Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let It Flow!

Let It Flow!

Along the Switchback Trail
Watercolor painting
9" x 12"

The watercolor painting above was painted in a method considered "spontaneous" painting.  Spontaneous painting is done without an initial sketch using washes of paint;  and the paint is simply allowed to flow. Spontaneous painting is done quickly while the paint is still wet, so be certain to give yourself enough time to paint without interruption. 

Although there is no sketch,  one must have a subject in mind or one will wind up with just an abstract painting.  And that is OK too as long as that is what you want.

I spend a lot of time hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains and see rocks exposed on the mountain side, often with water flowing down them when it rains.  This is not a painting of a waterfall, simply a mountainside with rocks exposed due to ground erosion from rain over the course of time.  I did not want details in the painting, but wanted to emphasize the exposed rocks on the mountainside and the trees at the top.  This is a view from a switchback on a trail looking up to the next level of the switchback. 

Supplies needed:
Watercolor paper (140 lb. - I like Arches) Size of your choice; I used 8" x 10"
Brushes - flat brush, round brush and liner brush
Masking Fluid and old brush or applicator
Utility Knife

  • Sap Green
  • Sepia
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Ultramarine
  • Paynes Gray
  • Burnt Sienna
Painting Instructions:
The instructions below are for painting a version of my example above.  Feel free to use a subject of your choice and follow the general directions for spontaneous painting.

Since my objective was to emphasize rocks on the mountainside, I started by masking in some rock shapes cascading downward from the horizon to the lower right side of the paper.  Mask only the larger rocks, as the smaller ones will be lifted out with a wet brush.   I also masked in some of the grasses at the middle horizon to save area for lighter paint and highlights.     Allow the masking to dry.

Wet your paper and while still wet, drop in the following washes of color.   Look at the example above as you perform each step for additional guidance.   Feel free to pick up your painting and help the paint to "flow" by tilting in the direction you would like movement. 
  • Down the middle of the paper moving from middle to right, drop in a deep wash of Ultramarine Blue, add some Paynes Gray
  • While the above is still wet, drop in Sap Green on the outside edges of the blue above,  pulling with your brush to the edges and down. 
  • Drop in Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna at the bottom left and on the left and right sides of the horizon.
  • While the paint is still wet, add some spatter of Ultramarine Blue and Paynes Gray in the area below the horizon and in the rocks and while spaces.  Allow to dry. 
  • Working now from the horizon up, drop in Paynes Gray and Ultramarine near the horizon pulling paint to both left and right.
  • While the paint is still wet, drop in Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna on both sides.
  • Using a flat brush, paint in the tree foliage with a mix of Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to make a deep green.  Pull the foliage out with the tip of the brush allowing white spaces to show between the branches.  Allow to dry.
  • Using Sepia and Paynes Gray and a round brush, paint in the tree trunks around the foliage.  Vary the color lighter and darker on the trunks for shadows and texture. 
  • Using the tip of the round brush and the same color paint, add some limbs, and distant trees.  Allow to dry. 
  • Remove the masking fluid from the rocks and the grasses.
  • Wet each rock one at a time with clean water.  Drop in various mixes of paint from your palette of Ultramarine, Sepia, Paynes Gray and Sap Green/Ultramarine mix.   Don't put too much paint on each rock or they will not stand out from the background. 
  • Using clean water and a round brush, lift rock shapes in and around the rocks which were masked to indicate rocks in shadow or partially exposed. 
  • Using the tip of a round brush, add a few cracks in the rock with Paynes Gray. 
  • Wet the masked foliage at the horizon and drop in Burnt Sienna.  Allow the water to pull this paint up into the masked foliage shapes.  Drop in a very small amount of Paynes Gray and Ultramarine at the base of the foliage and allow the colors to blend.  Allow to dry. 
  • When all paint has dried, use a utility knife to pull in highlights in the foliage.  This can also be done on any rocks that may be darker than you would like.
Sign your name!  You have created a spontaneous painting!

Happy Painting!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Thrown Paint?

Thrown Paint - What?

View from the Trail
9" x 12"

The watercolor painting above was painted using a "thrown paint" technique.  It is not as messy as it sounds.  This technique lets the placement of the paint determine how your subject will be painted to some extent.  You will need a subject of some sort in mind; i.e. beach scene with ocean waves, tree with foliage, such as the one above, etc.  You are only limited by your imagination.   

The areas of the painting to remain light are masked.  then the washes for the foliage are thrown on using a mop brush.    When the paint is dry, the masking fluid is removed and other shapes are painted to fit in with the shape of the thrown paint.  This is a fun technique that can result in some interesting paintings....one never knows what shape the thrown paint will take.

