Tag: painting

Painting Intensive: Part 4

Todays Artist is James Audubon

John James Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats.

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This part of the class we will forget about the broad brushstrokes to create entire landscapes and change our perspective to studying foliage and painting it with watercolors. Immediately your senses will shift from focusing on a photograph and you should see the benefits and complexities of working with a real leaves, twigs and branches in front of you.

But how to start? For this section we will not be doing any preliminary drawings, but instead will be working directly on our paper with watercolors. So as to not go into the task without any background lets first look at some common ways to construct leaves and trees with watercolors.



The key to painting foliage with watercolors is to combine both your wet in wet (that means adding wet paint to an already wet surface) and wet on dry techniques. As we have already covered you must have a good understanding of the value scale which you are using in the painting before you even start painting.  I would suggest limiting your palette to about 8 variations of yellow to green to to dark green/blue.

First we will be working with just generating some brush strokes, and from there we will begin constructing a tree starting with bright lemon yellow (don’t worry if you don’t have the exact color, any bright yellow will work).  With your yellow start with the top left of your tree, then before this yellow is dry you will be adding just a little bit of light yellow-green to form the bottom of your tree.

Remember to leave some holes for the sky to peek through.

Then, while this is all still wet start dabbing a few deeper colors into the tree to represent some darker values.

Go darker, and darker towards blue-green at the bottom right hand of the tree.

Then let everything dry (you’ll notice that watercolors get lighter as they dry)

Put in a few last dashes on leaf shadows ( LESS IS MORE! )

Then mix up some ochre/brown and make a dab for the trunk making sure that the trunk vanishes under the leaves and doesn’t appear to be on top of them.


Now that we have created this tree we will be moving on to the foliage in front of us on our desks (If it’s nice outside we can also go to Riegrovy Sady park and paint there. ) Using the same methods (working from light to dark) you will be creating a watercolor painting of your plant, leaves, stems, twigs, and flowers.  For this you should make a very VERY light contour line sketch detailing the different values present.

Painting Intensive: Part 5

This Part’s artist is Josef Albers

Josef Albers was a German-born American artist and educator whose work, both in Europe and in the United States, formed the basis of some of the most influential and far-reaching art education programs of the 20th century.

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Today we will start exploring acrylic paint. Acrylic paint is a creation of the 20th century (1934) and after it was seen to be very durable as a artist material it was extended for use in homes and industrial products (mainly as latex paint) by the 1950s.

For this exercise each of you will be assigned an artist. But you are not going to be copying the artist’s works, but instead the colors they use. As we have already established a wide variety of colors can be created just from red, yellow, blue, and white. To the best of your ability you will be “color matching” the tones used in famous paintings in small squares on your canvas (done in a style similar to Josef Albers if you wish, or some other abstract/non representational painting). I’ll be helping you individually and see exactly what colors you should be mixing. This can be a very difficult task and frustrating as all colors will yield slightly differing results (using Pthalo Blue as opposed to Ultramarine Blue for instance) but the goal is to get these colors matched as closely as possible.

Painting Intensive: Part 6

This part’s artist is Chuck Close

Charles Thomas “Chuck” Close is an American painter and photographer who achieved fame as a photorealist, through his massive-scale portraits.

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This section of the painting intensive deals with blending acrylics and creating form. We will be using the dry brush blending technique which can be seen in the video below as well as have an introduction to glazing. You will be working from a still life of objects which have been painted white and lit in front of you.

Once again you will be drawing light sketches based upon the contours of the objects placed in front of you as well as the large value shapes. From there you will be using mainly white, and a grey mixture which I will teach you how to mix using your three primaries. These paintings should look rather dull, but full of form.

Once we have created our form paintings we will explore some very simple glazing with acrylics. Please note that glazing depends on many factors which are largely determined through trial and error. However, the main objective in creating a believable glaze will be to minimize the streakiness of the color as much as possible.

Painting Intensive: Part 7

This part’s artist is David Hockney

David Hockney, OM, CH, RA, is an English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. He lives in Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, and Kensington, London.

During this part we will be focusing on creating a portrait painting done in acrylics with disregard to what is commonly referred to as “local color”.

