Tuesday 31 March 2020

Adding a background - for the beginner

Backgrounds are often considered as an after thought but it is preferable to consider the backgrounds either at the start of your painting, or near the start.

Working forward from yesterdays post this should take you to the next step.

Incorporating your flower into the background from the start - begin as before with the centre of the flower, attach that first petal, then wet the background to the right of that petal allowing the brush to touch the petal edge and inviting that Magenta to run into the background.
Do the same with the lower petal.
Let it dry, then follow the next stage.

You can begin with this next stage if you have a flower study already complete.
Using a dark green (Midnight Green) and my Classic round brush to create an outer edge of the lower left petal using the tip of the brush, then sweep out some strokes away from the flower. Then using the Golden Leaf brush (which is a large wash brush)  I wet the adjoining area, catching the green paint and allowing it to run into the wet section. I add some turquoise to the wet area to vary the colour. This same technique is repeated at the top of the flower.

This needs to dry.

I use my Pyramid brush for this next stage, you may also use a sword liner or if you have neither of those, your Classic round.

Using the same strong Midnight Green, I suggest squiggly leaf shapes, allowing the brush to dance on the paper. I am not painting actual 'leaves' but instead suggesting leaves.

Whilst this is wet, I use the spritzer in the same way as in yesterdays post. Shielding the flower by cupping my hand and spraying the water onto the wet paint.

This will diffuse the hard edges and create a more subtle foliage effect.

This is the result, suggesting leaves rather than painting any specific leaves. 

Remember this is a background. The original photo used in yesterdays post was our 'reference' point, not to slavishly copy.

I hope you have a go at this, or use the techniques to paint something similar.

Monday 30 March 2020

An Anemone flower for the beginner

During this difficult times when so many of us are isolated and needing to switch off from the news, a simple painting project can be the perfect thing to enable us to concentrate on something else and give our minds a break!

You may remember if you follow my posts that before the 'lock down' I bought some plants from the garden centre, the flowers of which have now begun to open. I had no idea that anemones close when there is no sun (sorry for my ignorance here) so they remained tight shut for quite some time before, voila! the sun came out and I had a burst of magical colour!

To keep things easy for us, I'm not going to use the flower in front of me, because you can't see it, so we will use this image together.

If you would like to paint this with me, you will need

  • A sheet of not surface watercolour paper (this has a medium texture on it) 140lb weight.
  • A round brush in a size 12 (no smaller than a 10) I shall be using my Classic Round.
  • A round brush in a size 6 I shall be using my Pointer brush.
  • A spritzer or water spray with a fine mist (avoid the large splattery ones)
  • Watercolour paint either pans or tubes.
  • Embossing tool or toothpick
  • Water pot
To begin, if you want to draw some outlines, do, but for your first study I suggest you don't. I realise this might seem scary, but I want you to relax and have a go at these techniques. They may be new to you, so experiment and don't worry about what its going to look like.

We are going to begin with the centre of the flower, so using a dark Indigo or Shadow colour, make sure the brush has plenty of paint in it and paint a round blob, look at the photo and paint a series of small dots around the blob, then using a small embossing tool tease the wet paint from each of the blobs back towards the centre.
Whilst the paint is still wet (very important) use your spritzer and pump it once. A light spatter of water droplets will disperse some of the colour. If nothing seems to happen, use the spritzer again, but avoid over doing this or you will end up with a puddle.

Whilst this is still wet we can begin to paint the petals. 
Use any colour in your box which is similar to the colour of the flower, if you don't have the exact colour, use something similar. 

Mix a lovely big pool of strong colour, load up your brush and using the whole brush, begin at the end of the petal and move the brush towards the centre without lifting the brush off the paper.

Allow the Magenta to touch the dark section, then pull the brush back and lift it using the point to draw the shape of the petal before lifting the brush off the paper. Clean the brush or use a second brush which has only clean water in it and wet the remaining shape of the first petal, allowing the Magenta to flood into that shape.

Using the same wet brush, (just water, no colour) paint the wet shape of the second petal, allowing the brush to gently touch the first petal, inviting the colour to move into the adjoining section.
Notice how wet this is.

If your brush is too dry (not loaded enough) it will all dry too fast and you wont get the same effect.
Still using water, touch the dark centre (still wet) dragging the brush back towards the rest of the wet petal inviting that dark colour to run.
If you leave a dry gap, the paint wont cross this, so any light areas you want to create can be done this way.

Yours will not look the same as mine. If I painted another flower, it would not be the same as this one. Make sure you regularly look at the photo for the petal shapes and where the light petals are as well as the dark sections.

