You have to use enough water, otherwise the dots will dry by the time you stipple the next brushful of different colored dots, therefore not allowing the paints to mix on their own on paper (as supposed to the artist mixing the paints on palette).

If you look at my painting above, you will observe the bottom of each treelines is darker than the top of the treelines. This occurs in nature as the bottom of a tree or treeline doesn't receive as much light as the top. We created the illusion by starting each treeline with the dark purple mixture of ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson.  Immediately we switched to stippling with the darker green mixture of ultramarine blue and gold and the lighter and brighter green mixture of cobalt blue and cadmium yellow pale (for the top of trees). In the shadow areas, you can stipple with the purple mixture.

Make sure you draw some tree trunks and limbs to suggest these dots are trees. Also connect the dots here and there so that they don't look like a jumble of meaningless dots. Some trees should have more "sky holes" than others for variety.

Before the first dark purple strokes started drying, we stroked cobalt blue shadows to create the soft, fuzzy look. In the case of the first treeline, I stroked the cobalt blue wash diagonally and left some first light yellow green wash intact (to suggest the sun rising and the fog lifting) in this mellow southern English landscape.

For the second treeline, we used slightly less paints to make it lighter; for the third treeline, even less so that the aerial perspective was materialized. The control of values by using less or more paints (or more or less water) isn't easy. In my class demo, I erred on too light a third treeline, which had almost the same value as the fourth treeline. I could have added another layer (glazing), but didn't have time.

The details also were minimized in the third treeline; by the fourth treeline, there was no detail.

At the end I tried the milky white gouache horizontal strokes on the fourth and third treelines to emulate fogs. You can try them too!



Friday, May 13, 2022

"Female Portrait in Full Palette" (watercolor on pape; 12" x 9")


"Female Portrait in Full Palette"


The following is what we did in the third and fourth weeks of the spring term, 2022 in my "Watercolor Portraits" class (my online Zoom classes with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

First we talked about the essential skin colors I use. I highly recommend that you should acquire these paints. I usually start a portrait with a very pale wash over the highlights in the face, neck, and shoulders (if applicable) in Winsor Newton cobalt turquoise light. The mother color of all skin tones is cadmium red; for cool red, I switch to Sennelier Helios Purple (this is a primary color and cannot be mixed successfully). For an area that is getting sun, therefore light and warm, I add a little yellow (cadmium yellow pale works well) to cadmium red.

When I see a little green in the skin tone, I use permanent sap green; when I detect a little blue (either caused by blue sky, clothing, facial hair, or blood veins), I introduce cobalt blue (I don't use French ultramarine blue in the face; I never use Winsor/thalo blue in any skin tones).

"Essential Skin Colors"

Before I started painting the brunette hair of the subject, I made a couple of color swatches: blonde and brunette. This is only the beginning. There are so many colors of human hair; one must continue to experiment how to render them accurately. Again I stand by the colors I use, but you are welcome to come up with your own concoctions.

"Hair Colors"

We started the full-on Caucasian female portrait in full color and will finish in in the first half of the next week's class. I successfully took the screen shots during and at the end of the demo and photoshopped them for you.

I always start the portrait with the background with the wet-on-wet variegated wash. In this painting, I aimed at the loose, mid-tone, yellow green/blue green background that suggests foliage. You have to wet the paper thoroughly and evenly, otherwise you are risking a hell of a mess!

"Screen Shot I"

Then I started painting the brunette hair with very pale cobalt blue highlight, then washed in cadmium orange, thereby created a damp environment to paint burnt sienna, Daniel Smith Piemontite Genuine, and the mixture of Piemontite and Ultramarine blue. (Paint one half at a time).

Hair is all about softness. I had already softened the outer hairline with a small stiff bright oil painter's brush. The reason why I dampened the hair shape with cadmium orange is to paint basically wet-on-wet, because as you know the wet-on-wet technique is all about softness within the shape. Apply the brushstrokes the way the hair grows. If it is straight as this particular subject's hair, use a long, graceful stroke. Think the hair as a series of long light, mid-tone, and dark strands, not individual hair (the same applies to eye brows or any other facial hair).

Many students struggle with hair. (As a matter of fact, many students struggle with everything: background, hair, skin tones, drawing of features, folds of clothes, you name it!) My aim is to make watercolor portraiture accessible to most students and I hope this step-by-step approach helps.

