Monday Watercolor Studio Online

Monday, September 21st, 2020

 

Value Composition Studies 

This week is much like last week but with one condition: If last week your main subject was part of a light value area, make it dark this week.  And vice versa: if last week it was dark, this week it is light. Beyond that, the instructions for this week are the same as last week – scroll down to see the post for last week.   

In Class:

I’ll ask those who are willing to share their pre-class work:  telling us the answers to 1) and 2), above, then sharing thumbnails and color studies while telling us the thinking and decision process.  If there is a completed painting as well, I’ll ask you to share the painting and discuss how it works and doesn’t when compared to the thumbnails and color studies.

I’ll do a demo of a step I’ll want you to add to your process for next week’s class. After the demo, you should have time to do one of three things: 1) explore more value studies 2) explore more color studies  3) work on the finished painting

 

Monday, September 14th, 2020

 

Consolidating Composition Knowledge

This week, we will begin consolidating and integrating our composition work from the past couple months. Although there is more to composition than just value, that’s all we’ll really focus on for the next several weeks.

In general, each week will go like this: Pre-class work will consist of choosing a subject from among your photos, sketchbooks, or the pile of ‘failures’ you have hanging around the studio.   With a subject chosen, you’ll ask yourself two questions – 1) what is the one object/element in this subject that will be my main focus  2)what do I want to say about it

Remember that we are really dealing with the overall value composition here, so if your subject is a group of apples in a bowl and what you want to say is that they are VERY RED (a valid theme!) you won’t really be able to address that in value sketches, but you can in color studies and the final painting. 

This approach should accomplish a number of things for you, not the least of which is that it will help you FORGET YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT THIS SUBJECT AND GREATLY REDUCE THE TENDENCY TO COPY EXACTLY WHAT YOU SEE (OR THINK YOU SEE).

Now that you have decided on a main subject and what you want to say about it –

1) Explore the subject with value thumbnails. Make sure to create large value shapes and making sure the eye-catching contrasts are in the right places

2) Once you’ve made at least a few thumbnails, look at them and ask yourself if they are focusing on your main subject and saying what you want to be said.

3)  If not, go back to step 1!

4) If so, pick the thumbnail that says it best and do some color studies – here’s where you can say the apples are VERY RED, but make sure the RED is the value you defined in the thumbnail sketch.

5) Is there a color study that focuses on your main subject and says what you want to be said.

6) If not, go back to step 4!

7) If so, enlarge the drawing to painting size, and do the painting.

In Class:

I’ll ask those who are willing to share their pre-class work:  telling us the answers to 1) and 2), above, then sharing thumbnails and color studies while telling us the thinking and decision process.  If there is a completed painting as well, I’ll ask you to share the painting and discuss how it works and doesn’t when compared to the thumbnails and color studies.

I’ll do a demo of a step I’ll want you to add to your process for next week’s class. After the demo, you should have time to do one of three things: 1) explore more value studies 2) explore more color studies  3) work on the finished painting

 

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Weather Permitting! Plein Air Week

Assuming we have good weather on Labor Day, we’ll be getting together to paint outside.   We’ll meet at 9am and finish up around noon.  

As I mentioned on Monday, our online classes for the rest of September will be structured to help you consolidate all this composition stuff we’ve been working on for the past couple months.   

To get you started, I will do a demo first thing on Monday, taking a more thoughtful and methodical approach to my en plein air painting.  Essentially, it is the same one you’ll be working with for the rest of the month; more on that later. 

Painting Location

We’ll meet on Stratton Road/Blair Road in Williamstown at about the spot of the ORANGE STAR on this map.  It’s easy to find. From Rt 2/Main Street in Williamstown, turn onto Adams Road and then Stratton Road. The road will change from pavement to dirt.  Keep going till you find me.  If you come from the other direction, up Rt 7 from Pittsfield/Lanesborough, turn right onto Rt 43/Green River Road. Go past Mt. Hope Park.  Blair Rd should be the next Right turn.  Go up the hill, around the tight left turn and down into the hollow.  Again, keep going until you find me. 

Bad Weather

If it turns out to be rainy, we’ll skip the plein air.  If it looks like we won’t be meeting outdoors on Monday, I’ll send an email as soon as it looks like a no go – but, no later than Sunday afternoon. 

If we can’t meet, we’ll have an online class instead, continuing composition work.

Back up Plan 

The back up plan is to begin consolidating and integrating our composition work from the past couple months. Although there is more to composition than just value, that’s all we’ll really focus on for the next several weeks. 

