17 April 2017

And at the other end of the spectrum...


We're building a LEGO city for teen summer reading, so this is the illustration (I think) for the flyer. I was going to do something more sophisticated, but couldn't find any good pictures of LEGO buildings to use as source material, and I thought this was cute/silly. We'll see if my co-creators think I should do something more serious for the teens.

Spring Break

No, unfortunately librarians do NOT get a spring break like their more fortunate young patrons or those children's teachers; but I took a short spring break of my own by registering for a painting workshop with Paul Jackson, whose "painting glass" workshop I took last year. I thought we were doing the "magic hour" workshop this time, which is where he teaches you how to paint city scapes during the blue hour just past twilight, but the Valley Watercolor Society opted instead for the "dramatic landscapes" class. I was a little disappointed, but decided to go anyway, because I can always learn something from Paul; and it was quite the enjoyable experience.

We all worked from the same reference photo, taking things slowly, step by step, to learn how to build watercolor paintings in thin layers so as to capture the true luminescence of watercolor. As a person who primarily makes small contour line drawings and watercolors them with a lot of color and a bit of depth and shadow, this is a different way of working for me. I appreciated the reiteration of the lessons on how to control watercolors simply by controlling the amount of water on the page and in your brush.

Here is a photo of Paul's painting, about three layers in:

We have already put Masters Yellow, Cowbell, and some Opera Pink into the sky here; more Cowbell mixed with some Marigold in the sand; and Ocean Blue, Opera Pink, and Masters Yellow lightly in the water. (These are all proprietary colors from the Paul Jackson signature line of watercolors produced by Da Vinci, and I can tell you, they are the best watercolors I have ever worked with--uniform, smooth, true to color, intense.) This was near the end of day one!

The principal rule of working this way is, as long as you lay down your color in an intensity of less than 50 percent, once it dries you can paint right over it and it won't move a bit. (You can also wet it down and take a lot of it back out, if you don't like it!) Get it over 50 percent darkness, however, and you'll have a muddy mess. So you have to mind your color, mind your water, and always work into an entire area at once, or you'll get hard, ugly lines or big uncontrolled blooms. It's tricky, but if you do it right, it works beautifully.

I am not usually at all satisfied with a painting I do at a workshop, mostly because in the process of learning all the tricks, you don't focus too well on the big picture (so to speak), and also because the things you do at a workshop are necessarily new and challenging and you haven't mastered them yet. But I am not too unhappy with my final picture:

There are bits in it that I like much better than I like the painting as a whole, and parts I wish I had left out or done better, but it's not horrible. Which is a big deal for a workshop painting! Now if I can take those techniques and plan something of my own, using the same principles...

Which may wait for retirement. Because the rest of today I need to focus on those contour line drawings with watercolor enhancement that need to be completed for Teen Summer Reading at the library! But it was lovely to have a spring break to consider future paintings...

Here is Paul with his final version. (Look at the luminosity of the water in the foreground. That's something to which I aspire.)

P.S. Let my mistake inform your efforts—don't use that blue "painters' tape" from Home Depot to anchor your painting. It didn't hold the painting tightly enough, and by the second day it had peeled up all along the top and right side and leaked paint out into my margins that were supposed to remain pristine.

Also, Paul is right—you can't cheat when it comes to "stretching" your paper. He wets his on both sides and staples it to the board, and it dries flat every time. I taped mine down, then wetted the front side and used the blow-dryer on it for a quickie alternative, and as you can see from the ripples across the top half of my ocean, that didn't go so well. Which reminds me yet again—if you're going to take a workshop with the experts to "stretch" your abilities, might as well listen to all their advice!

It was really fun to hang out with Paul again, and I hope he comes back and does the "magic hour" or his "birds" workshop next time!