This book is 205 pages long. It is a book of many lessons taught many times to many classes over 50 years.
This can be seen in the spreadsheet form she used at this site:
Please Cut And Paste Above link.
Various uses of tools and paint
A. Rough paper techniques
Quickies & timing
Textures by added means
Smooth Paper techniques
Acrylic or gouache
Foreshorten of boats
Laws of nature, physics, illusions
B. Light & the Spectrum
Third dimension (recession)
Shades & shadows
Reflection & refraction
Shadows on local colors
Color in water reflections
Shadows used to express form
Surf Wave movements
Five elements of lighting
Realism and objective painting
C. Judging of values
Tree structure & symbols
False value scale Light or dark ptg.
Forest Interior (confused subject)
(Double Value Scale) Interior windows
Figures in Landscape
Warm & cool values
Color & lighting in trees
Highlights & glossy objects
Wet pavement, diffused reflections
Form & Taste in design & color
A, B, C reviewed in all courses
Spotting & space cutting
Overlapping of planes
Path of vision
Tension between planes
Abstraction from tree motif
Subjective feeling & mood
Mood by Color
Rhythm & motifs time/space elements
Memory sketching, notes
Distortion, use, abuse
Symbols & fantasy
At the end of each lesson, Florence would write, "Have Fun." Hence the blog name. I saw her this December 28, 2005. She drew a picture of a tree and signed it. I will be adding pictures of her. The first page of this book has been added, but not in the grid it needed. I couldn't put an excel on this site.
Florence studied in New York, drove to California from Florida when that wasn't the thing most women did, painted murals in several large buildings in Jacksonville, Florida, and said she had one hanging, the USS Pennsylvania (the mural is now in a museum in Pennsylvania) but this has not been inventoried, had three children at an early age, and they are all gone, but her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren kept up with her, and although not near, they were close. She worked with a sculptor during the 1930's named Pillars, and had some of his pieces, as well as posing for him, and her daughter posed for him and studied under him. She promoted her husband, architect Russel Seymour, who was the architect for the original Friday Musical as well as several churches in Jacksonville, and some other buildings. She was selling art until she turned 100, and then stopped. She also studied dance and competed until her ninties. She will always be beautiful and an inspiration to me.
--Charlotte Fairchild, 2006
FOUNDATION OF ART by Florence Seymour
2. As you develop you will have your own color preferences, but start with at least three warm pigments and three cool hues, plus Paynes grey.
These books will be in the class room:
Watson-Guptil Publication: Watercolor Lessons, from Eliot O’Hara.
Sultan Sabot Paints Landscapes, Advanced Techniques.
We hope to have a roll of good D”Arches 140# Rough Rag Paper, which you can purchase.
SUPPLIES AND EQUIPMENT:
One inch Flat-Stroke, Eliot O’Hara, Windsor Newton or other good tubes
watercolor brush, with pointed flat end of the following colors:
as shown, One round sable or white sable Cadmium red light, cadmium yellow deep, round brush size 6--9. New Gamboge yellow, or Aureolin yellow
Paint box, Palette or pie-plate: Cadmium yellow medium
upon which to squeeze out tube colors Hookers green deep or Sap green
and mix. French Ultramarine Blue & Cobalt Blue
BOARD: 16” X 22” of Masonite, Alizarin Crimson
wall board, or other board. Burnt sienna or English light red
CLIPS: 4 spring clips to fasten paper Sepia, or burnt umber, or Van Dyke brown
to board, or a roll of butchers tape. Either raw umber or raw Sienna
CAMP STOOL: or something else to sit Lamp or Ivory black, and Paynes gray
on, or suitable for you to carry to do (Lamp black is warm, Ivory is cool)
Water container: Pint jar with screw top, or an Army Canteen.
As you learn to paint you will develop your own ideas about pigments. I use about 12 colors on my palette, but may narrow down the mixtures to three warm and two cool hues, plus Paynes grey for many landscapes. many watercolorists use a basic pattern of three Values in their paintings. Eliot O’Hara always advised using about five values. Always wash your watercolor brushes with mild soap after using them, and bring the round brush to a point to dry, standing on its handle.
Ruskin said “All Great Art is the expression of Man’s delight in God’s work, not his own.” May you enjoy this contemplation.
TWELVE HUE COLOR WHEEL
Learn the complements and how to mix them.
Dimensions of color are: Hue or color, i.e. Yellow (Y1), Yellow Orange (YO2), Orange (3), Red Orange (4), Red (R5), Red Violet (RV6), Blue-Violet (6), Violet (8), Blue (6), Blue-Green (5), Green (4), Yellow Green (YG3). The numbers in parentheses are for quick and easy color notation for painting colors at a later time, or because the colors in are changing rapidly with different lighting.
The number after the hue represents the value of that color. Please learn the letter and number symbols for each color, because we have a system of short hand notes for indicating color and value on sketches.
2. Value, or from Dark to Light, of either black and white or the value of each hue.
3. Intensity, or brightness, or chrome of each hue. Generally the pigment as it comes from the tube. . .is the highest intensity of that color.
Black is black because it absorbs all of the light rays, and casts nothing back to our nerve ends of the eye. Black is not a color. . .but it is used to create tone and values in our painting.
White is white because it reflects all the color of the rainbow back to the nerve endings, of our eyes and it is used to tint other hues. . .and remember that white always cools other pigments. . .that it also weakens pigments. The old masters used very little white in their oil paintings. John Singer Sargeant and many other portrait painters used a formula for painting portraits of 1/4 dark value; one forth light value; and one half middle-tone, and you will enjoy looking at the paintings at the Cummer Museum in Jacksonville, Florida, where you will find this observation carried out by most of the artists whose paintings hang there.
Color is known as cool, as related to ice; or warm as related to fire. There are many in-between, and every color can be changed by placing another hue beside it. This is called color relationships. One side of your color-wheel will be warm and the other side will be cool. By mixing the complementary hues together we subtract from the intensity of that color, or soften it. . .this process is referred to as Refining the color, or greying it, or obtaining the aerial perspective of color that permits us to create varying planes in our picture. That is why painting your own color wheel is so important to your own understanding of pigments.
Begin by finding an 8 X 10 support, and two round plates of varying size, as shown. At the top print 12 Hue Color-wheel. Place the smaller plate inside the larger one, and draw the two circles, leaving about an inch margin (as shown). Now divide the round circles into fourths as shown. Using your eye, make three dots in each fourth, as shown, and with a ruler draw through the whole circle to obtain a sphere holding twelve triangles, or a twelve hue color-wheel. I use a triangle or circle in the middle, so I do not have to paint in the middle. Now beginning at the top, print all the hues, in the order given in paragraph one, with the symbol for that color and its hue.
Lay out your palette as directed, with the warm hues on one side and the cool ones on the short side of the Palette. . .Lay out your palette the very same at every sitting (with white on the corner as shown).
Begin with yellow, the lightest hue on the wheel, in value. . .paint the triangle in the yellow margin as shown. . .now proceed to YO2, and by adding a small amount of cadmium red light you can achieve a number 2, and proceed to orange, by adding a small amount more of the cadmium red, and painting the triangle in the margin, as shown. Red Orange is cadmium red light as it comes from the tube. To obtain a true red, use cadmium red light. For Red Violet, the Alizarin Crimson is a true red violet as it comes from the tube. Now you come to the darkest hue on your color wheel, which should be almost black, and is mixed by combining alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue deep. Take a small amount of the violet you have mixed and lightly brush on about half as much violet in the margin. Note how this complementary pigment mixes with your yellow to dull it and grey it. And how it combines. . .Learn each complement as you paint. Note that like the scale in music on the piano, that you have seven steps between each complementary hue, and that the value numbers opposite each complement always add up to make eight. Continue with Blue Violet, which is from the tube. Blue green is the most difficult color to get on this wheel. Viridian green is a true blue green, but it is too dark for the number 4 value, so I skip this triangle and mix it last. Continue to learn the complements, and next week we will discuss split complementary hues, and their value to the artist. Have Fun!
3. Watercolor Wheel
Yellow Orange-Blue Violet
Red orange-Blue Green
Red Violet-Yellow Green
Welcome to the Watercolor, Oil, and Acrylic Painting. From now on you are an artist, cultivating a deep awareness and appreciation of everything you come in contact with in your daily life. For Ruskin said “All great Art is the expression of Man’s delight in God’s work, not his own. . .” I have adopted this as my motto for my own work, which often does not come out the way I expected it to. I hope you will also grow as you practice, and never be critical of your own work, to the point of despair, but use your dissatisfaction with it constructively.
I will try to give more than one class instruction each period, if you will come prepared; i.e., with all necessary equipment, and water container filled, on time. You will receive a written lesson each session. I will arrive at the Clubhouse at 9:30 a.m. each Thursday morning, and teach until noon. If you miss a lesson, I will try to help you with it at the end of the session on March 26th in my Studio on Make-up Day. Please make your twelve (12) hue Color Wheel at home.
We might decide to spend two days a week, instead of one, or to have two lessons a day instead of one. This is up to the students to decide. I am anxious to have you painting creditable watercolors that you can mat, frame, and show in the District shows, and win honors for your self and the Club. You must have the first three lessons on technique, theory, and interpretation, in order to understand more advanced lessons.
1. Rough Paper techniques, i.e., use of the watercolor brush, and washes
2. Light and the spectrum (use of color, shades and shadows)
3. Judging of Values, (light to dark, cool or warm, color relationships)
4. Tree Structure, (Characteristics of various kinds of trees, and their use)
5. Trees in color, (color mixing for the myriad greens found in vegetation)
6. Spotting and Space Cutting (lesson in design, used for bad weather)
7. Clouds and Skies (interpretation of various kinds of clouds)
8. Quickies and Timing (to make quick decisions, gain experience)
9. Rhythm, (repetition of motif in nature and use pictorially)
10. Restraint, elimination of extraneous detail for sake of design (To make your public smile and dimple, KEEP YOUR COMPOSITION SIMPLE!)
Watercolorists have to learn to paint from nature, and to be uncomfortable while doing it. Please let me know if you would rather not do this. Have fun painting!
Some of you have difficulty with washes, and may need help in knowing pigments that are easy to control well, and how to use mixtures of opaque with transparencies to make it easier to achieve the desired washes. The transparent pigments may be used with semi-transparent or opaque mixtures.
TRANSPARENT PIGMENTS SEMI-TRANSPARENT OPAQUE
Alizarin crimson Emerald Green Cadmium Orange
Gamboge Indigo Blue Carulean Blue
French Ultramarine Ivory Black Cobalt Blue, or Violet
Thalo Blue, Windsor Blue Paynes Gray Naples Yellow
Thalo Green Sepia, Raw Umber, Sienna Yellow ochre
Today we will do a Still Life, paying special emphasis on washes, and it is easier to paint in the studio, under controlled circumstances. Take what is in front of you, as an idea and portray it with soul and imagination, or you can be literal and paint it as the camera takes a photo. I hope you will enjoy painting the still life.
Study the examples shown, and get to the heart of what you wish to say about these objects pictorially. Make several thumb nail sketches from your view-point, and have a definite Design in mind before you start to draw on your watercolor paper.
1. Draw the outline of objects lightly on the paper, and don’t let the oil from your fingers touch the paper, or it will not take water evenly. Number your values lightly, for future reference and in case the light changes it is good to have the proper value of these objects. What is your perspective? Where is your eye-level in relationship to the objects you are painting? Use creative perspective to enhance the idea of what you wish to say about these objects. Know where your point of emphasis will be. Where is the Master Path, that leads the eye into and about your painting?
2. An interesting Still Life has a definite color scheme, and does not paint an apple red because it is that way, but uses color washes to achieve form. It must have interesting line, form, color, and texture. Study space relationships and get an atmospheric effect around objects, so you feel you can pick them up. Remember the reflected lights and do not make them lighter than a middle tone in the shadows. Keep your shadows interesting and transparent by dropping some of the local color in the shadow. Do not finish each object and go on to the next, but work the whole painting at one time. Step back and look at it from a distance, for proper balance and space relationships. Is there a way to simplify it? Erase the pencil lines when it is dry, and put on accents, texture high lights, and intense color. Your Masterpiece is finished. Have fun painting!
Using Five Values
Triangle or Cone
The Classical Division of the Head is in thirds. Eyes are almost in the center of the head. Always draw a line through center of the head, and then divide into three main masses. Study your model, and get a likeness by using correct proportions.
This lesson examines the structure of trees, and reviews rough paper brush strokes in producing foliage that resembles the tree you are producing. Every species of tree has a particular branch structure, so study carefully the “V” or “Y” or erratic sickle shapes. Willows display a “U” where branches join their trunks, while pine branches leave the trunk at sharper right angles.
Think of a tree as being a water supply of pipes. They extend into the ground where they draw moisture from the roots, and then branch out in the ground as far as the branches overhead extend. Artists must show this in the levels of the ground under a tree, as well as what they see above the ground. Since our Florida trees are mainly pines, palms, and oaks, we will concentrate on these forms and perfect their uses in landscape painting.
Pines are usually towering above the other trees, in our landscapes. Their barks resemble oyster shells on the tree. Observe the shadows on the trunks, that describe the roundness of the form. Load your brush with water, and a little cadmium red, and then put umber on the shadow side of your brush. Angle the brush, and turn the brush as shown as you go from the bottom to the top of the trunk of your pine. With a tissue, or dry brush, remove the paint, where you want to show lights on the trunk, or texture. After it is dry, with a fine pointed brush, use a small amount of detail on the trunk, in the middle value of the tree trunk, as shown.
Show a reflected light on the shadow side of the trunk, and draw in the shadow of the ground. Draw in the branches with your round brush, or use the flat WC brush as shown for larger branches. Look closely at the size and direction of branches as they curve and seek the light, and dry brush in the needles, as shown. Cones may be added, according to the genus of pine tree, but do give the cones life by adding color to them. Next week, we will paint over our black sketches of today. Palms are the watercolorists delight, because there are so many varieties, and we will paint them in Paynes gray or umber, or black today. Do keep your arm and wrist relaxed, as you learn to use the WC brush for painting palms. Oaks are so large, plan on eliminating about fifty percent of the branches, and still retaining the character of the tree. Pick out the most perfect examples and paint their unexpected meandering, as they search for the sun.
Please go out and paint trees for your homework this week, and learn how to find symbols that relate to each kind of tree, and bring them in for your next lesson.
Keep painting and have fun!
You have already had some instruction on using the Eliot O’Hara Watercolor brush, and you will learn to love your very own brush, which will become a living thing as you use it, and will aid you if you take good care of it. Always wash it after each session of painting and see that it stands on its handle in a jar while drying. The bristles are in a line when it dries standing on its handle.
You will find that we cannot always go out to paint, and on these days (rainy ones) we will paint still life, or study other lessons on theory in the studio. Today I plan to take you out to draw trees, and learn the characteristics of oaks, flowering trees, and shrubs.
Have your paper ready, and securely pinned down at the corners of the pad. When we draw the trees, we study the kind of tree to see how the branches are attached to the tree, how the bark grows, its texture and its foliage, and how it is attached to the tree. Think of a tree as plumbing, with pipes branching off from the large trunk, especially in the oak. Note how the Live Oak branches curl around in an unexpected manner, and often curve over and almost touch the ground. It is impossible to put in each branch of the tree, but you are the artist, and must express the idea of this tree, so people seeing it will know what kind of tree you are painting.
