Monday, September 19, 2011

September 22- Extract Nature’s Colors

Let nature inspire the colors you use.

The colors of nature are truly the inspiration for the way we think about and use color, of course. In this class I want you to spend some time making a record of various colors you see together in the natural world, extract color charts from what you observe, and then create an interesting abstract painting using the charts. 

Perhaps you see cottonwood leaves turning colors, or the grasses in the front yard. Maybe you’re inspired by a ristra on your deck or some flowers, or weeds that are beautiful (the colors can be!) Remember—not the pot on the porch, not the paint on the wall—only natural colors. It’s best if these are strictly related colors (i.e. not the sky behind the trumpet vine, only the colors of the plant itself; the flowers and their leaves, not the warm, dark dirt below them.) 

You can see in the photo how I've chosen some of the colors from the trumpet vine and arranged them into a palette of colors above the photo. You can do one of several things: 
  • You might want to take good color photos that are fairly current before this class and print them out to bring with you.
  • You could make some color studies on location and bring photos with you of the things you studied. This could be more practical if you decide the entire cottonwood tree is your best inspiration, for instance. 
  • You may alternatively choose to bring items to study in class, perhaps a ripe pear, a beautiful flower or weed, some leaves on a branch, whatever you like.

In class we’ll make a palette of colors from nature, whether you use a photo or work from life—but the trick is, we will NOT paint those references. Instead, I want you to find beautiful harmonies of colors and analyze the proportions of each one, as well as analyzing the dark and light, warm or cool colors, and then use them to make a color chart.  

From this you will paint an interesting abstraction in class. Do I hear someone muttering that you don’t like abstracts, that they never work out? Well, never fear--this exercise will give you a template to use, so that won’t be a problem.

To do the class you'll need a clean, white surface large enough to accommodate a palette of five to seven color swatches, as well as whatever paper or canvases you want to use to paint the abstractions. I have templates for the experiment in abstraction that are 7" x 8" or 6" x 6"-ish, which you can adapt to make larger. I suggest keeping it somewhat smaller in size, however, because if you're inspired by this experiment, you might want to make more than one palette and/or abstraction. It's really quite interesting to see the results.

So come this week with an adventurous spirit and see what happens! I'm sure it will be fun and inspiring! 

As usual, the class is $25.00, payable at the door. If you plan to attend, please RSVP now.  
The studio opens about 11:00, and class is from 11:30-2:30. (Feel free to bring your lunch. We have a microwave.) Remember, we're at the new location at CCF.
See you Thursday!

Inspired by the Artist class results

I often find the work of other artists inspirational, and over the years have come to rely on dipping into the visual stimulation of looking at artwork to spur me to be more creative. In this Internet age that has become easier to do than ever before. Our recent class was meant to stir up some creativity this way.

We began by reviewing the elements of art to help analyze what this artist did so well and give us a handle to grab onto as we experimented. I challenged my students to look at this list and find three of the key descriptors about the artwork they were examining. It's just too easy to be overwhelmed by how good an artist is at doing what you would like to do, and thus missing the way or ways you might actually learn from them!

Here's a list of basic art elements to examine:
  • Color
    • Is the color soft, harmonious, monochromatic or brilliant, exciting and saturated? Is there a pleasing unity or contrasting variety of color? Color creates mood.
  • Contrast
    • Many elements may contrast in a painting; size, colors, values, etc. The area of highest contrast draws the eye first.
  • Texture
    • Physical strokes on the paper make texture, as does the look of a surface quality. Varied textures makes interest: rough, smooth, soft, hard. One texture is flat and boring.
  • Strokes
    • Consider the variety, energy, and the scale of strokes. They can be thick, juicy and descriptive, contrasted with smooth passages.
  • Detail
    • Smaller touches that describe how something looks. Eye-catching. Too much overall becomes no detail at all.
  • Edges
    • Soft and hard edges, both “lost and found”, help to sculpt space in a painting.
  • Line
    • The continuous mark made on some surface by moving a pen or brush, or the edge created when two shapes meets. Often an outline, contour or silhouette. Adds emphasis, but can detract if over used.
  • Gradation
    • Gradating of elements in size makes linear perspective, and in color and value makes aerial perspective. It creates form, and moves the eye around a form.
  • Repetition
    • Repeated elements make interesting variety. Monotony results when there is little variation.
  • Balance
    • Balance is created by repeating same shapes or giving equal weight to all quadrants or parts of a composition, or may result from a harmonious use of the elements.
  • Dominance
    • One to three dominant elements are interesting and may harmonize a composition, adding needed emphasis.
  • Form
    • Form has height, width, depth, defined by light and shadows. There are two types of form, geometric (man-made) and natural (organic form). Often key in painting a still life or a portrait.
  • Movement 
    • The overall direction of the eye through the painting, giving action to the piece.
  • Rhythm 
    • Syncopated movement that starts and slows the eye’s path through the painting.
  • Proportion
    • Creates a sense of correct scale so that all the objects appear to be related properly in space.
You'll recall from last my last post that I was inspired by Richard Schmid's floral sketches. My demonstration painting was meant to use three key elements of his work that I wanted to emulate: the clean edges and soft transitions he creates; the exquisite rhythms of his work, and the beautiful variations in texture he uses, especially in the backgrounds.

I worked in gouache on a piece of Arches 300 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper that's approximately 6" x 8" in size, using a photograph of some flowers I had on hand.

While I can't claim to have digested all of the information in this one quick painting, I was greatly inspired by his work and I learned a lot from emulating him. That's exactly what I hope this lesson will do for my students. Be inspired!

Keep going, gang,