Next, I softened the inner hairline with the lifting brush (there is hardly any painting within which I don't use this brush). Then I started painting the first layer of the skin tones on dry paper, using the pale, watery versions of the above-mentioned essential skin colors (minus cobalt blue, which I used in the second layer).

I didn't mix any colors, except a little cad yellow to cad red in the forehead, etc. Depending on the moisture level of your brush, you may end up with blooms. Don't worry about them. It's sometimes hard to read whether a certain passage is a cool red or a warm red. You can mix the two reds; you can use either red (they are so pale that it doesn't really matter). As we spend more and more time looking at the subject, it becomes clear which area is warm and which area is cool.

"Screen Shot II"

In a light-skin-toned subject, the painting goes fast. I started the second layer, going bolder. I also started painting the features. There are so many things I covered that I am not going to detail them here. Please rewatch the recording.

"Screen Shot III"

Next, I finished the female portrait in full palette. I showed you how to deepen the hair without losing the feeling of softness that was established in the first wash last week. I emphasize the importance of soft texture of any hair. Avoid the liney hair with many fussy strokes and instead focus on the light/dark shapes.

How to create the soft, fuzzy texture in watercolor? Paint with water, i.e., as soon as you put down a linear stroke, rinse your brush, remove the excess water on clean paper towel, and stroke it down one or both sides of the previous stroke. Keep repeating the process until you are satisfied with the hair.

I painted the white blouse by painting pale shadow shapes. I used a variety of colors although the shapes are not very big. You can't paint colorful paintings with just few colors. Get into the habit of dipping into a different color each time you reach out to reload your brush. A wet stroke of Color A, then another wet stroke of Color B, and so on. As long as you control the moisture level of your brush, you will still see color variations in your shapes.

But more than anything else, the big picture of the left side of the white blouse being in light and the right side being in shadow has to be emphasized! Do you see the difference of the left and right sides in the finished portrait?

The skin tones needed to be strengthened a bit and the dark shadows of the neck introduced, so that what I did next. The subject with a fair skin tones doesn't require too many layers of glazing, but it doesn't mean you don't have to deny her colors!

After the break, I talked about how to approach painting the subject with glasses/shades. Less is more! Suggest the frames instead of accentuating them. Remember the frames, no matter how thin, have volumes; sometimes it's necessary to paint planes (especially if the subject is in three-quarters view. If you can't see the subject's eyes, don't invent them. If you see the reflections of interesting shapes, paint them. If the glasses/shades cast strong shadows, paint them.
This is an independent project, so I won't discuss my demo in details. I am painting "Sabrina at Dean Village, Edinburgh". I finished the sky, the background architecture and stream, and her hair before the class and focused on the skin tones for the demo. 

"Sabrina at Dean Village, Edinburgh"

In the image above , you can see the first layer of skin tones. It's very pale, but still gives the impressions of three dimensionality with the adroit use of the highlights (cobalt turquoise light and cadmium yellow pale with a bit of cadmium red) and warm red (cadmium red)/cool red (Helios purple). Something to think about!


Sunday, May 8, 2022

"Double Cherry Blossoms" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"Double Cherry Blossoms"

The following is the description of what we did in the third week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week's lesson was about the edges through painting "Double Cherry Blossoms". We drew the design, then we wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly. The success of the variegated wash depends on how you do this step; don't rush it.

We dropped cobalt blue in the sky holes, pale permanent rose in the sun-struck cherry blossoms, yellow green (winsor lemon and a little cobalt blue) in the grass and trees, and quinacridone gold in the trees, side walk and street. We dried paper until it's bone dry. 

The biggest trap in a cherry blossom painting is paint it all pink and saccharine. One must focus on light and dark shapes. Desaturate the picture and print it out black and white as well as a color version to avoid the trap. We wetted a little more than the top half of the paper and dropped the purple mixture (French ultramarine blue and permanent alizarin crimson) to suggest the cherry blsooms in shadow.

We mixed the dark green (ultramarine blue and gold) and dropped it in the two dark green shapes showing through the gaps in the cherry blossoms in the top left.

So far, the painting has no hard edges. We are going to bring the sunshine by introducing the crisp-edged shadows. The shadow colors vary depending on the local colors: the blue greens (cadmium yellow pale and cobalt blue; I glazed the purple mixture over green here and there later) on the grass and the shadow areas in the distant trees and purples (ultramarine blue and crimson; you may add a little gold for the street) on the sidewalk and street.

