Learning how to paint with watercolors or acrylics is a journey. Painting, like going on a journey has hills of challenges and valleys of easy travel. Successful artists devise a road map of simplified steps that lead to an adventure with paint and creative thought.
In my "Fearless Painting" classes, I aim to assist my students as they travel a colorful road of painterly discoveries. In my programs we practice techniques, study the artwork of talented masters and share ideas about how to express who we are as artists. All with the purpose of learning how to successfully paint something we like.
In one of my recent classes, my students and I were inspired by a photo that I had taken many years ago of a Foss tug boat moving logs on lake Coeur D’Alene, ID. Our goal was to create a painting that captured the essence of the scene based upon my student's interpretations of the class’s inspiration.
To help my students I have developed a program to assist them in their journey and I call it the "8 steps to success for Fearless Painting!"
Enter the 8 steps to success for painting the Foss Tug!
In using these steps to success, my students and I first learn how to "see" our inspiration with new eyes and utilize our own creativity while we paint artwork that is fun to do! Following is the story behind the methods that I used to fearlessly paint the tug boat in the photo shown. I hope that these steps help you to better understand how you can paint successfully, simply by planning out your visual "road trip" to a successful painting.
Whether you are working from a photo or painting on location , it is important to make choices. Our first choice is to determine where the lights and or darks are in what we see and want to paint.
Which is why I always create a value study to help me make choices before I begin to using my brushes.
What is a value study? It is a black and white image that gives me information. I can make this study a drawing using my pencils or I can turn a color photo into a "value study" simply by printing the photo in black and white. Once I have a black and white image/print, I look to "see" a range of lights to darks though out the composition. I, then, create a very simplified line drawing copying the contours of what I see & feel is important in my inspiration.
I make notes as to the locations of the light to middle gray values and the rich, shadow darks by filling in my line drawing with a pen or pencil in order to create a range of simplified value shapes. This step helps me make better choices once I begin the painting process.
At this stage of the creative process I simplify and think about the shapes that I see and I study how these value shapes fit together, to describe the development of my composition. .
It is now time to pull out a piece of watercolor paper or a canvas. Your choice, what do you like to paint on? I am going to paint this image on a 11 x 14 canvas. Since, I am making the choice to create a painting that is representational I need spend some time drawing a fairly accurate image on my canvas. When drafting the "road map" of my composition, I need to keep in mind the relative sizes of one object ( such as the boat) to another ( such as the space delineated in the background) . I also need to remember and draw in the important details ( such as portholes and doors on boat). Including these small details make the subject matter interesting and lend believability to my painting.
Step four is based upon one simple word “CHOICE”! As artists, we have to make choices because when we paint , we are in charge of our own visual creation.
Question #1: What styles of painting or techniques do you , as the artist, like and want to use, in order to create your own unique visual statement?
Artist’s over the years have developed many different “styles” in painting. An artist can be realistic, impressionistic or even abstract an image. One can create a mono-chromatic painting based upon a value study. One can play with brush strokes to design a painting that is reminiscent of an impressionists such as the American: John Henry Twatchman.
An artist can also simplify their designs. By stepping away from the realism in our inspiration we can create a painting that is abstracted but still reminiscent of our inspiration. Consider what Charles Demuth has chosen to do in his watercolor of sail boats..
Question #2 What style should I choose to create this landscape?
Option #1 I can choose to paint loosely and focus on shapes without details , like in this photo adaptation.
Option #2 I can choose to create a painting that is bolder, colorful and more painterly than my inspirational photo is. I am choosing this option, because I want to create this painting using both my watercolors and my fluid acrylics and be impressionistic in my use of brush stroke.
Since, I have decided that I want to be bold with my brush strokes and use intense, vivid hues and I will be using two types of water- media....my next step is to pick out the colors that I will use and place these paint choices on both my watercolor and acrylic palettes. Now, I am ready to paint!
Paint Color Choices for this painting :
Hansa Yellow (wc & acrylics) , New Gamboge (wc / Darilyde Yellow in acrylics) , Phthlo Blue - Green ( in both wc and acrylics) , Permanent Alizarin Crimson (wc / known as Quinacridrone Crimson in acrylics)
STEP 6: LET THE FUN BEGIN!
I have now made choices regarding what colors, values and mediums I want to use in this particular painting. I have decided that in this work I will begin by using my transparent watercolors on a canvas that has been prepared with Golden's Absorbent Ground.
