Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Start with the lightest colors

In watercolor, you can always darken things that don't turn out right the first time,  but it is next to impossible to make them lighter.  That is why I am starting with the whites and yellows. 
First I applied a tiny bit of masque (like rubber cement) to protect the white of the paper in the tiny bits of surf and two waterfalls.  Next a lemon yellow on the ridges coming down from the right edge of the painting, then a more golden yellow on the tips of the bushes in the foreground.  But right now they just look like dots, floating in space!
The next step is a misty cobalt blue sea that drifts into a cerulean blue sky.  It was painted with a lot of water and a lot of dabbing away where there was either too much blue or too much water. 
Finally, some browns and greens in the valley and the foreground and it is time to let this stage thoroughly dry.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

Friday, March 16, 2012

Na Pali Coast from the Kalalau Valley: a start

I start by making a sketch with watercolor pencils.  That way the pencil marks will be washed away by the watercolor as I paint.  I used to be terrible at drawing.  I had to draw a light grid on my paper and a matching grid on my photograph, then try to sketch what was within each square on the grid.  Erasing the grid was always difficult, but critical to fooling people into thinking that I could draw!  I also used a projector and many other drawing aids. 
The good news is that, even with aids, the more you draw, the better you get.  So now I use a variation on the grid method: I fold the photo into 16 squares and I put dots on the drawing paper where the corners of the squares would be.   Then I draw the main lines of what I see in each square and VOILA! a rough outline of the scene appears.
A photo like this has a million details and I need to choose only the few that will make it to the final painting.  The lines of the mountains, the two waterfalls, the tiny bit of surf, the places where Kauai's famous red-brown dirt shows, and of course a suggestion of the foliage.  Some on the right above the waterfalls is almost a lemon yellow.  The tips of the bushes in the foreground are a slightly golder yellow.  The bushes are represended on the drawing merely with little circles showing where the yellow tips fall.
The background is unusual in that the sea has fog in the distance and no horizon shows.  I put in some dotted blue lines to give me a clue as to where the blue and the white meet, but I think I will need to erase 90% of those lines or they will show thru the painting.
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art

I'm ready for a vacation

I'm ready for a vacation, how about you? But nothing is on the calendar right now, so I am living off the vacation photos that other folks post on facebook. Here is a favorite from Kauai, and the couple who posted it just gave me permission to paint it! So my first step is to look at it in black and white, with the contrast high and the brightness all the way to light, then dark. This is reall...y helpful in teaching my eye to see the details and the variations, the pattern within those jungle covered hills. Can you see two small waterfalls on the right?
I also posterized the photo to see what details that might reveal. All of this will help me to decide how much detail to put into the painting. Stay tuned for more steps!
Nan Henke
Texas Hill Country Art