In general, each week will go like this: Pre-class work will consist of choosing a subject from among your photos, sketchbooks, or the pile of ‘failures’ you have hanging around the studio.   With a subject chosen, you’ll ask yourself two questions – 1) what is the one object/element in this subject that will be my main focus  2)what do I want to say about it

Remember that we are really dealing with the overall value composition here, so if your subject is a group of apples in a bowl and what you want to say is that they are VERY RED (a valid theme!) you won’t really be able to address that until October when we begin to start incorporating color into our composition work. 

This approach should accomplish a number of things for you, not the least of which is that it will help you FORGET YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS ABOUT THIS SUBJECT AND GREATLY REDUCE THE TENDENCY TO COPY EXACTLY WHAT YOU SEE (OR THINK YOU SEE). 

Now that you have decided on a main subject and what you want to say about it – 

– Explore the subject with value thumbnails. Make sure to create large value shapes and making sure the eye-catching contrasts are in the right places

– Once you’ve made at least a few thumbnails, look at them and ask yourself if they are focusing on your main subject and saying what you want to be said.

– If not, do some more thumbnails

– If so, pick the thumbnail that says it best and do some color studies – here’s where you can say the apples are VERY RED, but make sure the RED is the value you defined in the thumbnail sketch.

– Is there a color study that focuses on your main subject and says what you want to be said.

– If not, do more color studies

– If so, enlarge the drawing to painting size, and do the painting. 

In Class:

I’ll ask those who are willing to share their pre-class work:  telling us the answers to 1) and 2), above, then sharing thumbnails and color studies while telling us the thinking and decision process.  If there is a completed painting as well, I’ll ask you to share the painting and discuss how it works and doesn’t when compared to the thumbnails and color studies. 

I’ll do a demo of a step I’ll want you to add to your process for next week’s class. 

 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Clouds and Skies

By popular demand! 

Obviously, skies are important for landscape painters. For the most part, they are backdrops and don’t need to be particularly active – a simple graded sky  is usually enough and is easily accomplished with a simple wet-in-wet wash.

There are times even when the sky is only a backdrop, that you’ll want more activity. Some lighter, soft cloud shapes can accomplish that without taking attention from the landscape.

There are other times when you might want the sky be the focus or to contribute to the overall theme of the painting. In this case, you’ll probably want sky and clouds to share the space and to perhaps contribute rythmn and movement to the composition.

For this week, we’ll focus on skies and clouds while also building on the composition ideas we have been working on lately.  Here are the objectives for the week:

  • the first is to get some practice painting clouds
  • while working on the cloud painting exercises, think about how to include active clouds into a compostion without them taking over the spotlight
  • this is a good week to begin thinking about main subject / focal points and secondary subjects/areas of interest. 

Pre-Class Assignment:

There are seven videos that will get you started painting great skies and clouds. The series starts with lessons on wet-in-wet and dry-in-wet techniques – skip them if you like, but they are both important in painting skies and especially clouds.  Work your way through them. By the end you’ll have a really good handle on clouds and skies. 

Now look through older works or sketchbooks for a scene you would like re-do. The landscape part of the scene should be strong or have a strong element, like a building, house, barn, farm, or even human or animal figures that will make for a good focal point.  

1) Create thumbnail line drawings of your scene for value studies.  These can be prepared for pencil studies or watercolor value studies. 

2) Prepare to create  several thumbnail value sketches by thinking about your picture plane as a group of large value shapes that connect and include multiple elements.  Your main subject/focal point should  be part of the landscape.  Also develop a secondary area of interest in the sky – probably with an interesting cloud or an area of contrast between cloud and sky.  These elements will exist both as part of larger value shapes and separately within those balue shapes with introduction of contrasts.   Also, when placing and composing these two areas, think about a diagonal relationship – farm in the lower left and cloud in the upper right, as an example. 

3) Create your value sketches. Remember that the single value applied to larege value shapes will become range of multiple values once you are working in color.  

4) Choose one or two value sketches to convert to color.   

5)  Make color studies – several at least – of your chosen value sketches.  Make sure the values in the color studies matches the value sketches.  Use the studies to practice skies and clouds on a small scale. 

6) Enlarge the composition to a comfortable size and transfer the drawing to watercolor paper.  Paint a version before class if you like.   Bring another to work on in class

In class: 

We’ll review the thumbnail work, color studies and work on finished paintings and move on to another version of the same subject. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Night Scenes

This week we’ll tackle night scenes!

