Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Paper and Practice

This blog is focused on watercolor paper and practice, specifically the type of paper and several practice strokes.

Beginner watercolor artists are hesitant to use their "expensive" watercolor paper to practice brush strokes.  Good quality watercolor paper can be expensive and I can understand the reluctance to use a costly paper to only practice strokes.  However, learning the different stokes a watercolor brush can make is important for the execution of a good watercolor painting.  And, the quality of the paper does make a difference in helping an artist to produce a good finished product.  Thus, the dilemma of paper vs. price. 

I have found a good compromise for the beginning artist.   I recommend Strathmore Watercolor paper - Skills level.  This paper is 140# weight, cold press and is heavy enough to practice stokes and even a light wash.  Although it does not work well for a really wet wash,  it is perfect for practice work including lifting with light wet techniques.  It comes in a pad of 30 sheets sized 9" x 12".   This paper can be purchased at local craft and hobby stores and usually sells from under $5 for the pad.   See photo below of pad. 



Beginning artists will build confidence when practicing  brush stokes to be used in future paintings.  Practice provides confidence and builds good habits for brush control.    Here are a few basics on brush strokes:

  • A brush is not always held like a pen or pencil.  You need to be able to grip the brush loosely so that you can roll it around in your hand when needed.
  • The tip of the brush is not the only part that is used.  Often the sides as well as the end or tip is needed to provide that certain look.
  • Brush stokes tell a story.  They can indicate texture and shape. 
  • Pressure is important.  The lighter the pressure the less area you will fill with paint.  The heavier the pressure, the more paint will come off of the brush and fill the area.
  • Pressure is often both light and heavy in the same stroke.
In this practice exercise, we will be using the brushes shown below:



Practice Techniques:

The brush stokes illustrated in the example below will be discussed in this blog.


Flat Brush Stokes:


Using a flat, dry brush, the above techniques can be achieved.    A dry brush means just that - DRY.  That does not mean that you have to have different brushes when you change colors or that you have to wait until the brush dries.    Simply have a dry towel and remove excess moisture from the brush.  Remove as much of the water from the brush as possible before loading the brush with paint.  Once loaded with paint, practice the following:
  • Push the brush up to paint the grasses moving the brush up and to either side.
  • Pull the brush down from the top of the waterfall to the bottom.
  • Move the brush from left to right and right to left to paint the sparkling water.
  • Push and pull the brush up and down and move slight from side to side to create woodgrain.
  • Push and pull the brush up and down and use both the flat side and edge to create fur or hair.
Round Brush, Liner Brush or Rigger strokes:


Tree shapes can be achieved by using a round, liner or rigger.  These brushes can also be used for bushes or tall grasses.

  • Starting at the base of the tree, push down on the brush and as you move up towards the top of the tree decrease the pressure on the brush.  This will make a thicker stroke at the beginning and a thinner line at the end of the stroke.  Angle the brush to make the branches of the trees.
  • This method works for the round, liner and the rigger brushes. 
Brush Strokes comparisons:  Flat and Round


Play around the a flat brush and a round brush to see how many different strokes you can make with each brush.  Apply light pressure, heavy pressure and vary the pressure in the same stroke.  Use the side of the flat brush as well as.  Twist and turn the brush as you move across the paper.  The stokes above were made with the same size brush - from thin lines to wide heavy lines. 

So, take the time to practice using practice paper and you will be confidence in your painting!

Happy Painting!
Karen






Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Don't Just "Brush-Off" How to Select a Watercolor Brush



When I first started learning how to paint, I was told by my instructors to buy the best brush that I could afford.    When I started shopping for brushes, I was surprised at how expense a paint brush can be.    Needless to say, I did not heed that advise; after all, how different can paint brushes be?  Well, apparently more than I realized. 

The photo above gives some examples of different quality brushes.  I will discuss each one from top to bottom.
  1. Windsor Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable Brush:  These brushes are considered to be some of the world's finest watercolor brushes.  They are made from only the finest Kolinsky sable hair in rust-proof, seamless nickel plated ferrules with black polished handles.  These brushes are made in England by hand by expert brush makers using standards set in 1866 by Her Majesty Queen Victory.  This brush comes to a crisp point and snaps back into shape during use allowing superior control and even color flow. 
  2. daVinci Petit Gris Pur Brush:  These brushes are made in Germany and contain a mixture of Blue Russian squirrel hair and a synthetic fiber that imitates squirrel hair.  This mix of natural and synthetic hair mix makes it a good choice for water and paint holding capacity and will come to a fine point. 
  3. Princeton SNAP Brushes:  These brushes are machine made from golden synthetic fibers and work well with water medium.  Princeton Brush Company was founded 25 years ago in Howard Kaufman's basement in New Jersey.  He was assisted by Naohike Takamoto from Japan, who assisted in the development of the Princeton line of brushes.
  4. Royal Langnickel Brushes:  Royal Brushes are machine made from a variety of materials, mostly synthetic, mix and/or sable.  These brushes are readily available at low prices for all types of painting medium.

The brushes above were listed by order of price from #1 being the most expense to #4 being the least expense brush.

When selecting a brush, I would recommend that a beginner select one medium priced brush that will work well.  An inexpensive brush can frustrate a beginner by loosing bristles in the painting, not holding a point, etc. and making the act of painting more difficult than it actually is. 

