Tuesday, June 5, 2012
WATERCOLOR WORKSHOP: Painting Values with Layered Washes
In this simple project, we will be LAYERING gray washes to build up VALUES, from light to dark. We will also learn how to achieve ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE, through these value changes . . .
Atmospheric perspective refers to the effect the atmosphere has on the appearance of objects (in this case, mountains), as they are viewed from a distance. This effect tends to make the mountains, or hills, take on a lighter and lighter value as their distance increases.
With watercolor, we can achieve this effect by layering washes, in order to build up to the dark values gradually.
Start out by drawing two rectangles (freehand) on your watercolor paper. The skinny rectangle down the right-hand side of the paper will become a value scale. . .
Now mix a GRAY, using French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. I like to mix my grays instead of using a gray from a tube, because the result is much more interesting. Once you have the gray color you like, add enough water to it to make a very light version of it. Make sure you have enough to cover the entire big rectangle and most of the skinny one.
With this light gray wash, paint all of the skinny rectangle, except for the top square. . .
Before proceeding, make sure you have a tissue handy. No, I'm not going to make you cry . . . we're going to create clouds with it.
Now, paint the entire big rectangle with this light wash. When painting a wash onto dry paper, it's helpful to have your paper/board at a slight tilt.
While this is still wet, lay your board flat, take a piece of the tissue, and roll it across the top of the paper. . . you can do this more than once . . .
Let this wash dry completely.
Now, draw the furthest mountain ridge with pencil. Using the same wash mixture, first paint the value scale, starting with the 3rd box from the top -- all the way to the bottom. Next, paint this light gray wash from the pencil line (the mountain ridge) down -- to the bottom of the rectangle. Remember to have your board tilted, so that gravity helps you keep a "bead" at the bottom of your wash. Each time you pick up more paint on your brush and come back to the paper, you will only touch this bead of paint, while you work your way down to the bottom. Don't go back to what you've already painted.
Let this layer dry completely. If necessary, you can use a hair dryer after each layer.
At this point, you'll need to mix some more gray, using the same two colors. You can make this wash a little darker -- a medium value gray. With this mixture, paint the value scale, starting with the 4th box down, and paint all the way to the bottom. Then, draw another pencil line, depicting a closer mountain range. Paint this wash from the pencil line down to the bottom of the paper.
Now, make your wash stronger by adding more pigment. Add another pencil line -- tree-lined hills. No details, just indicate by the edge that these are trees. Then, paint the bottom two squares of the value scale with this stronger wash, and then paint from the pencil line down to the bottom of the paper. If, after painting this, you feel that you haven't made the wash a dark enough value -- dry your paper with a hair dryer, and paint it again with the same wash.
Add enough pigment to your wash to make your darkest dark -- almost black. Paint your last box black. Draw the top of a hill in the foreground, and paint it black.
. . . and you're finished! You can see how we've succeeded, through the use of a full range of values -- from light to dark -- to get a sense of depth in our painting.