You can make a tree in the foreground run completely out of the paper, for it is not necessary to contain the whole tree within the picture’s boundaries. Decide how tall you will make the tree, and make a dot for its bottom and its height. Now find where the first branch comes out of the trunk of the tree and make a dot here. Now decide how wide the tree will be and looking really hard at the tree trunk, draw the irregular surface that is the outside of the tree.
Always draw the tree as though it did not have any leaves on it and get its skeleton first. Note that the branches rarely come out at right angles from each other, but always stagger themselves in a way to reach the most sunlight. Do not draw these limbs in curves, although they may look that way to you. Remember that they grew an inch or so a day, and draw them as they grow, in straight little angles, with the tiny stems always seeking the sun. Remember that the limbs must never be larger than the trunk, and that the limbs grow smaller as the tree reaches toward the sky, and oak trees have “Y” branches. They are broken up into smaller “Y” branches, and at the top of the tree, the lacy leaves.
Think of lace when you are putting on the foliage of the tree. Be sure and leave the holes where you see through the tree, and sometimes you see sky through the branches. You have already practiced using your brush to produce tree foliage and will have a lot of fun doing this with your new brushes. Put in the foliage first, and then add the branches while the foliage is wet, letting some of the dark run into the wet leaves. Be sure and leave the white paper, where you see through the holes in the tree, to see the sky, where the birds fly through.
In making the greens for the foliage, you will find the green from the tube is not the right shade for the leaves. You have learned that blue and yellow make green, but Hookers green and cadmium red make a warm green, black, and yellow also make green. On the sunlit side of the tree, and toward the top of the tree, you will see bright shiny new leaves that are pure yellow. On the shadow side of the tree some of the leaves may have shadow colors and be dark against light sky. Have fun painting!
6. LIGHT AND THE SPECTRUM
1. Local color, which might mean a green tree, a white house, a red barn, proceeds to show what your thinking process might be in selecting a color and value.
2. Selection of color in the shadow of that local color; for we know that shadows are rarely black, but rather have local color. Some of the hues that are in the sky, especially if they are catching reflection for the sky as most roofs are, even in the shadow, or they might be reflecting other color relationships, from objects around them. Every shadow will usually partake of the color of the complement of the local color, such as a red barn will usually have green mixed with the red pigment on the shadow side of the barn. (review of the complements)
3. Reflected lights: There are always reflected lights in every shadow, which is the hue of the object behind reflected into the shadow, and the color of other objects reflecting on the surface of objects. Refracted light bounces around and is usually a warm hue. Since a reflected light occurs in shadows only, it must never be confused with highlight, and it is never more than a middle value in your value scale. the edges of shadows are usually darker than the inside of a shadow.
Study the value relationships of shadows carefully, and note that if you paint your shadows transparently, it gives your painting more life and unity. Look at the eaves of buildings, and note how the color changes as they reflect the refracted light from the earth below, and assuming that the eave is white, and it often appears to have warm hues often orange on the under-side of the eave. Also study the shadow sides of white boats in water. The blue water is reflecting the sky, but on the shadow side of a white boat, the reflected lights are often a rusty hue, or orange.
Make a chart, showing pyramids, as shown, and we will make twelve of these abstract tree forms, and abbreviate the twelve forms yellow, yellow orange, orange, red orange, red, red violet, violet, blue violet, blue, blue green, green, and yellow green, and study the relative hues we should use on the shadow side of each, and the bottom reflected lights, according to this lesson on light and the spectrum.
Remember that this is a lesson on theory--a way of thinking as you paint any artistic expression. This is a manner of thinking to produce an expression of your own creativity. Paintings do not happen because you throw pigments of any kind on a support, but rather they are the essence of your subject matter after you have found the inspiration you felt when you encountered the subject matter. It is your response to God’s creativity, more often than not.
There are really no rules in art, but there is much you can learn by observing nature and studying everything about you. Keep on painting, and have fun!
7. WET IN WET WATERCOLOR
We have discussed various weights of WC paper, and the advantages of one weight over another. Weight of 70 to 140 # is all right for most of your practice work, but wet-in wet requires the heavier weights, such as 300 pound paper to work properly, and you will have trouble if you try to stretch light weight Strathmore. Therefore, I usually use my brush and my sponge to wet my own paper, because I cannot afford the heavier weight, except for special orders.
I must try to show you how to stretch WC paper, but most of the time you will be doing it like I mentioned, with your brush, because you will not want to be extravagant in your use of heavy paper. You can leave a border around your lighter weight paper, and hold it down with good clips, but not clothes pins. This is the method most WC artists use. (Show ready made stretcher.)
Stretching paper is done by soaking your paper in water, (where there is no grease or oil) for about five minutes. You may use the regular canvas stretchers to stretch your canvas, and after the paper is wet, lay it on the stretcher, and fold the paper down over the strip folds, and staple or thumbtack it to the wooden frame about every three inches. Let the paper dry in a horizontal position, to the wetness that you desire to paint on.
Another way to stretch paper is to fasten the soaked paper to a sheet of masonite or plywood, with ordinary two (2) inch kraft or butcher brown tape. It is best to blot up the excess moisture with a clean towel. The board must extend beyond your WC paper, so that you can glue the tape to the wet paper and the board at the same time. Make sure the paper dries in a horizontal position.
Our first attempt to work wet in wet today, will be to wet our paper with our brush or sponge, and proceed to paint a sky. This is always done wet in wet to assure that the sky remains light. For the more water in the paper, the lighter the sky will be. However, when I paint skies, and want the white edges on the clouds, I leave this part of the paper dry, and wet the areas around the white edged clouds.
I have found this preferable in my own work to using masking of any kind for these reasons. Masking fluid often leaves grey marks or is hard to remove, and masking tape bleeds through, so for most jobs, if you can train yourself to leave dry paper, you can control the wet in wet and maintain white paper where you want it. Also, let me remind you that mostly I draw my composition before I wet the paper because you cannot draw on wet paper.
You learned to do a graded wash, wet in wet is as the name implies, and is an application of liquid color to an already wet surface. For our grapes, we will use three hues on the color wheel that are together (red violet, violet, and blue violet) with one of the complements (yellow green). What pigments do you have in your box that will give you this mixture? In acrylic, it would be Naptha red, and ultramarine blue mixtures, and cadmium yellow and green, and you may use Paynes gray for black.
You may use blue and yellow to make some of your greens, and you may use Paynes gray to any hue that you need, or you may use tints of the three hues. I will mix my Violet by mixtures of ultra blue and naptha, and use some Paynes gray to make some of the darker hues. If I use my transparent watercolors, I will use Alizarin Crimson, and Ultra blue. I have drawn what I consider the best composition for the grapes on the paper lightly,so that it can be erased later.
Let us talk a little about composition. How we will compose this painting because we will be using a lot of imagination with the grapes simply laying here on the table, not that we will paint exactly what we see, but rather use these models to compose something artistic that is the essence of grapes. I will try to find a grape leaf. Be aware of how grapes grow with the vine, its color and its unexpected wanderings to find suitable light for its fruit to get sunshine and ripen. All this should be expressed with lighting, which I intend to come from the left.
Think of maple leaves, if you cannot remember the grape leaf, but it is somewhat similar. think of the curls that appear near the bunches of grapes. I will try to find three kinds of grapes, which we will use light green, red and violet grapes in our creative effort to portray this fruit. We will think of the five values of each color, and we will find first the shape of the bunch of grapes, and paint the five values that will make the whole bunch, and not individual grapes, please. We will let the forms dry somewhat, until just right, and we will put in the accents that are the voids between the grapes. This is what will make individual grapes, and on the light side we will not always show individual grapes but just in the half tones, as shown. Keep painting, and have fun!
8. VALUE LESSON AND PAINTING FORM
Last week, I showed you how to use your watercolor brush, but I did not try to cover painting forms, which you must learn by rote. Since it often takes an artist a long time to really see as an artist, you will be developing your artist’s eye so you will see these things for yourself. In the meantime, please trust me that to produce a round surface on flat paper, certain technical problems will be solved for you if you learn the proper values to achieve this third dimension.
We will begin by painting a round form in Paynes gray or black. Remember that you have no white, as oil painters do, so therefore, you must leave the paper untouched to produce your number one value. Please make five squares on your paper. Now number them one to five. Leave the first square unpainted. In the second square lightly touch the paper in the exact value you wish to paint, with pure water.
Now pick up a very small amount of paint, and rub it in the center of your palette, until you think you have a wash that is one shade darker than white. Paint it in, leaving a dry white line between all the squares. Number three is your middle tone, and always represents the value relationship of a refracted light. Remember that this is your middletone. Make the number four square, without previously wetting the paper, and see how it becomes darker because the paper is dry.
Now make your number five value. Later you may paint in seven or even eleven values, and some artists often use even more, but I like no more than seven best. The illusion of form on flat paper is achieved by proper use of the values.
We will paint a cube, sphere, pyramid or triangle, a convex and concave forms, and a cylinder, as shown. Everything in Nature is described by these geometrical forms. What is a tree, or most trees? A tree is a combination of the cylinder, concave and convex forms. What is a face? First a face is a sphere, with overlapping forms of triangle, and the sphere of the face runs into a cylinder that is the neck. Whatever you paint you will be thinking of these forms at all times, and painting them by using the lesson you will learn today.
The next exercise you will try is using the following hues: light yellow, orange, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, ultra blue, and cobalt blue. Make six one inch strokes in a square that is about seven inches in each dimension, using the above pigments full strength. Now while it dries completely, try doing some minglings, as shown with color on the same page. When the first strips of color are dry cross them and see how one layer of paint applied on top effects the other hues. In watercolor we try to paint dark over light, which is just the reverse from oil, which some of you have used. And in watercolor, only experience will tell you when your paper is dry enough to go on with your painting. You must wait for certain areas to dry before proceeding with another coat of paint.
We have been painting for “What Made America Great,” and the up and coming Centennial. We use phrases from America to do this, so let us imagine a real painting, say a small one, and paint the whole surface of the paper in light yellow, as shown. Getting various values of color on the paper. This must be completely dry before we go in for the detail that will be applied later, and when the yellow sky is just right we will apply another coat of cobalt or cerulean blue over the sky part, as shown.
Be sure and keep the horizon areas very light, and if they should get darker than you want, use a clean brush or sponge, or tissue and mop up some of the color. Have a graded sky, as you did the last week in your graded wash. After this whole area is dry we will use yellow ochre, and raw sienna to put in some reeds of wheat, or other textured areas where we need them. Maybe some crows might be seeking food in our wheat field?
In watercolor, artists used to plan for about forty percent pure white paper, and remember to keep the paper white where you need this light. This can be controlled easily without mechanical means, but some people use masking tape, or Maskoid, or some artificial way. But I like to just preserve my lights without mechanical means. But I do not oppose their use, if you can not control the papers’ finish.
If it’s bad weather next week, we will study the theory of shadows, but if it is nice, we might go out to paint, if you have your equipment to do so. We will leave from here, so assemble promptly at 9:30 a.m. Have fun!
9. CLOUDS AND SKIES
There are three main “families” of clouds; Nimbus, Cirrus, and Cumulus. When they get broken up, weathermen have invented many other names. Skies are a means for the artist to set a mood to the whole painting, through handling this subject well. Cloud shapes change rapidly, therefore make quick notation on your dry paper, where you want white paper. I paint around these shapes, modifying any hard edges I don’t desire by softening edges. Plan a design to your clouds, that enhances the subject material, and goes with it harmoniously. For skies vary so much, that anything you do could have happened in the sky.
Another important point to remember is that the laws of perspective apply to clouds, just as in your subject material for your painting. Clouds appear to become smaller and closer together as they disappear into the horizon, and the atmosphere between you and them becomes warmer as it goes to the horizon. Often they are more neutral in hue.
Sometimes, there are no clouds in the sky. Here you will apply the graded wash that you learned in your first lesson in watercolor. Remember that your sky is a DOME, not a flat sheet hanging from the sky, but sky overhead is darker, and this is a good way to cut off the corners of your painting, and keep the path of vision within your picture plane.
Sometimes the theme of your painting might be a stormy sky. For maximum dramatic effect, a stormy sky should take up about two-thirds of your picture. This allows you to give full rein to the swirling shapes of the clouds, which should be painted smaller as they recede into the distance. Model the clouds with mixtures of warm and cool pigments and work wet-in-wet method.
No doubt you will try to express the beautiful sunsets in your skies! If you do, pick out the one most beautiful part of the sky, and do not try to put in everything you see. This is like painting the ocean, where we select one part of the numerous waves to paint. It is impossible to put everything in your painting. The secret of success in a sunset or sunrise is to use cool greyed hues for the dome of the sky, and offset it by having the warm hues lower and lighter, probably in a yellow background.
Most skies are painted wet in wet, on paper that is wet before you use pigments. I use double loaded brush strokes, and keep your sponge handy, to control the wet sky. Skies are the watercolorists delight. Have fun painting!
In this lesson, you will explore some pictorial possibilities of rhythm repetition, or repetition of pattern in the lesson on expression pictorially. A repetition of motif, and of varying sizes in a painting, may be employed to achieve unity, and harmony in a design. Visual rhythms, like auditory ones, involve the repetition of elements. This is apparent in landscape, where I often am amazed at how nature repeats itself.
For this lesson, think of a rhythmic piece of music, as you paint. If the weather permits, we will go to nature to paint this lesson, but if it is bad weather, we will need to paint inside. A repetition of motif is always found in a painting of flowers. Maybe this is a good time to try marguerites, or Shasta daisies, and do a flower painting.
We thank our still life chair for making this nice arrangement for us. First make a small 3”X 5” sketch of the still-life, from your viewpoint. After you have accomplished this, and discussed it with me, draw in lightly on your half sheet of watercolor paper, with a soft pencil. Number the values lightly. I like to paint in a light Y,G, 2 value on the dark side of my composition, and a darker 3 to 4 value on the light side of my painting. This sets the pattern of having the darker background on the side that is against the light, and the light side on the dark side of the arrangement.
Let it dry. Paint around the petals of the white flowers, and express the petals. There should be about three values of white in the flowers of this plant. Work from light to dark, putting in the elements that express this flower to the best of your ability. Hold the darks together as much as possible to produce a good pattern, and not get too many spots of dark scattered about. Keep your pattern as simple as possible, to express strength in your design. But these shadow patterns in your delineation are very important to the rendering of the petals of your flowers.
Find masses of flowers, toward the mouth of the vase where they overlap each other and do not try to express every flower in the vase. Note that the round centers become varying shapes as they turn to the side, only those directly facing you are round. The same with the shapes of the flowers. Where leaves are shown, they usually appear in masses. Show detail in the leaves, after the value of green is dry as shown. A flower painting should show rhythm and repetition of design to be a good painting, and I believe you will enjoy this lesson. Please paint at home, at least two hours a day for four days, and bring examples of your renderings to the class. We would love to have you inspire us with your work. Have fun!
This is the lesson your instructor needs most. I like detail, and am inclined to put in everything, which my teacher, Eliot O’Hara said was “gossiping in paint” and also, I am an enthusiastic, impulsive painter.
In this lesson we will try to find a complicated landscape and reduce it to manageability, through leaving out about 3/4 of everything. This is a good lesson for quickies and timing, and should be read in conjunction with that lesson.
To achieve the essence of your subject, simplify it. What are the most important elements to this? If it is a building, its silhouette against the light, obliterating detail would be a good subject matter. Or take the subject matter and imagine how it would look in moonlight, painting as though you were looking at it in moonlight. I did this with one of my most sought after paintings.
