Sunday, February 27, 2011

Using Glazing to Accentuate Distance and Height!

I'm progressing slowly with the background of the long house but I'm learning so much as I paint.

My hypothesis that a glazing technique can be used to help push things into the background or give depth or height to a scene is working well. Basically the further away something is the more glazes you put on after the detail. The closer an object is the more glazes you do before the detail with maybe only a wash or two after.  Glazing over detail helps to soften the edges and blur which helps our minds to read this as further away. Using colour helps too. I have used warm yellows and browns close to us and blues further away. Using these techniques this is how far I have reached as of this evening.

I thought you would like to see how effective this glazing technique is so I took an 'in progress' photo earlier today when I had finished the detailing on the whole of the ceiling section I have been working on but had only painted the 5 or so layers of glazing on half of the section.

Can you see how on the unglazed section the beams appear far further forward than on the glazed section? Also compare the two photos and see how the whole area recedes into the background and develops much more of a feeling of height once the layer of glazing is complete. It also helps to evoke a misty/smoky feel.

I have the really smoky/sunlit section to do next. This is such fun.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Using Glazing for Effect!

Many people have asked how I paint skin so smooth and silky while using multiple colours to create form, depth, light and shade.

The trick?

 I use multiple wet on damp glazes. As you build up each successive glaze the features underneath, or the underpinning as it is technically called, softens creating the smooth skin. I use the technique too for soft clothing and to soften clothing edges on the darker side. After the skin tone glazes are finished I can then add detail on top in the areas I want the focus to be. 

  In my last painting of Grandpa I wanted to find out if I could use this technique on the front of the engine to help merge it a little into the background. Once I had finished painting it I wet the whole area, engine, background and table and added a glaze of sepia. Once it was dry I repeated with a glaze of perylene green and finally a very light glaze of indigo sepia mix. The resulting effect was just what I had hoped for, the front of the engine seemingly merging into the background. Its features could still be seen but the overall effect was much softer thus drawing our attention back to Grandpa and the area of the engine that he was working on.

 I now want to see how far I can take this technique and what different effects I can create. Can I create a misty, smoky effect? Can I use it to accentuate the feeling of height and distance? Can it really be used as a tool for atmospheric effect whilst helping to draw our attention to our centre of interest? I think it will work and this is why I feel as if I am standing in that doorway to an even more excitingly expressive watercolour world. 

 I spent about 6 hours masking a lot of the detail in the painting before I added about 4 glazes for the background  using Indian Red, Winsor Blue (red shade) and Cerulean Blue to help establish the lights and darks in the painting. Now I’ve just taken all the masking fluid off! This is the painting as it is now with the first few washes laid down and the masking fluid removed.

Now I can begin my exploration of layering washes to create different effects. I’ll explain more about the layering process and my discoveries as I work through the various stages of this painting. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Breaking out of your Comfort Zone!

Learning and growing, stretching beyond your comfort zone, that’s how we grow as artists. It’s great to paint what you know, what you feel comfortable with, but it’s all too easy to get into a rut, to churn out the same stuff over and over again.

 I made a vow when I began to paint seriously, always to learn something new, however small, each time I did a painting. It might be mixing certain colours more effectively, it might be strengthening my ability to use tonal ranges, it might be trying a new form of composition, it might be (dare I say it) learning when it’s a good time to break the rules. I’ve worked on using light more effectively, not putting detail in everything (well not so much detail-grin) I’ve worked on big washes, creating pattern or smoothness… the list goes on. I am by no means expert on any of these and will need to revisit them frequently to continue to grow but since I began I know I have improved.

Being an artist is like embarking on an exciting journey into the unknown. Every day there are some things that you know will happen and you are to an extent prepared for them, but there are many, many challenges that you need to overcome too. Being positive and not being overwhelmed by the journey is as vital as is having fun along the way and being prepared to explore new techniques and ideas. 