Ideally we want to continue, we don't want it to dry, but if it does, just keep going.

Using the same technique as our first petal, use the whole bush again, keeping it on the paper, as if you are moulding the shape of the petal, rather than stroking or dabbing the brush onto the paper.

As the paint settles into the paper and dilutes with the water already on the surface it will lighten so adding more Magenta to suggest separate petals can be done at this stage.

Using my Pointer brush I gently tap the paper, each tap releases colour out of the tip of the brush.

Each time I do this, I am not only adding colour but re-wetting this section. 

You can continue to paint the entire flower in this way, or take the chance to create a more painterly effect by using the spritzer again.

If you are happy with your first effort, complete it, without taking any chances then have another go using the spritzer on your second one.

For those of you wanting to take some risks.... lets go! 
Whilst the flower is still wet, spritz water onto the left and top petals.
These are the ones on the photo in sunlight. Allow the colour to diffuse.
Don't be tempted to prod it.
Don't worry that you seem to be 'losing' the petal shapes, we will suggest them again later.

At this point, walk away. Don't watch!

Now that its dry, suggesting the petals again is easy. 

Using the tip of my Classic brush, I draw the outer shape of the petal.
These can remain a 'hard edge' or softened with water suggesting a softer edge.

Where the pink has run into the background area, this could imply a bud in the future, especially when incorporated into a background.

To soften this edge, wet the petal with water allowing the wet brush to touch the colour at the edge. The colour will move into the wet section. 

The same can be done to suggest any other petals.
The result is a much softer one than if you don't use the spritzer

I hope you have enjoyed this post, and that you have a few goes at it, this should keep you busy for a couple of days.

Tomorrow I will show you how to add a bit of background, so that you can take things a bit further. 

Meanwhile, stay home and stay safe.

Sunday 29 March 2020

Spring Flowers Part 2

This next stage of the painting is exciting as I rely on the properties of the paint to create some lovely effects for me. 
It's worth having some experimental time on a spare piece of paper to see what effects you can create with your paints. It took a while before I perfected certain techniques achieving effects I especially liked, not only that, but deciding where and when to use these effects is also important.

When you create a lovely effect, try not to over use it by adding it all over your picture, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. It starts to look a bit 'gimmicky' if you over use these effects.

For this lovely effect the main point to remember is that wet paint will only run into wet adjoining sections. Any dry areas will remain untouched.
If you want paint to move, you may need to tilt your board, in some cases a jolt may be necessary, or the addition of more liquid to encourage it to move.

The dark green I use naturally granulates. In other words, when applied, the pigments separate into the dips of the watercolour surface, creating a textured appearance, this can be enhanced by encouraging the paint to flow in a certain direction, suggesting rivulets of texture. (Daniel Smith paints tend to granulate profusely)

Imagine however, if my entire painting was covered in such textures? For this sort of subject, I need some colours to be smooth and 'flat' whilst others create the textures.
Tip - If none of your paints granulate, don't worry, carry on, you can perhaps add a tiny amount of salt to your wet dark green to create texture. It wont be the same, but it will look great. Use the salt sparingly, remember each grain will create a tiny star burst.

Using my Pyramid brush and dark green I scribble onto the paper with the tip of the brush allowing some parts of the paper to remain dry. Adding some water I carefully paint around the shapes of the flower petals to create the hard edge, then using my Classic 12 brush wet with clean water I add a wet area for this paint to run into, catching the edge whilst this is still wet. I lift the board up on the right allowing the paint to move into the wet section, adding the lighter green paint and water where necessary.
Leave to dry on a tilt if necessary.

Using my Classic round brush I paint the stems, allowing them to touch and overlap, and suggesting a direction movement by flicking the paint towards the right.
I add water nearer the large leaf shape to give the appearance that this was painted at the same time. (Of course, it was painted yesterday and completely dry) 

Its all beginning to form a lively composition now much larger than the original drawing, hence the need to draw in the middle of a larger sheet of paper at the start.

I am now going to start to work on the hyacinths again, making them merge a little into the background. This time I am going to use a granulating purple, however, if you don't have one, don't worry, just carry on.
Using my Classic 12 brush, I apply blobs of very wet purple allowing them settle into the paper. (it doesn't matter if this purple is different from the first one I used) Don't rush this bit, you need to allow the pigments to settle into the paper. It you are impatient, the best effects will be lost.