As you draw lightly your subject matter on your WC paper, keep in mind the structural patterns, the shapes, and the repetition of forms. I hope we can find a building against the light for this subject. keep constantly in mind your intention to eliminate anything that is not essential to your purpose. Pare down everything you can. I hope you are surprised at how little you need to draw or paint to have a good design. Every good landscape must have a background, middle ground and foreground. Most foregrounds have more contrast, and detail. Whereas middle grounds have less detail and are greyed in color.
The sky is usually your background, and today no matter what the sky is like, subordinate it to a simple wash of lighter value. Put in the background first, and proceed in an orderly manner, painting all over the picture and establishing planes that grow smaller as they recede into the middle ground, painting from light to dark, and using warm and cool hues mixed together to achieve keyed color. If you use restraint in drawing, it is good to use restraint in this lesson with color also.
At the art shows I attend, I find the public taste is inclined toward simplicity, and artists follow the trends to the public, to achieve their livelihood, through sales of their work. The human race is longing for peace and quite, if the pictorial trends have any influence. I would mix ultra marine blue and sepia, or Van Dyke brown to paint this. I would use burnt umber and ultra blue, as a silhouette for the building. I might use a little alizarin crimson in this for violet shadows. Orange, raw umber and green for planes, and I always use the washes of mixed pigments that accumulate on my palette.
I believe you can do a good painting with this lesson and learn how to eliminate detail to strengthen the design of your work. Please paint at home this week, and bring paintings to class. Have fun!
Painting helps refine the soul; the artist should have a message to convey, revealed to him only, from an inner spiritual need. Man has an innate tendency to transcend himself in art by relating his work to philosophy, religion, or personal view of life.
Today we are going to do a lesson in fantasy. It occurred to me in the dentist chair (where I was suffering) with eyes half closed I looked at the drill and saw St. Francis and the birds flying around him. We will use a limited palette of umbers, thalo blue, cerulean blue, yellow light cadmium; and Paynes gray.
Use my model of St. Francis--and do not erase on your paper as this will destroy the tooth that is important, since this is to be a painting of Forest Interiors that we have last week, with St. Francis and the birds in an oval (the symbolism of the egg and life itself). To repeat the oval forms of the birds, the large oval of the draped figure (topped by the oval of the head) in other words, think of the swirling forms of the ovals, and compose a design that leads the eye to St. Francis.
We will paint everything about St. Francis, very light and dreamy in greyed soft blues, and do it wet in wet, adding accents at the last. The whole center of interest will be light, with an ethereal quality, and only one real accent will be used. As though we were looking at St. Francis breaking through the light in the Forest Interior, which we will paint in washes later, and paint very dark. In other words, paint fantasy.
Problems of painting in watercolor: How to keep a sheet moist for wet in wet painting: soak the paper and apply wet blotters under area. This is something we generally have enough of in Florida (the land of humidity and moisture). Water can be added with sponges or brush if you see it is drying too fast.
Do not try to paint another wash over until painting is dry. Deep areas where you do not want an edge soft, and always soften edges and do not let it develop and dry where you do not want an edge. If you are developing a hard rind or edge and paint is thin in the middle, you are using too much water, and often not enough pigment. Cultivate the habit of picking up pools that develop in your painting with a dry brush. Also hard finished paper aggravates the condition of a hard line, and thin middle. When you wet the paper before painting, it removes the preservative that is applied to the watercolor paper when it is made to protect it. When this is sponged off, there is less resistance to your following washes and color.
How to get a sheet wet again for another go at wet-in-wet; if there is not too much impost, the sheet may be gently dipped into water bath again. Mix your color on the paper, and let the unmixed color blend. Rather than mix all washes before hand in a pan or on a palette, the “Goop” of middle tones that are produced in the middle of the palette, a mixture of water, with almost every color used, are good transition tones.
Painting in sunlight forces values, if your paintings are anemic, try painting outdoors in sunlight, and it will force you to paint with more color, and also darker.
13. PLANNING THE WHITES. . . Sailing Vessels
Winslow Homer, John Singer Sargent, and JMW Turner, in fact all great watercolorists of the past, chose very simple subjects for great paintings, like a single boat, an umbrella on the beach, or a silhouette of a city against the skyline. They reduced nature to terms that were readily communicated in the painting language. White paper invariably was left where it mattered. In fact, many of the earlier period left as much as forty percent of the paper untouched.
Light in watercolor is white paper. . .not touched with water, but kept dry. Lighter values are prepared by using more water and less pigment, or washes. unlike any other medium in art, we plan the whites before we touch the paper with anything. . .we plan them as we do the composition. Lighter areas must be completely dry. . .to obtain sharp contrast, or hard lines, such as the posts we did on the wharf last week. Because light color will not cover dark color in watercolor. . .we must pay more attention to values and procedure in painting than in any other medium.
Work the broad areas of the composition first, with the simple light washes and values needed for that area, and proceed to the smaller darker areas. Work from light to dark in watercolor, letting the washes be dry where sharpness is needed, and partially dry where softness, or bleeding is needed. The bleeding does produce soft edges that are needed in many instances, and you will learn to do this through experience in painting.
Today we will paint three sailing vessels, and five figures on the jetties, near the look out where there is a lantern, as shown. Figures or life, will always draw the eye, and while the center of interest is at the base of the tower, where figures, and the darkest dark and lightness of the sail appear, the eye will always be attracted to any kind of life that is put into the painting. This painting is done in a low key, or quite dark, and must be handled with great care to obtain the proper values. Plan the whites as they are shown, and note that the large white sail must be balanced with the darker sails of the two vessels on the far left, note that the white sails are in the foreground area, and extend toward the center below the bottom third, and to the top of the right third of the composition. Place the elements in their proper position.
Using masking tape, cut it to the shapes of the whites on the sails, and stick it to the paper, while you are doing this, place the small white dots that are on figures and tower, as shown. The whites in these areas are very sharp. Draw in all the elements, and now look closely at the values. We could use a color scheme, like last week, if we wanted to in this, but let us use another this week. But I do think the warmer hues are more unusual, since so many people paint everything blue in watercolor, which is not necessary at all.
Do always try to paint the time of day, and I think late afternoon might be good for this fishing scene. Number the areas, (on margin of the values). The darkest areas are just above the lower horizontal third of composition, and near this area. I chose this subject, because we have been painting rather light subjects, and this will show you how to get real punch and darker values of watercolors. I plan to use ultramarine blue and umber to produce this sky. Using a wet wash sky, by wetting paper first, and then doing a graded wash as shown.
Put a wash of yellow above the waves, and drag it up into the dark sphere where the streaks appear as shown. Keep this wash very, very light, and very little pigment with mostly water. Now wash the ultra wash, grading it so that it starts in a number 3 value at the top and goes to 2 and is lighter as it goes toward the horizon.
Keep the board tilted to drain to the top. Let this dry, as you proceed to place the front wave in the foreground, getting the proper values here, some of this is the same value as the sky. Preserve the whites that you see there with dry paper.
Put the waves on dry paper. Hopefully the sky is dry now, for it must be before you put in the next step, so let it dry completely. After it is dry, put in the accents or darks. you should use a warmer hue for some of these areas. Put some green in the foreground wave, and mix pure ultra and umber for the darker accents beyond. Use a wash of the ultra with a wee bit of orange, for the shadow on the sails, as shown.
Think of late evening, and what you have seen there, the small figure that is in the center of interest can have a red sweater on, and that light on the one behind, would look great in orange. This is the way to give the painting action. Make the fish pole bend, as shown, now take off the masking tape, and step back and view your masterpiece. Have Fun!
14. WATERCOLOR LANDSCAPE
Last week I was very pleased with the two watercolors you did. Your first outdoor lesson. Your weakness was not in drawing, as much as it was in not observing the correct VALUES. This week I want you to be more conscious of VALUES. Of proper hues to use for the three parts of the landscape and the foreground and where hues are warmer with more contrast of light and dark. More detail as with the middle ground, where we had to have some detail last week, but if you get too much detail in the distance, you lose the effect of distance in your painting.
Do show more atmosphere between you and the objects on a distant band of the stream. Things in the distance become more grayed, and the values are closer together. The greens are grayer than you had them, and while the one you did of the brown shed in the distance did have color in it, and did become a certain focal point in that particular painting, the surrounding trees should have been grayed and warmer in hue than most of you painted them, to show that this focal point was in the distance. The background, or our sky, did not have clouds in the sky last week, do make the sky a part of the design of the painting, and relate it to the whole. This adds unity to the painting.
What are the component parts of a good painting? It has first of all a good design. Rearrange nature if you wish, but bend its elements to your own sense of good design. All of you are trying to put in too much. Do be selective in the elements you use from nature. If you want a photo it is much easier to take a picture with your camera. Try to put feeling into your painting. Do check the elements of your design for balance. Do key your painting, but using the center wash, and mixing color by using the grayed values fist.
Even if you wait until last to put on intense color, do have contrast in your painting. Do be aware of the path of vision. This is especially important to a watercolor. don’t let the beholder’s eye go out of the canvas with a strong pull at the edges of the painting.
I assume that we will paint at the same place as last week, if the weather permits, and we will try doing one without drawing in the outlines first. This will keep you from doing so much detail, and will teach you the importance of getting the values correct. When I do this, I do not start with the sky, but rather go after the reason I am painting the watercolor, as last week, it was the old tree across the stream. With eyes half closed so you do not see detail, decide what hues you need to paint this particular object, that is silhouetted against the lighter sky.
Mix this hue on your palette, and start on the dark side of the object, and paint it in going from dark to the light, and adding just water with clean brush for the light side. Get the movement. Do not see limbs, at this time, just get in a value. Then find the end of the dock, and do have the darkest dark, and the lightest light on one of the thirds of the paper. This will be where the dark dock and water come together. Work into this with your brush handle. If you desire movement to moss, do leave holes of dry paper through the tree where it is needed. Do let this dry to the point that is needed to add texture, before using the handle of the brush. Now the hues that you have used, are the key to the hues you will use in the painting.
Everything you use should point up and accent the center of interest, which you have already put in. Generally speaking, you should find places where you will have warm against cool, and vice versa. In many instances, a dry brushed in sky will go with the painting, but where you have a center of interest, that uses texture as its significance, as this one does. It is better to use a lightly brushed in sky with more water, but DO NOT let the sky go into the edges of your trees! Have Fun!
15. REFLECTIONS IN WATER AND WAVE PATTERNS
Last week I put a piece of machinery in the car for our trip, and now I want to give special instruction on “reflection is water” since we will be painting lots of it, we hope.
When painting the sea, we must be very careful to observe its actual hues and values, and put them in the right place. Do you not often see a dark line, with waves cresting that has no change in hue? Note the great variety of color as this wave comes in, as it pushes the water. And then the wave’s reflection is often in the water that is being sucked under and into the curl of the wave.
Study “The Great Wave” by Mokusai, for good symbols for making a wave, for he really spent a lot of time studying what a wave does before he painted this. Note his ability to show foam and the manner in which he shows the pull of the wave. Sea waves are equally steep front and back, but as they approach the beach the sand beneath causes friction that retards the movement of the underwater part of the wave. The tip, moving faster, overtakes the lower part and eventually falls, making the wave break. As a breaker crests, the line is concave at the rear and convex at the front. This is where you must know how to paint the concave and convex forms.
Where the shore is a curve of beach with a wall of rocks at each end, the friction caused by water moving against the rocks will slow down the movement of the waves at either end, but in the center they will travel faster, forming an arc, that roughly parallels the curve of the shore. Many painters, seeing the semicircular banks of foam, paint them as they see them, letting their brush strokes follow the crests of the wave. If we want to suggest the movement of waves, this is a mistake.
The eye will follow the direction of the brush strokes, leading the path of vision around the wave rather than following the movement of the waves toward the shore. The brushstrokes should move with the waves and not across them. The strokes can themselves be symbols of movement like the comet or polliwog, shaped strokes in “The Great Wave” painting by Mokusai. Another way to suggest movement is to indicate a progression of one wave starting to break, then another a little more advanced. You do not need too many, but only one or two is enough.
Remember too that waves are seen in perspective. If their apparent movement is toward the shore, they will seem larger nearby. if the wind is from the side, the waves appear to move sideways. They will have a vanishing point. When the high sky is dark, the low sky is light, and the near sides of the waves will be darker than the tops.
So far we have been discussing surf in relation to our Florida sandy beaches, but when a wave hits a rock, or cliff, all sorts of strange things happen. The waves may ride up over the rock and break just beyond it, explode against another, or barely dribble over other waves. It depends on the slant of the rock and the angle at which the wave hits it. Often the surf along a rocky shore will be affected by submerged ledges and rocks, as well as by visible formations.
We must go to the beach and have our wave patterns down before we start on our trip. Have fun!
16. COMBINED TECHNIQUES
Three basic techniques in watercolor have been studied at this point. The wash or control method, which is the traditional method, and the wet-into-wet, and dry brush and line. All three have a place in the same painting.
Wet-into-wet gives mood, distributes light; put it on first. Wash gives pattern, definition; make it carry the design. Dry brush and line go on last to enrich and accent (texture).
Today we will copy a sketch of a moss draped oak tree. I did it on the spot at Arlington, some time ago. Compose the drawing carefully, and make the pencil lines very light. Mark off the areas you wish to remain white.
The sky must be washed in and dry, before the big tree is painted against it, so work on the background areas of your painting with washing down into the horizon with a warmed gray wash, from the cut off corners of the domed sky above. While this is drying, on some of the foreground, dry brush and texture can be put in. Work from light to dark, by working into the previous washes after they are dry with detail.
Now that the sky is dry--you may start drawing the limbs of the tree, knowing that dark limbs come forward--especially when warmed, and greyed lighter washes will recede. While the limbs are wet--use the flat horizontal strokes for the foliage of the tree and washing right into the limbs that have been put on, and have the feeling of some foliage being seen on the back side of the tree. This can be accomplished by planning before hand, with the right values of the leaves. Use a double loaded brush, the big one, and lay it horizontal to the page, as per instruction in class.
Shadow areas outside are cooler, especially when they are hanging over water as they are in this instance. Have at least three values in the leaves. Yellow for the light side, warmer green as they turn away from the light and behind parts of the tree, which should be grayer. After the tree is dried, smaller limbs may be added. Be sure not to get too much foliage as a tree as heavily loaded with moss does not have as much foliage.
The moss is planned with the tree structure, and is darker in the shadow area than the foliage and lighter than the leaves in the lighter areas. Make the moss swing from branch to branch, and paint it in at least three values. Moss is generally warmer than the foliage areas, and must have form, as it hangs, and the voids and edges must be painted very thin, to show the lacy parts of the moss with heavy mass as it reaches the areas where it hangs to the tree, from the tree. Later there may be spots where texture can be applied to the moss, but don’t over do it.
When the picture has been completed, study the values, the edges, and soften some of the areas on the far side of the foliage, and tie it into the background. Have light against dark on the light side of the tree, and dark against a light sky on the dark side away from the light. Lastly, erase the pencil lines, and add accents, scrape out highlights, and if you have lost them, add intensity. Create a path of vision. Good luck!
Without inventiveness or feeling, which cannot be governed by rules, our efforts to paint are likely to produce an externally factual result, without spirit. But it is well to remind ourselves of some of the things whereby we may improve our design.
1. Shapes and areas of our composition should be varied, in form and color. Voids are also considered as shapes in this analysis. Unequal forms and shapes are outdoor subject sky areas should not be equal with the foreground area. Avoid arrangements that split the composition down the middle.
2. Balance large units or spots with smaller ones. A large unit in the foreground can be balanced with a smaller one in the distance.
