This weekend I decided I would take my own advice, and paint from the book. I decided to paint from one of the books that I have because trying to learn from my own failures has been pretty discouraging. I’m only about a quarter of the way through Ray Hendershot’s “Texture Techniques for Winning Watercolors” which I have really enjoyed painting through so far. So I decided to grab that book and keep painting through it.
The next exercise in his book is called “Clapboard Siding.” This exercise focuses pretty heavily on controlled shadows and using very light pigment. One of the biggest problems that I think I have in the paintings that I’ve been making recently is that I go to thick too quickly. So this exercise, which relies on watery pigment came at a really good time for me.
The first thing I had to do in order to get this paining to work was to create an accurate drawing. I don’t know if I usually get lazy when I do drawings, or if I just follow the advice that I’ve seen from Joseph Zbukvic, but i tend to make sketches that aren’t very careful. This usually results in a lot of wayward lines, and scratchy sketching, which really just means more graphite in the paper.
For this exercise, I was much more careful with the drawing, and used as few lines as I could, while still being careful to sketch out all of the details I would need to paint. I was careful to measure the windows so they were all proportionally sized. I sketched out all the pieces of trim in the windows, and I sketched all of the lines from the clapboard. And when I came to drawing the lines for the clapboard I followed Ray’s advice and resisted the urge to use a straight edge, drawing them free hand instead. Drawing a bunch of straight lines some thing that I definitely struggle with, and need to practice more so once again this was a really helpful exercise. In order to draw straight lines, I like to rest my pinky finger on the edge of the board that my paper is taped to. The tip of the pencil then rests on the paper, at the appropriate spot for my line. I can sort of lock my hand in place then, so that when I drag my hand down I end up using the straight edge of the board (where my pinky is) as a guide for the line. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but it’s essentially like scribing a line.
That extra level of care in the initial sketch ended up being helpful when it came time to paint because I didn’t have to worry about proportions or getting lost while painting the clapboard. I knew my clapboard lines werent going to wander off parallel as I painted, and I knew that they would be relatively equally spaced.
The trees were going to be organic, so I just sketched them very loosely to remind myself of where they would be.
Then, I painted my initial washes. In the sky and grass. I knew I wouldn’t mess with these very much so I just wanted to render them simply, and get those elements out of the way.
Then, I mixed up an exorbitant amount of warm and cool greys. I ended up using my brush to dump a whole lot of water on my palette, and used very little pigment to color the water. This helped ensure I had plenty of the colors I would want ready for the painting process.
As I painted, I regularly charged my brush, and tapped it on my towel to dry it a bit before painting, this helped ensure consistent coloring as I painted, it helped me control the lines, it helped keep a sharp tip on my brush, and helped ensure I didn’t paint these shadows too dark too quickly. This is something I need to improve upon in general. I’m usually so eager to block in my large shapes that I start with heavy shadows, and have nowhere to go as I try to add depth later on.
I first painted every other clapboard panel. This ensured I didn’t paint one panel into the one above it, and cause messy back runs.
By the time I was finished painting every other board, the boards that I had painted first were dry, so I could safely paint the boards in between.
Once the clapboard was all painted, I used masking fluid to protect the mullions in the windows and then painted the windows with a dark gray. Once sheen was off the paper on the dark gray windows, I blotted some warmer gray into the windows to give the effect of reflections.
Unfortunately, I forgot about the shade in the bottom right window, and tried to fix it by lifting, and painting yellow. But, I was impatient, so my shed ended up blurring with the shadow, and I didn’t get the effect I was after.
I then removed the masking fluid, and very carefully painted shadows on the window trim, and added shadows to the windows. This helped the windows look recessed, and really makes the image go from dull and lifeless to deep and emotive.