Local Color

Painters often refer to something known as Local Color. So what is it exactly? Well, there is a very simple explanation. Local Color refers to the color of an object if it is unhindered by shadows and highlights. Still don’t get it? Basically it is what the actual color of an object is. Take for instance a Tomato, now most people would agree that tomatoes are red, however that’s just part of the story and the way that our eye perceives colors. In reality if we really examine a tomato we will see all sorts of different tones and highlights. Take a look at the image below and you will notice the myriad of colors which are created just by one tomato. There’s pinks, violets, browns, and reds. Simply put, when painting any object we must consider all the colors and many times it isn’t intuitive to see the light violet colors because of our preconceived ideas about the local color of the object, which is red.

local color

When it comes to painting it is very important to be aware of what the local color of the object is, however it is also vital that we delve further into the more nuanced colors that appear as well. This is even more important when we have multiple objects of different colors placed closely together. The light bouncing off of one surface can create a reflection and influence the surrounding areas. Therefore, if we look at the top of the tomato we can begin to see that the green vine above it is effecting the colors of the shadows as well. For this reason it is very common for painting instructors to say that students need to start examining what colors make up the shadows in the objects they paint. There’s a whole rainbow of color hiding in the shadows. This was most evident in the Impressionists’ works as they would commonly use blues, and even reds in their shadows.

It is the goal of this lesson to get beyond local color and we are going to make sure that there’s no chance it will seep into this exercise. You will be painting a portrait without the use of local color. It is up to you to use your skills in seeing the value (darkness) of a color and by doing so you can still create a believable space which is totally divorced from your preconceived notions about what the local color of the object is. For the first part of the assignment you will copy the painting below and this will give you a feel for how Color as Value works. I’ve included the drawing, as well as the original image (gridded out), and a picture of my palette so you can get a clear look at what these colors look like. Once you are finished with the first painting you will find an image of your choosing and will have to complete a second painting. In your second painting you will once again be looking beyond local color. Really push how intense you can make your colors, and you’ll also start to notice that the temperature (basically how warm or cool a color looks) also influences the way we perceive reality.

1. Source Image from which the painting will be made. Feel free to change the unit of measurement if you wish. One box could easily equal an inch or whatever fits the size of the canvas you are working on.

2. After gridding out your painting surface you will sketch in the big value shapes present in the photo.

3. You will then paint in the value shapes using the value of the color to create an illusion of depth. Disregard what you know about color intensity and local color. Be bold.

4. Remember that your palette should be a representation of all the colors you will use.

5. If possible take a photo of your painting and change it to black and white. This will be an indicator of how good your eye is. The painting should stand up as a black and white image as well as a color one. This is an extremely important aspect of painting. Seeing color as value.

Upon finishing this copy you will be creating another painting on your own in the same manner. Remember to choose an image that has a wide range of values from light to dark.

Painting Intensive: Part 9

This Part’s artist is Hieronymus Bosch (1450 – 1516)

Hieronymus Bosch was an Early Netherlandish painter. His work is known for its use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives.

Now we’ve finally arrived at what is beyond a shadow of a doubt one of the oldest and most respected artist mediums. Oil paint. The medium itself has taken on an almost mythic quality with many students frequently being scared of using it as it isn’t exactly cheap, and this fear can cause many students to tighten up and produce awkward paintings (sometimes awkward paintings are kind of nice too but anyway) . For this reason we are not going into any new imagery yet with oil paint. We’re just going to start playing around with it as a new medium and use it in conjunction with some of the older paintings which we produced.

For the first exercise we will be looking back on some of our value scales as well as our form paintings we made with acrylics, and we will be using oil paint to glaze on top of these paintings. I’ll have some of my own glaze medium which I’ve mixed that you can try out, but just as with acrylic glazing our goal is to make our glazes as clear and seamless as possible with the smallest amount of streaks.

Once we are finished with experimenting with glazing on our older paintings and exercises we will be repainting our acrylic portraits. Not on top of the old portraits, but creating a new painting in oils based upon our old portrait done in acrylics.

Painting Intensive: Part 10

This Part’s artist focuses on the work of Chardin (1699 – 1779)

Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin was an 18th-century French painter. He is considered a master of still life, and is also noted for his genre paintings which depict kitchen maids, children, and domestic activities.

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This part consists of two steps. One which will be done in acrylics, and the second in oils. A still life will be set up in front of you to paint. First we will be creating underpaintings in acrylics with Burnt Umber. Once our underpainting is established we will continue in acrlylics working on our highlights with burnt umber and white. Once this is dry we will proceed to oil paints which we will use to glaze our underpaintings. Once our glaze has been applied we will then continue to add highlights and deeper shadows as well as color with more opaque colors. This method is a bastardization of the “7 layer Flemish Method” which is often taught. However since we don’t have the time to wait three days in between each of the layers the bulk of the underpainting will be made in acrylics and then finished with oils. In the gallery below you can see the steps which are common to 7 Layer Flemish method of painting and how it would progress if you used only oil paints.