3. In realistic painting, establish a point of view, and an eye level and stick to it.
4. In abstract paintings, play up color and texture.
5. Do not show extremes of proportion, unless it is done to point up one dominant factor you are seeking.
6. Every good composition gives a route for the eye to follow, a path of vision, for the eye to follow, and strives to hold the eye with the subject as long as possible. It is like choosing a natural path to walk over rough terrain. We begin the path, or line at the bottom of the picture, and then by the arrangement of other lines, masses, edges and spots, our eye is carried comfortably through the picture, to the focal point, and finally follows throughout the whole unified painting. With a portrait, all lines lead toward the head, on the principle of a focal point with radiating lines. Even in still life, plan to give a pleasing eye path by arranging the objects in an attractive eye path.
7. In abstract art, an eyepath is not so important, since we dispense with depth and the eye rests upon the whole canvas as a flat plane.
8. Subjects with two similar objects are best avoided. If we must have two, one must dominate the other. This is important in flower painting where one dominate flower must exist. Even in painting two prize fighters, one must dominate over the other. As also in painting several animals, people, or any two like objects. This is why portraits of families in one large canvas is almost impossible, unless you as an artist can agree with the others to make the Papa the dominant one and the subordinate the rest. However a mother and child can make an interesting study because of the variance in the size of the figures.
9. The use of overlapping units is good in creating unity in design. It ties the picture together, as in Elaine’s Collage last week, and the overlapping of planes, and tying together of the units. Almost any number of units can be overlapped or arranged into fewer groups for the sake of simplification.
10. Never put a head or anything of importance in the exact center.
11. In a portrait never place the head and shoulders so they face directly and squarely the viewer. Even a slight movement one or the other way is best. Try to analyze the feeling that this subject gives, the mood and atmosphere are very important. If the subject is exciting, we employ sweeping curves, big forms, and contrasting colors. If we emphasize horizontal lines, we know quiet, with clear cool color. If it is a feeling of combat, and confusion, then we use bold strokes of bold color at opposing angles. Next week we will coordinate design, with proportion, and study the effects of one on the other. Have Fun!
In thinking back over your development, I feel that I have failed to develop in you a sense of the basic forms: the cube, sphere and cylinder. Which are the main basic forms in everything we paint. A sense of structure is missing from many of your paintings. Find that main line of movement in your work, too, and do not deviate from the main emphasis you wish to portray.
In watercolor particularly, it is important to eliminate extraneous detail. Choose the main elements and find the strong light patterns and preserve them. Your sketch book is still in my studio, and I suspect you are looking for pictures to copy rather than using your own keen imagination and artist’s eye. When you sketch, look for the main elements and create interlocking planes, using the basic geometric forms to express these elements. If you isolate the elements of your subject and think of them in these terms of symbols incorporating the geometric forms, then your resulting drawing becomes stronger and has more structure. Draw through.
Today, I hope you will do a still life in black and white using the set up the oil students are doing. Get the main forms in relative proportion, as I note that you are good in your drawing, most always, but often lack this sense of getting things in relationship to each other. Proportion is your main weakness for you to get the drawing with comparative ease, but think to see if these things are in proper relationship to each other. Overlapping planes are important, and the space or volume given these objects is important. Often the shadows are the thing that bring these elements into relationship with each other. You are inclined to get shadows too dark, in some instances, study these relationships with care.
Do not try to see too much, but preserve your light pattern and do not make a lot of spots of light and dark, but keep the pattern simple. “To make the critics smile and dimple, keep your composition simple.”
If you have to alter your subject to keep the dark patterns unified, as a foil for your light, do so. In watercolor particularly, the design is of utmost importance, because the broad washes simply done are much stronger than patterned detail. A simple pattern holds together in balance and unity. Using black and white and concentrating on values we will achieve this. After the black and white are done and dry, we will glaze on color.
This subject is a vertical composition. The lightest light, and the darkest dark will come where the lemon and bottle intersect. Keep this in mind when you compose your design. If a bottle extends out of the painting, it is all right. Do not make all the bottles the same height, although they may be similar. Varied sizes are the artists prerogative.
Find some suggestion of movement, and build your design around that movement. It may be just a hint, in the drape, and may not actually be there but find one of your own, and use it. Know that every inch of the depth space of your picture should be handled in colors appropriate to that depth. Find the foreground, middle ground, and background with the proper value and hue.
In glazing, try using burnt sienna, cad yellow, hookers green, ivory black, and a small amount of alizarin crimson. Have fun!
There is no practice equal to painting surf and sea on the job. But since there are so many other factors to learn, it will be well to continue to dream of our trip to the ocean and paint sea patterns. This week we have been asked to show paintings at the beach, and I will go down on Wednesday morning to carry two watercolors, and you may come along if you wish.
I would like to see you try a charcoal resist in watercolor surf. The drawing should be made in charcoal, pressing right hard in the dark parts where you want it dark. Then using Ultramarine blue or burnt sienna, in reds, and a bit of yellow ochre for light areas, start mixing in the darker parts, and paint over the dark charcoal. I believe the rocks that you paint could be helped with this charcoal resist. It will give texture and wetness to the tops of rocks when used lightly on top of rocks.
Viridian in tints makes good sea colors, and this can be warmed with yellow ochre, for warmth where needed. The main thing is to know where you need to see through the waves and where they are translucent.
Turn to page 64 of the library book and study the painting done of the “Ledges at Newport,” by Edmond Fitzgerald. I think this is similar to the scenery we will be viewing in Nova Scotia this summer. And this is done in oil, but may be copied in water color.
Note the movement of the waves. How they have a backwash after they hit the rocks. Get the tremendous diagonals in the right places. Note the proportions of the intervals. For this is what makes the waves roll in, or seem to break, and be pulled backwards. If you can master this painting, it will help you. And I expect you to help me to learn to paint waves when we are on our trip, for you are getting more practice than I am.
Your charcoal drawing should establish the main elements of your picture, and then try starting with the darks. Using water bleed the color out into the lighter areas and softening the edges where needed. Have the rocks painted in ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and also use alizarin crimson, where darker intensities are needed for the rocks. use tints of blue where the rocks look wet, for the water would look cool against the warmer color of the rock.
Rocks glisten coolly in the slanting light. Do not separate the rocks too much. Make just three unequal groupings of rocks, but leave white for some of the foam that is piling up on the rocks in the right hand side of the painting. I will probably go to the beach on Saturday of this week. To do a water color demonstration for Miss Mimi Fincher and if you would like to go along, I would love to have you. Have Fun!
20. SPOTTING AND SPACE CUTTING
Have you ever studied a beautiful painting, and analyzed its elements, to see what makes it a work of art? Have you looked at its space relationships, and color harmonies, and thought of it not as subject matter, but as an abstract with pleasing shapes, and plasticity of hues? If you have, you will realize that in asking you to do this exercise of spotting and space cutting, I am not trying to teach you to become an abstract artist, but rather that this is an easier way for you to learn to establish a real point of emphasis in your work. A Focal point is necessary to bring unity to your work.
Divide your paper into thirds. Cut off the corners in an attractive manner, as shown. Now to the inside of the upper right third, place a rectangle about an inch on all sides. Now overlapping this rectangle, draw an unequal rectangle that takes in both thirds on your canvas, as shown. You should have this large form, which is overlapped by the smaller form. Hold it up and note that these unequal divisions in your canvas creates a focal point, or center of interest, just by being of unequal size and shape. This is one method of creating a point of emphasis.
Now with the larger rectangles extending toward the center of your paper/canvas, break up the area of your painting in shapes, all rectangles that are varied in size and shape but none of them larger or smaller than the first ones you have drawn. If the smaller rectangles have diagonal ends, as they fade into the “cut off corners,” we have put on before, this is what is intended. Please do not try to draw these rectangles too carefully, or get them too small, for you may wish to outline some of them later. This will make the rectangle appear smaller.
Now choose three hues that are together on your color wheel that you have done previously, such as you might like to use, blue green, blue and blue violet. What would you put on your palette to produce these hues? You may use viridian green, cobalt blue, and ultra blue and black on the cool side of the palette. On the warm side then, you might use a small amount of cadmium orange, the complement of blue. Whatever hues you choose to work with, use a small amount of its complement, of one of the hues only.
Begin by painting the smallest rectangle, such as the orange. Paint an outline of white around the orange. Now paint the largest rectangle, in cobalt blue for about one third of its shape, and tint the cobalt blue as it goes into the second third, and have it very light in value as you do the last third of this rectangle. Hold your canvas up and see how bright the intense orange and blue look in this varied amount. This is one method of achieving a focal paint with color.
By using a small amount of the complement of the major color. Most paintings have a major color scheme, and if you use three cool hues, as we are doing here, the major color scheme of all the rectangles will be blue, blue green, and blue violet. You may not use orange in any of these rectangles, but you can use black and white added to any of the cool hues. Plan an interesting distribution of color, and values, and intensity within the rectangles of the canvas.
Note how a repetition of the rectangular shapes create a rhythm pattern in your work. Since the canvas is a rectangle, the rectangular forms give strength to your work. A repetition of shapes will always give rhythm to your work, so try to have repeated forms and hues throughout all of your work. Note that by manipulation of the values, you can create a path of vision, around and throughout all these rectangles. Use it to weave pattern and design.
After you have mixed various hues, and have all the rectangles painted, you will have little pools of cool pigment on the palette. Mix some of this with some white and a small amount of orange, and paint the borders that we blocked off at the beginning from corner, that formed a vignette, holding the rectangles. Use a different value in each margin. All paintings are first thought of as being abstract. Have Fun!
21. SUBJECT MATTER
Last week we studied the thinking process in theory, that helps the artist to know which of the multitude of hues we can make for color in shadow. Local color in shadow, and how to go about finding the correct hue and value for light that is refracted from other objects.
Now we will put that lesson to practice when we do quick ones and time, which I am not sure we can do Monday, depending on the weather, and our individual desires for subject matter. So I will write a general lesson that may fit our needs.
Let us talk about the selection of subject matter for painting. Odd balls in nature are to be avoided with me. I like to paint the best of each particular subject if possible. if it is an old house, or garbage can, the oldest and most descriptive of the nature of the subject that I can find will do. Surprising as it may seem, the artist can imbue with spirit and beauty, even an old garbage can, and make it sing with nuances of color. So subject matter is not as important as it may seem.
You have painted on your own doorstep more beauty than you could paint in a life time. Far away places seem to take on charm, and we hope to get to St. Augustine someday, but actually with the variation in light, subjects that you have painted before in your own back yard may be just as beautiful as anything we might see there. It depends on your own ability to see, and this will be attained through painting.
Make several thumb nail sketches of the subject, to view it from various positions. Decide on the composition best suited. I like to paint with the light coming from my left, and most of my paintings are read from right to left instead of the normal way of reading print. We will discuss this in class, and look at examples of other paintings.
Try to choose a subject that composes well. Know where the center of interest will be, and how you are going to achieve it. Do study the subject well before you start painting, and know the overall atmospheric hues you will use. Do try to have a fresh viewpoint, and establish a mood, to put real feeling into your efforts. Know that you can always recompose the subject material to fit the needs of your design. Do simplify, especially in the middle distance. You may shrink objects to establish distance, and this type of almost cartooning is absolutely necessary to pictorial expression.
Bold lighting is often necessary. Push the light, and be quick about putting down the shadows, before a friendly cloud comes along and obscures it from the scene before you. Get the overall impression of lighting as you want it at the height of its beauty. And then remember, the whole scene as it appeared at the particular moment. Often there is only a fleeting moment when the light is best. You must learn to retain that moment and put it down sometimes hours later.
I cannot impress upon you strongly enough how necessary it is for you to develop a photographic memory for the over all picture. You must learn to retain it in your memory and paint that fleeting impression at the moment of the scene at its full beauty.
Landscape artists should paint when the sun is lowering, for then the hues are most beautiful and the shadows are longer. This means we should rise early and paint the cool morning light, or not get our husbands dinner, and paint the bewitching evening lights and shadows. Light at noon causes short shadows, and blots out form. Your painting should have form and texture so painting when you see these is distinctly an aid to you. This does not mean that you cannot get good paintings at noon, but we often have to push our lighting to get a good painting. Most of all, keep painting, and have fun
Last week we tried your first real painting, and I was pleased with the manner in which you handled this, your first in this class in landscape. I am pleased that you have been practicing at home for it is only through your own efforts, and the hours you spend behind that brush that you will learn. And I thought your main weakness was in not using enough contrast in your values. Don’t be afraid of going dark where it is needed, but do paint from light to dark at the start. After you have gained control, you can paint in many ways and handle this medium.
You have learned that at certain stages it is good to let the painting dry before continuing. Watercolors will stand much more correcting than the average layman realizes. You can even scrub out values that become too dark. But we have to be very careful not to destroy the tooth of the paper, because this can be done even while you paint. Be very careful not to touch the surface of the paper and leave the oil from your fingers, for even the smallest part of body oil will affect the manner in which the paint goes on. If a surface does not take color well, sometimes you can rub it with a raw cut onion, and it will destroy the oil that prevents it adhering.
Since your weakness last week was in getting darks, I thought it would be well to do a landscape with back lighting. Last week we had our light coming from the left, causing shadows to the right, and this week we will imagine a stream winding through the foreground, and getting lost. Our point of infinity to the left of the painting, and going around and behind a clump of trees there will be three clumps of trees, all on varying planes.
The clouds are hiding the sun, which is low and behind the clouds. Starting at the upper left third of your paper, draw in the clouds very lightly with a soft pencil. Make the horizon below or near the bottom third of your horizontal composition. Now place the largest lump of trees toward the center. Of this third, as shown for it will vary according to the size of your paper.
For this lesson we will introduce the use of masking tape or rubber cement for blocking out the paper where you wish it to be pure white. The old watercolor masters used to retain about a third of their paper as pure white, never letting it become soiled with color. Cut the tape to shapes that suggest the light coming through at the edges of the clouds, so you can go very dark, and still retain the white edges. Later if you wish to add color, or soften these edges it can still be done.
Draw the place for the stream and if you desire to block out this area where you want it to remain white, you may do so. We will have the sky darker than the water with a low sun.
We will paint this sky by wetting the paper, and giving it a light coat of Yellow Orange and then into this we will add ultra blue, mixed with umber for the dark cloud. With a touch of aliz crimson here and there, to make it a warm violet, in between the sky will be blue, gray, and green. On the lower half of the sky will be a sunset of Yellow Orange (YO), shaded to yellow and some orange. As shown, a touch of cad red may be used. The dark trees in front of the sun will be raw umber, or greenish brown, and the light on the ground will be YO. Most of all have fun.
Last week you were asked to paint a still life at home, using a cylinder, sphere and cube or other geometrical patterns. I hope you found this a challenge, in composing the elements into a satisfactory pattern.
You no doubt found that an artist has to learn a particular manner of seeing. There is a real phenomenon of seeing anyway, we do not take in everything at a glance, and we must be conscious of it, but this focal beam moves over the area of observation so quickly and flits so unconsciously from point to point that the phenomenon is seldom noticed. Yet it is an important factor in creative art, and it must be reckoned with by painters.
Now it is obvious that awareness of this optical phenomenon is important to the painter, when he is composing a picture. Knowing that the observer’s eye will have to move about in your composition, you will naturally want to direct the eye, and taking the about in a meaningful and restful way. Unless you control this your picture will not express your intention, or contribute satisfactorily to the pleasure of those who view it. The eye, put to the trouble of finding its own way will see everything in the picture, but it will not get the intended impact anymore than it would from a poorly composed piece of writing. There are exceptions to any rule in art, and there are times when you may not want emphasis, but as I have told you, in art it is important to have feeling, and a point of emphasis is one manner in which you will get it.
