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Archive for the ‘Paintings’ Category

Skyscapes

Recently I had the pleasure of running a few “mini workshops” for the Placerville Arts Association. With only three hours there’s a limited amount of material and concepts that can be covered. The watercolor workshop focused in on creating skyscape’s. Watercolor, by its very nature, lends itself beautifully to the interpretations of clouds, time of day and weather.

Composition and value end up being the primary elements to consider in a skyscape. The artwork needs to have a low horizon line, that sky needs to dominate at least two thirds of the composition. Value is the next key, the most value ‘contrast or pattern’ needs to occur up in the sky. It doesn’t mean that the ground doesn’t have some strong lights and darks, just make sure it is not busier than the sky. Clouds and weather are usually best done with a sensitive light hand, it takes some practice to do the wet into wet and not storm castle_1storm newMex_1aoverdo any lifting. Clouds become almost become calligraphic with loaded flats and rounds, and you need to let the paint find some happy accidents for you.

Here are two skyscapes that we’re done following the workshop. My recommendation is to always start 2 watercolor paintings, not simultaneously . . . rather start one and then work on the other while you are waiting for the first to dry. It really helps you to avoid the temptation to overwork them.

storm newMex_3The horizontal one had a lovely photograph that was used as reference, the vertical one used the sky that was happening around me that morning with ground plane referenced from a prior painting. Being inspired by the actual sky I was looking at produced, in my opinion, a slightly better painting. I like them both, I just like that one a little bit better.

storm castle_4

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girl friend dog1When painting animals, and pets in particular, it is helpful to have multiple photos and sketches to work from. You don’t want to be subject to just one image, if you can help it, and first hand experience is the best. In other words if you know the animal, actually get to meet it and spend time with it, then what you take away when you go to capture their likeness is their personality. Then your drawing or painting is more than an image, it is a unique personality shinning through your handiwork.

This painting, done of a dog that had passed, was based on multiple photographs and a lively discussion with the owner. This painting is a mix of a couple of different photos, this is not an exact copy of any single image they provided me with. The real satisfaction I got when this was done, was from the owners. They felt I had really captured their ‘Girl’s character. It was so her, and I had not even met her. Personality will always make a piece more engaging, work hard to see that and capture it.

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The cornerstone of good composition is dominance, we need to have a dominant element to stick in our mind and capture us, not a whole bunch of visual facts vying for our attention. Creating a good composition in landscapes is a much bigger challenge for me in than it is in figure drawing. With figure drawing and painting it seems so much more obvious, the figure is the ‘star’ of my composition and therefore the most dominant element. In painting the subject of a landscape I can get overwhelmed by the many options that I see, yet the principle remains the same, without a dominant element a landscape will be boring, flat or confusing. Both myself and the viewer don’t know where to look first or where to look second.

Now the process of selection is simple, but simple does not mean easy, as you know; simple just looks easy. Here are some basic guidelines for composition that I got from my mentor in landscapes, the famous Canadian watercolorist, Jack Reid.
• What is it about this picture that attracts me?
• What element do I want to use as the “star” of my paintings?
• How do I arrange the other elements in the picture so they don’t detract from the star?

Here are two paintings of the same landscape. Though they share the same basic composition as far as the horizon line goes, there is a distinct difference between the use of values both in the sky and land elements as well as the amount of detail.

Tahoe dawn2 1
In the first one the sky and land seem equally important, they both carry the same amount of texture and  value range  – values are medium to medium dark with scattered lights. You can tell it is early morning but other than that it’s rather boring.

Tahoe dawn1You see how I revised the values of the mountains in the background to let the distant snow-covered one be even lighter. Notice how the addition of the little red cabin brought interest to the picture but does not detract from the overall effect of the clouds and the light on the water. That’s the idea. It’s just the co-star, and we don’t want to upstage the primary drama occurring in the sky. By understating the most distant mountain and adding the cabin we have a greater sense of extreme distance and middle distance but with less detail and we focus on the clouds first and the land second.  When I look at them both together I rather prefer the simpler lighter water on the first … time to make a third painting with the sky and land of the second and the water of the first.

Tahoe dawn2 1 Tahoe dawn1

Just to give myself some direction I overlaid the first painting over the second in Photoshop, cut out just the water and dropped the opacity to 68%. Merged the overlay with the base art and did some ‘healing brush’ work to blend my edges. Using traditional painting techniques to drive my manipulation choices I have a landscape that is starting to work, the clouds are the ‘star’, the cabin is the ‘co-star’ and the land and water are supporting actors.

                   Tahoe dawn3

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Story format can be horizontal or vertical. If you are drawing for storyboard for film keeping a horizontal format is key. For many of us coming from an illustration background or class we will have the habit of drawing and designing on the vertical. Keeping in mind the standard screen ratio of 16:9, the easiest thing to do when sketching is to simply turn your sketchbook or ipad on the horizontal.

I made a short video that goes into a bit more detail, enjoy.

     

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Leaning Shed

Leaning Shed

Oil on Panel

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