MSHS Art Department
Painting in watercolor
Key ideas - work from general to specific; light to dark!
The whites come from the paper! Make an active composition.
For this assignment we will be painting a still life of apples on newsprint. Apples are good to paint because they have layers of color and the newsprint will show the different shadows.
In painting any still life it’s important to think about the grouping - almost as a cast of player on a stage – think about what subtle gestures they might be making or what their closeness or distance might signify. Please do not do anything ‘silly’ with the apples – like put them in ‘un-natural’ positions. The still life should look ‘found.’
1) Once you have arranged the still life for your table group, get your paper taped to your drawing board.
2) Draw a one inch boarder on all sides – this will be the edge of your picture – it is very important to understand how the edge works in a composition – how it controls the positive (motif) shapes and the negative shapes made by the background. (Leave this boarder blank – it will be the margin if you frame or mat the painting.)
3)When drawing in the still life on your paper, make your motif grouping (the apples) as big as possible!! Let one go off one side of the page! Make sure you have more positive space than negative space! (No one wants to look at a lot of empty background...)
4) Draw in the big shapes – avoid drawing any details – that will be taken care of when you paint. In your light pencil drawing just get the composition, and the relative size and shapes of the apples – make sure your perspective is correct to what you are looking at. Also draw in the shapes of the shadows – you will find there are overlapping shadows from the multiple light sources in the room.
5) Once you have drawn – decide where the highlights are – these will probably be the places on the apples where the high ‘shoulders’ reflect the light. Draw these spots in and leave them white. These will never be painted in. Remember all the whites and light colors come from the white of the paper. Water color is transparent.
You will be using only yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, brown and green paint. The white comes from the paper and a good dark can be made by mixing blue, purple and red. A more lively brown can be made by mixing red and green. A good neutral beige for the news print is made by small amounts of brown and blue or sometimes even the paint water! Make sure you mix a lot of paint so you can wash in large areas – that will give the forms unity. If you ‘draw’ in the form bit by colored bit the shapes will not ‘gel.’
6) Now using a large brush put down puddles of light yellow paint (don’t paint over the white spots!) You can also find a background color for the paper. A good mix will be sienna, cobalt blue and water. That makes a neutral tone. If the very light colors run in to each other at this point, it’s okay, however with careful use of a big brush you can keep a tiny margin that will keep the areas separate.
7) Begin to drop other colors for the apples as you see them into the yellow – orange, red and green. Look for any blue shadows. As the painting dries you can begin to paint the details using a smaller brush – but do not give into drawing anything – keep to painting areas of color. Think in terms of how large areas of surface make edges – edges in paintings are best not made by lines.
8) Notice how blue and purple the shadows will be. Remember the darkest place in the painting will be where the apple hits the paper – there is no light there – but do not use Black!! It will kill the light in the painting.
9) Think in terms of complimentary colors for your shadows. Remember to make brush marks as you would drawing marks – in the direction of the form. Round for the apples and flat and parallel to the bottom edge of the paper for the table top.
Put in a warm grey wash for the background.
Remember the more times you do this the better you will get at it!
Once you can do a basic water color you can make one with more complex layers of details.
Day two - or when the painting starts to dry -
Using a smaller brush start by defining a few edges in a dark red/blue - careful not to outline very much - that will close up the painting and it loose it’s sense of breath.
Use a little dark paint to define one apple from another and make the base sit on the table. Remember make the apple behind get darker and duller - the apple in front should be brighter that will make it seem to cme forward.
Using some more specif colors - here green and some red - make texture specific marks. The idea of building up from the base color is to give a sense of transparency to the flesh of the apple. Notice - the marks go in the direction that the surface of the apple curves! So they show not only surface detail, but three-dimensional form.
If some of the marks seem to harsh you can soften them with a wash of water with a big soft brush and then dab them with a paper towel.
To make the background recede make it darker at the back and in one corner. The background, while neutral and not distracting should have some variation of light in it if it is to look like it moves back and/or has atmosphere.
Looking up close - your painting should have a variety of marks and layers of colors - that will make it more life like than ‘exact’ drawing. A water color should look loose up close and then fall in to place from a bit of a distance. That’s the magic of painting marks!
And from farther away ....