The composing of any picture is primarily a matter of controlling the seeing process, and the painter has many devices of leading the eye around and out of the painting. At times you will rely on line, and another on mass, contrast, spatial arrangement, value or color. You may use one or many of these abstract structural means. The way they are designed or coordinated creates the “hidden part” of the painting, and often this is done in several sittings letting the oil dry underneath and scumbling or glazing on top of the under painting.
Very often I will start my painting with these abstract patterns in lines, developing the path of vision, before I even start to paint, and I often leave some of these lines in evidence because they are not consciously seen, but the hints I leave will carry my path of vision, and keep the observer of my painting going in the direction he is supposed to follow in looking at the painting.
Another method is eye control. It is the most obvious, perspective. Find a painting in one of the books that uses this implement for leading us through the painting. The impulse to follow a perspective path is irresistible. Louise Thomas painted a picture looking through a window with draperies on each side, and a geranium in the window that was of this type. The eye was led into the distant fields where men were working in the field. The subject matter, showing man also was a force to lead the eye into the distance. These are some of the devices artists use, so keep looking at paintings at the Cummer Museum, where the best in the city is shown. do not be misled by some of the local work, including my own.
The phenomenon of seeing is so complicated that we have just scratched the surface in all that awaits you to learn, if you apply yourself to the study you will receive great rewards. Pictorial composition is a very complex study, and as you grow increasingly sensitive to design, the more deeply hidden pleasures in great pictures will become tangible to our every expanding appreciation. Michelangelo once said that “Great painting is a music and a melody that only the most intelligent can understand and that with difficulty.”
Please bring a painting for our exhibition at Pine Tree, and then go out and see them and take a friend with you. Have fun.
24. COMPOSITION OF STILL LIFE
I hesitate to write another exercise until you have completed the one I have given you to do at home. You cannot learn to paint if you do not practice at home, and carry your studies on, in an orderly manner. Art is a hard task master, and we let it take our lives, if we are to succeed at it.
For this week I want you to do a still life subject at home. In arranging it remember that if there are three objects in the painting, two should overlap. Use a drapery in the back, for the study of folds in drapery are very necessary to learn to paint.
Still life is the chamber music of painting. it manifests the intrinsic values of art, very little diluted by incidental elements. It remains forever still, and you can relax and enjoy yourself as you observe its elements, and compose it in an interesting composition. Use a jug, a green wine bottle, a shell, a white plate, a lemon or apples. Use any informal arrangement of ordinary objects.
Plain everyday objects are best because they are not beautiful in themselves. You have to make them beautiful. Pots, pans, old cups, broken pitchers, Jerry Farnsworth even has a stuffed owl in his studio which he uses successfully.
Now when a painting is provocative, it makes us ask and makes us try to understand what is going on in the artist’s mind. It is in a fair way of being considered a work of art. And while what we see may not necessarily be pleasing or even acceptable, we are made aware of a creativeness such as is not revealed in an object itself. paintings can create beauty where it does not exist.
It is not necessary for you to paint the objects the color they actually are, and you may be as creative as you want. But while you are learning it is well to think through on the values or you can end up with a very pasted on look, or a poster like appearance to the painting that is not unified.
The late Henry Lee McFee, one of America’s greatest artists in still life wrote, “Still life I have always with me. I find the beginnings of a picture that interests me most in the corner of my studio or in the living room. I keep about me things that I like, common things mostly shapes that touch me. Inanimate objects take on life when seen with understanding. I prefer a bouquet of wild flowers and field grasses in a common pitcher to the most beautiful roses in a precious vase.
Most of you are advanced enough to start drawing with your round brush, and some hue that will blend in with the other colors you will use. We often use raw umber for this, which is not too dark, but can be easily covered, or changed. The lines of the drawing are thin and gray at the beginning, but as you proceed the lines are moved back and forth to develop volumes and to secure balance. The canvas sometimes takes on a strange look, that would not mean much to an untrained eye.
Sometimes at this stage you can stop and do a pencil drawing to develop without too many errors. keep your original intention clearly in your mind as you develop your painting. See it as it will look completed. Do study your color relationships. Begin to paint in the masses in patches of color all over the canvas. Do not finish anything all at once.
Most of all bring me a finished canvas to class next Wednesday night. And we will have a criticism and I will show you how to judge a painting. Have fun!
We have been studying the effect of color in shadow, and the various color relationships, and know that colors reflect into and blend with each other. The main weakness of most of my students is to not see the variations of color between a flat surface reflecting full light, and the vertical objects away from the light. Knowing your weakness, maybe you can study this more closely.
What did impressionism add to our color perception? These artists concentrated on color as it appeared to the eye, not as it was understood by the academicians of previous generations. The general effect of atmospheric conditions, distance, persons, and things in motion, the rendering of the time of day, the sparkling sunlight between the leaves of trees and on the ground were much more important than physical details and painstaking outlines. The work had to be done fast in order to be true to what the artist perceived. Who can really see your eyelashes, or count the spokes of a wheel?
Artists used to paint such details not because they saw them but because they knew they were there. Study the motion in the Nude Descending the Stairs and understand what was happening to the artist and his understanding of our problems.
The importance of Impressionism is the introduction of on the spot observations. The idea that one color has to be compared with all the colors around it, and that colors are as expressive as, or more expressive than lines and forms.
One of the most difficult problems is to realize that the world is full of optical illusions. Some of these optical illusions are pleasant, and some are amusing. And a close scrutiny of the Snow Scene Louise sketched in Thursday and my painting points up this fact although she was trying to copy my painting, you see how my painting looks wider than hers and hers appears taller than mine? Let us discuss this optical illusion and know why this appears to be so.
The perception of illusions, whether they are illusions of lines, of forms, or of colors is significant to all artists.
The ancient Greeks, with their incomparable desire and ability to weigh, measure, and define everything were past masters of controlling optical illusions. They used their eyes and their minds. When they noticed that straight columns didn’t look straight, they changed the shapes of columns, and set the proportions of height and width, so that ultimately the column looked straight. In cutting mats for watercolors we always make the bottom slightly larger, to allow for this optical illusion and give the mat an artistic balance. See page 56 for optical illusions in line.
Try to recall something that pleased you and describe it to me. What made it attractive to you, and what were its colors? Most painters know the difference between two kinds of yellow, between cobalt and ultramarine, and thale blue. They know between alizarin crimson, cadmium red, between blue-violet and red-violet, a yellowish orange and reddish orange. But we remember colors the way we remember anything else, vaguely and often incorrectly. There are so many hues that it is almost impossible for any one to recollect each of them.
This is to say, that we should do more painting from nature where we can refer to the subject, and learn how to paint the particular time of day, the seasons correctly, before we are capable of interpreting the very important things in the studio. One of the problems of memory colors, is lack of variety that occurs in nature. I am hoping that next Thursday, we may take our oil paints, and go to the beach together and paint. Then we will take Sophie and Hilda, who are going away this summer, to lunch. Try to meet here at 9:00 A.M. with the equipment you will need, and HAVE FUN!
26. THE EDUCATION OF AN ARTIST
Your education begins at the cradle. But it may perfectly well begin at a later time too. For being born poor or rich, it really does not matter. If you are a true artist, your diversities may amplify your work. Whether you will become a significant artist seems to depend upon a combination of biology and education working upon each other in a fashion too subtle for the eye to follow.
But there is a certain minimum program. There are three conditions that seem to be basic in the artist’s equipment: to be cultured, to be educated and to be integrated. Now let me be the first to admit that my choice of terms is arbitrary; many words could be substituted and mean about the same thing. For Art is being more aware of what is going on about you, and being spiritually oriented to receive the messages that come to an artist.
Begin to draw as early in life as possible. If you begin early, use any convenient tool and draw upon any smooth surface, the fly leaves of books are excellent, although margins of text books have also been use. Make notations of your own experiences on your margins of your own text books, and jot down your own thoughts about various subjects you like to draw.
Attend a university if you can. There is no content of knowledge that is not pertinent to your education and the work you will want to do. But before you attend, work as something for a while. Do anything! Get a job as a farm worker, if you want, or in an auto repair shop, and do not fail to observe the look and feel of the earth, of all things that you handle! Be aware of the five senses, and learn to draw things in such a way, that people can smell the flower, or hear the music you attempt to portray. Listen well to all conversations and be instructed by them, take all seriousness seriously. Form opinions and read people like Sophocles, Euripides, Dante, Proust. Read everything that you can about art except the reviews, and be your own person about your art. Never look down upon anything or anyone as not worthy of notice. Read the Bible, and illustrate some of its stories. Read all kinds of poetry and know as many poets and artists as you can. Go to the art shows, and talk to the artists. You will be surprised how helpful most of them will be. And paint and draw, draw, and draw!
Never be without your sketch pad. It is your camera, and your idea bank. It will enrich your memory. Know all that you can, both curricular and non-curricular, mathematics, physics, economics, logic and history, business administration will not hurt you either. Know at least two languages, and particularly know Latin and French. Look at paintings and pictures of paintings. Know the History of Art and its Periods. Look at every kind of visual symbol, whether you happen to like it or not. Do not spurn sign boards, or furniture drawings, or any style of art. Keep an open mind.
Do not be afraid to like or dislike what you see, form an educated opinion honestly, but retain an open mind. Spend some time learning about the German Genre Painters, or the Hudson River School, or the German Expressionists. It will enrich your art experience. Listen to good music, and then try to express what it meant to you. and remember while you go about your daily chores, that this is a part of your art education. If you make it a seeing, feeling, experience, learn the feeling you get in touching silk, iron, to paint soft, shiny or hard from experience. Go to all sorts of museums, and remember that you are trying to learn to think what you want to think, that you are an individual who is learning new experiences. you wish to share these with others through your own medium of art. Through your genius, through your eyes, through your very own skill, which should be different than anyone else.
Travel, go to Paris, Madrid, Rome, Florence, Raven, Paua or other places. Stand alone (in your imagination) in the Sistine Chapel, and think of Michalangelo Angelo, after reading all you can about him. Go to the Carmine in Florence, and draw, draw, and paint in many media. Be an experimenter, not a copier. Never be afraid to become embroiled in art or life, and never be afraid learn to draw or paint better than you already do. Do not get in a rut and try to be a round ball in a round hole. Although many museums or art collectors may try to force you to do just that.
You will observe that this kind of education has no beginning and no end. It is a life that is fulfilled in every way. In June I will be having a five week course on art in perspective, which is the outline of the course I have just completed at Jacksonville University. Please register soon if you wish to enroll, before the class gets too large. Have fun!
Perhaps the greatest progress has been made in the field of manufacturing for great strides in science has produced colors that are chemically compatible, and greater consistency in their permanence. It is no longer necessary for every artist to know the properties of paints to produce lasting color effects. Chromes and lead colors do not mix.
Color is one element of beauty that stands on its own. But good color added to all the other elements of beauty; unity, design, rhythm, will lift beauty to its highest peak. The most important thing you can learn is to produce the various values of all colors. Because if you values of each hue is incorrect in relationship, your painting will look muddy. Every color must take its proper place in the value scale, which ranges from the darkest dark to the lightest light. It must belong to the KEY of the subject in order to fit within the chosen range of values.
There are so many manufactured names for color, but a real artist can paint almost any painting with the primary colors, with black and white. There is no recipe for mixing color, and each student brings his own interpretation to color, but the general failure of beginners is to use too much white in mixing. In doing this your painting lacks tone, and tonality can be studied in the paintings of Chardin, Millet, Gaugan (who used black glazes over the light underpaintings to achieve tonality).
A full palette contains a warm and cool pigment, plus toners. Valasquez used a limited palette quite successfully for many of his paintings done only in yellow ochre, (venetian) or light red, black and white. By mixing the yellow ochre with black, he achieved a warm green that gave his painting the effect of a full palette. Burnt sienna may be used instead of the light red, with almost the same results, and I have tried these hues in both watercolors and oils. All of you have made a color wheel, and know the value of using complements, in color, and how to make neutral grays, and their use. You have also had experience in making colors seem brighter by using the neighbor on the color wheel to lighten or darken a color, i.e. Green is made brighter by using yellow-green, or yellow next to it.
Except for transparent watercolor, the artists pigments are generally opaque, but some paints are more opaque than others, and it is important to know which ones give transparencies, which are used for glazing; and which ones cover well, as for covering mistakes. We have already covered this in class, so I will not dwell upon it here, but if there are questions please discuss this in class. The greatest mistake in color, and one that causes lack of unity and harmony, is from having too many pigments on the palette. When secondary colors are mixed from the primaries on the palette, a relationship is established.
We have also discussed in class the method of applying paint, and that over mixing on the palette often destroys the color we hope to produce. You have had lessons on the use of broken color, and the effect of letting the eye mix the secondary colors on the painting. The Impressionists often painted their broken color directly onto the white canvas, but I still feel that it is easier to get the values if the artist uses a toned ground for broken color, for the ground helps to hold the painting together in unity.
Next week we shall discuss color further, by studying a variety of techniques used in applying the color to canvas. In the meantime, bring some examples of other artists techniques you like to class next week. Have fun!
We have learned in our study of color that pictures are brightened much more by contrasting good values than by piling in more and more pure color, and that color looks brightest in grayed color of quality. Also that color is brightest in the light. That black shadows are more neutralized, and that shadows contain some of the local color in their reflected light areas. In laying in shadow masses of any picture, it is a good idea to use rich dark pigment. Never put highlights in a shadow.
There are many qualities of color which we modern painters appear to have overlooked or forgotten, in the particular quality of radiance, which we can study Rembrandt to obtain. Mimi S also got this Radiance in the Fallen Pear painting, by using rich darks and high key on the table top.
We know that air is filled with minute particles, which have the property of picking up light and reflecting it between the source and surface upon which it falls, often causing “halation” in which all lighted surfaces are bathed in light. We see a blur around a headlight or candle flame, and we should use some of these circumstances in our paintings. But a lesser degree of this same halation is not so obvious. Such halation traverses boundaries or edges of lighted areas. The edge may be quite distinct, but the space around the edge becomes lighted also.
A bright moon may appear sharply outlined against its background, but if we look carefully, we see that there is a gradation of light over the whole moonlit sky, which grows brighter as it approaches the source. Such lighting is hardly perceptible until we train our Artist’s Eye to perceive it. So let us be aware of the color of this light source, and extend it into surrounding space. This is actually a color influence rather than a repeated color. The color of the light blends into the color of the background, as Elaine’s seascape gave a glow to the surrounding areas last night. Paintings can be given a wholly new quality of radiance when these things are observed carefully. It is a method of relating color to its environment and unifying all the areas. The quality of this radiance in a work of art is their reason for being good or bad paintings.
However this use of light does not mean that all edges should be blurred into the background. The edge may be held, but the background could be lighter next to the light than it is elsewhere. The ground plane also throws its light and color upward into otherwise dark shadows of the underplanes, and even on to the vertical planes, as we have demonstrated in class in still life painting of reflected lights. In using these tools at our command we can better unify the whole work.
When possible, brilliant color, or intensity should be concentrated in the area of greatest interest and not scattered. Study the works of Valasquez, Rembrandt, Sargent, and Vermeer for these qualities. Color can also be intensified along the edges of certain objects, i.e., distant horizon of trees in warm green with blue or red violet above for sky, to make certain objects stand out more in a painting. Holes between branches of trees through which sky appears may be surrounded with more vivid color, than that of a sky showing through, painting into the darks surrounding the opening. An area of color can be brightened by adding its next neighbor in the color wheel to the edge of the area. For example, a red garment might have a little red-violet introduced at the edges. Intensifying to color of the edges will brighten an otherwise dull subject.
