Drawings often deviate from the original plan.

Pressed Red Tip Photinia Branch with shadows, backlit illumination

The plan was to paint the drawing according to color value rather than color hue using illogical and discordant hues.  I began drawing with a dip pen using Diamine Ochre ink.  I wanted to see what variations of hue the ink would separate into when I added only clean water along the edges of the lines.  The flow of ink into the water worked beautifully for the dry, pressed leaves, more of a burnt sienna hue than an ochre hue. I followed the inspiration of the leaves rather than proceed with my original plan.  After painting the shadows and cell shapes the leaves looked flat and uninteresting.  I pale wash of aureolin with a touch of burnt sienna brought life back into the leaves.

I’ll give my original plan another try and post it on the Creative Color Blog later today.

Sketchbook Drawing: Pressed Red Tip Branch and Shadows, ink and watercolor.  Limited palette of aureolin, french ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.

The series of lessons on Color/Value has begun.  I posted Lesson One on my Creative Color blog last night.

Sneak preview of next color wheel

I will be posting no more than two lessons per week, usually only one.  I know how difficult it is to carve time out of the day to sit down and paint color wheels or to complete assignments of any kind while still exploring one’s own path.  I am starting at the very beginning, the absolute basics to build a strong foundation for a comprehensive understanding of color, specifically focused on value.

When choosing colors either pure or for mixing, recognizing the intrinsic value of the color can produce fresh, expressive color as well as stronger compositional elements in a painting.  An added bonus is that the traveling painter is able to travel lighter, needing fewer tubes of paint to express the experience of the day.

I will use a variety of media throughout the lessons, oil, acrylic, watercolor, gouache and pastel. Each lesson asks the participating artists to apply the lesson in a painting of choice.  These sample paintings may be submitted to me if the artist is so inclined.  I will, on occasion post some of these samples (giving credit and links to the artists of course) on a special page of the Creative Color blog.  We will all learn far more by viewing the work of a variety of artists rather than just my own examples.

If you can think of creating color wheels and sample swatches as a form of meditation it makes the exercise less of a chore and more of a joy.

Full range of values and playing with warm against cool colors:

Watercolor study of Cactus Plant

The watercolor sketch and I had a difference of opinion during our session together.  The painting wanted more detail and I wanted to be loose and expressive.  Clearly, neither one of us got our way and the painting remains unsettled.

My goal was to use a full range of values to create the sense of sunlight on the cactus.  I also wanted to make use of playing warm against cool colors for enhanced contrast.

Edges are critically important, allowing the eyes to move through the painting as if dancing or diverting the eyes to move in a new direction.

Landscape watercolor sketch

I like to invite viewers to enter into a landscape and move easily from foreground, across the middle ground and all the way back to the sky in the distance. To create this illusion it is helpful to vary the edges as well as connect the values  from distance to foreground.  There must be a way for the eye to travel along light valued areas from close to far as well as traveling along darker valued areas from close to far.  Too often a wall of trees acts like a barrier rather than a screen.  I like to think of the middle ground more as a split rail fence than a stone wall.

Going one step further:

Pencil Sketch - Farmhouse at Sunset

Sometimes a pencil sketch needs to be pushed a bit further and it takes a day away from it to see what direction to take.  The changes were made the next day looking only at the drawing, not the actual scene across the street.  I re-evaluated the shapes and the contrasts and made choices based on the drawing, not the reality of the landscape.

The before and after are shown below:

Before and After "Farmhouse at Sunset" pencil sketch

The essence of a rosebush branch:

Pencil Study of a Rosebush Branch

After having spent many hours squiggling away at drawings attempting to capture the patterns created by the sunlight coming through the window or streaming through the trees, this simple line / shape drawing was like a breath of fresh air after being cooped up for too long.  The reason I do the squiggles is so that I look carefully enough at my subject to understand its basic structure.  My ultimate goal is always to reveal the unique pattern structure and capability of movement in the most simple manner.

Lessons from flashbacks:

Light patterns through the trees

Being forced to stay in one place with my leg elevated has resulted in my mind playing with new thought processes, making connections between seemingly unrelated experiences.  Without too much rambling I will attempt to connect ice bags, snowballs and drawing trees.

Last Thursday my leg began to swell, as expected.  I’d been warned to call the doctor if the swelling went below the knee.  I expended a huge amount of energy icing the leg, focusing on the knee area and, as the swelling headed to the ankle I iced the ankle.  24 hour a day icing with no reduction in swelling.  By Sunday night I called the doctor and headed back to the hospital to check for blood clots.  None…. whew.

The next afternoon my PT, Vince, explained why the icing had not produced results.  Ice only helps to slow the swelling from the injured area, not the area that ends up swollen because the fluids have, from gravity, ended up elsewhere.  It takes the body time to reabsorb the fluids, but ice will not help any area other than the injured area.  Elevation is the only action that will produce results. Hah!  I had been working very hard, but not very smart.

Yesterday, as I lay with elevated leg, I kept getting flashbacks from a winter during my teens when I took sculpting lessons at the studio of Wayland Gregory.   His house and yard were a maze of giant sculptures and his kitchen was a jungle of plants.  Medusa ruled the driveway lined with other mythological characters.  The terrace was ruled by a bust of Moses, transformed into Santa during a heavy snowstorm.  I had been working for three weeks on a head, feeling pretty good about my progress. That snowy night, I was working on the eyes, more specifically, one eye.  For three hours I worked diligently, taking great care with each minuscule feature.  Still, it didn’t look alive.  I could see Wayland watching me as my frustration grew.  I think I may have finally stomped my foot.  He came to me and asked whether I thought I understood the bone structure beneath the skin.  I nodded.  He then said “May I?” I nodded again.  He placed one hand gently on the top of the head and with the thumb of the other he gouged a huge hole into my carefully formed head.  My jaw dropped.  He then took the clay he had removed, rolled part of it into a ball and placed it into the hole he had made.  The head came alive.  The smell of the wet clay mixing with the fruit wood burning in the fireplace filled my senses and I remember feeling dizzy as if the walls had been blown away, leaving me standing in another world.  Wayland saw the smile on my face and invited me to take a walk.  That’s when I saw Moses in the snowstorm.  That was my first lesson in form.  No amount of detail will help if the underlying form (or shape) is not what it should be.

Now to the tree.

I decided to attempt the pattern of light filtering through the trees as seen through the side, bedroom window.  I knew it to be a daunting task since there were no strong, obvious shapes to play with.  As the drawing progressed, my brain kept sending me flashes of ice bags and Wayland.  I kept looking for shapes through the window, trying to translate them into a three step value scale.  After about five hours, my eyes clicked in the way they do when looking through a “Magic Eye 3-d” book.  I can’t explain, really, what that was like.  Suddenly I was seeing shapes coming from a different origin, from a rearranging of what was really out there into something that could be out there.  Just as I had been icing the wrong part of my leg, I had been looking in the wrong places to find the shapes I needed.  By looking in a different place (more on a different plane of shapes) I was able to see something that was more inventive and more enjoyably translated into an expressive drawing.

I like the way that the light value shapes transform from representing positive space (leaves in the foreground) to representing negative space shapes (the sky through the trees).  It reminds me of the way shapes transform in the work of M. C. Escher.

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