Supplies needed:
Watercolor paper (140 lb. - I like Arches)
Masking fluid and old brush or masking applicator
Brushes - mop brush, flat brush, round brush and liner brush
Tissues (Kleenex)
  • Sap Breen
  • Sepia
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Ultramarine
  • Crimson
  • Paynes' Gray
Painting Instructions:
Before paint is applied to the paper, determine you basic  design.  In the painting above, I wanted a landscape with trees and a peek at the mountains in the distance and some areas of sky.

With the design in mind, made a preliminary sketch on the paper so that you will know what areas need to be masked out and what areas will receive the first step of thrown paint.    Allow the masking to dry.  Rushing this step will ultimately result in a messy painting. 

Note:  I masked tree trunks, root areas and sky.   Remember you cannot paint over the top of watercolor paint and expect coverage like one is able to do with acrylics.  Once the paint has been applied to the page, only minor lifting can be done with some paints.  Therefore, be certain to plan for enough white areas in your painting and other color light-colored areas. 

Now for the fun part - throwing paint!
Mix up washes of Sap Green, Sap Green and Yellow Ocher and Sepia.  Wet the painting area with clean water.  While still wet and using the mop brush,  "throw" on paint in the previously prepared colors to make foliage as well as areas of the ground around the lower section of the painting. 

The area on the paper you would like the paint to be applied can be controlled.    However, the way it flows and blends on the paper cannot be controlled.    Enjoy!

Relax, allow to dry!

Now the fun begins.  When the paint has dried, remove the masking fluid.  Masking fluid can be removed in several ways:
  • Rub gently with an eraser over the masking fluid.
  • Rub gently with a bare finger over the masking fluid.
  • Wrap your index finger with masking tape an tap your finger up and down and rub gently back and forth to remove the masking fluid.   The tape will pick up the masking fluid.   
Once the masking fluid has been removed, access the shape the paint has taken and move forward with your painting.   In my case, I "saw"  windswept trees along the trail with a peak of the mountains across the valley.   The next steps in the painting, are painted in the order that you would use for any other watercolor:  sky first and working down from top to bottom finishing with any details you would like to add.

If your painting turned out similar to mine, below are the steps to finishing the painting like mine.  Be careful to paint "around" the thrown paint areas so that your paint does not blend together and your edges stay sharp.  Remember, paint will flow only onto areas that are wet.  This is an important reason to wait until the paint is dry before proceeding. 

Use Cerulean Blue work from top to bottom painting wet on wet for the sky areas.  Don't forget to paint the patches of sky that  are located in the tree settings.  Use a tissue and dab off some of the areas of paint for clouds. 

Using different colors of paint for the sky can change the tone of the painting.  Deeper blues and grays can indicate storm clouds.  Adding yellow, red and orange can indicated a sunrise or sunset...your choice. 

Having recently returned from a trip to Alaska, I painted "higher elevation" mountains that can be seen from a distance on a trail.  It is early summer in my painting, so there is still some snow near the top.   Simply paint around areas of the mountain to indicate snow.  I used a purple made from Ultramarine and Crimson for my mountains and added a touch of Sap Green at the bottom edge to indicate trees at the lower elevation as seen from a distance.  Allow the mountain to dry.

Your foliage is already painted - thrown in from our first step!  Now you will need to paint the trunks and branches.

Wet the trunk of the tree and paint, one at a time, using a pale wash of Payne's Grey.  You want a very light gray shade.  While still wet, pull in some Sepia along either the left or right edge and alternate in places...deeper in shadows and a drop here and there for knots and other imperfections in the tree trunk.  Using the round brush, paint in some branches.  Refer to the photo above. 

The areas at the bottom of the tree trunks were already dark - thanks to the thrown paint in the first step.  However, the roots were masked.  Paint the roots with Paynes Gray and Sepia similar to the tree trunks.  Allow to dry. 

Using pale washes of Sepia, Paynes Gray and light green from your pallet, drop in the foreground colors. Allow the paint to blend.   When dry spatter a darker shade of the green and gray in the front area of the foreground. 

Look at your painting and determine what details, if any, you would like to add.  I used a liner brush and Sepia to paint in some lines on the tree trunks and in the root area. 

Sign your painting!  Congratulations!

Hope you enjoyed "throwing paint!"

Happy Painting!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Alaska Mountain Peaks

Alaska Mountain Peaks

My summer break from my blog has ended.

Summer is winding down and it is time to get back to "work!"  Although I have not been blogging during the summer months, I have been painting!    So, grab that paint brush and let's get back to work!

I did some traveling during the spring and summer and some of the paintings you will be seeing in upcoming blogs are landscapes of the beautiful scenery I enjoyed during my travels.  The painting above titled "Mountain Magic" was painted from a photo taken while traveling in Alaska.  The mountains are located in Denali National Park. 

