A little tough this one and we battled through it in class. The aim was to break down a pretty complex scene into large areas of similar value to create a good value design but keeping it representational.
For anyone interested there’s a video of the final stages.
I have a new lighting and camera setup in the studio and so it had to be tested and what better than a couple of poppies. I started by breaking down the blooms into light and shadow and then layered over the subtle crinkles of the poppes. Tried very hard to not overwhelm the overall lights and shadows otherwise all is lost and any three dimensionality evaporates. The background foliage went in in two layers and a used the darks to bring the petals forward and define the overall shape of the flowers. Just about got away with it and managed to stop fiddling before everything was ruined.
There’s also a video of the whole thing in all the gory detail.
Today’s painting was a Bamburgh Castle watercolor demo. And it was enormous fun to do and came out really well I think.
Put the main shapes in with pencil
I drew the rough shapes first but didn’t include a lot of detail. I left the clouds to be put in purely with paint and similarly left out most of the windows on the castle. The shadows are important though as they create most of the form of the castle. These were carefully placed and, as they’re pretty dark, the graphite lines won’t show in the final painting.
Before putting paint to paper – some careful color mixing.
It’s tempting to just rush in and start splashing paint on the paper. And if you’re that way inclined by all means go ahead. It is fun after all. However, I’ve found over the last couple of years that if I spend some time looking, identifying and mixing the colors I’m going to use the painting goes *much* better.
Try guessing a color just by looking at it first
I start by identifying a few key areas of the painting. In this case it would be the sky, the castle walls, the foreground and the grass/trees around the castle walls. Using my color isolator I take a guess at defining the color and ask myself – what is the hue (blue,green, pinkish-beige), the value (mid, light, dark), and finally the chroma. The chroma is the brightness of the color. The lower the chroma then the grayer the color.
Use the color isolator to check your guess
I then take the color isolator (fancy name for a 3″x5″ piece of gray paper with a 1/2 inch square cut into it) and place it over the color I’m trying to match. This changes how your eye perceives it and it can be a surprise how off you can be. After using this for a while you get experience in how your brain fools you (shadows!!! ) and your guesses get much closer.
Mix a swatch of color to match
Once I’ve checked my guess I draw a 1 inch square on a piece of scrap watercolor paper (doesn’t have to be the good stuff) and mix up the color. If you take a look at the video you’ll be able to see how I get there.
I videoed the whole process of this. Here’s the first part which is a link to my youtube channel. First we have the planning, color matching and drawing stages. (btw if you’re interested in any upcoming demos or livestreams please subscribe to my mailing list).
And finally the painting!
We’ve done all the hard work so now the fun part! The painting goes relatively quickly and we know the main colors and values so we don’t have to fret about that. We can concentrate on putting the paint on the paper, some texture, and generally making it work as a painting.
Enormous fun to do this. Here’s the second video part of the process – the painting.
Penguins today. Rather than my usual subject I thought we’d do something different and combine photos to make a new scene. Started off with a sketch and then some exercises on darks and fading colors. The final thing was a bit of a struggle but pretty much came together at the end.
Phew! Another video lesson this afternoon and it was pretty intense. Flowers are tough at the best of times and require a huge amount of concentration. I’m exhausted! Everyone did really well – congrats to Cathy, Meredith, and MaryJo!!
Mine came out tighter than I would usually do but for me that is always the case when talking through a painting. I may touch this up and finish it off later.
If anyone is interested in joining me online for zoom lessons there are more signups available at
Post Road Art
My lovely husband set up the fancy microphone and camera to test out video today. Some people in my class like to see demos but I don’t want to take up too much of their time with me painting. So we thought about videoing me at home and I can then give them the links. Very much a work in progress but I was pretty happy with how this one turned out. We’ll keep going and work out the wrinkles as we go.
And I managed not to ruin the painting too. A good days work.
I have a commission that I really want to do a good job on. Well of course I always want to do a good job but this one is, ummm, tricky. Horses. Horses with riders. Not straightforward and even Mr Zbukvic says horses are the most difficult things on the planet. So today was horse sketching day. Not fantastically successful but progress is being made.
And we have a video! First time doing a time lapse on the iphone. This was very professionally propped up on a coffee mug next to the water jar and came out well considering.
It’s very strange to watch this. It looks like I just draw things and then color them in straightforwardly. It is abolutely nothing like that in real life. It’s a constant stream of decisions, problem solving, mistakes, going over stuff. Also – next time shoot from the left hand side. Will have to get the tripod out.