I've noticed during the critique session, quite a few of you made the edges of these shadows mushy. Don't be afraid of hard edges. What's problematic (at least for me) is that there are only hard edges in a painting. Hard edges come forward and they can also suggest the sunny condition; soft edges tend to recede, create soft textures and can suggest a damp weather condition. The ability to control the hard/soft edges indicates how advanced you are in your watercolor journey and will open the door for you to paint any subject you wish!

By the way, below is your homework. Please practice mixing greens. Many students hate mixing and painting greens, but we cannot avoid greens, especially in landscapes. It's actually not that hard to mix beautiful greens. Again, it's matter of practice and positive attitude!

Mixing Greens

We painted the tree trunks and limbs with the mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna. Make sure the mid-tone branches in the middle of the cherry blossoms tuck behind the clouds of flowers or dark shadows and not stick out out of nowhere.

Finally, it's time to get messy with the splatters. Cover yourself and the working area because these pesty splatters tend to end up everywhere! We first splattered with permanent rose, then white gouache. Use a small round brush, load it up with enough thick paint and splatter carefully in all directions. Avoid big bombs (caused by too much water in the brush). Nothing happening? Use more water. Don't be half-hearted with these splatters. Do enough of them so that they show!

I avoided these splatters (which suggest the highlights on the flowers) in the shadow areas. I splattered a little bit on the sidewalk and grass. At the end, I decided to splatter the mixture of a little permanent rose and white gouache as well.

Below is my class demo. This is only one way of painting cherry blossoms. You may want to try a different approach with more hard-edged flowers. As long as you include the dark shadows of these delicate flowers, you will have success.

"Double Cherry Blossoms Class Demo"

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

"Enchanting Bluebells" (watercolor on paper; 9" x 12") sold


"Enchanting Bluebells" (sold)


Virginia bluebells are blooming in the Riverbend Regional Park in Great Falls, VA. Let's walk down the path in dappled light together. It is so magical and enchanting that all the worldly worries are forgotten here.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

"Acadia Milky Way Reflections" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"Acadia Milky Way Reflections"


The following is the description of what we did in the second week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week''s lesson was the wet-on-wet variegated wash through painting "Acadia Milky Way Reflections". The way we did it was a little unusual, but the sky is the limit as far as the variegated wash is concerned, and I cannot emphasize its importance in watercolors. 

We drew the design with a HB pencil very lightly. Then we wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly except the land shape below the horizon. The success of the variegated wash depends on how you do this step; don't rush it. There are no fixes when the paper is wet unevenly.

We dropped very pale Winsor lemon, then a little permanent rose in the sky and water, where you see the glows caused by the gazillion stars. Make these pale shapes interesting and somewhat mirror-image (the glow shape in the water is the reflection of the same in the sky!)

Dry paper until it's bone dry (feels room temperature, not cool, to touch). If you rush this drying stage, you are likely to disturb the underlying layer(s). As long as you bone-dry and then wet the paper gently but thoroughly for the next layer with a soft flat brush, you can do this theoretically up to hundred times, although only a few fanatical watercolorists do it!

The next layer was cobalt blue to suggest the night sky. The night sky is usually very dark, almost pitch black, but when there is a full moon, aurora, or a galaxy full of stars, it will look quite colorful. Don't cover the glows from the first layer. Bone-dry the paper and wet it again for the third layer.

We darkened the periphery of the paper with the blue purple mixture of French ultramarine blue (darker than cobalt blue) and permanent rose. Quite a few of you ended up covering up the cobalt blue layer entirely. Please don't. If you haven't wetted the paper nice and evenly, you will by now have many hard edges around the glows in the sky and water. It's game over because the sky and water take up 90% of the painting. We cannot even say they are the background or negative space; they are the painting, the story (plus the stars). Again, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the beautifully executed variegated wash at the beginning of many paintings.

Many beginners feel thwarted by the variegated wash or wet-on-wet technique altogether and decide to stick to the wet-on-dry, paint-by-the numbers-without-numbers technique. If you are one of them, you are limiting your potential. Watercolor is capable of achieving the infinite variety of subtle and not-so-subtle images. You master both the wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry techniques, the world truly becomes your oyster!