Let's get started!  The painting above is an acrylic painted on an 12" x 16" canvas. 

Supplies needed:
Canvas (size of your choice)
Brushes - flat and round
Palette knife

Acrylic paint in the following colors:
  • White
  • Crimson
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Black
  • Sap Green
  • Burnt Umber
  • Burnt Sienna 
  • Yellow Ochre
Painting Instructions:
As a reminder, when painting with acrylics as opposed to watercolor, the paint is applied from dark to light.  In watercolor, one paints from light to dark. 

Using the painting above for reference, lightly sketch the mountains and the lake.  This is not detailed, but just enough to indicate where the foreground and background mountains are located as well as the lake shore. 

Sky and Lake:
Using Cerulean Blue and white start painting the sky moving from dark to light down to the tops of the mountains.   Start with blue and mix in white as you move down the canvas.  Clouds will be added later with a palette knife. 

And in reverse, paint the lake moving from light down to dark with the light area where the water meets the shore. 

Painting the mountains using aerial perspective........

What is aerial perspective?
Aerial perspective is the optical effect that the atmosphere has on objects viewed at a long distance.
For example, in the daytime, a mountain range will usually appear bluer and lighter as it gets further and further away from us.  The air in the atmosphere contains various impurities and these act as a filter stopping certain wavelengths of light reaching our eyes.  This gives the illusion of a change of color and value.  Cool colors like blues and greens get through the ‘filter’ of air more easily than the warm colors so mountains usually appear bluer.

5 points to remember
  1. As the distance between you and the mountain increases, the contrast between the mountain and its background (usually sky) decreases.
  2. The further away a mountain is the less detailed it becomes.
  3. The color becomes less and less saturated (intense) as it disappears into the distance and becomes closer to the background color. As objects are viewed at increasing distances the color change effect is more pronounced, and (if viewed in the day) progressively from purple to blue. This will give the illusion of depth.
  4. The elements most altered by aerial perspective are the dark tones, e.g: a dark green will change more dramatically than a light green.
  5. Warm and cool – Use the power of warm and colors to add even more depth. Add a red highlight in the foreground to bring your viewers gaze forward and to heighten the effect. Warm in the foreground cools in the background
Now, let's paint!
Paint the mountains with shades of brown with the brown bordering on purple.  So mixing a brown using red, blue and yellow will achieve the result you will need.  You can add more or less of each color until you achieve the shade you will need.  Paint the mountains working from the distant mountains to the ones on the shoreline with the lighter brown in the distance.  Add shadows by deepening the nooks and crevices.

Allow the mountains to dry before adding the snow. 

Snow on the mountains:
As you will note in the photo above, the snow is not just white.  Areas of highlights and shadow are painted by adding pink or blue "snow" to certain areas of the mountains. 

Using a palette knife drag white paint down the shape of the mountains referring to the photo above.  Do not completely cover the mountains with white, allow some of the brown paint to show through.

After the white paint has dried, use the palette knife again to add blue and pink highlights and shadows to the snow on the mountains.  Again, allow some of the white and brown of the mountain show through.

Dark and scrubby evergreens are found on the shoreline.  Paint these using a dark green shade which can be mixed from Sap Green and Ultramarine.  Also, prepare some lighter green by adding white and/or yellow.  I painted these using "dabbing" stokes with a small flat brush.

The base color of the lake was painted previously.  Now you will need to add reflections from the shoreline and the mountains.  Using the same colors used to the paint the mountains and the shoreline trees, dab these colors in the lake and use short horizontal strokes to blend with the paint already applied to the lake. 

Using a palette knife pull in several clouds in the sky; make your placement random.

Foreground Trees:
The tall foreground trees growing up from below the edge of the canvas are black spruce.    They are tall, but skinny trees and are typical of this cold climate.  The trees must adapt to the cold and must invest a lot of energy into building\ structural tissues (wood)  which gives them a competitive advantage for light.  Leaves/needles are sometimes put at a disadvantage where resources, such as warmth and nutrients are concerned.  Therefore, the trees are tall, but scrubby with shorter branches than trees in the lower 48 states where the temperatures are warmer and light is prevalent year around. 

I decided how many and where I wanted my trees and using a round brush with brown paint, I painted a vertical down where I wanted my trees.   Using my vertical line, I started painting my trees with a flat brush and dabbed and pulled the paint from the center trunk out to the tip of the branches.  Remember these trees are sparse with the branches short and angling downward.  Vary the placement of the branches.    I used various shades of green and brown paint to create the tree branches and trunk. 

After you have finished painting the trees, step back and look at your painting to see if any highlights need to be added.

Then, sign you painting!


Happy Painting!