I’d like you to approach this work with several objectives in mind:

  • the first and most important is to help you to think differently about a scene you have gotten to know and are, perhaps, still thinking about too literally
  • second is the idea of firing up your imaginations
  • and allowing your own thoughts, sensations and feelings about a subject to have more of an affect on your work than its literal reality

Find ten sample night scene paintings here.  Notice the relative lack of color, the overall value range that emphasizes mids, dark mids and dark values.  Notice also the spots of lighter value – even white or near white –  that occur at a source of artificial light.

Pre-Class Assignment:

It’s best if you use the same subject and compostional studies from last week as the jumping off point.

Since night scenes may be unfamiliar to you, please take the time to explore your subject with as many value sketches as you need to get comfortable with the low-key value range and value arrangements needed to convey night time.

There is a video on creating value sketches for potential night scenes here

I realize this will be a challenging assignment.  Get as far as you can.  If it is only through some value studies, that is fine. 

1) Create thumbnail line drawings of your night scene for value studies.  These can be prepared for pencil studies or watercolor value studies. If this process is new to you, it will probably take some time and thought, and perhaps some correction. So, pencil studies are probably a better choice.

2) Create  several thumbnail value sketches – at least four, but really as many as you need.  Remember that most of your painting – all shapes and objects – will fall into the darker range of values.  Try to imagine where artificial lights would create pools of light on the ground planes and where these same sources of light would shine onto vertical surfaces like the walls of buildings.  Except for the actual light sources, the lightest lights are not likely to be white. 

3) Take a look at the value sketches. Do you have one or more that look like a real night scene?  What aspects of the sketch make it so?

4) Choose one or two value sketches to convert to color.   HAVE YOUR VALUE SCALE HANDY!

5)  Make color studies – several at least – of your chosen value sketches.  Make sure the values in the color studies matches the value sketches. 

6) Enlarge the composition to a comfortable size and transfer the drawing to watercolor paper. Bring it to class

In class: 

We’ll review the thumbnail work, color studies and work on finished paintings. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

California School Composition Practice

We’ll continue working on finding more dynamic approaches to value composition this week.

Pre-Class Assignment:

If you were with us for plein air painting in North Adams last Monday, I recommend working with the paintings or sketches you created then.  If you weren’t, find another landscape painting you’d like to work with for this week.

We have been looking at and experimenting with composition ideas from the California school for the last several weeks. The California school artists are known for a number of things. In terms of composition, they were inclined to ditribute pieces of dark and light throughout a large mid-value area.  At first glance, the distribution seems random. If you look close, you’ll see that light and dark bits were deliberately placed to have the viewers eye wander through the painting – moving away from and back to the main subject/focal point.

This week your goal is to create a painting in the same manner.  In short, your composition should have:

  • a focal point that includes the main subject where the largest light shape is located with large dark shapes at the edges for maximum contrast
  • some deliberately planned and placed light and dark ‘bits’ that will move the eye around the painting

Pre-Class Assignment:

Download the grayscale version of a Rex Brandt painting here.  Take a look at the painting and notes about the areas of more and less value contrast.

1) Create thumbnail line drawings of your subject for value studies.  These can be prepared for pencil studies or watercolor value studies. If this process is new to you, it will probably take some time and thought, and perhaps some correction. So, pencil studies are probably a better choice.

To help with the next two steps, I’ve posted a 20 minute video going through the process using the subject I sketch on Monday. Scroll down a bit to find it.

2) Create  several thumbnail value sketches – at least four.  Use three simple values – light, mid and dark.  Remember that most of your painting – all shapes and objects – will fall into a large sea of mid-value.  In your main subject area, you should have your largest light shape and contrasting darks that intersect/overlap the large light value shape.

3) Now add light and dark bits in other areas of the painting.  You may have to lift or erase some of the mid-value to create light bits.  Place these bits thinking of ways to balance the focal point and to help the viewers eye wander around the painting, taking in other interesting items.  Again, make at least four, allowing yourself to explore possibilities for both the main subject/focal point and the areas of interest and movement created with the light and dark bits.

4) Take a look at your value compositions.  Make sure they show off the main subject and encourage the eye to wander around the painting.  Chose two you think would make effective paintings.

5)  Option:  Do color studies of the two chosen value compositions.

6) Enlarge the composition to a comfortable size and transfer the drawing to watercolor paper.  Paint one of them now. Bring one to class.

In class: 

We’ll review the thumbnail work, color studies and finished paintings. Then we’ll paint the second composition.

