argos: (forest wuff)
2010-03-17 04:41 pm

Autumn Afternoon

This is the limited palette study I mentioned in the last entry. For a larger view, click the thumbnail here.

The object of the study was to work with just three primary colors and produce an entire image. Different artists approached it in various ways, some using just those three colors right out of the tube, and others mixing and blending them to get a fuller range. The specification was pretty precise. We were to use a green-biased yellow (Lemon or Hansa are the commonly used names,) a violet-biased red (Rose or Crimson,) and a green-biased blue (Winsor or Phthalo/Thalo.) The slightly "off center" nature of each primary makes unexpected things happen when they are mixed, and can produce browns or even grays where you'd expect a secondary color to appear. It is still possible to get most of the spectrum, but you often have to mix two different hues and then combine those to get the desired result. In doing this, most colors become somewhat muted and can, if not handled carefully, look muddy or dull.

The three specific pigments required here, called PY3 (a yellow,) PR83 (a violet-rose,) and PB15 (an intense blue) by paint makers, are all synthetic colors and tend to be bright and harsh or garish. If you look closely at the full sized image, I left samples of each in the lower right-hand corner. The scanner has dulled the red a bit, but you can see why you might not want to use these colors by themselves.

It was an interesting challenge to begin with, and I complicated it by choosing a subject with a wide variety of colors in it. Reference photo is here, an actual photo of my own barns. I changed the view angle and simplified the background somewhat because I thought it would be too busy in a 9 x 6 inch painting.

The drawing, as mentioned earlier, offered some challenges in terms of perspective, especially since I changed the angle of view from what is in the photo, and that had to be overcome before painting could begin. Soon I discovered that I was spending at least twice as much time mixing and testing colors as I was in actually painting. The whole process took three days, partly because of the many layers of color that had to dry between applications and partly because I can only work at this sort of thing for an hour or so at a time before I grow fatigued by the concentration and posture. It could be better, and if I were to expand this little sketch to a full sized painting at 33 x 20 in. or so, it would get much better because so much more detail could be supplied. It would also take a heck of a lot longer if it were done with just those three paints. ;p

I learned that I really can mix earth tones and bright hues from just three primaries, including Payne's grey and something that passes for black but is really a very dark blueish gray. I found that I could create the illusion of detail by using a very fine brush, though the texture of the paper and the limits of water's surface tension impose physical restrictions. The horses might have been better detailed by using watercolor pencil, for instance, but that would have violated the palette requirement. On a larger scale, the tiny brush would be adequate, I'm sure.

On the whole, I think this was indeed an educational experience, and I'm satisfied with the results.
argos: (snowy argos)
2010-02-19 04:28 am
Entry tags:

Ice Run

Ice Run
by ~altivo on deviantART

Ice Run (February 14, 2010)
12x9 in. 80 lb. cold pressed paper
Traditional watercolor

I promised a brief technical discussion of this painting so here it is. (Click thumbnail for larger view.)

The setting is Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. Though I've visited there in person, it was nearly 30 years ago. This is an amalgam of several reference photos and my own recollections. The island is a wilderness of great scenic beauty and has a resident population of wolves and moose that have been studied for decades. Here we see three wolves crossing the ice on Siskiwit Bay in late winter, when the snowpack has melted and refrozen repeatedly at the surface and become crusty and hard.

After a very rough preliminary pencil sketch I applied some masking fluid to the cloud formation, snow on the promontory rocks, and white highlights on the wolves. Then I laid down flat washes for the sky and ice areas and allowed those to dry almost completely before filling in the sky, rocks, and pine forest in the background. The pines were the most interesting, as they began wet into wet (or at least damp) and were detailed as the painting dried which helps to give more depth to the image as the more distant trees are outlined and the foreground trees are laid over the top.

Then I removed the masking from the clouds and snow and added features and detailing to the white areas. This completed the background, which I allowed to dry for a day or so before continuing.

Next the wolves were finished: Each started with generalized color washes, different for the individual wolf as their base colors vary. Fur details and features were added after the base washes had nearly dried, using no. 4 and no. 0 round brushes. Masked areas were unmasked after these details had dried, and final touches could be added to the remaining whites. At this point the entire painting was allowed to dry overnight again.

The final details were the flying snowflakes in the foreground, kicked up by running paws. These were scratched with the corner of a razor blade, making the fine white trails that cross in front of the wolves, particularly the dark leader.

This was a fun painting, but amounts to little more than a sketch of what I wanted. Note to self: Repeat this on a larger scale, taking longer to get more detail into the image.
argos: (forest wuff)
2010-02-05 08:06 pm
Entry tags:

Plush Painting

Plush foal & SheepdogAnd here is that painting from last night. (Click thumbnail for larger version.) Not a masterpiece, certainly, but I had fun playing with different brushes and colors. I haven't forgotten everything as I'd feared, and just need practice again even though it has been probably 35 years since I tried to do anything serious with watercolor.

As for the stretched paper, it stayed stretched as intended even under the onslaught of water. As it dried (and shrank a bit) overnight, it tried to pull the drafting tape off the board but didn't quite get any of it loose, so it remains quite flat. That much is ideal. Removing the tape was easy and left no residue but did roughen the paper around the boarders. That's probably a non-issue for anything that will be matted and framed.

I rate the first experiment a qualified success.