Color lends itself to experiment, by devoting ourselves to color, we can enrich our art, and lives of others beyond measure. Have fun!
As you can see, a color is unlikely to have one rigid meaning. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that color has a variety of meanings, each implied and often very personal to that person, and the individuality.
Symbolic meanings of colors have psychological connotations, and affect us whether we are aware of it or not. There is no absolute definition of psychological effects of color (though some have tried). Most people however, prefer bright sunny days to dark or rainy ones, a bouquet of fresh flowers is much more pleasing to us than a trash can filled with trash that might even have some of the same hues in the trash as in the bouquet. We are aware that colors stimulate us, and the use of this psychology is used in stores, and other commercial ways (i.e., t.v. ads), to stir us to action. What are some of the hues that stir us to action? what are the restful hues that lull us to sleep?
Many artists face a client who does not dare purchase paintings she or he really likes, because it would not go with the color of the sofa, or wall. This is a completely erroneous concept of the client who knows little about color. The frame of a painting visually separates it from its surroundings, and gives her or him the chance to use any keyed paintings in any room. If there is contrast, it often is just the thing that makes your clients decorating outstanding.
The effect of color on our environment, and thus on our psychological well being is just as strong on our personal appearance. Colors maka a person seem taller or shorter, plumper or thinner. Art is not a haphazard activity. Even if you paint spontaneously, such a painting is based on your knowledge and skill, rather than merely your natural talent. Knowledge and skill are what you learn from teachers, from experience, and from practice. If you understand the psychological effects of colors, you employ them at your will. You have a better chance of figuring out the ultimate effect.
Art is not great because it is full of happiness, nor is it bad because it happens to convey a feeling of tragedy. We use the meaning of colors to express our viewpoint about the subject we are painting, and usually it is better to be as truthful as you can be within limits of artistic license.
There are artists who know exactly what colors to employ. Like Beanie Backus they can paint the time of day, the weather, the particular native qualities of a certain locale. This kind of painting demands absolute knowledge of colors and their possible affects.
By natural association of ideas, we think of spring as full of vivid color, summer lives in our membory as a season of heat, these overall effects should be expressed in your work. Create an overall mood, an overall lighting to each painting you do. We often try to paint a beautiful blue sky, but just how much of it is blue? Which blue will be mixed with just how much white to make the blue we so admire? and is the sky itself the same blue from top to bottom? What is the color of a dirt road, and if there is no dirt color, how will you mix this hue?
The answers to some of these questions are all contained in the Beanie Backus paintings we so admire, and I would like to see us try to do one, while they are fresh in our minds. We have this kind of scenery around northern Florida, and can find similar scenes in our own backyard, to make similar Florida landscapes, but we should do it while we have these paintings deep in our conscience? Will you drop other things and finish them later?
28. COLOR PERSPECTIVE
We have talked about line perspective, but now we shall pursue rendering color in perspective. In painting, the surface area counts for more than it does in drawing. You know the principle, which is that there are no colored lines, only colored areas, or the masses which we paint first. The line, as a means of abstract graphic expression, can only enclose spaces and separate them from one another, it is color which sets off the surface.
In drawing, the line is about the only way to contrive a convincing illusion of space. But it is not a specifically pictorial means of expression apart from the fact that a polychrome picture is more effective than a colorless or monochrome one, color can be used to render the illusion of space much more clearly than lines or tinted surfaces.
Whether you are doing a line drawing or a drawing with tinted surfaces, you must adjust the scale of objects to their diminishing size as they approach the vanishing point. This is not the case with color but you can conceive light or dark areas to the point where the colors vanish. It is entirely a matter of circumstances, and whether you fix on light or shade, the their color relationships. If you think of the color wheel which you have executed, you will remember that the colors going clock-wise from yellow, get warmer through yellow orange, orange red, orange; red and begin to cool more and more until they reach blue green, which probably is the coolest color. Remember that the nearest color to fire is the warmest color and the nearest to ice is probably the coolest color. But these colors are also affected by their relationship to each other, and the proportion of each that you use in your painting.
Strong colors push weaker ones into the background, just as pure colors appear nearer to you than mixed colors. We often refer to this use of pure color as intensity in painting. Each color has its own wave length, and is made subtractive, or grayed when you add it’s complement. Red and yellow or warm colors advance, blues have the longest wave length and seem to recede, but there are exceptions to this rule, for it depends on the relationship of other colors around them.
Imagine you are driving along a street with a view of the traffic signal. You will not see the tree light from a distance, while the amber blinking light will be clearly visible at the same distance. When the light turns red, it will not be as eye catching as the amber light has been, but will seem cool in relationship with the blinking amber light. But if you were making these observations on a rainy day, the colors would appear quite differently. The blue grey foggy wet atmosphere will make the red appear much brighter than the amber light has been in the sun.
It is impossible to achieve an effect of perspective in color without modulation. The grayed tones act as transitions, to transport the eye around the bottle, back into a landscape, or in any form you paint. it will be necessary to use these transitions. In oil, I always paint them a little darker than I really see them, depending on the contrast I need for the particular subject I am doing. In oil, it is easier to lighten and make transitions, if you have the dark paint underneath to blend into.
The Italian artists were the first to get atmospheric effects, and the Chinese and Japanese artists have extended this feature. Next week we shall discuss some of these effects, in the meantime experiment for yourself, and have fun!
Last week I realized that many of you do not understand perspective. It is not so difficult, when you are looking at the subject, as it is when we are dreaming up subject matter, but in order for us to have our work look natural, we must understand perspective and paint it in regardless of whether we are looking at it or not.
From your own viewpoint, all horizontal lines that are below eye level will go up on your canvas to your own eye level. All horizontal lines above eye level will seem to recede by going down to your own eye level. Some people say the horizon is your eye level, but this is not true, for you might be sitting on the top floor of a tall building, or on a hill, and the vanishing points will seek your own eye level. We use one point vanishing point for most of our landscapes, but in doing a building, you may have two or even more vanishing points. Therefore last week in the sea shore, we painted the perspective in the waves. They were below our eye level and the line receded to the left of our canvas, giving our picture perspective.
In street scenes, it is very important to have an understanding of perspective, and this is one of the most difficult subjects to handle. And the organizing of the various parts of a work to achieve a unified whole is important. The foreground, middle ground and background must be well defined. The main subject should be in the foreground, and the middle ground must not have the detail that is included in the foreground. Spatial relationships are very important, and there should be enough background in your subject to give it atmosphere, and a feeling of space.
There are many ways to create a well composed painting, but it is not possible to tell you just how to do it, when I do not know exactly what each one will be painting. Do find balance, in both size and color as you work. Try to make your painting so well balanced that it would be impossible to take away one brush full of paint, and have it correctly balanced. It should be just right. But always simplify to the best of your ability. One well painted building is better than a dozen that are poorly painted.
Don’t paint a sort of over all design in which everything appears to be of the same importance, as if it were a section of wall paper, but accent your subject, and tell the story you wish to tell about what you are painting in the most direct method possible.
Don’t cut objects off at the edges of the support. This would give the effect of a larger painting trimmed off at the edges. But don’t be afraid of letting things run out of the picture, for the street scene, or landscape may continue beyond, so as long as you achieve balance of the component parts, it should be correct.
Don’t cover the entire support with one important part of the subject, from edge to edge. Leave a little breathing space to indicate spatial relationship, a house will not look big because you paint it clear across the support. Size is implied by proportions, as compared with other items in the composition.
Don’t divide the composition into left and right, upper or lower half, or in half, but rather relate the parts one to another. Don’t place big tall objects close to either side of the support, for they will appear to be coming into, or going out of the picture, and make the frame look that much wider. don’t place them too close to the top of the support, either. Objects placed too close to the bottom will seem to be sinking. or dropping out of the picture. We will be painting from your own sketches, and doing original work for your art exhibition at Regency. Have fun.
30. ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE
Most of you are interested in landscape, but do not seem to have the knowledge of atmospheric perspective that is necessary in painting landscape, or even still life, flowers or any canvas you paint should have this knowledge of atmospheric perspective.
In addition to “linear” perspective, which you have mastered to a certain degree, we have what is known as “atmospheric” or “aerial” perspective. This is a kind of perspective due in part to the nature of the human eye, but to a greater extent to the blanket of atmosphere with which the earth is enshrouded.
If by way of demonstration, a landscape feature is moved gradually, from the foreground to the middle ground, and then to the background, an effect which we sometimes gain from the observation platform of a moving train, we observe that as the distance between the eye and the object increases, certain changes in its appearance take place, entirely aside from linear proportions.
Its plastic appearance, too, will be modified, and differences of light and dark, becoming less marked with increased distance. This is the one fault with most of you as you paint. You wish to make distant things as distant, as foreground things. The less you have painted, the more you will desire detail, and after you have had more experience, you will have less desire for realistic painting and become more art minded. You will appreciate paint quality, color relationships, and your tastes will change as you develop as an artist.
Right now you often feel that I am forcing you into becoming unrealistic, when actually I long for you to free yourself and paint with more freedom. To appreciate the possibilities, that releasing your imagination will bring to you. Often the object’s color and its values in the distance will be softened, its contours will become fuzzy in the distance, no matter how sharp they may be if viewed from near at hand.
When painting a landscape, whether from a drawing or photo, it is well to use imagination and not to try to copy nature exactly. I hope you will experiment with various hues in toners for your canvases for landscape. Utilize the underpainting, the imprimatura. Unless you develop a style that is your very own, you will never be quite satisfied with your work.
31. FOREST COLOR
Probably the most difficult subject from the viewpoint of color perspective is in the forest, or any scenery with a great deal of trees and foliage. Green foliage and grass look plain green to the untrained eye; lighter where the sun hits them, and darker in the shade. It is easy to see the color differences in the unusually light and bright hued young trees, and of course, you can distinguish trees with maroon or reddish foliage of fall. It is not so easy to recognize color differences among all green trees and foliage, but there is much more difference between greens than you may realize. I think we have that problem when we mixed the greens for our magnolia leaves last week. It took an awful lot of warm color to approximate the warmth of these dark green leaves.
An artist is known by his or her ability to mix the proper hues for any particular tree that he or she wishes to paint, at the foreground or at the middle ground distance. You must learn to render the diverse shades of green not only lighter and darker, but also the reddish, yellowish, bluish and grayish greens as well. if you don’t learn these nuances then your trees will resemble a piece of material or a curtain hanging straight down, instead of going back deep into the distance, of leaves on the other side of the tree, giving your tree the form that is needed. Be sure to think of the holes where you see the back side of the tree as well as the front leaves that protrude forward. Make your branches fit this form.
The importance of values in color perspective cannot be overstated for those who wish to paint realistically, and probably one of the most difficult things to comprehend. For not only do we have the color relationships, that affect each other, but to mix a reddish tint, and a bluish tint that are side by side and have them both of the same value, is not easy to do. Try it. Yet you may follow all the rules of linear perspective but still make a mess of your painting by neglecting to compare color values. This is why I often mix somewhere near what I think I want, and then put a brush full near this hue on the canvas or another. And I find I must alter the value, either by neutralizing it or making it brighter, lighter or darker.
A shadow on a tree, a house, a road, or any object is not merely darker than the rest, it is darker occurring to nearness or distance of the object from you. The brightest light on a green lawn far away is not as brilliant as on the same kind of lawn near you. This we studied in our Eiffel Tower Painting of the distant bank, by neutralizing and lightening on the middle distance. Not only are colors less bright in the distance; they are also more grayish or bluish in tone.
My mistakes often occur when I get holes in an object that has no holes, in my endeavor to paint form. It is a glaring mistake, but I would hate to admit how often it has happened to me. Dark sections, painted as dark in the distance as similar objects in the foreground, appear as gashes in the painting. A tree trunk, in the distance, should not be as dark as one in the foreground. A tree trunk, in the distance, should not be as dark as one in the foreground. Shadows under the trees in a foreground, also have more contrast than they do in the middle ground. All of these facts are most noticeable in realistic painting, but they are just as disturbing in abstract art, too.
To make form on a flat canvas or paper is called “tromp-d’oil or fool the eye. it is through studying carefully the changes that occur on a local color that has an uneven, angular or round surface, and light coming from one source only, as we talked about in last week’s study of form. Artists do not use the same number of falues to produce these illusions of form, but I try to use five values. If the light is coming from the left, the left side of a round object is light against a darker background. At the center of the round form, it turns under, forming a darker value as it goes under the bottom, which is the darkest value. The round object is dark against light background on the right, or dark side of a round object. The highlight falls near the top, on the side towards the light, and note its particle shape, to the highlight the correct shade of the object is important. Have fun.
32. COLOR CONTINUED
We have been discussing the nature of colors, and their opacity or transparency. You will find that all colors are not the same, and that the manufacturer of viridian such as Louise’s Shive, and Grumbacher, indeed are very much different. This is due to the filler that was put in the shiva paint, that made it less bright, when applied to the canvas. I try hard not to recommend one manufacturer’s paint over another, but I do have biases myself. I may prefer permanent pigments in one color over that of another manufacturer, and over the years I have had some experience of some colors fading, or darkening. Sot it is difficult for me to not prefer one over another. As you know I never buy Windsor Newton, Charles of London, and I try to stick to American made pigments.
In all painting media, the use of transparent colors as glazes adds depth to your work. In old masters they were executed in a tempera underpainting first, and then glazed, very often in three different glazes on top of the underpainting. many artists now do an acrylic uncerpainting, and glaze in oil and get very beautiful effects. Don’t be afraid to try something new in your work, and you might just develop a truly personal style of painting.
I am going to include here something I have said before, but often I repeat because I see you using too much turpentine to thin your paint. Using turpentine destroys the adherent qualities of your paint, although we paint from lean to fat in oil, and do use turps for our thin washes at the start, if you continue to use turps in this manner at the latter stages, you can actually destroy your work. The turps will soften the underpainting, and make mud out of your work by picking up the undercoat of paint. If you are glazing use the glazing medium of one part each of oil, turps and damar varnish.
If you are having trouble with values in your painting, it is good to limit yourself to fewer hues until you develop your sense of values again. Turner used the primary colors for most of his work, and my mixing his red, yellow and blue achieved some startling work. According to Goethe, “Colors are a manifestation of light and dark. There are two fundamental colors: Yellow and Blue; one is next to light, the other next to darkness. Red was produced when the two extremes were united.” Now as artists we know that you cannot produce red by mixing blue and yellow, but this opinion is worth some study.
Artists never try to emulate another’s prescriptions in mixing their hues. They use what expresses their own feelings about the subject matter they plan to portray. The feeling they have for this subject. However, if you are copying an artist, I urge you to paint as nearly as possible, to that artist, and learn his philosophy about color, design, and then incorporate it into your own original work in any manner that you feel you have learned by doing another’s work. We are copying Beanie Backus right now, and I hope you will stay with it until you absorb some of his unique methods of expressing yourself and subject matter along some of the lines he uses. He achieves the big world effect by using small foregrounds, middle grounds and large backgrounds. If you have not done this in your painting, you are failing to get the lesson you are supposed to be learning.
Another thing you fail to see, is the geometric shapes of objects you are copying and if you cannot see them when they are so well defined in his paintings, how are you going to see them in nature, where it is much more subtle? We have four more chapters to cover in our study of color, and then we will plan some outdoor sketching to apply what we have learned by studying BB, and combine our own God-given talent with this new knowledge we have acquired to see if our own talent can be improved upon. Court the creative Muse, and think art even though you are not painting, and you will get your eye accustomed to seeing graded hues, geometric shapes in nature, and you will have the artist’s eye. Have fun!