California School Style Value Thumbnail Creation Demo

Monday, July 27, 2020

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Broadening Composition Concepts

We’ll continue working on finding more dynamic approaches to value composition this week.

Pre-Class Assignment:

1) Once again, find a California school painting that has a dynamic composition.

2) Create a thumbnail value sketch of the painting, breaking it down into three simple values – light, mid and dark.  Look at the completed thumbnail.  What value dominates? Of the other two, does one appear more, or in greater quantity than the other? Is dark or light value used in the negative spaces?  Bring your artists’ painting and the value thumbnail you created to class.

3) Find a scene to work from direct observation. This week, it’s artist’s choice – landscape, seascape, still life or, for those of you who ‘should’, a garden scene.

4) Create at least 4 thumbnail value sketches of your scene. Explore possibilities other than what you see in front of you. Concentrate on showing the three dimensional form of the objects in your scene and, especially, arranging the value shapes so that you create a single, obvious focal point.

5) If you choose, do a painting of your scene. Use the value thumbnails to guide your painting.

5) Create 4 additional thumbnail line drawings (no values added) of your scene/still life along with the line layout drawn on watercolor paper.  Bring these with you to class on Monday.

 

 

Monday, July 20, 2020

Broadening Composition Concepts

We’ll continue working on finding more dynamic approaches to value composition this week.

Pre-Class Assignment:

1) Do an online search for ‘california school’ or ‘california scene’ painting images.  Or if you happen to have a book that features California school artists like “Windows In Time” search through that.  Find a painting from one of the artists that appeals to you.  Artists to look for: Rex Brandt, Milford Zornes, Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Barse Miller, Hardie Gramatky, Dong Kingman, George Post, Emil Kosa, Lee Blair  – there are many other less well known artists considered to be part of the California Scene.

2) Create a thumbnail value sketch of the painting, breaking it down into three simple values – light, mid and dark.  What do you notice? What value dominates? Of the other two, does one appear more, or in greater quantity than the other? Are the values gathered into large continuous shapes? Or broken into smaller bits? Bring your artists’ painting and the value thumbnail you created to class.

3) Find a scene to work from direct observation. I recommend a still life set up, but a landscape scene is fine.  For a still life, I recommend some transparent glass and some other reflective objects.  Don’t paint it yet!

4) Create at least 4 thumbnail value sketches of your still life or scene. Explore possibilities other than what you see in front of you. Concentrate on showing the three dimensional form of the objects in your scene and, especially, arranging the value shapes so that you create a single, obvious focal point.

5) Create 4 additional thumbnail line drawings (no values added) of your scene/still life along with the line layout drawn on watercolor paper.  Bring these with you to class on Monday.

 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Broadening Composition Concepts

I’m planning on spending our online classes between now and the end of July working on composition.  Specifically, we’re going to indulge those impulses that lead us into carving up our paintings into small bits of shape – or worse, into individual objects! Hopefully, we’ll come out the far end knowing how to divide space – not objects – into pleasing, dynamic paintings.

Pre-Class Assignment:

1) Paint a still life that includes transparent glass and some other reflective objects.  See the image below. The best thing would be to set up a still life that includes these things and work from direct observation.

2) Once you’ve completed the painting, do a thumbnail sketch of the painting (no larger than postcard size) duplicating the values as you painted them.  You can use pencil or watercolor for this and all thumbnails.

3) Create 4 thumbnail line drawings (no values added) of your painting, and one larger(at least 7 x 11) unpainted layout of the still life.  Bring these with you to class on Monday.

 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Plein Air week!

We’ll be working en plein air this week – barring a bad weather forecast.

The location is on Indian Massacre Road in Hoosick New York.  Download directions and map here.   The location has a great view of a distant farm, equipment, open fields, trees, hills and mountains.  The area is open, so if it is sunny, there is not much in the way of shade. Bring a hat, water, bug spray and any thing else you’ll need for plein air painting.

If the forecast changes for the worse, we’ll do a Zoom class.  For that I want you to paint a still life that includes transparent glass and some other reflective objects.  See the image at left.

The best thing would be to set up a still life that includes these things and work from direct observation. 

Once you’ve completed the painting, do a thumbnail sketch – in pencil or watercolor – of the painting, duplicating the values as you painted them.

For class: create 4 thumbnail line drawings (no values added) of your painting, and another unpainted layout of the still life.

Hope to see you in person on Monday!

Repair and Refit - watercolor plein air painting by Tony ConnerMonday, June 29, 2020

‘Thesis Week 2’

Very excellent work from everyone last week integrating a process of exploration and planning into your painting habit.  I hope you’ll continue with it.