Don't think that just because a brush is made from sable that it is a good quality brush.  There are grades to sable.  Kolinsky sable is extremely expensive and is subject to regulation and control, thus the finest hairs are in short supply.  Experts feel that the finest watercolor brushes are made of the hair found only on the tips of the Russian male Kolinsky red sable's winter coat.  Lesser quality sable brushes will use a mix of male and female tail hairs and many have an excellent working quality.  Cheaper versions use "generic" red sale of the lowest quality hairs available and are quite inexpensive.  These cheaper versions can be perfect for crafts, but not fine painting. 

A good quality synthetic brush can mimic the qualities of a sable brush and be an excellent value for the beginning artist. 

So, don't "brush-off" the importance of a good brush!  Good brushes can be found without ruining your budget.

Happy Painting!
Karen









Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How to Paint Weathered Wood

Hooked on Elkmont
A watercolor painting by
Karen A. Cooke


I am focusing on this painting again for this post to discuss how to paint weathered wood.  Old buildings and unique points of view from those building (such as the painting above) often include weathered wood. 

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Fine line marker - black and/or brown
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:

  • Indigo
  • Burnt Umber
  • Paynes Gray
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Sap Green


Painting Instructions:
Use the painting from the last blog with the painted hook.  We'll paint the weathered wood this time. 

Weathered Wood:
Step 1:
Use a flat brush and dry bush in a bit of color to add texture and weathered stains on the wood.  Use pale shades of Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna and Paynes Gray.  MAINTAIN UNPAINTED AREAS OF WHITE.  This is the "white" paint on the wood.   Spread out the bristles of the brush to indicate wood grain.  Don't keep the lines straight, but slightly wavy for the wood gain effect.    Layer on washes in various location to indicate shadow and wear and weather patterns on the wood.  Refer to the photo for placement. 

Step 2:
Use a liner brush to fill in open spaces and cracks in the wood or shadows with Indigo and Paynes Gray. 

Step 3:
Add knots in the wood with Burnt Umber, Indigo and Paynes Gray.  Use the photo for reference. 

Step 4:
Roofing:
There is very little roofing visible, simply an overhand of roofing on the top right side of the painting.  This is painted with pale washes of Sap Green and Burnt Umber.    Allow to dry.  Use a liner brush with Indigo and Paynes Gray to add detail.  Refer to the photo above. 

TIP:  The key to successful painting of old wood is to work slowly with pale washes and allow the white paper to show through.  A dry brush is essential to help achieve this weathered effect. 

Happy Painting!
Karen Cooke




Wednesday, May 3, 2017

How to Paint Rust

Hooked on Elkmont
A watercolor painting by
Karen A. Cooke


The painting above titled "Hooked on Elkmont" is a close up of an old hook which was attached to the side of the cabin from my last blog post.  I enjoy painting unusual objects and this old hook was a great item to paint.  There was also an old shovel (at least part of one) which was also hanging on the side of the cabin which I plan to paint in the future.  Today's post will give instructions on how to paint realistic rust.  This painting will be covered in two different blog posts:  today's post will give instructions on how to paint rust; the next post will give instructions on how to paint weathered wood. 

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board

Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Sand

Paint:

  • Indigo
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ocher

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch this painting on your paper. 

Hook:
Step 1:
Paint the hook with a flat wash applied wet on wet.  Let the wash dry thoroughly before starting the next step.

Step 2:
Over the dry base color, paint on a varied wash of yellow ochre, burnt sienna and touches of indigo.  Refer to the reference photo for placement of the colors.

Step 3:
While this wash is still wet, sprinkle sand over the wet wash.

Step 4:
ALLOW TO DRY!  The sand and the wash must be completely dry before brushing it off of the paintings.

Note:  The grains of sand will push the paint in different directions and create the texture.

Step 5:
Use a dry brush to add details and shadows to the hook. 

Step 6:
Scrape in highlights with a utility knife.

Step 7:
Spatter across the hook will accent the aged look.  Remember when spattering to cover other parts of your painting to prevent the spatter from landing in other locations. Allow to dry. 

We will finish the painting and focus on painting the weathered wood in the next post.

Happy Painting!
Karen Cooke



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Logs and Landscapes


Avent Cabin
Elkmont - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Watercolor painting by
Karen A. Cooke


In addition to painting, I enjoy hiking and since I live close to the Smoky Mountains, I do quite a bit of hiking in that area.  I love to take photos of the cabins to paint later;  or if time permits, I like to paint on location.  The painting above was painted from a photo I took in late February on a rare warm day.  The trees were still bare, but the sky was clear and blue. 

History of the cabin above:
From the 1920s to the 1940s, Avent Cabin served as a vacation retreat and art studio for Mayna Teanor Avent. She spent summers in this cabin and painted watercolors of the Smoky Mountain landscape.  The large window was added to let in natural light for Mayna's studio.

Would I love to have a cabin studio like this one! 

Today's blog will give directions on painting this landscape with emphasis on painting a log structure. 




Supplies Needed:

Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Sap Green
  • Hooker Green Deep
  • Burnt Umber
  • Vandyke Brown

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch this painting on your paper.  I sketched this drawing on my watercolor paper. However, if you feel you may need to erase multiple times, you may want to drawn on a piece of sketch paper and transfer your completed sketch to the watercolor paper. I discuss how this can be accomplished in my blog of May 11, 2016.

As a reminder: Multiple erasures can damage watercolor paper and cause pooling of water as well as differences in the way the paint is absorbed into or on the paper. Deep sketch marks will show up in a finished painting, even if they are erased. Correct perspective is an important part of this painting. Confirm that you like the perspective that you have executed in your sketch before you start painting. A poorly executed sketch done in a hurry cannot be overcome no matter how great a job one does with the paint.

