Details and Finishing
I always find that the most difficult part of a painting is the details. How much do I add, and where do I add to be most effective? If the pattern is good, the details should just enhance the pattern.
Here you can see the light, middle and dark pattern. I can easily add darker values and some lighter values by lifting. I mentioned lifting in my previous blog. Adding details to any of the areas of value should not change the shape or size of that area.
If I add details in the dark areas, I want to keep them as a dark. And the same for the lights and middle values. If I don't do that then it will change that area and change the pattern.
If I find at this stage of the painting that the pattern could be improved, then I can make that adjustment by changing the pattern with details.
Most of the details were added to the center of interest with weeds, and fallen branches carried downstream. I added more dark values to the middle ground snow to give it more form, and finally adjusted some of the edges to the rocks and water in the foreground. As I mention in previous blogs, remember that you are finished when you are sure that there is nothing left to be adjusted. This painting is finished.
The last large area to be painted is the snow in the middle and background.
By adding more rocks around the fallen log, I can bring more interest to that area. While it was wet, I used a sharp blade to scratch some grasses to add even more detail.
The first thing that the viewer sees in any painting is the pattern. The areas of light, middle and dark values are the key to making any painting successful.
The best pattern will incorporate a variety of sizes and shapes. The pattern of each of the values should also connect visually or physically.
I chose a middle value for the rocks. With the pattern in mind, I wanted the rocks to connect with the values in both the water and the ice in the foreground. The shapes of the pattern also create movement. The light snow is a triangular shape that is pointing from the upper left corner down to the foreground to connect with the lights in the center of interest.
Happy with the pattern, all that is left is deciding how much and where to put any details.
In this step, I concentrated on the foreground. Painting up to the edge that I left in the previous step creates some hard edges where the water meets the snow.
Newly fallen snow will have soft edges. Ice generally has harder edges. I will leave these hard edges until I paint the "softer" snow in the middle and background, then adjust as needed.
I want the water to be dark, but not as dark as the darks in the background. I made the color more intense to make the water appear to come forward, by using a combination of Phthalocyanine Blue and Manganese Blue. Manganese Blue is the coolest blue.
Ice traps the cool light inside its crystalline structure. If you've seen icebergs in person, you will notice how blue they are.
The balancing act here is to get the "coldness" of the ice, yet also to make this area come forward. The intensity of color should solve that problem.
This step establishes the basic pattern of the light, middle and dark areas of value. Getting that correct is the key to a successful painting.
The next step will concentrate on the still large light area of the snow.
This area will be the center of interest, so I concentrated my efforts on separating the rocks, snow in light, the snow in shadow, and the fallen trees.
I talked about edges in my last blog and have the same situation in this painting. The hard edge that I left at the bottom of this section could present a problem. However, because most of that edge will be defined by a much darker value in the next wash, it won't be an issue.
There are still large areas of light or white at this stage. I have to be aware that they need to be adjusted in color and value as I paint them.
Remember: all color and value is affected by the adjacent color and value.
Although this is a relatively small area of the painting, because it is the center of interest, controlling the colors and values is critical.
The separation of the shadow side of an object and the cast shadow from that object is critical to the form.
There is always a value difference between the shadow of an object and the shadow that it casts. Also the cast shadow is darkest where it begins and gets lighter as it moves away from the object.
The First Step
I like to keep the drawing simple. That leaves me room to be more creative as I apply each wash. "Drawing" with the brush is much more satisfying.
I will dominate each of my paintings with a few colors, but will add all of the other colors on my palette. My palette of colors is noted on my previous blog.
For this painting I used Quinacradone Gold, Pthalocyanine Blue, Manganesse Blue and Brown Madder. The choice of colors is dependent on my plan for the painting. I wanted very intense colors because of the bright warm light in the photo reference. I also wanted pigments that would "separate" when mixed to give me more textures in the rocks and fallen tree trunks.
I always tell my students to read the label on the back of each tube of paint so that they know what is in the paint. Check the letters. The "P" is for pigment and the second letter is the color. PO is pigment orange, PY is pigment yellow. The number is supposed to be an indication of a particular color. For instance, I used the Daniel Smith brand of Quinacradone Gold which is PO48-Nickel Azo Yellow, as opposed to American Journey brand which is PR206–Quinacradone Burnt Orange plus PY42 Yellow Ochre (two colors mixed together in one tube).
Don't assume that colors are the same from brand to brand just because they have the same name or letter designation. http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html
is an excellent resource.
In transparent watercolor the procedure is always the same:
Next was the shadow side of the fallen tree and some of the rocks to the right.
As a student I was taught to paint light to dark and for several years I painted just the light parts of the whole painting first, then the middle values, etc. I have since learned that the concept is to paint the lightest part of the lights and the lightest parts of the middle values and the lightest parts of the darks. Therefore the darks that I have painted in this first wash are not my darkest darks.
I want to create more interest in the foreground area, so I've stopped here, leaving some hard edges.
The second step will deal mostly with that area.
A More Traditional Approach
We are still in isolation mode here in Illinois. In my last blog I shared my process of a step-by-step painting that I thought would be helpful to you painters during this time.
Each painting is unique, so sometimes calls for a unique approach. If you followed along, you were aware that I worked in sections, rather than blocking in the entire piece–a deviation from my usual process.
The color and value you apply to an area in a painting is influenced by the color and value adjacent to that area. Therefore, getting rid of the "white" of the paper was the first priority. In the last painting, I had to know how each section would change when I painted the next section.
In this next painting, I will return to my more traditional block-in method, leaving some white space on the first wash, but blocking in major areas of the painting.
First, thanks to Dale and Marilee Popovich for the photograph–my inspiration for this painting.
What is it about a photograph that wants you to paint it? Is it the subject, the color, contrast, or details? I chose this photo to paint because of the contrast of the lights and darks, and the temperature change of warm and cool.
No photograph is perfect in composition. So I want to make some adjustments. Remember, the elements of composition are, balance, unity, movement, proportion and emphasis-B.U.M.P.E.
I did several sketches to create both a center of interest and the eye-movement that will carry the viewer throughout the painting.
"On a Winters Day" was accepted into the 2020 Illinois Watercolor Society's National exhibit.
I didn't change the composition much. Just simplifying some of the details and adding some darker rocks was all that was needed. Some photographic references need more changing than others.
I will break down the steps in my next blog. See you at the easel!