In the last painting I began playing with a technique that I have used many, many times before in portraiture but haven’t really explored its possibilities to the fullest in other areas. I have to say I only really dabbled with it in the last painting but as I did it felt like I had found a new doorway in my journey and if I had the courage I could pass through this door to an even more exciting watercolour world.

I would say I am hovering in this open doorway just now eager to explore but also anxious to know if I can rise to this new level successfully. There is only one way to find out… so for my next painting I have decided to push myself to the limits to see how far I can take it.

I don’t often do scenes, not because I don’t like painting them but because to paint I have to feel some emotional connection to the subject, something that tells a story to me or conveys a mood. I’ve had this reference photo on my ‘to do’ list for a couple years now and this seems like the golden opportunity to paint my version of it. 

So I’m breaking out of my comfort zone and stepping through the doorway into this new world. I am ready and eager to explore how far I can take this technique, what works and what doesn’t and how I can use it effectively to create the atmosphere I can see in my mind for this painting.

I’ve kept the basic background fairly true to the photo in my outline but have decluttered and added my own foreground interest that, to me, better evokes the mood I want to create. Its drawn out on a full sheet because I want to practice the techniques at this size but I am treating it as a practice piece and just seeing how it turns out. Its great to just take the pressure off now and again, explore and not worry too much about the outcome.

I hope you will enjoy following me in my journey.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

NWWS 71st Annual Open Exhibition Acceptance!

I know... second entry in one day... but I just had to share some exciting news with you all!

My painting 'MEH!!' has been juried into the North West Watercolor Society 71st Annual Exhibition. If you want to see who else has been juried in, have a look here. I am so pleased I just had to share my news with you all. I hope that those of you in the North west of the US will be able to visit the exhibition when it opens.



I had mixed feelings when I finished the painting this morning. In one respect I was sad because I have really enjoyed painting it and listening to James tell us all about his times with Grandpa  but I was glad too that it was complete and that I was able to transfer the image and feelings that were in my mind onto the paper .  The quote "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die" (Thomas Campbell) is so true. Grandpa certainly lives on in James's heart and I think all of ours now. He certainly was a master craftsman and engineer.

There is such focus and concentration on Grandpa’s face. …For this moment in time the rest of the world does not exist. It is just him and his model engine as he puts the finishing touches to its creation before lighting its tiny fire for the first time.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Grandpa WIP 6

Its taking me a while to paint the traction engine. Its by no means technically accurate but I do want to convey a feel of the complexity of the Allchin and the skill and attention to detail that has gone into making it and keeping it in good working order. I'm having to change the lighting on the engine from the reference photo so this is taking more thought too but its gradually appearing on the paper. I hope Grandpa would be forgiving of my mistakes. The photo I am working from is very grainy.

Hopefully I will finish in the next couple of days.

Any ideas for a title?


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Grandpa WIP 5

At last, I have a photo that looks pretty close. I have now finished Grandpa's hands and the section of the traction engine in this area. I am pleased with how the lights and darks as well as the brighter colours in this area help to draw our attention from his face to his hands and the engine.

When I paint I'm not only thinking of the objects but the emotion or 'story' it helps to convey as well. I wanted to make his hands tell a story. To a model engineer his hands are so important. They are used to craft, with such care, the tiniest details but they also have to be strong. They are also older hands full of experience but at the same time worn with age. I have included a close up of this section in the next photo.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Grandpa WIP 4

I tried so hard to get a more accurate colour balance in the photo for you this evening but the camera really doesn't like this painting :(  Does anyone else have this colour balance problem when they take a photo of a painting in which they have used mutliple glazes in watercolour?Try to imagine the background a more dark greeny yellow as in my last photo. I just couldnt get it looking the same as the painting this time without turning Grandpa a very strange colour and I thought it was better to have him looking ok.
Today I painted Grandpa's trousers. It took 10 glazes in all to get the depth of shadow effect that I wanted so that his back leg merged into the background at the bottom. I've also painted in the back half of his oil can. This looks a little dark at the moment. Its hard to get correct values against the bright white of the paper. I might need to lighten it a little but I do want this area to have the highest contrast so that it draws our eye from his face down to his hands and the engine so I will leave it as it is for now and adjust if necessary later.
 Tomorrow I will begin the engine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Grandpa WIP 3

Thank you for all your positive responses to my progress on this painting so far. I have been mostly working on the jacket over the last couple of days, gruadually building up the colour with a succession of glazes. I've still got a little touching up in some areas of the jacket to do but it is basically done.  I love how the jacket seems to appear out of the page as each pale glaze is added. I still think painting in watercolour is pure magic. 