If your sky and water are not dark enough, you have to repeat the process. Don't be afraid of using enough paints. Don't paint wishy-washy, anorexic paintings. Nobody swoons over the half-hearted washes.

Now, it's time to paint the small sliver of the land shape. Paint the rocks in three layers: quinacridone gold base, burnt sienna mid-tone cracks, and the dark mixture of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, plus a little gold (for the dark base, some cracks, and reflections of the dark rocks in the water). Using the same dark mixture (don't mix the paints thoroughly ever!), paint also the coniferous tree shape, making sure the farther trees are smaller to have them recede.

Finally, it's time to get messy with the white gouache splatters. Cover yourself and working area because these pesty splatters tend to end up everywhere! And mask the water and trees with two pieces of paper. Use a small round brush, load it up with enough thick paint and splatter carefully in all directions. Avoid big bombs (caused by too much water in the brush). Nothing happening? Use more water. Don't be half-hearted with these splatters. Do enough of them so that they show!
We will be using the splatter technique again. So if you don't like the mess, get over it! It's useful for stars, sands, rocks, or to add some visual noise where nothing of interest is happening.

Friday, April 29, 2022

"Victorian Lady in Sepia" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"Victorian Lady in Sepia"

The following is what we did in the second week of the spring term, 2022 in my "Watercolor Portraits" class (my online Zoom classes with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

First we talked about the important business of the value scales (grayscales). I actually made them for you to see (If you just watched, please try them; it's not as easy as it looks!), using the sepia mixture of cobalt blue and burnt sienna (Daniel Smith). You can also try a black (I like neutral tint by Daniel Smith).

Then we started the main lesson of the day, which was painting a sepia value study of "Victorian Lady", based on a sepia picture taken between 1890 and 1900. We used only burnt sienna (my favorite is Daniel Smith) and cobalt blue. In the value scales, the value 10 is the white of the paper (highlights). The value 2 or 3 is as dark as it gets with the mixture of these two colors. The value 1 is black. The high-key paintings crowd around highlights and mid tones; the low-key paintings (such as tonalist) lack highlights and crowd around mid tones and darks. We won't be using ten values; you can do a convincing portrait with six values. Beginners' paintings often lack highlights and darks and remain in the mid-tone fest!

Sepia Grayscales

I first painted the background with the dark mid-tone variegated wash (slightly bluer and darker along the periphery, giving the subject a brownish halo) on thoroughly wet paper. If your first layer was too light, repeat the process. You have to dry the paper thoroughly before rewetting; otherwise you disturb the first layer. Be as gentle as possible when you are wet-glazing. The variegated background wash is something I do in every single portrait painting; you have to master this technique

Then I started painting the subject with the lightest wash on dry paper, covering the entire area of the subject, except the lightest parts (highlights). Don't make this first layer too dark and make it more brown than blue! The value should be the #9 in the grayscale (called tint).

In between layers, dry the paper thoroughly. We are glazing, so paper should be bone dry. At each stage, I mixed a slightly darker batch by adding a little more of each paint; mix more than you think necessary (you don't want to run out of paint in the middle of the wash!). By the fifth layer, I got everything done; for the darkest layer, I used French ultramarine blue rather than cobalt blue as the former is a darker color. The darkest values are found in the hair, dark trim of the brooch, left-side brow and adjoining dark shadow of the nose, pupils, upper lip (left side), canine fossa and a few folds of the blouse.

For the finishing touch, I used the Sakura gelly roll pen 10 to restore the catchlights in the pupils. You can use instead a white gouache. You can also use a white gouache for the white polka dots and highlights in the neck and lace.

The image below is the class demo; the top image is my sample painting, which is warmer than the demo. The color temperature in photography is called white balance. Even the same painting can look different depending on the lighting condition. The day when I took the picture of the sample painting, it may have been an overcast day that caused the general warmness. Today when I took the picture of the demo, it was a bright sunny condition (the blue of the sky causes the cool temperature).

"Victorian Lady in Sepia" Class Demo

Monday, April 25, 2022

""Medici Fountain at Luxembourg Garden" (oil on linen; 10" x 8") sold




The Medici Fountain (la fontaine M├ędicis) is a monumental fountain in the Luxembourg Garden in the 6th arrondissement in Paris. It was built in about 1630 by Marie de' Medici, the widow of King Henry IV of France and regent of King Louis VIII of France. It was moved to its present location and extensively rebuilt in 1864-66.

