For years, I’ve played with paint and markers and colored pencils. After taking tutorials this summer for Photoshop and illustrator, I was astonished at how much I learned in a short time, and how much I hadn’t known from years of aimless experimentation. I realized– I must have similar gaps and oversights in other self-taught areas.
So I am taking a watercolor painting class. I’ve learned a ton, had fun, and been inspired in other artistic endeavors as well. The excitement of this class has re-energized my work on a second set of fairy tales. And I just signed up for a pop-up book class in August!
Week 2: Painting with one color from a photograph. Focusing on value and texture and mark-making. Sometimes I’m afraid to take risks painting, where there isn’t an undo button and sometimes your choices just don’t look good. In these, I tried techniques involving gouging the paper, spattering the paint from the brush, and painting wet-in-wet.
Week 3: Still life. To start this painting, we painted the bright parts of the composition with a warm color (I chose the yellow on the tabletop though orange and red can be appropriate choices too) and the shadows with a cool color (a less intense version of the shadow under the bowl). Sunlight is warm compared to the cool shadows it casts, so painting these casts evoke such settings. Then the brighter colors go over these washes, with more illuminated regions taking warmer casts and more shadowed regions taking cooler casts.
Week 4: Still life (still in progress). In this painting, we chose another painting to emulate, and tried to style our still life after this painting. (I would post this image, but I really have no idea as to the copyright implications.) To emulate my choice, I 1) tried to keep objects as more simplified shapes rather than intricately detailed and 2) planned for certain regions to be brightly painted, and others to pull most of the paint off after I applied it. All the red in this image is bright as are the labels of the bottle and the box. The bottle glass and the bowl glass I washed out. To finish this piece, I still need to add a bit to the napkins and plate under the bowl. I want to do this with comparatively little paint, and to allow to the eye to fill in the negative space.
This week I am spending most of my time painting the line-art from The Galactic Adventures of Zish and Argo. One of the things I really like about watercolors is that they travel well. I’m on the road for the next couple of weeks, but it is just as easy to paint here as it is at home. A major reason for the portability is the type of materials I use. I bought a Windsor-Newton field box set several years ago, pictured below. At $50, you might experience a bit of sticker shock. I’ve only recently had to start replacing pans; it lasts and lasts.
I have used the liquid watercolors as well. I find I enjoy the quick set up of the solid colors. There is no need to dole out paint as you go, and you only use what you need. Plus it’s easier to travel with. The solid paints can still deliver good intensity and brightness. I roll all my brushes up in a bamboo case like this one, and then I’m ready to go anywhere and paint anything. If you have a pigment-ink printer, you can economize on your watercolor paper by selectively choosing what you print. I discuss that more in an old entry, here.
Last year I got a medium format pigment printer (epson r2000). With research, you can get a decent deal on these kinds of printers. I purchased mine for $300 (with rebate) while it now lists for $550 (but remember, the ink is always a swindle). If you know how to use color profiles and tune your screen’s color, these printers can be a ton of fun. Printing photos was the main motivation for my purchase, but the other less expected uses have been equally exciting.
Watercolor painting and pigment printing
Pigment inks are waterproof after they dry. Long ago I learned the hard way that normal ink jets are not waterproof. This feature of pigment inks has helped my watercolor process immensely. Now I can do line art on low quality paper. Then I scan the line art in and I can digitally fix it. This can mean a number of things: I can remove a badly placed stroke, or I can rearranged items in space. For the Zish and Argo stories, I did preliminary line art, and moved things to satisfy the needs of the page layout.
Once the line art is optimized, then I can print to the expensive watercolor paper. I probably only use half of my preliminary line art, which is an awful waste of premium watercolor paper. But now I can be efficient. Printing line art is additionally attractive because it uses little ink. Additionally, I can print several copies, and have several chances to get my work just right. I did the featured image art using this procedure.
Printing on fun materials
The printer can also print to some fun surfaces. It can print to basically anything you feed through it, like poster board, wood, foam board, canvas, or other sufficiently heavy fabric. Obviously, it can also print to any sturdy paper as well (I print frequently to drawing and watercolor paper).
I recently did my first project printing to canvas. I then used this canvas to cover a book, shown below. This canvas is also designed to stretch over a frame like any canvas.
Any additional ideas on creative printing? There’s nothing better than using a tool on hand in a different way.