Sunday, June 12, 2022

"Donut Fest" (watercolor on paper; 9" x 12")


"Donut Fest"

The following is the description of what we did in the eighth 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).

Yesterday we painted "Donut Fest", inspired by Wayne Thiebaud (1920-2021), who created many delicious-looking pastry paintings. This is a hard-edged, paint-by-the-numbers-without-numbers project, just like what we did in the first week with "Santa Ana Mountain Wildflowers".

What we did was paint a food still life, an important sub-genre within the still life genre. I heartily recommend you should draw and paint many still lifes. Set up whatever objects that interest you and get into the habit of drawing from life. If you have time, paint them too!

We drew the design with a pencil together, including three rectangles to fit in the donuts. We tend to run out of space as we fill in the paper with still life objects, so if you locate the top and bottom and draw in small rectangles like this, you will never have that problem again. Draw as many construction lines as you need; if you use light pressure, you should be able to erase the graphite lines. Use straight lines instead of curves and circles. The finished drawings will look more dynamic and truer to life.

Next we masked the sprinkles in the pink and chocolate donuts with masking fluid. First, wet the rigger brush, lather it in soap, then dip it into the frisket. Use a moderate amount of frisket; if used in excessive amount, the thing will dry very slowly and you will get into all kinds of trouble. It dries quickly if used properly. When finished with the frisket, always rinse it with soap and water immediately. If you leave the brush until the end of the painting session, you have ruined it forever!

Then we started painting with the cake part of all three donuts, from light to mid-tone to darks as always. For the light, I used Winsor lemon; for the mid-tones, the mixture of quinacridone gold and cadmium red; and for the darks, the purple mixture of French ultramarine and alizarin crimson. Get into the habit of developing the painting all over, instead of finishing one section at a time. Even in a landscape, in which we tend to paint from the top to bottom (distant to close-up), block in the entire painting first if possible, then develop each area. Everything is relative (values, chroma, temperature, etc.), so this way you don't have bad surprises.

Next we painted the icings of the three donuts. For the pink donut; I used permanent rose; for the white donut, after painting the shadows (cobalt blue and permanent rose), I used cadmium red (red stripe) and cobalt blue (blue stripe); for the chocolate donut, I used first pale cobalt blue for the blue sheens, let them dry, then painted the dark chocolate color with the mixture of burnt sienna, ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson.

The biggest problem of the entire project was surprisingly the dark wash for the chocolate donut. Most of the class painted this in light to mid-tone. Use more paints! If the wash turns out light, glaze! If one glaze is not enough, glaze again!

When everything looked good, we removed the masking fluid carefully with a clean finger. Then we painted the sprinkles in various colors, making sure a few sprinkles are left untouched. In my case, I used white gouache to create more white sprinkles, because everybody wants more sugar!

Finally, we painted the soft-edge cast shadows in cobalt blue on dry paper. Use enough water so that you have open time to finish the job. Once you have brushed in the cobalt blue, with the clean damp brush go around the edges of the wash to soften them. When satisfied, quickly drop in the dark mixture of ultramarine blue and crimson inside the bulls eye of each donut and around the donuts where they meet the table or whatever. I've noticed that quite a few forgot this last step; if so, paint the dark shadows within the cast shadows on dry paper.

Friday, June 10, 2022

"Sabrina at Hanauma Bay, Oahu" (watercolor on paper; 14" x 10")


"Sabrina at Hanauma Bay"

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

The last independent project is the full-length portrait and the focus of the last two weeks of the spring term. The following three images are from Laurel Hart's "Putting People in Your Paintings". She has a YouTube channel with full-length videos. Check them out!

"Figure Proportions I"
"Figure Proportions II"

"Shadow Patterns"

I also introduced two books: Christopher Hart's "Figure it Out!: Human Proportions" and "The Complete Book of Poses for Artists" by Ken Goldman and Stephanie Goldman.

There are a number of ways of handling a full-length portrait but, in my opinion, the easiest way is focusing on the light and shadow pattern in the face and body and paint it in either two (light and dark) or three (light, mid-tone, and dark) values. (Refer to the third image from Laurel Hart's book.) If you are capable, you can soften the edges since face, torso, and limbs are round objects of either egg-like or cylindrical forms.

But keeping the light and shadow patterns distinct is more important in rendering the human form in such a small scale than softening edges. My demo painting, "Sabrina in Hanauma Bay, Oahu", is 14" tall and her head is only 1 1/2" tall, whereas the average human head is 9" tall. (Remember that the average person is 7 to 7 1/2 head long; my daughter, who is 5' 2" tall, is  less than that.) The features are tiny, but if you draw the light/shadow pattern right, the subject will emerge miraculously, as you can see in the work in progress below!

