Art: Starting Watercolors

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  1. #1
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    Starting Watercolors

    I'm just starting with them, and I could use help. I'm working from photos now, and I've been told to watch out for the limitations - overexposure, and a limited color range.

    So here's what I've done so far, hopefully this thread'll take off and show some real improvement by page 2...

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    Last edited by TASmith; February 20th, 2010 at 06:16 AM.
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  3. #2
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    Those are pretty nice. Out of interest, what colors are you using? I have just started experimenting with watercolors myself.

    The last picture is really nice. I would say, however, that the others look somewhat "overexposed", that is if a painting can really be that.

    Those are my thoughts.

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  5. #3
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    I think you really need to focus on the shapes of color and light that you find in the images. the 4th painting does a better job of this than the rest but in all of them you are paying more attention to the linear quality of your brushstrokes than you are simplifying the masses you see. Forests may not be the best thing to start with as they are naturally very complicated and it is very hard to selectively simplify the unnecessary to bring out the necessary with such a high amount of detail. whatever colors you are using, you most definitely are not losing any intensity- the colors are obviously over saturated if you're looking for realism, but I don't think you are and they work well as you use them now. Just keep experimenting; with experimentation and practice you will gain a sophistication in technique that will make your work stronger as you progress. Keep it up. :]

    "A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether it has life and conveys genuine feeling."- Harold Speed
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  7. #4
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    I completely agree - I would highly recommend John Carlson's book: "Carlsons Guide to Landscape Painting" - it is very inexpensive and considered one of the "cornerstone" books in landscape painting. Also of note, Carlson's main subject was New England forest interiors.

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  9. #5
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    Might want to check this guy out: http://dalelaitinen.com/index.php/category/paintings/

    I think he's one of the best watercolor landscape painters out there - not much work with forest interiors but you can see how he simplifies to create strong compositions.

    As Pariano points out - you're seeing and trying to paint every leaf and blade of grass right now - you need to learn to see the masses and forms of light and shadow - not the details.

    Last edited by JeffX99; February 22nd, 2010 at 02:00 AM. Reason: Added something...
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  11. #6
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    Wow, sorry for the late update everyone. I've been busy posting elsewhere. But I really appreciate the feedback, and I love the link to Dale, I went and saved it all on my harddrive.

    Let's see to answer some questions...

    1. I'm going for realism in terms of form/perspective/color relationships, but not so much in exact detail, so maybe I'm more of an impressionist.

    2. I hear a lot that my colors are too saturated, which makes me worry about my monitor settings. Sometimes I look at this site on other computers and there is a huge difference that might make these works look garish. But, other artwork on this site looks fine on my monitor... Lately, when I put my artwork in photoshop for cropping, I try to tone down the colors a bit to hopefully get them to look more like the real works... But I'll be wary of this while I paint as well.

    3. My main goal with these studies, besides simply learning watercolor, is to capture the feeling of light through the trees, how it's reflected, and cast, etc. I want to present the dazzling effect that I see when I go out in nature.

    4. colors I use... They're all Winsor and Newton tube paints.

    1. Winsor Red Deep
    2. Quinacridone Magenta
    3. Potter's Pink (hardly ever use it)
    4. Cadmium Lemon
    5. Pthalo Turqoise
    6. Indigo
    7. Prussian Blue
    8. Indanthrene Blue
    9. Sepia

    I also have an ivory black and a gouache white, but I've never used them. The only time I ever touched up a screw up, I used acrylics. Here are some watercolors I've done since last Feb. Most from life, some from photos. The woman in the river is from a photo by Andre Jaf, and the woman in the tree is from a photo by Erro.

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  12. #7
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    Wow, I see some vast improvement there. The last still-life looks good, and the last forest piece (before the church) is really great - some wonderful balance of lights there.

    I think your solid areas of colour need some thought. Solid colour is hard to do in watercolour. You're obviously doing them a LOT better in your recent pieces than in your first ones, but the question is - even if they're solid in your reference, do they have to be solid on the paper? A space that is meant to be one single colour but has irregularities looks more distracting than a space that you allowed to bleed and dilute some. The spectator knows that it's meant to be just one "backdrop", but the slight differences in tone, colour and brightness add interest to those spaces without drawing any attention from the main subject.

    Hope I was making sense.

    Keep up the great work - that's some impressive improvement in this thread!

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  14. #8
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    Thank you! And I think I get you, there's a great portrait artists in this subforum who did a watercolor portrait, and started with just a totally wet wash. It's amazing to see how he brings it back up to a realistic level. I think I'd need better paper for that, the stuff I've got doesn't really wash off that well. Anyone got any really good paper suggestions? Or technique? Because, even on Arches, if I use a paper towel to wipe away, I end up tearing at the fibres and screw up the surface.

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  15. #9
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    Glad to see people working in watercolor! You should check out artists Milind Mulick and Vasudeo Kamath. You can find alot of Mulick's work on facebook. I would also suggest dropping by the watercolor landscape thread in te fine arts section.

    You may also want to further simplify your studies. Instead of focusing on getting all the leaves on the tree, find the overall shape, tone, and color necessary to make the illusion of the tree.

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  16. #10
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    Haha, I'm wrestling with Arches myself right now! Arches is a very particular paper - it sucks up paint and never lets it go.

    Not sure if you can get it where you're from, but what I really like is Hahnemühle, Schöllershammer, or good old Canson. As long as the paper is thick enough (300 g/m or more) they've all got great wet-washing properties. I wouldn't want to swap them for Arches.

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  18. #11
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    Gold Seven, thanks, I'm going to try and use up what I have and then I'll see what I can order online. I've still got stacks of Canson to use... Here are two more still lifes.

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  19. #12
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    You definitely have an excellent grasp of the medium when it comes to realistic still-lifes! I'm loving that "baby" one. Nice idea to put your signature on the nappy. And the AVENT bottle turned out great. (We had them too, for our first kid... the second insisted on NUK, but what'll you do...)

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