We have studied color, as we pursue the elements of Beauty as related to the artist’s job of painting. As you know, a whole book could be written on just color alone, and many of our past lessons have dealt with this many sided aspect of painting. As I look back over the manner in which students have handled color, I think the basic failure of pupils is not to understand the elements of each pigment they are using and what they can do by mixing various pigments together. Many of you fail to learn the lesson of Tonality, and what it can do for a painting. you have known how to key color, but you often fail to do so. You have not done enough experimenting with color. You have not experimented with various uses of colors in toning a canvas in preparation for painting.
A variety of techniques in putting paint on the canvas in one single painting is permissible, and often necessary to achieve the manifold textural effects the artist desires. Color harmony is vital to the success of any painting. Often our paintings lack harmony because we use too many pigments in painting. Actually almost any color can be mixed if you have red, yellow and blue. You have made a color wheel, and know that two parts of almost any of the primary colors make the secondaries of orange, violet and green. These are the colors most often used in painting a landscape. you know that the complimentary colors mixed in proper proportions produce neutral grays either warm or cool.
Go to the library and get some of the reproductions of V. Van Gogh and study his painting titles. “The Cafe at Night” has a most pleasing and simple color scheme, spaced in such a pleasing manner, with a happy balance of warm and cool color and then study his textural effects here. The stars, the table tops, the cobble stones, and their placement in the painting, and the colors he places next to each other.
This leads us to color balance. When all the color in a painting belongs to only one side of the color wheel, muddiness and monotony, or lack of color appeal, almost always result. It is much easier to determine the true color and value of an area, when it is seen in company with other tones. By finding a spot in a picture where two or three values come together, we can then spread these values one against another and establish the relationship of all the big masses. If you have a spot that seems too obtrusive, bring the values or hues closer together and it will lose its dominance. An amateur painter will often finish one part of the painting before working another, the colors and masses should be put in so that you work all over the painting and do not get caught in one place for too long.
Perhaps the biggest mistake we make in rendering of color is in the shadow areas. Many artists simply lighten the pure color with white for lights, and use pure color for the shadows. since there is an exception for every rule in art, we can only say that in general this is wrong. To paint the shadows in a pale blue dress, we add the compliment or toner to the color. this keeps the brighter, purer color in the light where it belongs. If we use a stronger, pure color in the light where it belongs. If we use a stronger pure blue in the lighted areas, we probably need to add some black to the shadows.
When color is grayed and softened by the use of toners or complements, it takes on quality. A color appears dull only if its neighbors are too brilliant or out of value. When an artist is advised to tone his or her colors, he or she often misinterprets the advice and thinks that he or she has been asked to dull colors. Strangely the toned color seems to end up with more overall brilliance than the pure colors, which actually work against one another. Pictures are brightened much more by contrasting good values than by piling in more and more pure color. Have fun.
34. NEW EXPERIMENTATION AND ACTION PAINTING
Exercises: Cut geometric shapes from colored paper and arrange in proper design. Using umber, white and yellow over paint with texture.
Techniques: 1. Direct Palette knife in lively impasto of broken color not over mixed, let each color retain its own pure hue as in Tachist Painting.
2. Extra thick plastic cement base to build up impasto for glazing painting when dry. Under painting may be made of white glue and celite of fine sand. Then stain of diluted oil paint in form of glaze brushed over this texture, gives a glow of color. Contrasting opaque strokes of thicker paint applied with palette knife to build up forms.
3. Use wax crayons on drawing paper with casein over the wax which gives textural effects. Try some with wax and overlays of India Ink, after ink has dried, wash it away under tap water and use this textured base for casien painting in opaque touches.
4. Broad spatula strokes of oil paint applied freely and thickly to cut large textured shapes against each other. Different widths of metal stripping may be used as spatulas, (follow the house, builders and you will pick up some of these things that may be used). Use a color scheme that is monchromatic, or about five adjoining hues on the color wheel.
1. Trial composition in charcoal and black ink. 2. using house painters brushes, lay paint in thin and broad. 3. Over this underpainting, palette knife is used. 4. Use smaller brushes to apply accents, intensity and highlights where needed.
Try India Ink and Gouache. Develop a doodle in free style. Free gesture in black and white oil. Oil panel done using brush and knife in cad red light, ochre’s and blacks. Try a fractured image concept. Impact of large forms, carefully modulated edges of contour. Lines and masses using contrasting lines and combined with heavy blacks and spotted with care and varied shapes.
Paint a study in contrast of shape and tone. Paint dots, dashes and a repetition of motif. Use all over agitation of picture surface. Paint all over black, with impasto lights applied on top. Paint large open forms, using three values, and edges sharp.
Irradiation of white surface with carefully chosen lines and spots placed with careful regard to push and pull of tensions. Symbols and images, inventions of forms, colors and shapes fused to a sophisticated expression. Obtain continuous movements by use of rhythmic linear pattern. Use the letters of the alphabet to produce an interesting pattern using varying sizes and shapes and a path of vision.
Do not lose this paper, as I expect you to produce about twenty paintings from the above suggestions. This is the stimulation you need for creative work. And these paintings will be your very own.
Without inventiveness, or feeling, which cannot be governed by rules our efforts to paint are likely to produce, an externally factual result, without spirit. But it is well to remind ourselves of some of the things whereby we may improve our design:
1. Shapes and areas of our composition should be varied, in form and color. Voids are also considered as shapes in this analysis. Unequal forms and shapes. Example, outdoor subject sky area should not be equal with the foreground area. Avoid arrangements that split the composition down the middle.
2. Balance large units or spots with smaller ones. A large unit in the foreground can be balanced with a smaller one in the distance.
3. In realistic painting, establish a point of view, and an eye-level and stick to it.
4. In abstract painting, play up color and texture.
5. Do not show extremes of proportion, unless it is done to point up some one dominant factor you are seeking for.
6. Every good composition gives a route for the eye to follow, a path of vision, for the eye to follow, and strives to hold the eye with the subject as long as possible. It is like choosing a natural path to walk over rough terrain. We begin the path, or line, at the bottom of the picture, and then by the arrangement of other lines, masses, edges and spots, our eye is carried comfortably through the picture, to the focal point , and finally follows throughout the whole unified painting. With a portrait, all lines lead toward the head, on the principle of a focal point with radiating lines. Even in still life, plan to give a pleasing eye path by arranging the objects in an attractive eye path.
7. In abstract art, an eye path is not so important, since we dispense with depth and the eye rests upon the whole canvas as a flat plane.
8. Subjects with two similar objects are best avoided. If we must have two, one must dominate the other. This is important in flower painting where one dominate flower must exist. Even in painting two prize fighters, one must dominate over the other, as also in painting several animals, people, or any two like objects. this is why portraits of families in one large canvas is almost impossible, unless you as an artist can agree with the others to make the papa the dominant one and subordinate the rest. However, a mother and child can make an interesting study because of the variance in the size of the figures.
9. The use of overlapping units is good in creating unity in design. It ties the picture together, as in Elaine’s Collage last week, and the overlapping of planes, and typing together of the units. Almost any number of units can be overlapped or arranged into fewer groups for the sake of simplification.
10. Never put a head or anything of importance in the exact center.
11. In a portrait, never place the head and shoulders so they face directly and squarely the viewer. Even a slight movement one or the other way is best. Try to analyze the feeling that this subject gives the mood and atmosphere are very important. If the subject is exciting, we employ sweeping curves, big forms, and contrasting colors. If we emphasize the horizontal lines, we know quiet, with clear cool color. If it is a feeling of combat, and confusion, then we use bold strokes of bold color at opposing angles. Next week we will coordinate design, with proportion, and study the effects of one on the other. Have fun.
We have learned a great deal about simplicity and how to achieve it by looking at prize winning paintings. The one thing that stood out in the study of them was the way artists pulled their paintings together into unity and simplification by joining the three simple patterns of dark, light and the proper value of middle tones. Much can also be learned about this idea of simple statement by studying posters.
The manner in which we handle edges, and balance of soft and hard edges can be used to accomplish this simplification. If your painting has edges that look like they are pasted on the canvas, try softening edges where pattern can be brought out better by doing this. Too many sharp edges confuse a subject with patterns and reduce the picture’s carrying power. Do not cut up the masses in small bits, where simplification is needed. The lost and found edges of objects, against a light or dark background, pull these together and blend and interlace your pattern for simplification.
This week’s lesson is on design, upon which the whole success of the painting and use of the last two lessons will be employed. What is the purpose of our design? Is it intended to be an entity with itself for the sole purpose of creating beauty, or is it to serve as an ornament in a larger scheme? The surroundings can sometimes be made to harmonize with a pictorial design, as when you may get commissions to do a mural on the wall. More often your easel paintings will be chosen to accent or embellish the environment, but these aspects must be taken into consideration when painting.
Today’s realistic paintings, if they are to compete with abstractions as wall decoration, must have more pronounced design, more vivid color, larger pattern, and less half tone and modeling of form.
The treatment of your subject can be even more important than the subject itself. We live in an era of informality and of speed, and our paintings have a light, spontaneous, impressionistic quality. Remember that in achieving this it is often desirable to use creative perspective, and distortion of objects. This is done for the purpose of achieving unity, simplification and design. Use the natural form, but subdue it or exaggerate it to conform to good principles of design, which we have covered in previous lessons. What we really need to fit our times, is a change in our attitude, rather than a change of subject matter. and I am not saying that our efforts to produce cameral like likenesses was time wasted, because it is necessary to be able to draw an object accurately before you are able to comprehend what may be done to alter it to improve design.
When we come to the actual design of a subject, it is easier to enumerate the things we should not do, rather than say precisely what we should do, for you must develop your own individual style, and symbols for saying them. If we think long enough and hard enough, almost any subject can be made into an interesting design. it is one thing to copy nature and quite another to give it emotional quality in our painting. Ask yourself exactly what this subject arouses in you that makes you want to paint it. If it has one big over all impact on you, express that idea. This does not mean that you cannot use subject matter that does not appeal to you and arrange it into good design, for this is often the discipline that the artist has to face. Some of the subject matter I have been most unhappy with has turned out to be the best, because I had to study it carefully to get enthused about it, and dig out its hidden possibilities. Is this not the way it often is with people also? To search for the underneath loving qualities of human nature can be likened to our search for the structure of a subject we are painting. Have fun.
36. SIMPLICITY continued.
We have learned it takes an observing eye to achieve constancy and unity that is so vital to an artist. Consistency in form, color and texture will quickly identify the seasons, the time of day, etc. Planned contrasts and the placement of them in the composition is a great need in achieving unity. If we can think of the whole picture all of the time and not finishing one part and going on to another, but always playing one part against another, and achieving the finished whole design, we will achieve unity.
Simplicity is even harder to achieve. it is necessary to group units into a simple pattern, regardless of how it looks to you, often by simplifying, you can make a powerful painting. What are the geometrical shapes that compose what you are trying to paint? how do the planes over lop each other? Make thumbnail sketches of the subject and search for the essence and eliminate all extraneous detail. Do not include too much. If realistic art if to continue it will be because artists learn to simplify their subject matter. Take the subject matter apart and find out what gives it life. Weed out all extraneous material and minimize the rest.
More often than not, the final painting fails to come off as well as anticipated. This may be because at the time of the initial visualization there is a minimum of thought, about the many things that happen once the execution is begun. While you concentrate on true values, color, form somewhere the business and difficulty of expressing yourself will get into the whole painting and destroy your good efforts. Look over your subject for things you may eliminate to bring back the large simple composition.
As a teacher, I often wonder just how much creativeness can be taught. It is sure that our power of analysis can only come by degrees, for there is no limit to what one may learn in art, and no man is capable of knowing everything there is to know about it. But it is when painting and doing, that you learn, regardless of how much you go to school. Unless you paint at other times, you will not develop into the artist you want to become.
If your painting lacks simplification, we should study it carefully and see if we have failed to create a point of emphasis, and work over it to subordinate too many elements that compete for attention. this is a key to simplification. If spots are too insistent, eliminate some of the highlights and accents, and bring the values closer, fuse the edges to soften the whole painting. Or lessen the competing brilliancy of color. Look for the transitions or grays that are formed between hues, especially on bottles. An important means of simplification is to see the patterns of tone flatly as possible. Think of light as one plane, and middle tones as another and shadow as a third plane, and paint your shadows simply and almost flat.
If you think of the whole light as opposed to the whole shadow, with intervening half tones as a means of uniting the two, your painting will be simpler and more effective. There may be delicacies with the patterns and change of values is better made subtly with the stronger patterns. Base your whole work on design.
It would be well to paint this one subject three times using 1. Half tones and darks against light, 2. lights and darks against a middle tone, 3. lights and darks and middle tones against a dark background. Or we might do just lights and half lights against a dark. Make up several sketches of your subject using this in pencil and see which you like best.
We can use busy patterns and simple ones in the same picture, but never should all our patterns be the same. Let them oppose each other and let them vary. We should not duplicate everything exactly as we see it, and we must scale down and organize contrasting areas of pattern into a harmonious design. it is upon this that our success as an artist is judged. Find enough planes to define the form, and then stop before the area gets messy. Detail and textures generally occur in the half light, where it goes into shadow. Have fun.
Last week we were studying design, and learned many of the ways to accomplish unity and simplification by doing or not doing certain things. We also know that: 1. Too much of any one color is unattractive, and nature always balances one hue with another, either cool or warm. However in most art we key our color, and add intensity later along with the highlights and accents. 2. Lines, shapes, colors and values form the artists tools for creating emotional impact in a painting. 3. Balance of a picture can be emotional as well as structural. This completeness seems most successful when contrasted in some way with incompleteness. Power in a composition is greatest when bold lines are contrasted with thin or unfinished ones.
Color is most effective when brilliance is balanced by quiet colors. Detail becomes more interesting when a picture also contains simple, broadly painted areas. form is more convincing when there is a sense of structure. 4. Character should be expressed in the simplest possible terms. 5. Feeling can be expressed better in realistic art than it can in abstract painting. It is one thing to copy nature, but quite another to express this in our paintings. By thinking in broad terms, big masses, an artist can best find the big truths. Design is more important than the subject matter.
This week we will study proportion, as related to design. We all know that starting with the largest object we will paint, we can scale other objects in relationship to the space required for the largest object, since we are usually reducing things in size. Establish the height and breadth of the largest object according to the scale you wish to use to accommodate your design. In painting there is always the danger of being so much concerned with outline, and contour that we do not take in the quality of form and character of the edges. See that some form merges with other forms, and that proper values are used.
Every student should make a practice of painting objects which he can set up as a whole, and of drawing outdoors, where he can see what oneness means, and learn how to produce it.
Accurate proportions alone does not make art; they must be associated with sure values, color and design. We find paintings in which drawing is distorted and yet the work qualifies as art, so art is not entirely dependent on drawing. An excellent way is to make a careful drawing in true proportions as possible, and then make a second drawing, and simplify, take liberties, and eliminate and get the essence. The manner in which you draw characterizes you work.
A drawing or painting is often better when parts are left unfinished. Think about proportion and drawing as a whole. We must therefore consider proportion as a means of expression, rather than a realistic reproduction. Only the artist can be the judge of how much to distort, and how far from the exact to go to stress the spirit she or he wishes to portray. But there is danger in this too, for too much idealization can make for prettiness, in which we can lose the main structure that we hope to produce. Experiment with various sketches of the same object and learn what different ways of saying the same thing means. A still life may be an opportunity to express light, form, color in design, rather than a replica of the actual objects.