Using a clean wet brush I wet the right side of the flower as close as I dare to the wet sections, then when I am ready I allow the point of the brush to touch the paint inviting it to pour into the wet area, tilting the board to encourage the paint to move in the direction I want it to go.

This is a close up of what it looks like when the separated pigments begin to move gently into the wet area giving the impression that the whole flower was painted at one time.
This takes time to understand and control, it doesn't just 'happen'.Once you know how to create the effect each time you need it, that's when you have a new technique. If its a 'happy accident' that's great, but unpredictable.

This is the stage when I add more of the brighter green, creating the edge of the lighter flowers and washing the colour into the background as previously.
Linking the stems with the leaves in the same way.

Finally, just the shadow areas are needed on the flowers.
For this I use my original purple. Not the one that granulates, but the one I used right at the start of the painting. Using my Classic 12 and a very dilute wash I then add a little shadow to some of the flowers. I do this by holding the flower in sunlight in the position within the composition, and painting the shadows where i see them. I do them all at once using the same light. If there is no sunlight, then directional natural daylight is also good, but I would avoid artificial lighting.

Perhaps you could paint a small posy to begin with? You don't have to paint such a large painting as this, but what ever size you chose, make sure you begin in the centre of a larger piece of paper than you would imagine, as those wet washes need space. 
My next post will be something for more of the beginner, so if this seemed really tricky, the next one might be more suitable for you.
Thanks for reading, and stay safe at home at this difficult time.

Saturday 28 March 2020

Spring Flowers Part 1 Level - intermediate

Now that we are all indoors due to COVID-19 I have decided to paint a bright, uplifting and perhaps challenging project for us to tackle together.

Materials you will need
Water Soluble coloured pencils (optional, but useful)
Watercolours, either pans or tubes
2 natural round size 12 brushes (I am using my Classic Round)

1 Pyramid, or Sword brush
Golden Leaf brush
Water spritzer

In my little courtyard garden I have daffodils and hyacinths flowering, so that will be my composition. If you have something similar, use what you have. Your colours might be different, but if you are in that 'intermediate' group, you will be fine.

When I begin a composition, I use real flowers. but I don't necessarily arrange them in a vase to paint them. I think this may stem from my design background, so for this project I am going to create a composition that flows across the paper in a 'bouquet' format. 
This is a great way to work if for example, you have just one or two flowers blooming in the garden, but your composition can have the same flower positioned differently to give the illusion that you have half a dozen of them (sneaky or what!) I know, who would have thought it?

I am beginning by using water soluble coloured drawing pencils to draw the centre of my composition in the middle of a sheet of not surface watercolour paper 15 x 22 inches.
These lines will disappear into my painting.
Sorry this photo is a bit dark, but I take it with my ipad as I go along, I'm sure you will be able to make it out though.

Beginning with a strong Orange and Yellow, and my Classic brush, I paint the centre of the first daffodil, then immediately I use the second clean brush which is just wet, to wet the paper adjacent to my colour, touching the edge to 'invite' the colour to move into the wet area.
Using the first brush again, I apply the colour (still on the brush) to paint the centre of the second flower, the again, using the second wet brush, I wet the paper next to the area I want to invite the colour into.

I do the same for the other flowers in my composition.
So far so good?
Now at this stage you might like to wait for that to dry. I don't, I keep going, however, its 'safer' to wait. 

Using a strong colour mix, I paint the individual flower shapes of the first hyacinth. Whilst these are still wet I spray water using a spritzer, shielding any flowers I want to avoid using the cupped palm of my left hand. This diffuses the solid shapes and makes the hyacinth appear 'fuller'. Using my wet brush I wet the outer areas with clean water 'catching' the edges of the hyacinth in places so that the flower has a 'soft feel to it' 
At this point I like to flick paint from my brush into the wet section. You will notice tiny drops of the purple paint that has landed on the daffodils as well as the background. I leave these, I don't try and lift them or mess with them, but you might like to ignore this bit unless you are confident at 'flicking' the paint out of the end of the brush.
Whilst the flower is still wet, I paint the stem. Its important that this merges with some of the purple, otherwise it may appear to be separate and not part of the flower.
I repeat this process for the second flower.
Let the whole thing dry.
I now go and make a cup of tea, catch up with something else, in other words, I walk away.
Over the years I have learnt that although I decide I wont touch it, I always want to prod at it, and if I do, I always regret it, so I walk away.

 Its now time to begin adding background colour. My advice about backgrounds is never to leave them until the end, always incorporate them either at the start of the painting, or near the start.

