After discussing a bit about composition and source selection, as well as materials, Rick Surowicz starts the lessons for this course by having you create a value study and a color study.
I have never done a value study in watercolor before, I have always done them in pencil, so this was a big lesson for me. I like this, and find it both faster and more helpful than a pencil only value study. Plus, I can mix all the leftover colors on my palette to get a grey for the study, instead of just washing it off and throwing away the pigment.
The other helpful thing is that he mentions the purpose of the value Study is problem solving. I have thought until now that the purpose of a value study was just to dial in the value structure, but I like this point. The value study can be used to identify trouble spots on the painting, and I can start brain storming ways to fix them.
I also learned that painting water over ink makes a pretty mess. This reminds me of the illustrations by Quentin Blake from the Roald Dahl books.
For example: there are a few troublesome spots in this image:
1) The Bread Loaf Rock.
2) The Cone Rock.
3) The warmth/coolness of the large rock.
4) The dappled shadows.
The Bread Loaf Rick is consistently giving me a lot of trouble. The right face is very dark shadow, this is a value 5 in the painting. The right side is a 4, and goes up to a 2 gradually toward the top. Getting these values in that small space is very hard to get correct.
The Cone Rock gets lost very easily as I paint, but that shape provides some needed shape contrast.
The large rock appears very cool, but there are – I don’t know what to call them… what is the lit equivalent of dappled shadows? There is some subtle warmth on the rock from reflected light that I want to capture, but maybe I’m over evaluating it.
The dappled shadows themselves are tricky. I find myself painting quickly as I race against the water drying, and this means dropping in shadows causes blooms, or they are added with hard edges. I’ll need to explore solutions to this.
The other issue I saw was when I made the color study. Most of this painting is cool, but there are those dappled bits of light. I’m trying to figure out a way to represent that but without success so far.
I want to explore setting the mood with large washes – which appeared to work well in the pre test. I’ll try that on the next color study.
So I tried again tonight. I’m happy with the value study, but the color study made me want to rip the paper in half.
What did I learn?
The water must be lighter in value than the rocks, and must be lighter as it goes toward the top of the painting.
I absolutely hate the Bread Loaf Rock.
The rocks in the distance shouldn’t look like a field of urine potatoes.
Over emphasizing contrast makes black holes that are flat, lifeless, formless, and useless.
I like the effect of applying pigment by lightly dragging the side of a rigger across the paper.
The whole thing needs to be a lighter blue. Indy Blue is too violet. U.M. Blue granulated too much. Maybe Prussian?
The rocks in the distance should be warm, and desaturated.
The reflections should be carefully rendered.
Take my time.
I need to practice wet-in-wet washes.
Don’t paint while hungry and over-caffeinated.