I begin the painting process by making the choice of working wet into wet with my watercolors, so that I see soft flowing edges between my transitions of primary colors. Working wet into wet means that I am first brushing my canvas with a large flat brush dipped into clean water. Once my canvas is saturated I then drop an assortment of puddles of primary hues across the canvas. Lifting my canvas I let gravity do the work of mixing paint into some interesting secondary hues.
Allowing the initial strokes of water color paint to dry, I continue layering a series of washes and strokes of paint to build up the light to dark values that I choose to include in my composition.
I focus on making sure that I paint a range of light to dark washes so that I can see the start of a three dimensional look to my boat and landscape.
In this photo, you can see how by layering my watercolors I develop my seascape. I want to see the lightest areas of the sun shinning on the boat and the water and the mid values in my trees. I used fanciful brush strokes to capture the idea of the water movement on the lake. Finally, I focused on mixing a dark hue of phthalo blue + my alizarin crimson to paint the dark hull of the tug boat.
STEP 7: PUSH AND PULL OF COLOR AND VALUES.
To see and understand what my future painting steps need to be, I need to take time to study what I have done thus far. I use my cell phone to snap a photo of my painting. Then by using the "edit" and "saturation" slider options on my phone's camera, I turn my color photo into a black and white "value study" simply by sliding the "saturation" bar from the color option to the black and white option side.
Enter acrylics! Using fluid acrylic paints with my watercolors allows me to take my painting to a new and exciting level. These acrylics can be used diluted with water and become transparent or I can use these paints opaquely. Acrylics allow me to push the contrast between the lights and darks via using both transparent and opaque techniques in one work. In my use of acrylics painted over some of my watercolor areas, I am able to modify how my painting looks. My acrylic paint pigments can be applied diluted, creating a transparent look that allows my previous strokes to show or they can be used opaquely in areas where I push the dark values . I t is your choice!
The only rule is to play and have fun with your tools and materials!
Lets look at some close ups where I have used both of these mediums in this painting. Frequently ,when I paint with watercolors my values or colors or strokes are not quite what I want. By introducing acrylic paints into my creative process, I am able "correct" those areas that I feel need attention. Such as when my watercolors swim into areas where I do not want them to end up. Look closely and you will see in this photo that a dark drip of paint has migrated over the top of the white area on the tug boat.
Acrylic paints let me correct what needs adjustment. All I have to do is let the paint dry and paint over the area with the acrylic color of choice as needed!
In this photo , I am over - painting with titanium white on the dried region of the tug boat, where my dark watercolors flowed.
STEP 8 : FINAL STEPS TO FEARLESS PAINTING SUCCESS!
Now is the time of the painting process, when I am ready to concentrate on those details that define what type of boat this is. After studying my photo, I can see that I want to "clean" up some of my edges around the hull of the tug boat. I want to add "punch' to my painting and emphasize the warm colors next to cool hues. I, also, want to enhance the contrasting light vs dark elements in my work. I do this by layering with warm hues where I want my subject matter to come forward and I layer cooler hues in those places that I want to recede , such as the trees in the background.
I determine that I want to make some of my darks even darker. To do this I mix up phthalo blue and quinacridrone crimson acrylics to make a dark blue-ish purple to which I add a small amount of darilyde yellow. Yellow is the complimentary color of purple by adding a bit to my purple mixture I can get a dark blue/puple-ish black value that is more interesting than just painting with carbon black.
I continue to layer paint to create small, dark jewel-like areas throughout my painting. I pushed my darks in the port holes and doors to compliment the lights on the cabin.
I added strokes of blues and greens to the water to enhance the feeling of water's movement as the wake of the boat passed by. I enhanced the orange and yellow hues that surround the boat's hull to further make it stand out and away from the background. And then I stopped. I have finally come to a point in this painting where I have nothing more to say!
Here is my finished painting of the Foss Tug boat on Coeur D'Alene lake. I had a fun time painting this piece and I hope that if you consider to follow the ideas that I have written about, you will find increased enjoyment simply by planning out your visual "road trip" for a successful painting.
Thank you for visiting this blog post. If you would like to learn more about my artwork I invite you to visit my web site www.beattieartworks.com
Are you interested in registering for a Fearless Painting classes? Here is a link to my in-person and online art programs for painting with watercolors or acrylics.
Fearless Painting Art Classes
My name is Elise Beattie and they call me the Fearless Artist. I paint, I teach and I promote all aspects of the arts. In this new blog site you will find a variety of creative posts dedicated to sharing knowledge about my fearless art techniques and the materials that I use. You will also be able to learn about my art classes and see photos of my newest art and the exhibitions that my work is displayed in.