Friday, January 29, 2016

Street Tulips - A Work in Progress

Hi everyone!

I'm having a great time these days now that I have just one day a week at the "day job".

Working a lot on my classes, both online and local. I learn something new every week. Both about the subject and about how I paint! Having to sit down and think about just how I'm doing something is really helping me streamline my own process. I even take my own advice sometimes! :)

So far my biggest challenge is making sure I find time to do my own painting! I could get up earlier in the morning, but we won't mention that!

Today I started a new larger painting - for me anyway - 18" x 24". Acrylics of course!  One in my series of images from around the neighborhood. Not that it is officially a "series", just what I've been interested in doing lately.

I thought I would post it as a work in progress, and do updates as I work on it. Might be interesting?
So here is the Block In Stage.
I'll post my reference photo, too so you can see where I'm going.
If you have any comments, questions or see something off - let me know!

The Reference Photo:

So here is the block in. Just big flat shapes, focusing on the value of each area. Also knows as the "ugly stage" :) Just using a 1/2" wide flat brush. My next step will be another layer of block in. Refining and adjusting the values and large shapes, but avoiding any detail.

I want to have some busyness in the background, but will probably keep the colors all pretty neutral so the tulips will pop more. Surrounding rich color with neutrals is a great way to give them more emphasis. The grey asphalt of the street is a natural for that.

Next step - still using only a 1/2" wide flat brush. You want to use one that is fairly stiff at this point. Not a bristle, something with a nice sharp edge.

Here I've worked on the background. Breaking the large shapes into smaller shapes. Still focusing on value, but now trying to refine the color as well.

It will be trial and error to see how much detail I want to add back here. I do know that I will want to keep it fairly quiet so the tulips can take center stage.


Next step - Starting to work on the tulips a bit. Just the yellow ones at this point. Adding some darks and brighter greens to the foliage

Still just using the 1/2 wide flat brush.

Breaking the larger shapes into smaller shapes. Refining the color and the shapes. Looking for those shadow colors mid tone colors and light colors. Adding some dark darks to the dirt in the foreground, as well as some areas in light. Refining the shapes of the shadows by painting the light colors back into the darker colors on the sidewalk.

I'm really trying to keep to big shapes, move around the canvas. Just focusing on refining the color and shapes...

Next update:

Mostly worked on the orange and pink tulips, the road, and a little on the foliage.
Still just using the 1/2" flat brush


Moving on to the background now. Using a small round bristle brush and a small flat synthetic brush to create layers of foliage texture. Thinking now about edges. Softer blended ones in the back, crisper in places as I come forward.

Keeping with the values and colors I established in the last steps. I did decide to go darker with the brownish tree behind the pink tulip. The value was too light there and I felt like it was competing with the lightness of the tulip. The whole plan with the background area is to provide a dark neutral area so that the light colorful tulips will pop.

I want a sense that this is a real place, but just enough detail to give that impression.

Breaking the bigger shapes into smaller shapes. Creating texture in each area by layering different colors of the same value.

I can see I need to make some adjustment to the sidewalk on the right - it looks like it is going up, but the road seems to be going down! Ha.

Anything else stand out as looking weird to you?

Okay, Here is the final :) Hope you enjoyed the process...
"Street Tulips" 18" x 24" acrylic on canvas.

It's available in my Etsy shop: Street Tulips Etsy Listing

Thanks for watching!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Wet vs Dry - Acrylics Dry Darker - The Proof!

So one of the things we deal with when painting with acrylics is that they dry darker then they seem when they are wet.

How many times have you walked away from a canvas thinking your highlights are just right, your value shifts between light and shadow are just right. And a couple of minutes later they are gone! I know I have!

This is because the acrylic medium that is mixed with the pigment to make acrylic paints is a little opaque when wet - and then drys clear.

It's hard to pin this down because it isn't the same for all colors, so I thought I would try an experiment.

I used gessoed canvas and these paint colors in Golden regular heavy body paints:

Napthol Red Light
Hansa Yellow Medium
Ultramarine Blue
Titanium White

I made rectangles of each color, using a double layer so I would be sure to cover the white canvas.

I added white to these and made more rectangles of paint in different values of the same color.

After letting them all dry, I used the exact same mix and brushed the wet paint over the dry and took a photo immediately.

The dry paint is on the left, the wet paint is on the right.

So this is what I saw:

First with Napthal Red Light:

  The first thing you can notice is that there is virtually no difference with the pure tube color. In fact, the paint on the right - which is wet - looks a bit darker. Because this is a fairly transparent paint, and there is still some of the white of the canvas showing through on the dry paint. The wet paint added a third layer and covered the canvas more.

The middle one with white added also shows very little shift (the wet stroke is always on the right)

The last sample, with quite a bit of white added shows a significant shift in value from dry to wet. It's pretty obviously lighter on the right!

Next with an Orange made by mixing Napthol Red Light and Hansa Yellow Medium

You can see again that the pure color, with no white added shows no discernible shift. In fact it looks a little darker again. I went one more step, adding even more white in this one.  You can still see the shift on the lightest one, but I think the second and third show a more distinct shift. This really does affect your outcome, especially when you are adding highlights. I can't tell you  how many times I've added light highlights (I thought) only to come back and they seem to have disappeared!

Another interesting thing to note on this sample. My mixture of red and yellow to make this orange looked very similar to the red in the pure form. But notice how different the color looks when you add white?

Next is Hansa Yellow Medium
Again, no visible shift in the pure tube color. Even in the lightest version, the shift is not that big. Interesting! Hansa yellow is not a strong color. In mixes you have to add proportionally more of it to get it to show up.

Next is Green made by mixing Ultramarine Blue and Hansa Yellow Medium

 I did 4 values again with the green. It's a color we use a lot in landscapes, so I wanted to see more variation. Again - no shift in the tube color. With the center samples showing the most shift. Though when you look at that last one, there still is quite a shift. The wet part looks almost white, while the dry is distinctly darker. That darkest green is sure dark isn't it? Great for making rich darks in your landscape.

Ultramarine Blue

 Again, a fairly transparent color from the tube, so even after 2 coats of paint on the left, the wet paint on the right is still darker because it is covering more of the canvas. Our pattern seems to be pretty consistent! No wonder my sky always looks too dark!!

Lastly, a Purple made from Ultramarine Blue and Napthol Red Light

Again - what a great dark, right? It almost looks brown. And yet add a little white and it's a beautiful color! And again, the lighter - more white added - the more visible the light dark shift is.

So, this was a great experiment for me! I say all the time in my classes "Remember,  acrylic paints dry darker!"  And now I can show you just how much!

  • So the pure tube colors don't shift much. In fact the transparent ones may look lighter - just because there is more of the canvas showing through and a double layer of the same paint will cover more.
  • The more Titanium white you add, the greater the value shift from wet to dry!
  • When you mix those very light colors, like for sky and highlight, don't be afraid to go very very light! What looks almost white wet will dry obviously darker!
Good to know! Hope this helps you visualize this shift better...