Friday, June 12, 2015

In The Beginning

                                "Anderson's Poppies"

Many of my novice watercolor students ask me, "Carol, how do you know what to do first?"  Or "How do you know what to do next?"

Over the years, I've developed a checklist.  At first I literally wrote it out.  Then at the end of the day in my own little private critique, I would go through the list and see if I had paid attention to the elements and principles that are the building blocks of painting.

1.  Always start with clear values and shapes.  Have at least three values plus your white paper.
     A value study is most important.  Plan the large shapes; skip the accents and details.

2.  Decide what you want to do with color.  Will this be a predominantly warm or cool painting?  Or is a neutral palette called for? 

3.  Paint a light first wash with some color changes in it. 

4.  Think about glazing. Direct glazes are developed by charging color into an area of another color.
      Or, when an area dries, you can paint on top of it with a darker value.

5.  Plan your darks so they will be at or near the focal point. 

In this painting of a ceramicist's front yard which blooms with vibrant red poppies each June, you can see the first and second stages in which I developed the shapes, the complementary colors of red and green,  and the underpainting on top of which will later be painted the midtones and darks.  I try to start with a wet in wet technique so that I can choose to either keep an area soft or place hard edges on top of it.  Since flowers are soft, I tried not to dot the page with hard edges, but rather flowed on the orange-red suggestions of the poppies at the beginning on the wet page.

Also, since I wanted the tree trunk to remain warm, I painted it first and then painted the whole cool background around it.

Begin with a plan.  Paint with words in your head.  Not "house", "tree", or "poppies", but with wet into wet, color choices, values, and shapes.

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