I visited the famous fountain in late summer on an overcast day in 2019. In the painting I tried to capture the magical serenity of the place with the pointillist style. Do you think I succeeded?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

"Santa Ana Mountains Wildflowers" (watercolor on paper, 9" x 12")


"Santa Ana Mountains Wildflowers)


The following is the description of what we did in the first week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week's lesson was about painting by numbers without numbers. This is how the beginners start out; one can do the most amazing things with this approach, so no reason to disdain it.

I discussed the properties of color: hue (yellow, orange, red, purple, blue, green, etc), value (light and dark), intensity/chroma (bright and dull), and temperature (warm and cool). I will keep repeating these important concepts, so if you are a little confused, don't worry about it!

To practice the wet-on-dry, paint-by-numbers-without-numbers method, we painted "Santa Ana Mountains Wildflowers". First, we drew the design with a HB pencil with a light touch. The less you use eraser, the better-off you are. If you must, use a kneaded eraser. The watercolor paper must be handled with kid gloves and with tenderness. I emphasize the importance of using an undamaged, good paper (Arches 140lb cold press paper). It comes through layers of watercolor washes and that's why a good watercolor painting glows.

Then we wetted the sky shape only and did a graded wash in cobalt blue. This is the simplest, yet effective way of painting sky and still gives it a sensation of depth. The sky is usually darker at the top and lighter near the horizon. So use more paint at the top and less near the horizon. Making a smooth transition from deeper to lighter tone is much harder than you think. Hence practice the graded wash!

Tilt the paper pad/board a little to utilize gravity. If you are using a stiff flat brush, your job will be tougher. If the wash turns out too light (watercolor dries a couple of value scales lighter; wet paper requires more paint than dry paper), repeat the process. Dry the paper completely, wet the sky shape (if your flat brush is stiff or your strokes are too vigorous, you will remove a lot of the first layer), then drop the cobalt blue. Theoretically you can repeat the process up to hundred times, but who has the time or patience!

The rest is relatively simple; it's matter of blocking in different color shapes, then glazing (adding layers on dry paper). We started with the orange California poppy shapes (mixture of cadmium yellow pale and a little cadmium red), then painted the purple California bluebell shapes (mixture of cobalt blue and permanent rose), and the green grass shapes (mixture of cadmium yellow and cobalt blue).

I glazed the poppy petals in shadow with the red orange mixture of cadmium red and cadmium yellow.

I glazed the distant hill slopes in shadow with the purple mixture of French ultramarine blue and permanent alizarin crimson. I glazed darker purple flowers and darker grasses with the same purple mixture. Yes, purple is a very useful color as greens and blues turn purple when they become really dark. Even reds become purple when they are dark.
In this lesson, you learned to mix paints partially so that two paints can make four colors (for instance, yellow, yellow orange, red orange and red; rose, rose purple, blue purple, blue; yellow, yellow green, blue green, and blue). Never overmix and end up with a homogenized mixture



Monday, April 4, 2022

"Kaena Point Sunset" (watercolor on paper; 9" x 12")


"Kaena Point Sunset"



The following is the wrap-up of the "Painting Sunsets in Watercolor" workshop I taught this weekend at the Art League School in Alexandria, VA.
It has been a great pleasure to have you in my sunset workshop. I hope you learned something to help you in your watercolor journey. Some of you were not familiar with the wet-on-wet variegated wash or painting in layers. But it is generally why we take workshops: to broaden the horizon and try something new. You guys were awesome!

Things to take away? Sunsets are all about the yellow and orange glows and we have to preserve that glow to paint a successful sunset.

Blues and purples are present often in sunsets. Since oranges and yellows are complimentary colors of blues and purples, if we paint them at the same time, they will mix on their own on the  wet paper and result in mud. Hence, we must separate them in layers!

Each time when you wet the paper for the wet-on-wet technique, which helps us to apply paint smoothly without leaving hard edges (and sky, water, and many other things are all about softness), you have to wet the paper thoroughly. And you have to use good paper (we used Arches 140 lb cold press paper)!

Each time when we start the next layer, the paper has to be bone dry! Otherwise you risk stirring up the previous layer(s). If you do this right, you can repeat the process until you can't take it anymore. Lol. You can also wet only part of the paper (sky, water, etc.) depending on your purpose.

