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