Monday, February 7, 2011

Grandpa WIP 2

I thought that I would bring you up to date with my progress today. I love this stage of a painting where I get to bring a personality to life on the paper. 
Today I have begun working on the clothing. I am using the same colours as I used for the background with the addition of the reds that I am going to use to paint the engine. I chose this colour scheme because I want the painting to evoke that 'oldy worldy days gone by' feel without me resorting to the monochrome approach of an old photo.

I am pleased with how the painting is progressing so far. There is always that moment, at least for me, when I begin a painting where I wonder if I am going to be able to create on paper what I can see in my mind. I always feel happier once I am at this stage and its beginning to take shape.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Memory of days gone by

Thank you for all your support and congratulations.

I promised you all that today I would tell you about my new painting. It's a subject that is again very close to our hearts and because of this is such a joy to bring to life. 

A couple months ago while I was looking for photo’s of my Nan I also found a few old photo’s of James’s Grandpa. One in particular caught my eye. 

 The background is very distracting and the lighting not great but I was drawn to the photo because  Grandpa had such focus and concentration not only in his face but his hands, upper body and shoulders too. It is almost as if to him, at that moment in time, the rest of the world did not exist.

 I asked James to write a little about his grandfather for you all: 

“Some of the happiest memories from my childhood are of times spent with my Grandpa. He was a model engineer, and his workshop was a treasure trove of tools, materials and finished models. The Allchin (a type of traction engine) in this photo was the result of many years of work, exquisite in every detail, even down to a set of scale size tools and miniature oil can. The greatest thrill was to take it outside, tend the fire (using pea sized chips of anthracite), and have it pull me around the garden. The smell of steam-oil and coal is unforgettable. On a hill the exhaust would take on a sharp bark, pulling sparks from the fire and shooting them high in the air, mixed with great clouds of smoke and steam. Could there be anything more exciting for a young lad with a love of science and engineering?”

What a wonderful memory of a wonderfully talented man.

For my outline I decided to crop right in on Grandpa and his miniature traction engine. I must admit it took me three days to draw the engine. Mind you, it took him over 6 years to build it so maybe three days for me wasn’t so bad.

In my painting I wanted to create a much less cluttered background than the ref photo using light and shade to help to accentuate the centre of interest while also helping to convey the mood. It’s the start of the day and Grandpa is oiling the engine before lighting the fire. Care and attention is needed so that everything is in good working order when the coal is lit in the engine’s tiny furnace.

I'm having huge trouble at the moment getting a decent photo of this painting. The background is as dark but much softer in real life. Hopefully as I get more detail  and variation in colour and values in the camera will do a better job.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

Canadian Brushstrokes Magazine Portrait finalist!

I was all set to tell you about my new painting today and then I had some exciting news that I just had to share. My painting of Wayne has been chosen as a finalist in the Canadian Brushstrokes Magazine's Portrait competition.

 You can see the other finalists by clicking on this link. I'm pretty pleased to be published in two magazines in one month.

I promise I will tell you about the new painting tomorrow. It's another subject that's very dear to our hearts.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feature Article!

I received a copy of  The Canadian Paraplegic Association Ontario 'Outspoken' winter 2011 magazine in the post today and on page 38 is a feature about my painting of Wayne MacDonald. Its very exciting to see one of my paintings in print and the write up about it includes Wayne's wonderful quote and my thoughts about the painting. I hope you will all enjoy reading it.