We don't always repeat the variegated wash in multiple layers. As I have shown some examples, I sometimes get it done in one or two layers.  So don't think what we did is the norm. It depends!

The reason why repeated the yellow, red orange, and blue layers twice is this: it's better to go gentle and layer than go too strong and do oops. In watercolor, removing paints is much much harder than adding more paints in layers. Go easy and go slow! Patience is the most important virtue in watercolor.

So the end result should be vibrant yellow, red orange and blue. Some of you needed to strengthen blues, right?

When you are satisfied, paint the land shape, tree, boats, or whatever. Hard edges are introduced at this stage and we often paint on dry paper. Darks must be dark enough!

Values are the most important thing in a painting in any medium. If you are plagued by the feeling that your project is not going well, take the picture of your work-in-progress and desaturate the picture using your phone picture editor. You will see your problems right away!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

"Oregon Coast Sunset" (watercolor on paper; 9" x 12")


"Oregon Coast Sunset"

The following is the description of what we did in the nineth week of the winter term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

The spring registration has begun. Please come back in the next term to continue your watercolor journey with me. You guys, so many of whom are beginners, are doing an amazing job! Here is the link for the "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class; here is the link for the "Watercolor Portraits" class, in case you want to move up a notch and challenge yourself even further!

The image you see above is the class demo of "Oregon Coast Sunset" from yesterday. The theme was "Inspired by Tonalism". Tonalism was an American art movement from the late 19th century. Its most prominent practitioners were George Inness and James Whistler (his nocturnes). They used a narrow value range in low chroma colors to create their serene, romantic landscapes.

Admittedly I am not a tonalist; I am more of an impressionist. It doesn't prevent me from exploring this intriguing movement; perhaps there are things for us to glean from their approach to painting landscapes and cityscapes.

We first wetted the paper and brushed in very pale winsor lemon and permanent rose while not touching the blue/white bands along the horiozon. In the next wet-on-wet layer, we did the same thing, this time, with cobalt blue where you see blues. We decided to deepen the colors slightly by doing the third wet-on-wet layer, repeating the same color patterns.

Then we painted the headland on dry paper with the dark mixture of French ultramarine blue and burnt sienna, pushing it more brown and slightly lighter along the horizon to suggest sea fog. While the wash was drying, we continued to establish the rugged terrain of the headland with diagonal strokes. Try not to lose the initial mid-dark wash. Remember this is a tonalist painting! Don't turn the whole headland shape into a black mess; think 3 and 4 in the value scale, not 1 (black) or 2 (near black).

When the headland was dry, I decided to experiment by laying down a horizontal stroke of white gouache over the horizon and headland to suggest sea fog shrouding the view. I put down the white and quickly softened the top and bottom edges of the long stroke. Some headland serrated edges got smeared, but I like the result. This is an optional step; don't do it if you are unsure of your ability. You can easily ruin the painting that is going well so far.

Let's finish the painting by adding a series of horizontal strokes to suggest the incoming waves. The colors are the same as the headland mixture, except lighter. Sometimes we used it bluer; sometimes added a little alizarin crimson. Some lines are darker. There are two bands of blues; the second band is where the dark reflection of the headland begins. The bottom third of the painting has the big reflections.

The colors are the same as the headland's, except it's bluer than the headland color. Remember that if you don't overmix two colors, you can push it either way depending on your need. Let it me one of the biggest gains from my class.

Make sure the reflections are not too dark (you destroy the serene mood) or too light (you lose the impact). The edges should be uneven and a not solid, straight vertical line. Make curvy strokes toward the bird.

The bird may be tiny, but it's very important in the design. If it had not been there in the reference, I would have invented it to balance the massive mirror-image shapes of the headland and reflections on the right side. It's a some kind of a coastal bird (sandpiper?). Don't forget to paint the shadow. The color is the same as the reflections and headland.
 That's it! Once again, I want to thank you for your awesomeness! Here is the past nine weeks in a nutshell. Most of you have come a long way, blossoming from absolute beginners to intermediate watercolorists. I am proud of all of you for your progress!
"Waikiki Sunrise"

"Zippy Zebra"

"Mandarin Oranges in Silver Bowl"

"Red Amaryllis"
Winter Shadows"

"Crocuses in Snow"

"Snowman and Red Barn"

"Starry Sky"