Masking the trees:
For ease in painting the sky, the lighter trees can be masked in using masking fluid.  Do not move forward to painting the sky until the masking fluid is dry. 

Sky:
Use a large round brush to paint the sky area.  Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a pale wash of Cadmium Orange drop in some color in various locations in the sky.  See above photo for location.  While this is still wet, paint in a wash of the Cobalt Blue, apply the paint working from the top of the painting down to the horizon .  However, do not completely cover the entire sky area.  Allow some white areas to remain.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds, if needed.  While the sky is still wet, drop in a pale green made from the Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Orange at the horizon for the shrubs.  Allow to dry.  

Cabin:
Using a wash of light Payne's Gray, Sepia, Burnt Umber and Vandyke Brown, painting wet on wet, fill in the logs of the cabin.  Deepen in areas of shadows.  Allow the chinking between the logs to remain unpainted.  Refer to the photo above for the location of the light and dark areas.  Allow to dry.  When dry, use a dry brush and darker shades of your paint, paint in the details on your logs.    A liner brush was used to add detail to the logs as well as the boards on the porch rains, roof, etc.  Again, refer to the photo above for paint color and placement.  Allow to dry.

Windows/Doors:  Using Payne's Gray, paint in the windows and doors.  Allow to dry.  Use a utility knife to scrape off a line in the paint to indicate the panes of the windows. 

Cabin Rock Foundation:  Using Payne's Gray, Burnt Umber and Sap Green (very weak washes of all of these colors), painting wet on wet, drop in these colors and allow them to blend and merge.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush and Sepia, outline the shape of the rocks.  Allow to dry.

Trees:
Remove the masking fluid.  The hardwood trees are painted in the following manner:
  • Wet the truck with a clean wash of plain water.
  • Using a wash of Sepia and Payne's Gray and using a round brush, paint along one side of the truck and allow the water to pull the paint across the truck. 
  • Deepen the color in various location on the truck especially where a limb intersects.  Allow to dry. 
  • Using a round brush and Sepia, paint in the small branches. 
Evergreen tree:
  • Using a wash of Sap Green and a round brush start at the top of the tree and brush in the branches referring to the photo above.  Deepen the color in various locations especially near the truck by adding cobalt Blue to the Sap Green to deepen the color.  Allow to dry.  Using Sepia, paint in the truck.  Be certain to skip a few spaces to indicate the branches growing across the truck.  Allow to dry. 

Foreground:

Using a pale wash of Sap Green, Payne's Gray and Burnt Umber, lay in the foreground.  Use deeper shades near the tree line and under the cabin.  Refer to the photo for placement.  The lighter area in the center running down from the cabin is a footpath which is painted using Payne's Gray.  Allow to dry.  Cover the cabin, trees and sky area with a piece of paper or a paper towel, and spatter the foreground with Burnt Umber. 

Finishing touches:
Review your painting and add any shadows that may be needed for depth.  Check the cabin and trees for any details you would like to add.

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen Cooke


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sunshine, Blooms and Painting Outside


After a morning of yard work, I could not think of a better way to relax than to do a quick loose watercolor outside in the yard. 

Painting outside can be challenging if you are painting on location away from home; however, painting in one's own yard is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon or just an hour.    I set up my portable easel in from of an azalea brush that was just starting to bloom. 

All elements of this painting are loosely painted with minimal amounts of detail.  The painting was also painted on a slight slant to allow the paint to flow on the paper. 

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" pad of practice paper 140# weight
Note:  Practice paper is intended for practice of brush strokes, quick paintings, etc.  This paper does NOT allow for very wet paintings or overworking.  Paint cannot be lifted from this type of paper without damaging the paper.  Feel free to use what ever type of paper you would like. 

Brushes: round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Sap Green
  • Hooker Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow Dark
Note:  if you are painting outside you will need to be portable with all of your equipment.  If painting at a location away from your home, double check all of your painting supplies before you leave home.  While it is easy to simply run inside for a forgotten item when painting at home, a forgotten piece of equipment can often mean an abrupt end.


Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch the flower on the paper.  Do not make this a detailed sketch.

Background:
Using a round brush and  washes of Sap Green, Hooker Green, Ultramarine Blue, paint in the background area to give some color and shape to the branches of the bush.  Drop in some Alizarin Crimson in a pale wash to indicate other flower blooms.

Flower:
Using the round brush and a pale wash of Alizarin Crimson and painting wet on wet, paint the flower working from light to dark and leaving some of the spaces unpainted and white for highlights.  Refer to the photo above for color placement.   While the wash is still wet, use the tip of your brush and place some dots of a deeper Alizarin Crimson on the middle petal and the two pedals adjacent to it.  Refer to the photo. 

Stamen:
Using the round brush and a deeper wash of Alizarin Crimson, paint in the stamen and dot the end with Cadmium Yellow for the pollen. 

Finishing touches:
Add a few leaves, using your round brush and various shades of Hooker Green and Sap Green.  Refer to photo. 

Tip:  Loose watercolors are intended to be loose and flowing, so not attempt to paint in details - that is the joy of loose watercolor painting!

Happy Painting!
Karen

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Watercolor Journaling - How to Get Started

Watercolor journal and supplies


The trend today is toward journaling of all kinds - from daily diary type journals to trip journals and everything in between.  This post is intended to give some basic tips on how to get started with a watercolor journal.