"Sabrina in Hanauma Bay in Progress"

I used the three value method for "Sabrina at Hanauma Bay" and "Artist at 28". You can paint anything, not just skin tones, in three values, be that the hair, clothes, or whatever! For the image below from my whimsical figure journal that I keep for pure fun, I used Schmincke's naples yellow reddish (light), rose dore (mid-tone), and perylene violet (dark). You can use whatever colors of your choice that harmonize well with each other; just designate a different color for each value. 
"Two Women in Black"

I used watercolor pencil shavings and water spritz to create the sand texture in the beach. I also used watercolor pencils the draw in some patterns in the coverup, then painted dark shadow patterns with indigo blue; to restore light patterns, I used white gouache. For these tiny portraits, if you are having trouble getting features right, you may want to consider using either watercolor pencils or colored pencils in appropriate colors.
Below is the finished image of "Artist at 28". The painting is based on an old photo that was taken when I was 28 years old. I look like a girl!
"Artist at 28"


Sunday, June 5, 2022

"Red Giraffe" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"Red Giraffe"


The following is the description of what we did in the seventh 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 a stylized portrait of an animal through "Red Giraffe". I don't usually paint like this, so it was a lot of fun and a liberating experience. Art should be about creativity and thinking outside the box. This may not be your cup of tea or it could be just what you were looking for. Finding one's own bliss is the goal, not getting the approval of your instructor or family!
You will need white gouache, a dip pen and black india ink, and Pentel Arts Portable Pocket Brush Pen. If you cannot get hold of the Pentel brush pen (make sure you get the right one, there are many different Pentel brush pens!), you can use a small round brush or rigger brush with India ink instead.

First draw the design, then wet the paper thoroughly and drop paints (cobalt blue, Winsor lemon, cadmium yellow pale, and cadmium red) randomly without overmixing. Immediately spritz water and let colors drip and mix. Let it dry.

Do the linework with the dip pen with India ink, then with the Pentel pocket brush pen, using my paintings as reference. There is no right or wrong, so do your thing!

Finally, paint markings on the giraffe in cadmium red and restore the lost white with white gouache. Have fun! 



Friday, June 3, 2022

"Mimosa Time" (watercolor on paper; 10" x 8")


"Mimosa Time"


The following is what we did in the sixth 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 we are exploring the portrait with prominent hands. When handled well, the hands can contribute hugely to the success of the portrait, so much so that a great portrait painter is usually someone who can paint hands masterfully. Instead of avoiding a subject with hands, let's embrace the hands and try to get better!

Below is the image of my class demo in progress. Just like anything else, painting hands is all about paying attention to plane changes and value shapes, the latter caused by different amounts of light falling on them. Often the quality of light is subtle, but it is still there. In my case, there was the natural light from the window (right side) and the warm artificial light from the interior (left side). The subject's melon-color shirt also strongly influenced the colors in the hands. I had to play with the warm/cool contrast as well as the light/dark one. 

"Mimosa Time in Progress"

The end game here is modeling the hand (with five fingers!) successfully so that it looks three-dimensional. When I realized that I had lost the light shapes, I reintroduced them with white gouache, and there you go, the hand holding the champagne flute appeared in full glory. 

The beard is no different from anything else. Paint light and darks. Of course, hair has soft texture, so the ability to control the hard/soft edges is paramount in the success of painting a beard and mustache. My husband has a salf-and-pepper beard and I had to make sure the darks were dark enough. The hair on the left side, near the orange drink, reflected the warm color and it was important that I didn't use cool darks. Yes, values are the most important things, but color temperature has to be sometimes considered as well.
When I was satisfied with the light/dark pattern of the beard and mustache, I went over to add the "salt" part with white gouache using my "lifting"brush. I was mindful not to overdo these finishing touches. Remember that it's not the details, but the overall light and dark pattern and soft texture, that gives the impressions of the facial hair or any hair.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

"National Cathedral" (oil on stretched canvas; 40" x 40") sold


"National Cathedral"


The painting is a commission for Catherine and her husband Andrew. Andrew went to St. Albans School, right next to the cathedral and practically grew up in and around the magnificent Gothic cathedral. He got married there and had planted a tree in front of the north side (entry area) with his father. It was an important sentimental project for Andrew and he chose this image personally so that his tree would be a part of the finished painting.

It was the largest oil painting project ever for me. It took about two months to draw, block in, paint and add finishing touches. I needed a little stool to reach the highest areas of the big canvas! Thank you for the opportunity, Andrew and Catherine, who were the most gracious clients. 

I must say that my patience and drawing skills have improved much because of this project. The only drawback is that I couldn't take a proper photography of the huge canvas, so I had to make do with a quick shoot with my phone. What a shame!

Work in Progress I

Work in Progress II

Work in Progress III