For this week, you’ll really want to use this process since the assignment will probably challenge your thinking in more ways than one.

Beyond process, I’ll want you to consciously decide on a main subject and main focus for your painting.

Pre-class work:

  1. Pick an older, less than successful work
  2. Decide what made you want to paint this – this should lead you to the ONE main subject and the aspects of that subject that attracted you.
  3. Once you know that, REALIZE THAT EVERY THING ELSE IN THE PAINTING IS EXPENDABLE – TO BE USED ONLY TO HIGHLIGHT AND FOCUS ON THE MAIN SUBJECT.
  4. Explore the subject with thumbnail line drawings (no value shapes created yet).  Start by placing your main subject in a visually attractive location (remember golden means and golden sections).  Make at least 4 versions of this thumbnail (if you need 400 to get a great composition, do that many!)
  5. After placing the main subject, place the other objects around it – they should be placed where they can support and draw focus to the main subject, not necessarily where they happen to be in reality.
  6. After making at least four of these,  pick the one that seems the most pleasing to the eye and really focuses attention on the main subject.
  7. Make at least four copies of this line drawing – tracing them is fine.
  8. Now add value to the composition. Concentrate on separating the picture plane into three areas: foreground, middle ground, and background. Assign a value to each – light, middle, dark.  Explore at least four arrangements (or up to 400, if necessary… ).  Remember that strong contrasts will draw the eye – save the strongest value contrast for your main subject.
  9. Again, pick the one thumbnail that is the most pleasing to the eye and focuses attention on the main subject.
  10. Make four more copies of the line thumbnail  – on watercolor paper this time.
  11. Create color thumbnail studies.  Contrasts of chroma and temperature also draw the eye.  Use these, along with value to bring focus to your main subject.
  12. Which color thumbnail has the most dynamic composition and also brings the most attention to the main subject?  Select that one for the next steps.
  13. Draw two copies the composition you selected in step 9 on larger pieces of watercolor paper.
  14. Paint one, following your value and color thumbnails.  Bring this one to class on Monday along with the un-painted version.
  15. Is there something else in your painting that could be the main subject?  Think about that for Monday’s work.

I’ve scouted several locations for a plein air session on Monday, July 6th – two in W’town/N. Adams area; two in Pownal Vermont area.  More on that, next Monday.

Have fun!

 

 

Monday, June 22, 2020

It week one of ‘Thesis Week’

You have a lot of freedom this week – and will next week as well. You can chose any subject you like, preferably one you’ve worked on before but without success.

This is your chance to make it a success!

You all have the knowledge and tools to make a success of the painting. It’s a matter gathering the knowledge, practicing it, and having confidence.

Pre-class assignment:
Find an older work or a sketch you have worked on in the past, but perhaps not been happy with.
FORGET ALL OF YOUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS, BELIEFS, AND “SHOULDS” THAT YOU HAVE ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SUBJECT!!
Take a careful, studied and methodical approach to the work.
Explore the subject with value thumbnails and color studies. Make notes during this part of the process to remind yourself of what works, and what’s not.
Transfer the work to a larger piece of paper. Take a deep breath!
Paint.

For Monday; bring the finished painting, thumbnails and notes. Also have a some LINE DRAWING ONLY copies of the thumbnails on drawing paper and a few on watercolor paper. Also have another drawing layout of the full size painting.

Have fun!

 

Monday, June 15, 2020

In this weeks class, we’ll see how the masters did it!

We’ll take the work of an accomplished artist and use it as an instructive lesson in showing light as well as distance in a painting.

Pre-class assignment:
1) Find a painting you admire – a landscape or seascape is best. This will be easier if it’s a watercolor but can be any medium. 

2) Take a close look at how the artist used changes in value, temperature and chroma to create the illusion of distance in the painting.  Write out notes on what you see in the painting using these guidelines: https://tonyconner.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Formula-For-Space-and-Distance.pdf

3) Copy the selected painting on watercolor paper and paint it. Focus especially on re-creating the value, temperature and chroma effects used byt the artist to show space and distance.

4) Make a second, pencil layout only copy of the composition to work on in class.

Have fun! 

Suggested Materials: I recommend a basic set of watercolor materials for this class. Download from my website using the link below.

Click here to download a comprehensive list of basic watercolor materials and supplies

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Watercolor Studio Meets Online Via Zoom.  Each week’s class will be announced by email. Once you have RSVP’d, I’ll forward the Zoom meeting information for the week. 

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