Watercolor journaling is simply a way to put down thoughts and locations via the media of watercolor.  It takes some drawing skills and a basic knowledge of watercolor painting.  But, it does not need to be a scary task.  A way to transition into watercolor journaling is by first starting with a daily sketchbook and then moving into adding watercolors.  The more one sketches, the better one gets at recording what is seen.  So, if you have never considered a daily sketch book before, you may want to do so now.

Materials needed:
  • Pencil (mechanical or drawing pencil with sharpener)
  • Eraser
  • Watercolor journal (I use one with 140 weight watercolor paper)
  • Watercolor brush ( used a portable travel brush specifically for painting on location)
  • Portable watercolor set (I use a Windsor Newton set which opens to a palette)
  • Small water container (I use bottled water and use the cap for the brush)
Where do I start?
As you can see from the photo above, I like to watercolor journal in specific locations rather than simply doing a daily sketch/watercolor journal.

The secret to any journaling is to get down the basic shapes with not a lot of detail.  This is not intended to be a detailed watercolor painting, but simply your impression of the location. 

Steps involved:
  • Start off with a pencil sketch.  Don't make this sketch detailed.  You are telling the story of the moment and recording it with your own artistic impression. 
  • I try to box off a section of my watercolor journal rather than paint to the edge.  So, I drawn a box about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in from the edge and keep my drawing within that area.  This will help keep the paper from buckling from the water.  (Refer to photo.)
  • Don't use a lot of water in your painting.  You will not be working the paint in the same way as one would in a wet watercolor.  Remember this is supposed to be a fun way to record a location or thing - not a watercolor masterpiece.
  • Approach your painting  in the same method as you would any watercolor painting - working from light to dark; i.e.  Laying in the sky first and moving forward.
  • Depending on your location, don't be surprised by people watching you work. 
Most important part of journaling:  let this be fun!  Don't put pressure on yourself to "achieve" - simply enjoy being and painting.  As you get accustomed to painting on location or journaling it will become easier and more natural.  As with all things - practice.

There are many books on the market specially addressing watercolor journaling.   One of these books may be helpful and give you additional tips and encouragement.  Also, browse through an art store either online or in person and look for specific journals, brushes, paint sets, etc. to make your journaling easier.

The most important part of journaling is enjoyment!  If journaling is not the way you like to paint, then  paint in the way and at the place and location that works for you.

Happy Painting!
Karen



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Painting in the Style of Edward Wesson

English Countryside
A watercolor painting by Karen A. Cooke


The painting above, titled "English Countryside" was painted in the style of Edward Wesson.  Edward Wesson (April 29, 1910 - 1983) was an English watercolor artist.  His work is known for its simplicity, boldness and mastery of brushwork.  He is remembered by many painters as being a very encouraging teacher as well as for his excellent paintings.

Today's exercise will be in using his painting style to capture the English countryside.  So, let's get started.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Windsor Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Burnt Umber

Painting Instructions:
No sketching is required.  Simply determine your horizon.

Sky:
Use a large round brush to paint the sky area.  Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a pale wash of Windsor Blue paint in the sky using the painting above as a guide.  While the sky is still went drop in a light wash of red and yellow ochre in various locations.  Do not completely cover the entire sky area.  Allow some white areas to remain.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds, if needed.    Note that the sky lightens as it approaches the horizon.   Allow to dry.  

Background:
Using a deeper wash of Windsor Blue mixed with Paynes Gray, paint the distant hills.  Allow to dry. 

Church:

Using a darker wash of Payne's Gray and a smaller round brush, paint in the church spire and steeple.  Add the roof of the church using a medium wash of Alizarin Crimson.  Allow to dry.

Trees:
Using a flat brush use Yellow Ocher and Sepia to paint the trees.  Vary the intensity and alternate the colors to achieve the shading in the trees.  Be certain to leave spacing between the branches.  Using this same mix, paint the shorter trees and bushes.  Refer to the painting above for placement. 

Foreground:
Using a mix of Sepia and Yellow Ocher, paint the foreground using broad sweeping strokes.  Alternate the color.  Allow to dry. 

Finishing touches:
Using a liner brush and Sepia, add the tree branches.  Also add any detail lines in the foreground. 

Congratulations!  Sign your painting!  You have just completed a watercolor in the tradition of Edward Wesson!

Happy Painting!
Karen
 






Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Happy Spring! How to Paint a Loose Watercolor Daffodill

"Spring"
A watercolor painting by
Karen A. Cooke


Happy Spring!  The daffodil has always been the flower that tells me that it is Spring!  I have loved this bright yellow flowers since I was a little girl.  In springtime, we would pass a huge field of these flowers on my way to and from school.  An elderly woman would sell bouquets of these and my mom would stop and let me purchase bouquets of these flowers regularly on my way home from school.  These flowers always make me smile!

The painting above is a quick, loose watercolor from a photo I snapped in our front yard. 

All elements of this painting are loosely painted with minimal amounts of detail.  The painting was also painted on a slight slant to allow the paint to flow on the paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 95" x 7"  watercolor sketchbook
Brushes: round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Cadmium Yellow Dark
  • Sap Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch the flower on the page along with the stem and leaf placement.    You can use my painting as a reference, take a photo yourself or paint in plein air outside. 