Underpaintings are commonly done in oils with a mixture of burnt umber or burnt sienna and paint thinner. One the underpainting is established oils will be used in both an opaque as well as a transparent manner to finish the painting further.

You can see in these two paintings the difference between creating a still life underpainting, and the finished piece.

And here we can see the finished piece.

Styles of Drawing

So you have been drawing for months from life. You have piles of worn Bridgeman and Loomis books piled up by your desk, and you still suffer from a simple problem. You don’t seem to have anything close to a personal style developed. Fear not. There is light at the end of the tunnel. Developing a personal style consists of two main components, 1 is to draw as much from life as possible as this builds up what is called your Visual Library (This means that if you draw a guitar 20 times from life, you’ll have a better chance of drawing a realistic one from memory), the second component is to understand and get very familiar with the type of symbols you generally use to convey certain features (or other objects). One must first get familiar with the different styles of drawing first in order to get a good feel for your visual vocabulary (symbols) .

So what does it mean to understand the symbols which you use? You have already been taught not to use symbols but instead use abstraction to create the illusion of depth. And this is fine if you want to make paintings like a traditional painter. However, a large group of people don’t start drawing from life in this manner when they are 14 or 15, they start by drawing from cartoons, comic books, and from their heads. And these early symbols we make for a nose (for example) stick with us for all eternity, or so it seems. Let’s take a look at just how eyes are handled in three different cartoons in the image below.

In all of these examples we can see that the symbol for an eye can vary greatly, but still depict an eye. This is what we generally refer to as someone’s style. The nuts and bolts of someone’s style is based upon the symbols they use, and the techniques which are used to represent them. So we can look at the image below, and see how different symbols are also further stylized by the techniques in which they are depicted.

So how did Ralph Steadman find his personal style, and how did that differ from Todd McFarlane and Bill Plimpton? Well, in order to see how these people draw, we can simply dissect the way they construct a drawing. In the top drawing by Steadman we can see a lot of importance is given to the gesture of the figures, and this is followed by a very methodical and technical series of dark cross hatching marks. The line is fluid and wild, and this is then kept in place by the very meticulous cross hatching. Therefore we could safely say that if we wanted to develop a style similar to Ralph Steadman we should do loads of gesture drawings, as well as practice how to crosshatch. In the second drawing by Todd McFarlane we see highly developed and structured figure drawing in outrageous poses. These drawings were most likely done in pencil first and are heavily dependent on drawing the figure from memory. So in order to draw more like Todd McFarlane I would suggest studying the figure from life, as well as drawings from memory and building up compositions slowly. Starting with sketches first of multiple characters, and then resketching these onto a larger composition, and then finally finishing them with pen and ink. In the third drawing by Bill Plimpton we can see that his depictions of form are very painterly and that his mark making is fluid and free. So in order to draw more like Bill Plimpton I would suggest working with colored pencils (because of their ease of use in depicting large areas of value) and then slowly building these values up and finishing the drawing with darker marks to place the features of the face. Then, when working with pen we will treat the ink in a similar manner as the colored pencil and gently shade in large value shapes with a pen.

So, so far we have distinguished two important aspects of how to develop a personal style. One is the symbols which are used, and the second is the techniques which are employed (ie. how someone handles the medium). But by going through the different ways these artists constructed their drawings we also added a third important aspect which needs to be considered. And that is the ability to look at drawings (preferably by an artist you admire) and take apart how they are created. Every artist on the planet is influenced by other artists. The simplest way to say this is for you to find out what you think is cool. Once you have identified your favorite artists you should then do what I’ve done in the preceding paragraph, and that is to take apart to the best of your ability how their drawing were made. Now, you shouldn’t just bite their style, you want to create your own, but the good news is that a style will naturally come out after years of drawing and multiple attempts at recreating a variety of other styles. In fact, you may already have a style now, it just might be a really generic and crappy style. So ask yourself, how do you want to improve it? Is there an artist which could be influential? Are you interested in creating commercial work? Or work for animations or comic books? Well, then you’ve got to create a style which already meets commercial expectations. Which means that straying from the accepted commercial norms will be looked down upon (this can even be the case for well established Comic Book artists). Otherwise the sky’s the limit and by using the tactics outlined above (and with a lot of practice!) you’ll be able to create a personal style that not only satisfies you, but others as well. Just remember that these things don’t come over night!