Monday, June 27, 2011

June 30--Paint the Night Sky

Nighttime paintings can be a lot of fun but rather challenging, too. At this class we're going to explore painting the landscape at night, with a closer look at the mystery and beauty of the night sky. 

First of all, I want you to go outside and LOOK at what you can see. Get away from bright lights as much as you can and notice how dark or light the sky is, what value difference there is in the hills or trees or plants around you. Look at your feet, note the shadow of your car or house. Analyze the value structure... Not everything at night is black! Take some photos, if you're able, and just see what you get. Digital cameras are fairly remarkable this way. 

I find it hard to take a good night photo showing everything I want, although I occasionally get the "lucky shot" that works out. It's more satisfying to me to seek out other interesting pictures and combine several different ones to make a more exciting painting. look around and see if you can find photos to use, perhaps as many as three, and think creatively about how you'll put different parts to use. You might grab the hills or city lights from one, the sky from another, and the closer trees or foreground information from a third.

Do you know that there are websites containing photos you can use for paintings? Naturally, if you copy one of these photographs faithfully you won't be able to enter it in the big shows, so be cautious how you use them, but for our purposes it's fun to find some different resources to use, and combine them into one different place altogether. Here are some from Morgue File that I might use this week in my demonstration:

(And remember, you might use some of your new found Photoshop skills to make a combination you like!)

We'll do a quick critique of work in progress, so feel free to bring your painting along for us to view and discuss briefly.

Our class is at the Paradise Methodist Church on the west side of Albuquerque, 11:30-2:30. Come at 11:00 to get set up, and feel free to bring a sack lunch. I'll have iced tea for us. Please RSVP (<--clickable link) if you haven't reserved your space already, but don't hesitate to come on along at the last minute! The charge is only $25 at the door.
Any medium is welcome (as long as there are no strong smelling solvents), but I'll be doing a demo with my PanPastels for the class.
See you on Thursday!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Photoshop for Paintings class results

As I prepared for this class I realized that there are a lot of tutorials out on the Net devoted to Photoshop Elements, but most of them are for people using it for advertising or photography. Yet in the last few years I've interviewed a lot of artists in my role as writer for art magazines and many, if not most of them, use this program as a tool to manipulate their pictures to use for paintings, in some way or another. Perhaps there's more online about how to do this than I found, but nonetheless this class turned out to be quite interesting to teach and instructive for my students.

Basically I outlined the various functions found in the Options Bar, Toolbox and Palette Well, before beginning to show how each feature can be used. If you're fumbling around in PSE, don't forget to use the online Help menu. It's worth your time to find information on the work area functions. For instance, this photo helps you understand some pretty basic but very important tools if you work in PSE 2.0:

(Adobe Photoshops Help photo)

I mentioned that I'm no expert, but there are certain things I do creatively that anyone can do to revive a dark, uninteresting photo, often making it into a colorful and unique painting subject.

My first tip (not original to me): start with a duplicate copy! Once your original photo is tucked away safe and sound you'll be far more inclined to just play around to see what you can do. I also suggest that you try whenever possible to use a high resolution photo so that when you crop you still have a clear, if smaller, print. I often crop several compositions out of one large photo and play with each one to see how I can tweak it, flipping them horizontally, changing the color scheme, heightening contrast, and even rearranging or adding elements.

Here's the photo we used for most of the demonstration and lecture I did:

It's a pretty dull image but it has some interesting parts to it. I like the variety of angles in the overall composition, from the line of each of the banks, to the angle of the hills, and the implied angle of the clouds, hinging at the slightly leaning vertical tree on the left-hand side. That foreground tangle is blah as it stands, but could benefit from  more color or contrast, and might even add another interesting angle if handled properly. The whole photo would benefit from cropping.

In the course of our explorations, when we reduced the photo using Image > Adjustments >Threshold and discovered that there's a small rectangle of light in the geographical center of the photo. Sometimes the simplest tools reveal something so basic! That will need to be addressed in the composition, either by cropping or by changing some of the values.