Flower:
Using the round brush and painting wet on wet, paint the flower working from light to dark and leaving some of the spaces unpainted and white for highlights.  Refer to the photo above for color placement.  White the flower is still wet, drop in the Sap Green at the base of the flower.

Stem and Leaves:
Using the round brush and painting wet on wet, use shades of Sap Green and Ultramarine Blue to paint the stem and leaves.  Note the yellow at the base of the stem as well as lighter shades of green and blue. 

Finishing touches:
See if you need to add addition leaves or splashes of yellow or light green in various locations on the page. 

Tip:  Loose watercolors are intended to be loose and flowing, so not attempt to paint in details - that is the joy of loose watercolor painting!

Photo used for the painting

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen



Friday, March 17, 2017

"Splash" - How to paint a drop of water

"Splash"
5" x 7" watercolor painting
by Karen A. Cooke


Painting water can be challenging.  Since water itself is clear, the key to painting water is to use the color of it's surroundings.  In the painting above, I used blue to reflect the color of the sky and make the water stand out on the paper.

The painting above was painted with only one color of paint - Windsor Blue  The intensity of the color is regulated by the amount of water added to the paint and how the paint is layered on the paper.
Using this type of technique will help beginners understand the strength of color when water is added and how much water to use.  This technique also helps with learning how to layer the paint to achieve color variation.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 5" x 7" piece
Masking tape or watercolor notebook
Watercolor board, if using sheet paper
Brushes: round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Windsor Blue

Painting Instructions:
I sketched the shape of the water splash to make the painting easier to do. 

Splash:
Look at the painting above and using a pale wash of blue start painting at the top and work your way down to the bottom of the splash.  While this pale wash is still wet, start adding additional washes of Windsor Blue in deeper intensities allowing the washes to blend together.  Refer to the painting above for location.  Allow to dry. 

Water/Reflection at base of splash:
Painting wet on wet add washes of blue in the same way as the splash with the deepest intensity near the base of the splash.  Be certain to leave some areas unpainted and white.  Allow to dry. 

Finishing touches:
Using a liner brush, add a some deeper lines of Windsor Blue to define areas of the splash.   Refer to the photo above.  


Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to Paint Storm Clouds


Texas Storm Clouds
9" x 12" watercolor paper
by Karen A. Cooke


This watercolor was painted from a photo taken by a friend during a recent trip to Texas.  I liked the clouds in the photo and asked permission to use her photo to demonstrate painting clouds.

Photo used for painting reference on left;
Painting on right


The painting above provides great practice for painting storm clouds..  All elements of this painting are loosely painted with minimal amounts of detail.  The painting was also painted on a slight slant to allow the paint to flow on the paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Old credit card or palette knife
Paint:
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Ultramarine Blue

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch the horizon on the page.  No other sketching will be needed. 

Sky:
Use a large round brush to paint the sky area.  Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a pale wash of Cadmium Orange drop in some color in various locations in the sky.  See above photo for location.  While this is still wet, paint in a wash of the Paynes Gray, apply the paint working from the top of the painting down to the horizon.  Add Ultramarine Blue in various areas of the sky and also increase the intensity of the Paynes Gray in some areas.   However, do not completely cover the entire sky area.  Allow some white areas to remain.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds, if needed.  Pick up the painting and tilt to the bottom left to add some flow to the watercolor on the page and create some movement in the clouds.  Allow to dry.  

Horizon Trees
Using a deep wash of Paynes Gray and your round brush, paint in the trees on the horizon.  Vary the heights of the trees to add interest.  Refer to the photo above for placement. Allow to dry.

Grasses:

Using a wash of Brunt Sienna and Yellow Ochre, paint the base of the grassy area moving from lighter shades in the back and moving to darker shades in the front.  While still wet, drop in a wash of Sepia in various locations for the base of the tall grasses.  While this area is still wet, use either the sharp edge of a credit card or a small palette knife and pull up some paint to indicate the grasses.  Allow to dry. 

Finishing touches:
Using a liner brush, add some additional grasses moving from small and short grasses in the horizon to taller grasses in the foreground.  Allow to dry.  Using a utility knife, scrape in some highlights in the tall grasses. 

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen

Thursday, March 2, 2017

One Color Painting

Quiet
5" x 7" watercolor painting
by Karen A. Cooke


The painting above was painted with only one color of paint - Paynes Gray.  The intensity of the color is regulated by the amount of water added to the paint and how the paint is layered on the paper.
Using this type of technique will help beginners understand the strength of color when water is added and how much water to use.  This technique also helps with learning how to layer the paint to achieve color.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 5" x 7" piece
Masking tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Paynes Gray

Painting Instructions:
The only pencil line I used on this painting was the one for the horizon.  This helped keep me focused on the horizon and allowed me to keep the waterline/treeline consistent across the page. 

This painting was painted quickly wet on wet.

Sky:
Wet the sky area all the way down to the waterline.  Using a very pale wash of Paynes Gray, paint in areas of the sky.  Do not paint the entire sky, leave wide spaces of unpainted area.

Trees:
The trees are painted first with a pale wash of Paynes Gray, slightly deeper than the sky.  Paint the background trees from their tops down to the treeline.  While still damp, add in some deeper shades of Paynes Gray to indicate trees closer to the front.  Continue adding trees and painting deeper shades of Paynes Gray to the waterline.  Allow to dry.

Water/Reflection:
The reflection is painted using the same method used in the trees.  If you feel more comfortable,  rotate your paper and paint in the "normal" direction rather than painting "upside down."   Allow these trees to be "wavy" to indicate the reflection in the water.   Allow to dry. 

