Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fence Posts in the Snow


Our area saw some winter precipitation this week, so I wanted to share with you one of my favorite paintings. This painting is one that I teach my beginner uses many watercolor techniques and is a painting fairly easily to execute as a beginner. This painting demonstrates the use of a wash as well as some sponging in the trees, shadowing, blending colors in the fence posts, and some basic instruction on picture composition and interest. Several different sizes of paint brushes are used: a large flat, a medium round, and a liner brush.

Watercolor Tip:

The trees are painted while the sky is still wet so that the trees and sky can blend. Color is sponged in after the wash; and while wet, the branches are scratched in using a palette knife or the edge of a credit card.
Enjoy the beauty of winter and capture it on paper. When July comes, we can cool off by looking at our winter scene.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stamping Techniques

The painting above illustrates all three stamping techniques discussed below.

Watercolor painting lends itself to stamping techniques to apply paint to create rocks, trees, and texture patterns in paintings. This technique is especially useful for backgrounds in detailed paintings or in any area of an Impressionistic painting. Stamping was used by the Japanese in making fish prints which were made by inking the side of an actual fish and stamping it on paper to leave behind an impression of not only its shape but also its scales and other surface textures. Stamping can be used in watercolor painting to create realistic results that are easier accomplished with stamping than with a brush. This a very effective means to achieve realism in one's work.

Stamps can be made from pieces of mat board that can be made in any size or shape you need. I will discuss three uses of stamps:
  1. Stamping rock textures,
  2. Stamping trees,
  3. Stamping grass.
How to make the stamps
Cut a square or rectangular shape from mat board of any size you need. However, to begin start working with a piece about 2" x 3" or 3" x 3". Turn it colored side up and attach a masking tape handle to the piece of board.

The picture below shows both sides of the stamps and examples of their use.

Rock Textures
To stamp rock textures, there is no need to do anything else to the stamp. Apply a variety of "rock" colors on the white side of the stamp or on your painting. Next, press the stamp on the painting surface. When you press it down, it should feel "squishy." Lift the stamp and you will see texture like the surface of a wet rock covered with lichen and mosses. The stamp can be presseed several times without applying more paint. The dryer the paint the more the stamped pattern will resemble rocks in fields or cliffs and mountains. You can make a scratch or two on the surface to create more realistic looking rocks.

Stamping Pine Trees
Prepare the stamp with the masking tape handle. Then draw a pine tree on the white side: start with a trunk and add all the branches. Scratch or dig this drawing with the corner of your utility knife. You do not have to be precise in this cutting. You can make serveral using different shapes to utilize in the same paniting or simply adjust the colors to add variety using the same stamp. Each stamp will look different when applied.

Stamping Grass
Prepare the stamp with the masking tape handle. Scratch and gouge lines for a grass pattern keeping in mind that the stamp will print in reverse. This is especailly important if you have grass blowing in a specific direction.

With all of these stamps, one can spray water to blend the stamp into the background. The tops of the trees can be sprayed to blend into the sky; the rocks can be sprayed at the bottom to blend into water or a misty mountain; and the grasses can be sprayed at the top to blend into a mist, etc.

Stamping is ideal for background painting or adding texture to any part of your painting. Stamps can be made to use in stone buildings, brick walls, etc. in addition to landscapes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Let Salt Season Your Painting!

I am always looking for new painting techniques and plan to share techniques with you in my blog. Many of these techniques may be new to you or old favorites, or you may have tried the technique and did not like it. I have found that each painting will lend itself to a specific type of technique and it depends on the result one would like to achieve which technique to use. I like Impressionist painting, so many techniques suit my painting style. The painting above illustrates one of my favorite techniques - the use of salt spatter. In this painting, salt is used to add texture to the feathers on the owl.

Use of salt spatter is one of the most exciting ways of creating texture and surface interest, or both. If salt crystals are scattered into a wet wash, they will gradually absorb the paint, drawing it into the salt crystal, to leave an interesting shape when dry.

The effects will vary according to the following factors:

  • How wet the paint is,
  • How thickly or thinly the salt crystals are distributed,
  • The size and type of salt crystal used,
  • The color of watercolor paint used (deeper colors show more effect).

How and why does it work?

Salt will leach the color out of the paint leaving mottled marks.

What is important to remember when using this technique?

Timing! Sprinkle the salt just as the shine of your wash goes dull; you have about 30 seconds to do it. If you act too soon, the salt will dissolve and create funny patches…however, these can be interesting too. If you put the salt on too late, nothing happens. The effect takes about 15 seconds to start showing. Don’t be impatient and throw on more salt.

When should this technique be used?

Use this technique when a painting calls for one of the following:

  • Snow flakes,
  • Texture, such as pitted or barnacle-encrusted rocks on a seashore, old stone walls, etc.,
  • Foliage where you would like “suggestion” rather than precise definition,
  • Feathers – to create spotting on bird feathers.

What types of salt can be used?

All types of salt can be used based on the result you would like to achieve. Practice with various sizes of salt crystals and keep reference sheets. The following are some of the types of salt that can be used: table salt, rock salt (ice cream salt), sea salt in various sizes, pretzel salt, etc.

Below are examples of salt spatter using three different types of salt: from left to right : large sea salt on the feather; medium coarse Kosher salt on the rocks; and small "table" salt on the leaf.

So, season you paintings with a little salt!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

How to Prepare a Watercolor Palette

I received a new palette for Christmas. A good watercolor palette will last a long time; however, mine had seen many years of good painting, had a few cracks in important places, and needed to be retired.

For those of you new to watercolor painting, I thought you might appreciate this entry on how to prepare your palette.

One aspect of watercolor painting that I appreciate is the fact that a watercolor palette can be prepared one time and not have to be cleaned after each use. One can simply add more paint when the wells get low and mist with water to moisten the paint. I like a large covered plastic palette; mine is 14" x 18."

One important step that many new artists don't know about is preparing the mixing area (including the top mixing area if your palette is a covered one). The shiny finish on the plastic will make the paint "bead up" and it will be very difficult to mix colors. To prevent this "beading up", take a kitchen pot scrubber and scratch the mixing area until the surface is no longer shiny. Wipe off the "dust" with a damp paper towel. It is not necessary to scratch the paint wells, only the mixing area. This will make mixing colors and preparing washes much easier.

Once the surface is prepared, use a permanent marker to write the names of the paints under the wells. If you are new to painting, it may be difficult at first to recognize the colors and many colors look similar when in the wells. You will never have to guess which color is which and you will be able to the replenish the colors more easily.

Place the paint in the wells and let the palette dry before covering. If a palette is covered before it is dry, it will sour and mold. In addition to an awful smell, you will not be able to use the paint. The paint will have to be completely removed; the palette cleaned and set up again from scratch.

A new palette prepared in this way with bring you many happy years of watercolor painting!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's Winter! Let's Enjoy It!

With winter comes cold, snow or rain, less daylight and not as much time for fun activities outdoors. But, plenty of time to sketch and paint. With our paintings we can travel to warm climates or create cold ones with just a stroke of the brush. So let's enjoy winter - pick up that brush and paint!

On this winter day, the painting below will transport us to summer with hummingbirds enjoying the nectar from our garden flowers.

Watercolor Tip:
The background foliage was painted on very wet paper so that the shape of the leaves and stems blended into the background to shift the focus of the painting to the hummingbird and the foreground flowers. This blurred background makes the bird and the flowers the focal point of the viewer's eye.