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



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