The water toward the front of the painting was painted in the same method as the sky.    This painting is basically a mirror image from the treeline to the sky and the treeline into the water. 

Finishing touches:
Using a liner brush, add a few trucks/branches in several locations.   Refer to the photo above. 

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"Island in the Lake" - Sky, Water and Reflections


Island on the Lake
9" x 12" watercolor painting
Karen A. Cooke


The painting above provides great practice for painting sky, water and reflections.  All elements of this painting are loosely painted with minimal amounts of detail.  The painting was also painted on a slight slant to allow the paint to flow on the paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Cadmium Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Sap Green
  • Hooker Green Deep

Painting Instructions:
Lightly sketch this painting on your paper.  This is not an involved sketch, simply drawn the horizon, the island and make exterior shapes of the trees. 

Sky:
Use a large round brush to paint the sky area.  Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a pale wash of Cadmium Orange drop in some color in various locations in the sky.  See above photo for location.  While this is still wet, paint in a wash of the Cobalt Blue, apply the paint working from the top of the painting down to the horizon .  However, do not completely cover the entire sky area.  Allow some white areas to remain.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds, if needed.  Work around the island and trees.  Allow to dry.  

Water:
Deeper the wash of Cobalt Blue.  Continue using the round brush and paint in the water.  Again, do not complete cover the area, leave some spaces unpainted.  Add a light wash of Cadmium Orange in various locations in the water was well as wash of a deep brown mixed from the orange and green.  This will create the shadows of the island.  Refer to the photo above for placement.  The reflections closer to the island are painted with a mix of Payne's Gray and Cobalt Blue.  Paint this quickly while the water area is still wet.  Allow to dry.

Trees:
The trees are painted with a light wash of Sap Green and the deeper colors are added next working light to dark.  Mix Sap Green with Cobalt Blue and Hooker Green with Cobalt Blue and add the shadows.  In some locations, use only a deep Blue from Cobalt Blue and Payne's Gray.   Allow to dry.    Note:  Tree branches will be painted in a later step. 

Island and Rocks:

Using a pale wash of Payne's Gray, start painting the rocks and land areas of the island.  Drop in the blue and Sepia in various locations to create the land areas and the rocks.  Refer to the photo above for location. 

Tree Branches:
Using a liner brush, paint details of branches on various trees (not all of them)  with deep shades of the green.  Do not overdo....less is more.   Allow to dry.

Finishing touches:
Review your painting and add any shadows that may be needed for depth. 

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Jed's Barn - Painting a Winter Landscape

Jed's Barn
9" x 12" watercolor painting
by
Karen A. Cooke


Painting winter landscapes can and usually do involve painting snow.  Snow can be achieved with watercolor painting by simply painting shadows and leaving the other areas of the landscape  unpainted.  Sounds easy - but this can often be tricky.  In order to contour the ground, shadows and shapes need to be considered as well as intensity of color.  Shadows can be shades of blue or grays and even browns, depending on the object creating the shadow.  The painting above of the old barn is an example of a winter landscape.  The focal point of this painting is the red barn; however, the snowy landscape is a large factor in emphasizing the barn.

Let's paint!

The watercolor above was painted on  140 lb. cold press paper.   I did not use my usual preferred paper (Arches).  This paper is Strathmore.  This paper is a heavyweight paper suited for beginning watercolorists or for experimenting with new techniques.  It is less expensive than Arches paper  and does not allow for excessive working or lifting of color.  I always recommend a 140 lb. weight paper for beginners as it is easier to work the paint on the page.  A good student grade paper is less expensive and keeps the beginner from being as worried about the possibility of ruining an expensive piece of paper.   Use the brand and type of paper you prefer, can afford, and feel comfortable using.

Don't worry about ruining a piece of paper.  Feel free to explore and learn new techniques......after all - "it is only paper!"
Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (type and size of your choice)  - I used a 9" x 12" piece
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat, liner and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Paint:
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Van Dyke Brown
  • Alizarin Crimson

Painting Instructions:
I sketched this drawing on my watercolor paper. However, if you feel you may need to erase multiple times, you may want to drawn on a piece of sketch paper and transfer your completed sketch to the watercolor paper. I discuss how this can be accomplished in my blog of May 11, 2016.


As a reminder: Multiple erasures can damage watercolor paper and cause pooling of water as well as differences in the way the paint is absorbed into or on the paper. Deep sketch marks will show up in a finished painting, even if they are erased. Correct perspective is an important part of this painting. Confirm that you like the perspective that you have executed in your sketch before you start painting. A poorly executed sketch done in a hurry cannot be overcome no matter how great a job one does with the paint.

Sky:
Wet the sky from the top down to the horizon using clean water. Using a wash of Cerulean Blue, apply the paint working from the top of the painting down to the horizon.  Using a tissue or paper towel, lift some of the paint to create lighter areas in the sky for clouds.  As the wash begins to dry.  paint in the impression of trees in the distance using a mix of your blue paint and Payne's Gray.  Allow to dry.  

Note: 
Larger trees:   You will paint over the top of the trees you sketched with the sky color so that the sky will be smooth.  Since the trees are painted using a darker color than the sky, they will be painted after the sky is completely dry. 

Barn:
I painted the siding of the barn first and left the roof for last.  The wood siding is painted with Crimson and Payne's Gray. 