I am going to use the same yellow but very dilute, carefully painting around any of the white or light petals, using my Classic brush, then adding water to my brush as I encourage the paint away from the flowers.
Where this colour meets the pale purple, I want to give the impression that it was all painted wet into wet, so lovely soft edges are vital here.

This is a close up showing how the yellow meets the blue as well as how the coloured pencil lines have dissolved into the flower sections that have been wet.

Now I begin to add leaves and buds. Any flowers or buds that 'join' sections of green, need to be painted at the same time. The flower and green together.
This may seem risky, but the results are far more natural looking.

Beginning with the two buds, once again I use two Classic brushes, one will hold the yellow, the other, green.
Beginning at the end of the bud on the left, I place the Classic brush onto the paper and pull it back towards the green area, immediately using the second brush with the green paint, I place that brush onto the yellow, pulling it and lifting to create the belly of the bud and the stem.
The green should merge a little with the yellow.
I repeat the process for the second bud without reloading the green, so that hardly any green is applied to the yellow of the second bud.

Next its the leaves. 
For the smaller longer leaves, I use my Pyramid brush, but you could use a sword brush, and for the wider leaves, I use my Classic 12 again.
I often begin at the tip of the leaf drawing the brush back towards the flowers, but sometimes I work from the flowers outwards. Importantly, I paint three or four leaves, and whilst they are still wet, I use the Golden Leaf brush, damp with water but not wet, I stipple next to the sections of the leaf where I want to diffuse it into the background, allowing some of the brush hair to 'catch' the edge of the leaves and pull it away from the leaf. 
I do this in sections, not all the way around the leaves. (Unless they are in the background)

If you want to watch some great tips on painting flowers and leaves there is a section within the Project Library   if you are interested. There is also a full project with roses and leaves.

This is a good place to stop for today.
The next section will be available tomorrow.

Thursday 19 March 2020

Learning to look

Seeing is more than just looking, so today I thought you might enjoy a 'looking exercise'.
Its a drizzly dark day here, but this flat light is very good for observing tones and colour, so I am going to use a white object, and yes, I know it sounds odd but I am going to look for colour as well as tones.

This is a white bowl on a white piece of paper.

The light is natural light coming from the window behind it, so it appears quite dark.

In fact, it is very dark in places.

I'm going to ask you some questions, which I will have answers for below. 
See if yours are the same as mine. but don't worry if they are not, this is not a test! If they are different, look again at the picture. If you still disagree, that's OK too.

1 Ignore the background bits, where do you see the darkest section?
2 Which appears to be the lightest section?
3 Excluding the very darkest sections, which is then dark but not the very darkest.

You have just separated your images into 3 tonal areas, if you stick to these when you then draw or paint your bowl, your painting will seem 'right' even if it IS a white bowl.

A1 The darkest section is in the very bottom of the inside of the bowl, closely followed by the inside of the rim on the far side of the bowl, and finally the tiny curve of the bowl where it sits on the paper.
A2 The lightest section is the behind the bowl and to the right, all round the bowl is lightest, but that tiny section on the right is slightly lighter.
Plus the tiny rim of light around the front part of the rim.
A3 The inside of the bow, the outside of the bowl that faces us and the shadow area on the paper.

So that was the bowl against the light.
Now lets move so we see the bowl from a different angle.

This becomes fun, because we now have some 'lost edges' as well as some reflections from the window, the light is still natural however, I have just moved round.

'Lost edges' are a wonderful gift for the painter, this is when the tonal value of one object, when placed next to another, or against a background appears to be the same, so the 'edge' technically disappears, but our brain fills in the missing bit for us. This is especially clear when objects are the same colour such as this white against white, but more tricky to observe in colour when the objects are different. For example a pale pink bowl placed on a pale green base.

We also have some 'reflected light' here. This is when light bounces from one surface onto another, another rather lovely way to describe this is 'kissed by light'

Here are some more questions for you.

1 Ignoring the background bits again, where do you see the darkest section?
2 Which appears to be the lightest section?
Excluding the very darkest and lightest sections, the remaining mid tone varies over the rest of the subject. There are many slight tonal variations, but I just want you to think in terms of  three for now.
3 Can you see any lost edges? 
4. Can you see any reflected light? (apart from the reflection)

A1 The darkest section is the inside of the rim on the left, then the inside of the bowl as well as the shadow area closest to the bowl on the paper. 
A2 The lightest section is the tiny small section of bright light on the paper to the left underside of the bowl. After this is the reflection inside the bowl on the right.
A3 There is a 'lost edge' on the outer top left curve of the bowl and another on the opposite side which merges into the shadow area.
A4 Reflected light is bouncing off the paper and 'kissing' the under edge of the bowl, slightly to the right.