Proportion is closely related to rhythm, therefore let us try to establish these relationships wherever our ingenuity can do so. The degree to which details are added and contours more clearly defined is the degree to which an artist is judged as an abstract or realistic painter.
If you are sincere in your desire to paint beauty, you will find it and develop it, and we really do not have to worry whether anyone else accepts us at present or not. Have fun.
37. ELEMENTS OF BEAUTY
I am writing a series of lessons on the elements of beauty, which may be helpful in a general way, when applied to your own specific needs, as an artist.
The elements of beauty are so well integrated that it is often difficult to separate them for purposes of analysis. However, an attempt will be made to bring each one under our scrutiny. The first one is unity.
Unity in a painting is an intangible quality, and each picture presents its own special problems, but the initial conception of the subject and simplification of that subject to achieve its essence is always important to achieve unity.
Unity in art concerns the “oneness” which brings all the pictorial qualities together into a single, or whole expression: the organization of design, color, line, values, textures and subject matter into a combined and total expression.
Unity must begin with the design, and pattern to bring about a relationship and balance of the areas of the painting. Such balance is affected by the distribution of the values, the lights, middle tones and darks, and by the placement and amount of the area of each in relationship to the whole design.
Pull these parts together into simplified areas. A light area can be brought into relationship with a dark area in two ways: first by contrast, and second by means of intermediate values between the light and the dark. Through such manipulation we form the masses and design of the subject. Nature presents us with too wide an expanse all at one time. The artist must create such balance and design within his subject, by altering nature, to conform to artistic and achieve beauty through balance and simplification.
Of first importance is the necessity of training the eye to see masses flatly and more or less unbroken at the start. Do not paint detail first. This means we must save until later the variations of values within the mass, the highlights and accents of dark, adding them only after we have established a good design of flat pattern. Then as we break this down into planes, color and detail, we can keep the basic design in mind and not allow it to escape us.
By approaching design this way, you will be surprised at times to find how little must be added to the flat patterns to bring about a third dimensional feeling or appearance of receding into the distance. This can often be done by color, without much change and little detail. This is especially true of the middle ground and distant background in a landscape.
Go to the present exhibition at the Cummer Art Museum, and see how great artists have handled these problems.
All lines a subject bear a relationship to one another, in the way they are placed in the composition, and the mood they convey. Horizontal lines support vertical lines, diagonal lines and curves have graceful movement. The greater the curve the more energy and motion are expressed . Line may be felt beneath the masses, or may be in actual contours within the masses or their edges may be lost in surrounding shadow. The eye follows line, and it will stop at any crossing of straight lines or merging of lines into a point. Lines radiating from a point lead the eye to that point, and is a manner in which you create dominance.
Huge patches of contrasting color may easily become garish and over powering. One way of achieving unity with color is to mix a little of one color throughout all the colors. Have fun.
38. VALUES OF LIGHT
The intrinsic quality of a painting, is chiefly determined by the quality of the light. This quality is the result of a combination of factors in the whole execution of the subject, but its importance lies in the fact that it gives existence to the picture in relation to life itself. When the light is right, we never question a painting’s reason for being.
The life giving effects of light are far more important than wrinkles in the flesh, or any other embellishment. Study the work of Vermeer, Rembrandt, Hunt, or almost any of the Dutch masters, for this quality of light. No detail exists where its value might encroach upon the feeling of light on the surface of anything. The area in a picture bears a scaled relationship of both value and color from the lightest area to the darkest area appearing within the light. All else is shadow, and the shadows bear a sequence relationship to the lighted areas. When an area in the light is lowered in value, the shadow must be lowered correspondingly.
Thus both the light areas and the shadow areas are painted in sequence from the darkest to the lightest in oil, and vice-versa in watercolor. These two sequences are separated by a degree of contrast determined by the brilliancy of the light itself. Thus contrast makes efficient the separation of the whole set of lights from the whole set of shadows. In a dim light this separation may be only one or two tones. In a strong light, the lights may be separated from the shadows by three or four values.
but in considering light, we must also mention pigments, for nature has darker darks and lighter lights than we can produce with any pigments. Therefore we must enhance our quality of light by knowing the relationship of colors to each other and using them intelligently. (Note: I think we may someday have real light pigments to paint with, and hope we don’t have to wait until we go to heaven to attain them.)
So it is evident that we must analyze any subject we are painting with our limitations in mind and decide the general relationship of light to shadow. How much darker is the shadow area on the object than the light area? Thus all shadow areas will be the calculated amount darker than the light areas. Do not put highlights in the dark shadow areas, only reflected lights of middle tone go there.
As a rule, you will paint in eight or maybe ten values, and we may find that some shadows reach the bottom of the scale before we have reached the full scale of our pigments. This especially is true in painting out of doors. We may have to produce a darker dark than our pigments are capable of doing. this is when we examine our scale of values and compromise to the best of our ability. this is what is meant by sacrificing at the low end of the scale. Most contemporary painting does just this.
In explaining this it might be well to take some examples in basic values of a landscape. When you are looking into the light, the sky is painted as light as possible, such as Elaine and her trees last week, all the values are painted a tone or two lower than you see them. Sidelight -- the sky is lightest, the ground next, uprights next. Paint lighted areas lighter and shadows darker than seen.
Looking with the light, the sky is painted darker for brightness in the clouds. The ground is slightly lower in tone than the sky, and effects of all values are closer, and softer. Almost always the ground plane lightens and grays as it recedes. Remember to get the effect of foreground, middle ground and background. Have fun.
39. VALUES OF LIGHT continued.
There is so much to say about the values of light, and it is of such importance to us as artists, that I fear we will spend another session talking about it before we finish.
Working against the light, as we often do in landscape, produces stirring contrasts. When painting portraits, I like to work against the light, if the subject has beautiful features, for there are strong contrasts, and this brings out the beauty of the model. you will not most experienced painters seeking a position in the class, that puts them in the position of working against the light.
Acquainting oneself with the changes that come to the same material on different days, like times of the season, can become a fascinating study. When we manipulate values, we are seeking the larger truths within our pigment limitations just as we stop down a camera lens for values. Some examples are: 1. When white areas such as buildings, roads, rocks, sand or clouds exist in your subject all other values will usually have to be lowered in order to provide enough contrast for your painting. 2. In a side lighting the sky is lighter than when the source is behind you. The shadows are darker than the sky or ground. The values are painted about as you see them. 3. Against the light the white drops below the dark in value or tone. Study carefully to establish the whole relationship of the sky to the rest of your subject.
The value of a shadow on which light is reflected is higher than that of the other shadows. It is very important to study how much the value has been raised. Most often traces of the original value are left at the edges, between the lighted area and the shadow. This is what artists call the “hump” or the turning point of the form, which the reflected light may not be able to reach. Reflected light in the shadow is a delight to paint, and it gives transparency and glow to your painting. Do not paint this light higher than a middle tone, for it is in the shadow area where no lights can reach.
Sometimes reflected light in a warm light is even warmer in the shadow than it is in the light, for it is color reflected back upon itself. This is what makes the shadows in a rose so brilliant. This is a perfect example of color radiance, and we should strive to include a similar effect around the lighted areas of our paintings.
Values can be analyzed by comparison. Look for the lightest area in the light, and then for the next lower value and on down the scale. Look for the degree of contrast, between the lightest area and its shadow. If you have trouble with values, take a flat painter’s mixing paddle and paint various degrees of values on it from white through grays to the darkest black (using black and white paint) and keep this along side your palette. It is easier to get the value of a color right if you refer to this value paddle. When I was in the Art League Class with Frank Mason, the instructor, he made us use this type of value chart for mixing color values.
Although the advanced students do not now number their values, I have found some of my instructors who had been painting forty years, who still number the values on their sketch before putting paint to the canvas. if you are having trouble with your values, try numbering the next painting you do for values and see if some of your difficulty does not disappear.
We have one more week in which to prepare for the Riverside Bank Exhibit. I also wish to thank you for participating in the Florida Federation of Art District Show and congratulate you for having all our paintings hung. Elaine Emery won Honorable Mention. Have fun!
40. QUALITY OF LIGHT
If your painting appears unsatisfactory, or muddy, many times you will find that where you have gone astray is in the quality of the light. That is why I am spending this lesson on this important factor. All of you put lights all over the place, instead of being consistent and painting it as coming from one direction. Part of this fault is mine, in not having a properly lighted studio. For that I am heartily sorry, but you will contend with this factor anywhere you are, for light is a fleeting thing and changes rapidly so you will have to invent ways to control your environment, in this respect, and I guess it may be good practice to start under poor lighting condition.
We have talked of the value paddle, made from a stick from black to white through all the grays, with about seven or eight values, and its use. If you compare your value paddle to nature, you will find that the whole range of the scale is lower than colors appear in actual light. This is what is meant by the limitations of our pigment values. Our white is not as bright as the sunlight, our darks are not as dark, so we have to scale again, and do the best we can with our pigments. Many paintings lack quality because the artist does not understand how to do this. She or he gets some lighter than nature, some like nature, and some darker than nature, and so when the values are not in relationship to each other, the painting appears muddy. Many times simplification of values will remove this confusion. There are four basic tonal arrangements used in painting:
1. Three basic tonal values on white, (used more by watercolorists)
2. Three basic tones on a middle value, such as is often done in still life, or portraits.
3. Three basic values on a darker value.
4. Three basic values on black (such as Rembrandt used sometimes.)
If your painting looks cluttered, try reducing some of the values, you may be using too many cluttered, isolated, or unrelated values in the work. Quality of light must come from true relationships, which in turn must express the true feeling of light. This is what the Impressionists were after, when they applied paint thickly and in broken color.
Relating the sequences of values according to the way the eye would see them, often adds a feeling of elegance that can be achieved in no other way. you can, through color and values, attach elegance to the commonplace, and enhance the lives of the people who view your work.
Ask yourself, in viewing what you are painting, “What is the quality of this light?” If the shadows are dark, the light will be very bright, and contrast is ordered. If it is diffused light, all the values are closer together. Consistency of all the forms affected by such diffusion, with the proper sequence of value and color, lends elegance to the picture.
A single source of light, produces more solidity of form, since form becomes evident through the planes of light, half lights, and shadow. There are other considerations of lighting besides sharpness of diffusion. The color of the light itself is one consideration. If we paint form correctly in value and color, and on the proper planes, the light will take care of itself. Light provides the best means of bringing unity and consistency to a subject. Since the same light falls on everything, from the same direction, everything takes its relative place in the painting. this unity is the first essential to true beauty. Be beautiful, and have fun.
Technique contributes much to the inherent beauty of a painting. But it is the result rather than a conscious procedure. Unless an artist understands values, tone, color and form, techniques can do little for him or her, but a rich technique which incorporate the above qualities can call attention to an artist’s individuality and make his work outstanding. In hanging our show, it was evident who was a finished artist, by the care taken in finishing, the properly varnished and backed paintings, with the professional touch of the information regarding the artist, medium used, address, price. This is the true test of whether you are becoming artist or whether you are using art as a pastime.
Imitation does not pay, no matter what the temptation, we all tend to like some one else’s work better than our own. What we do not know, is that he may struggle just as much with his work, as we do with ours. After our struggles, our work may look worse to us than it does to others. We remember the frustrations we had producing it. The artist is usually the last one capable of a fair criticism of his or her work.
For myself, I like the criticism of children in my neighborhood, almost better than anyone else in my own painting, for they are brutally frank, and they have art training in their respective schools, and actually my best art critics are Jenny Ingalls (whose father is past President of Jacksonville Art Museum, and Bailey Hardwick, who is Taylor Hardwicks’ niece.) I listen to their remarks intently and find many clues to help me from their reactions to my work.
Technique provides the main opportunity for individuality. But technique must be the whole approach, rather than a matter of tricks. Tricks can be copied, but never a right approach , for the imitator has not the same knowledge, the same sense of design, and color, nor the same responses. There are many effects of technique which the artist may use when they actually contribute to a whole effect. There is no real need of limiting oneself to a single technique. Do not say, “This is it, I will do it this way forever,” for that leaves no room to grow. There are many new methods for putting on paint, which may open new doors to you if you discover them for yourself.
I have taught you that is better to follow the form of an object in your brush strokes, but this does not mean that a painting of all up and down strokes cannot procedure form. it is possible to use both up and down strokes and round the form strokes in the same object, as I did when I was painting the copper kettle. I use the round the form stroke for the upper part of the Paul Revere, and at the bottom where the base was one simple vertical bank. I used the up and down to express this straightness, but it still looks round. Sargeant used the vertical method to build form quite successfully. Nevertheless, I think while you are struggling with the values and learning to paint form, it is easier to obtain by the following the form you are painting. Van Gogh employed small strokes in all directions. These approaches result in very different technical character in paintings. You can go across the edge to produce softness, and along the edge to produce sharpness, and precision. Most painters apply both techniques in the same painting. A small stroke used laterally permits much more use of color, especially broken color. The up and down permits less color but more decided especially broken color. The up and down permits less color, but more decided sharpness. Try some new method this week, and have fun.
42. HOW TO ANALYZE A PAINTING
There is only one sure way to improve your work. Find out more about what makes a painting an effective work of art. Make up your mind to concentrate less on technical skill, and for the time being, concentrate more on improving your vision. The idea is to learn to see things as you have never seen them before. Where you once saw details in a painting, strive now to perceive the underlying unity. Where your eye once skimmed surfaces, it should now penetrate to the heart of shape and form.
How do you look at a painting? Put your visual perception to the test and ask yourself, “Does it express a mood? Does it have originality? Has something been created which never existed in just this way before? What is the dominant two dimensional geometric shape motif? Is the main motif repeated and varied in size? Is it rhythmically related throughout the entire surface area of the canvas, including the negative shapes? What are the sub-motifs? Are they varied, but rhythmically related? Are the light and dark relationships harmoniously balanced throughout? Let us discuss some of the paintings that we have done and analyze them according to these questions that are important to artists.
If there is no feeling, there is no art. But feeling alone is not enough. To support feeling, there must be structure. It is like dancing, which is full of feeling, but without rhythm, and the larger patterns of the music, there is no dance. The entire surface of a painting must be organized. It must have order, and not forced constructions, but the most beautiful paintings are well engineered order.
Do you understand how to judge a painting for its shape relationships? Much of this will come naturally to you, in your sense of balancing the elements. Some paintings are built on rectangles , which is the shape of the canvas or paper, and makes it easier to produce strong rectangular space relationships. The subject matter is of little importance if this one item is carefully and skillfully planned or carried through with feeling. Painting is nothing more than making good use of these special relationships. Find a painting that uses rectangle, triangle, or oval motifs. Find the sub-motifs.
Analyze your painting for light and dark relationships. Half close your eyes and study the whole for value relationships. If you feel that some areas stand out too prominently in relation to the whole, block it out. Trust your intuitive reactions to help you judge your own painting. Do not strain, and relax, and do not censure yourself, it is through relaxation that you will do your best work. Your physical state does effect your psychological state, and you must relax to paint well.
Study your paintings for the two basic structural elements: the variety of two dimensional shapes, repeated and rhythmically related to each other, and to the whole, and the variety of light and dark values, harmoniously balanced as a whole. Feel the balance.
As a study of masterpieces is involved in this lesson, I would suggest that you use an old master, to produce your own painting. From his composition, and the balance of lights and darks, produce your own painting with your own subject matter, or make it abstract, but a lesson of this type can be beneficial to you in learning what makes a painting great.