Prepare a wash of crimson, varying the intensity from a deep red to a pale red.  Using the photo above as an example, paint the siding of the barn varying the color intensity of the red in various locations.  While the red is still wet, drop in the Payne's Gray.  Allow these colors to blend. 

Note:  Deepen the shadows under the roof line on the side of the barn with a deep shade of Payne's Gray.  This is done while the paint is still wet so that there will be no transition line from the shadow to the side of the barn. 

Barn Roof:
The roof of the barn is covered in snow.  Therefore, only the shadows are painted to indicate areas where the snow is blanketing the roof.  Areas of the roof are old and missing.  Painting wet on wet and using a mix of Payne's Gray and Cerulean Blue, paint in shadows referencing the photo above for shadow placement.  Using a deep shade of Payne's Gray, paint the areas where the roof is broken and missing on the right hand side of the roof.  The areas of broken roof where the siding shows through on the side of the barn were painted when the siding shadows were painted.  Allow to dry. 

Snow - Land contour and shadows
Using a pale wash of Payne's Gray, paint the snow on the left hillside, deepening the shadows cast by the trees.  Referencing the photo above, paint the contours on the ground and around the barn using a pale wash of Payne's Gray and Cerulean Blue. 

Note:  The shadows closer to the bottom of the page are painted with a light wash of Cerulean Blue with the intensity deepening as one moves further away. 

Trees/Grasses: 
Using  a wash of Vandyke Brown paint the trees.  Deepen the color on the trunks of the trees in various locations with Sepia. 

Add some grasses showing through the snow in various locations near the barn and under the trees.

Allow to dry.

Finishing touches:
A few details can be added in the siding on the barn now that the paint is completely dry.

Use a liner brush and Payne's Gray,  paint in a few lines for the boards adding a few deeper areas where the boards are cracked.  Do not make this very detailed.  When the paint is completely dry, use a utility knife to scratch off the paint on the siding in a few areas for highlights. 

Look over your painting and paint any finishing details you would like to add. Then, sign your painting!

Congratulations!

Happy Painting!
Karen


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Walking in the Rain

                        

The painting above is a "loose" watercolor painted with a minimum of sketching.  I did drawn the lines for the sidewalk and the basic shapes of the people and their umbrellas.  Needless to say, there is very little detail in this paining.  The object of this painting to provide a feeling of the rain not a detailed "photo."

The watercolor above was painted on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (size of your choice)
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: flat and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)
Spray Bottle of water
Paint:
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Sepia
  • Payne's Gray
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Crimson

Painting Instructions:
This a very simple painting done quickly in wet on wet. 

Background Buildings, Sidewalks and Street
The light colored umbrellas are the only objects left unpainted on the first wash of color.  The umbrellas can be painted around or masked out with masking fluid or a piece of masking tape cut to the shape of the umbrella.  I simply painted around the umbrellas, but painted over the shapes of the bodies since the colors are very pale. 

Wet the entire sheet taking into consideration the umbrellas and your choice of masking.  While the paper is still wet drop in the following colors:  Ultramarine Blue, Payne's Gray, Yellow Ocher and Crimson mixed with Ultramarine to create purple. Using a vertical stroke, pull the colors down to meet the sidewalk leaving the impression of buildings in the background obscured by rain.   Using the same colors, brush horizontally across the sidewalk areas.  Brush strokes in this area can also be vertical to indicate the falling rain.  While the area is still wet, use a tissue to pull the paint from areas, leaving white streaks.  Allow to dry.

People and Umbrellas:
Using Payne's Gray, paint in the silhouettes of the people allowing areas to be lighter on various parts of their clothing.  Allow to dry and then paint the umbrella.  I used Cerulean Blue on one umbrella and a pale mix of Crimson and Yellow Ochre on the other colored umbrella.  The dark umbrella was painted with undiluted Payne's Gray.  Allow to dry.  When dry,  add the shadows of the people with a wash of Payne's Gray and the purple used above.  Spray the shadows with plain water to allow them to blur.  Allow to dry.

Sidewalk:
I used a fine liner brush to put in the sidewalk using broken lines. 

Details:
Use a utility knife to scratch in highlights on the umbrellas.


Congratulations! 

Happy Painting!
Karen

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Painting a Day - Every Day?

A Painting a Day - Every Day?  Why?

I counter with "Why not?"  Daily painting can be a habit and can make a painter more creative and successful and painting more enjoyable whether one enjoys painting as a hobby or a profession.  I received the book above for a birthday present and it offers a few tips on daily painting. 

I am often asked these questions:
  • "How often you paint? 
  • Do you paint every day?
  • How do you know what to paint?
  • Is painting work for you or is it fun?
  • Why paint?
Some of these questions will attempt to be answered in today's blog.  The frequency of my painting has changed over the course of time based on the various seasons of my life.  If painting is not one's full time profession, then painting must fit into one's schedule of life, family, work and recreation.  As with all things,  priorities must be set and how often one paints depends on those priorities.    Painting for me has been a hobby and a profession during various times. 

When painting is a profession, painting is a top priority and one paints more often - at least, if one would like to be successful.    When painting is a hobby, it often gets set aside to allow for other items in one's life.  When painting as a hobby, then one must address painting as one would any other hobby - make time for it!

This post will address painting as a hobby rather than as a profession.  Work is work;  and like any job,  painting should be treated as any other profession.  However, if painting is a hobby that  is a different subject.