Probably one of the most useful tools is the Enhance >Adjust Color >Color Variations function. I routinely push the Color Intensity slider all the way to the right so that I can see the extremes of color.

I simply analyze what the image will look like if I add red, add green, add blue, add cyan, add purple, or add yellow. (The menu uses increased or decreased red, green and blue.) Of course, I can slide it back so it isn't so bright, but this way I know what will begin to happen, even if it's only adding a bit of subtle yellow to the mix. You can do this multiple times, choosing to add a little bit of red, or a bit more blue, or some purple, before saying okay.

After some quick playing around together, we came up with this outrageous version of the original photo:

And another version looks like this:

We just touched on some of the wonderfully fun things you can do in this program, but I hope it launched a few people into their own further explorations!

Have fun, gang!

Monday, June 20, 2011

How to use Photoshop for Paintings

Although I'm no 'expert', in this week's class I'll show you how I use Photoshop Elements (PSE) to prepare photographs as resources for paintings. So often a photograph is unsatisfactory and we start making plans to change things when we paint it, but those pesky pictures can become so domineering that it's hard to escape them sometimes. The 'autopilot' function of painting in the right brain takes over and we end up painting more of what's there than we wanted to. 

Photoshop is a great means of changing the photo to match your vision, as well as allowing you to explore different options using the many tools you have available, whether it's merely cropping the image or making it into a whole different world. I'll show you how I use PSE's many simple functions to change and rearrange things. 

This is a survey class, meant to help you understand what each tool does and show you the possibilities. Bring your notebook and pen (but please leave the laptop at home.) You'll end up with a series of several steps that will get you to the place where you can explore on your own, without fear of losing everything. I use Photoshop Elements 2.0. The tools I utilize are commonly available in Photoshop, no matter the version, so you should be able to adapt what I do. 

The space available at my computer is quite small, and class is limited to only five students. This class is filled already, but I will repeat it from time to time. If there's enough interest, I'll add advanced sections to the classes to show you even more of the features of the program and help hone your skills. 

Class is from 11:30 to 2:30. Bring your sack lunch. I'll have iced tea and coffee available. The lecture portion is approximately 2 hours, with Q&amp;A follow-up. I'll send direction to my home in Taylor Ranch to those already enrolled.

See (some of) you on Thursday,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gouache Basics class results

There were a lot of smiles at this class! I think we all had fun and the gals learned a lot about what gouache will (and won't) do. We spread out at my little table and messed around.

I did a demo using two different papers, Arches 300 lb. cold press and white Pastelmat, just to show how differently these papers behave. Here's the demo in progress:

I think you can see some of the obvious textural differences in them just from this shot. The Pastelmat, on the bottom, is a much more absorptive paper and allows the paint to bloom, while the Arches is crisp, giving nice edges. Both have their uses, of course.

We talked about:
  • paint brands and what constitutes gouache (pigment, gum arabic, fillers)
  • papers and how the paint behaves (I did a little show of work)
  • brushes to use (I choose synthetics)
  • different strokes and means of blending colors (get a blender brush!)
  • color shift as gouache dries (most colors darken)
  • adding color, as you depend on the gouache to lift (gouache is never 'dry'--meaning it re-wets)
  • how to paint details (a lot of it is illusion)

Here's the top demo painting, on the Arches, after another hour of finishing work:

Those of you who know me will be amazed to hear that both the demos are 5" x 7" in size! That's pretty huge when you're used to 2.5" x 3.5"--one-quarter the size of this sheet. I also painted upright on my easel, which is a bit challenging, but it worked out well in the end. (**And I used a wonderful photograph courtesy of David Patterson for the resource. Thanks, David.)

I hope the women who attended this class will end up enjoying gouache and using it now that they've experimented. It's a dandy medium, that's for sure.

Keep going, gang!

