This week in the watercolor class I am taking at the Canton Museum of Art, we worked on glazing, and working with negative space. Negative space is one of those things that really confuses me, so I am glad to have an exercise that forces me to experiment with it.

Aspen Leaves

Our assignment this week was to follow this tutorial. I watched Kit (our instructor) do a demonstration of the first few steps of this tutorial, and decided to do my own take on it. Instead of following the tutorial exactly, I tried to take the ideas into mind, and create an image of my own. So, instead of religiously following the colors that were discussed, and trying to exactly match the end result, I just picked my own colors, and sort of winged it.

I am very pleased with the final result. I expected this to be a lot messier than it was, because the whole thing is a process of negative painting, but I was surprised that I was able to carefully paint around leaves and stems without coloring inside the lines too much. (Not outside the lines, because it’s all negative painting.)

Essentially, you start by covering the paper in a graded wash. Then, you draw on that wash a set of leaves and twigs. Then, you paint around those leaves and twigs. You repeat those steps a few times, and each time the negative spaces that you paint grow smaller and smaller, since they are intersecting the negative space from the previous layer. It took a long time, and was much more fiddly than my typical painting style, but I am very happy with how it came out.

One thing that occurred to me is how I have this tendency to saturate pigment too quickly. I really need to work on letting contrast build up more gradually, and not leap from my lights to the darks that really set everything off. It’s tempting to do so because the darks really make everything pop off the page, but if you fly through the mid-tones, you end up with a two dimensional value structure that leaves the painting feeling flat. Because this exercise relies on painting subsequent glazes on top of one another, you really have to be careful with the values – or you end up with dark darks right away.

I was going to go through a whole thing explaining butter, cream, milk, coffee, and tea, but I think I’d like to save that for it’s own post a bit later.

I also painted a new version of James & Verna’s barn, which I was really pleased with. I tried to repeat some of the techniques I learned in Joseph Zbukvic’s book, and I am happy with the results. I would talk a lot more about it, but for now, I’ll just post it here. I will be painting it again in the near future.

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