So,  let's start off with reasons one starts a hobby.  According to info I have read from numerous sources and from my own experiences, here are a few reasons:
  1. Hobbies are healthy for the mind and body.  If you take time for a hobby that you enjoy, you can lose yourself in it and forget about your worries for a while.  Great stress reliever!
  2. Hobbies make one more confident - period!  When one finds a hobby they enjoy (and one does not have to be good at it),  one practices a skill and improves by practice thus creating the motivation to continue.  According to the Huffington Post, pursuing a passion is a great way to build self-esteem, giving one an enhanced sense of purpose and improving overall quality of life. 
  3. Hobbies help one structure time by "making" time for the hobby - no matter how small the amount of time.    Now, this does not need to be daily, but can be weekly, etc.  Whatever will fit into your schedule.  The point is to avoid stress, not create more by trying to fit too much into one day.  (I have been guilty of this.) 
  4. Hobbies can help you grow as a person by building new social connections, adding to your identity and richness to your self concept.  You will not only feel more inspired when you have a rich and active life, but you will inspire others as well.
What does one paint?  Anything and everything!  Look around the house, outside,  on the internet, in books - paint whatever catches your interest.  

Schedule time to paint or draw - just do it!  Invest 5 minutes, 15 minutes,  half an hour or more.  Whatever amount of time fits your schedule.   I have found that the more I paint, the more I want to paint!   Practice, as with all things, make one better. 

In the past, I have taken a few minutes each day to sketch in a small sketchbook.  One that can be carried to work for a quick lunch time sketch, taken to your child's afterschool activities while waiting in the car, grabbed while you are waiting for the water to boil for the spaghetti noodles, picked up during a commercial of your favorite show (instead of the potato chips), etc.  You get the idea - be prepared and art will happen.  Like any habit, it will become 2nd nature to have that sketchbook with you. 

So, pick up that sketch book, pencil, paint brush and get started!  You'll be glad you did!

Happy Painting!
Karen




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Painting Dogs - Easier Than It Seems


"Diesel"
A watercolor painting by Karen A. Cooke
Following along with painting animals from last week, this week's post discusses how to paint a bulldog.  I am not a "detail" painter and prefer a more Impressionist style of painting, the bulldog painting, conveys the dog's personality without detail - not even detailed fur.    However, you can add as much or as little detail in your painting as you like and that fits your style of painting. 

Below, I have again included some tips on painting fur from last week's blog post:
  1. Most animals will have different types of fur in their coat - short smooth, long wispy  and thick/clumpy fur.
  2. Animal fur is thick and will require layers of color and or detail.
  3. When working with watercolor it is important to paint the lightest color fur first and build up the darker layers.   The light base color is painted first with brush stokes placed on top. 
  4. Vary your brush stoke to keep the fur from looking uniform.  Animal fur is usually a little bit "scruffy" and unkempt looking. 
  5. Also, be certain to leave some white unpainted areas for highlights. 

The watercolor above was painted on Arches 140 lb. cold press paper.

Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper (size of your choice)
Masking Tape
Watercolor board
Brushes: round, liner and flat or fan
Spray Bottle of water
Paint: 
  • Sepia
  • Black
  • Payne's Gray
  • Crimson
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Mars Black
Note:  The colors above are the ones I used to paint the dog above.  Your paint colors will vary based on the color of the animal you are painting. 

Painting Instructions:
Sketch the basic shape of the dog with the most detail and attention given to the eyes, nose and mouth.  The detail of the body will be shaped by the color of the fur to define and shape.  


Body
I painted wet on wet by first wetting with clean water sections of the dog's body that I wanted to paint.  I left a dry, white area in places where I did not want the color to blend.  This white area will help define the shape of the dog rather than having one large painted area.  This gives shape without having to define it with color.  In the case of this bulldog, it also indicates areas of wrinkled skin.  Blend your colors allowing some of the painted areas to be lighter than others. 

Ears:
The ears are painted in the same manner as the body per the instructions above.  Vary the intensity of the paint leaving some areas white.  Refer to photo above.

Eyes:
Paint the eyes.  In this case the dog's eyes are brown.  Use a wash and paint the outer section of the eye with this color and allow to dry.  Paint the pupil last leaving a small white dot of white paper unpainted.  Allow to dry.  Using a liner brush or a watercolor pencil (see tip below) outline the eye.  Allow to dry. 

TIP:  Watercolor pencils can be used to help outline and define the eyes.  This is especially helpful if you feel uncomfortable or unsteady using a fine liner brush for details.  Steady hands come with practice and becoming comfortable with painting.  However, remember - it is only paper!

Nose, mouth and muzzle area:
Using a pale wash of Crimson, paint in the lower muzzle leaving some areas lighter fading into white unpainted paper and drop in some Payne's Gray.  Allow to dry.  Using a pale wash of Payne's Gray to add shading and color in in the nose and lower muzzle.  Refer to photo above.  Add dots of color using the tip of a round brush for the part of the muzzle where the whiskers are growing.  Allow to dry.  The nose is painted with Payne's Gray leaving some areas white and using black to deepen some of the areas. 

Details:
Using the liner brush and black, brunt umber and burnt sienna, paint in a few details to indicate lines, claws, etc.  Refer to painting.  Don't let this become too involved. 

Foreground:
Using Crimson and Payne's Gray in a very light wash, add a shadow in the foreground to help "ground" the dog in place rather than leaving him "floating." 

Check for any other details you would like to add.  When you are satisfied,  sign you painting!

Congratulations! 


Happy Painting!
Karen