Monday, June 13, 2011

June 16—Gouache Basics

A simple "how-to" class in gouache, just to get you started. 

Gouache, which is simply opaque watercolor, has all the positive characteristics of watercolor and many characteristics that I love about pastel. Like pastel, you can work from the darks and add the light colors over the top, as well as correcting as many times as you need to, and as in watercolor you can work wet into wet, use washes and various other techniques. 

I'll teach the basics at this small class, letting the you play with whatever inspires you. We'll work from photographs, share the same color paints, play around with different brushes, and just find out what this fun and versatile medium can do. 

I'll provide two different kinds of paper, and the paint and brushes for an extra cost of $10, or you may bring your own. You'll need a small palette of some kind, such as a white dish or plate, or a plastic watercolor palette, and a small jar for water. 

This class is limited to five students. I have space left. Please RSVP (<--clickable link) to reserve a seat, if you haven't already. Pay $25.00 at the door + $10 optional materials fee.

* At my home in Taylor Ranch 11:30- 2:30, bring a sack lunch. I'll send directions via email by Wednesday to those enrolled.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Paint the Summer Sky and Clouds class results

Who doesn't love to paint a billowing summer cloud looming over the hills? Well, I love it, as you can see from the example above. As promised, this is a PanPastel on Pastelmat, which is turning out to be the frontrunner for me in terms of painting materials, especially for these sky paintings.

I'd like to link you to two chapters in my free online book, called Landscape Painting in Pastels. First, take a look at the sky. There are some generalizations to keep in mind, among them:

  1. The sky is lightest at the horizon.
  2. The sky is darkest at the zenith.
  3. Even a slight gradation suggests this arch.
  4. Use more than one color layer.
  5. Winter skies tend to be purple-blue.
  6. Summer skies tend to be green-blue.
  7. The sky is brighter in the sun’s quadrant.
  8. The sky slightly darkens opposite the sun.
And next let's examine the clouds. Likewise, some 'rules' you might want to take into consideration:

  1. Clouds are whitest directly overhead.
  2. Clouds are dull and yellow-pink at the horizon.
  3. No cloud is pure white.
  4. Do not begin clouds with white.
  5. Try the green-peach-lavender triad for grays.
  6. Clouds have tops, bottoms and sides.
  7. Clouds cast shadows on other clouds.
  8. Clouds glow from the center outwards.
I suggest finding a photograph that is inspiring but not so complex that you're baffled about how to paint it. Do some cropping, if so, and find what expresses the scene without overwhelming you, or take it into a photo program and use a filter such as Smart Blur in Photoshop, to simplify it to shapes and values/colors. Print that out and use it as your resource, at least to begin with.

If you look down at the last post you'll see a photo of a painting demo I did at IAPS using the same photograph for inspiration. Don't limit yourself, thinking you've already painted that one--"paint it again, Sam!"

Keep going, gang!

Monday, June 6, 2011

June 9--Paint the Summer Sky and Clouds

PanPastel demonstration painting on the easel at IAPS

Here in New Mexico our summertime skies are spectacular, with layers of beautiful clouds, blossoming thunderstorms and beautiful virga falling over the spectacular mountains and plains. I just returned from doing demonstrations using PanPastels at the 2011 International Association of Pastel Societies convention, where I painted our gorgeous skies, so I'm all warmed up for this class. 
On Thursday we'll discuss how to paint various kinds of clouds, looking at the structure, color, contrasts and 'rules' of clouds in the daytime summer sky. Any medium is welcome, as usual, but I'll be doing a demo with my PanPastels for the class.
We'll do a quick critique of work in progress, so feel free to bring one along for us to view and discuss briefly.
Our class is at the Paradise Methodist Church on the west side of Albuquerque, 11:30-2:30. Come at 11:00 to get set up, and feel free to bring a sack lunch. I'll have iced tea for us. Please RSVP (<--clickable link) if you haven't reserved your space already, but don't hesitate to come on along at the last minute!
See you on Thursday!