Have I exhausted you yet? and are you still reading?
Finally then, lets look for that elusive colour. Don't switch off now, you are nearly there.

It is easier to see the colours in the lower photo. We all describe colour differently, so I can only tell you what I see. Look at the picture and think about what colours you see, then read on.

Seeing colours demands a leap of faith, we know this is a white object on a white sheet of paper, so the tones should surely be grey? 
I see the underlying colour as being a soft purple. A mauve if you like, not grey, there is definitively a purple hue to this. 
The glow of light on the paper left of the bowl, is a pale yellow. This I would suggest as a buttery yellow, not a bright yellow. The reflection in the bowl, is not this colour.

Seeing these colours is what the Impressionists really exaggerated in their paintings, which is why for example 'Monet's' series of haystack paintings were so extraordinary, painting the same subject at different times of the day with the emphasis on the changing light. We can only imagine the overwhelming effect the Impressionists had when their work was first exhibited.
Once you begin to observe colour and its nuances, your painting will leap a level.

It is much better to make these observations in real life rather than from a photo, so I hope you will chose a white object and place it onto a white surface, if you don't have a bowl, perhaps use an egg, and just take the time to look, its definitely worth it. You may see more colours depending on the light which becomes rather exciting!

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Lets paint together

I know many of you, particularly those who live on their own may be finding the prospect of self isolation daunting, and as this pandemic escalates, more of us will be indoors.
It is particularly nice when you email me about a post which has inspired you, so I know there are some of you who would like to paint with me and although you may all be at different skill levels, I think I will devise some painting which we can all enjoy.

I walked around my 'local' arboretum this afternoon, in the drizzle, thinking that this could be the last time I get the chance to do so for a while, Maggie got soaked and kept pulling me towards the exit, and I finally gave way when the water began pouring off my hat brim as I bent forward.
Passing through the plant shop on my way out some anemones and cowslips caught my eye.

These are what I bought, I intend to inspire you to get those paints out and paint along with me over the coming days and probably weeks. We will do some small little warm up exercises as well as some complete paintings.
I'm also going to get you to really look at things (I know, that sounds odd) but I will include photos to help and I hope you will join me.
You may like to keep a painting/sketch journal over this time, or a portfolio of your work so you can see your progress. (this is a posh 'arty' term for a folder or carrier bag with your paintings in it)

So lets paint together. 

Stay safe and thank you to Agnes in France who sent me 'safe kisses' what a nice thought :)

Thursday 12 March 2020

A sign of Spring

Today we have some lovely sunshine (although its pretty cold)  and the little lambs are outdoors basking in sunshine.

This morning on my walk with Maggie we passed some adorable lambs and as I am teaching a workshop in two weeks time I thought  a little painting time in the sunshine would be perfect, so this is my watercolour doodle from this morning.

The paper is actually white but it seems to appear more blue in the photo. 
I feel as if spring is just around the corner!

Monday 9 March 2020

Workshop using acrylics

We had such a lovely day in Marlborough painting a winter scene.
Everyone had used acrylics before, but some in the group were very nervous about the day, and in the end, they needn't have been because their results were really good.

Our first project was an allotment in snow, we all had the same photographic reference and blank canvases. When I began by saying that we wouldn't be drawing any pencil outlines to begin with, I could almost feel the sense of dread in the room.  Its a daunting prospect for many people, the idea of beginning to paint with no guide lines of any sort, but instead of finding this daunting, we turned it on its head and thought about it as freeing, no lines to stick to, everything is movable, adjustable, and any changes simply implemented.

This is my painting at the midway stage. (sorry I forgot to take pictures sooner, I just got carried away)

This is where I got to when we finished for lunch. I may add a little more in the foreground, but I do rather like the free loose result so far, so I wont add too much.

If I do, I will of course post the final painting.

The group followed my suggestions when we painted together, however, I did say that after lunch they could use their own artistic twist on the day and do what ever they wanted.

I do think its important that participants on my workshops use what ever techniques of mine they chose to, but also have the freedom to add their own.

These were the results of their allotment paintings. They were all quite different and had lots of mood and atmosphere. 

The group were so delighted with their second paintings that I am sure they wont mind my showing you. These were the ones they did using the second photo.

Thank you to all of you that joined me for this very enjoyable day, and I know some of you have already booked on the next workshop, so I'll see you then!