My interest in art in general and watercolor in particular, began in my high school days. I was fortunate enough to have an excellent arty instructor who took an interest in me. He encouraged me to develop a unique style, which I am still working on. I now wish I went on to art school after high school. Unfortunately, I listened to those who said I would be a “starving artist” instead of an art instructor.
I studied psychology at North Texas State University, now University of Texas in Denton, Texas. I graduated in Clinical psychology and went on to North Texas State University, where I earned my Master’s in Clinical Psychology. I worked for the school board, heading an evaluation team and then to Shreveport Mental Health Center, where I did therapy and headed the psychology department.
After ten years, I went into the jewelry business, where I remained until my recent partial retirement. My motivation now is to share good composition and watercolor techniques with others and develop their style.
Some Thoughts on Creative Watercolor
You might leaf through any watercolor book or magazine and see a common thread. Though the paintings are beautiful, most artists’ paintings look a lot like other artists’ paintings. It seems they often lack a unique style that distinguishes them from any other. I can teach you techniques, but the style you develop must come from within you. It is something you develop mostly through trial and error and often over time. It is what makes your paintings unique from others. If someone entered a room with many artist’s paintings and immediately recognizes, from a distance, and it is yours, then your artwork is unique to you and others. It not only gives you a sense of satisfaction, but it is also what makes you unique.
It’s been said that reality is limited, but imagination is boundless; it’s also said that nature may be beautiful but not always graceful, which is also true for man-made structures. In my opinion, it is our job to make the scene more graceful, moving, engaging, or meaningful.
Our job is to bring the viewer’s attention to a specific part of the painting, the focus point. The focus point is the meaning or central theme of the painting. Techniques can help bring the viewer’s eye to where you want it to be. Sometimes it can be done with only a slight tweaking. Sometimes major changes must be made to make a painting with the features described above. I will do whatever is necessary to make a better painting, even if I have to compromise or stretch reality at times. I like to aim for effect or impact, a scene with some drama.
It is common to think that a watercolor painting is unforgiving, and you have to live with your mistakes. 300-pound cold press paper and watercolor gouache make it possible to change your paintings direction as many times as you wish and even correct mistakes through scrubbing and painting techniques. 300-pound cold press paper can handle scrubbing quite well and is not inclined to buckle. Gouache is simply opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance. It blends well with common watercolor paints and with other colors of gouache.
I was fortunate enough in high school to have an instructor who taught me the importance of texture. Another word for texture is detail or at least the impression of detail. I found that a dry on dry technique helps create a fine texture, making your painting sparkle.
Another common misconception, in my opinion, is the concern that it will ruin my painting if I do too much. I do encourage glazing, which is repeatedly coating color over color. If done correctly, this will give your paintings a glow or luminescence.
Do not be locked into a rigid plan of where you are going with your painting. A painting is an evolving object, so go where it takes you. Let your painting change when the change enhances it.
Leave a little for the imagination of the viewer. Try to abbreviate details with the most important parts amplified. Also, avoid straight lines exact geometric shapes. By doing this, you allow your paintings to be interesting and keep the viewer’s attention.
GENERAL OUTLINE OF WATERCOLOR CLASS WITH ABE
Supplies First Week
- 300-pound cold press paper (1/2) sheet
- Red, yellow and white Gouache
- Other associated colors watercolor paint
- Pencil outline of scene copied from
Using “pointers” to direct the eye to focus point
Once the outline of the painting is made and the focus point is established, remove from sight what you are copying. (When you are copying, you are compromising your creativity.)
Frequently observe painting from a distance. As long as you only view a painting from a flat table (therefore at an angle), the view is distorted. Continue to observe from a distance throughout painting frequently.
Use lighter and brighter colors for the focus point.
Glazing (color over color)
- Glazing is what makes the painting glow or have luminescence
- Glazing gives the painting interest and reduces monotony.
Use Gouache to color over and enhance.
Scrubbing before Gouache if needed
Dry on dry technique for texture and to add interest.
- THE CLASS IS A WORRY-FREE ZONE.
- THERE ARE NO MISTAKES THAT CANNOT BE CORRECTED; ANY WATERCOLOR PAINTING CAN BE ENHANCED OR IMPROVED, THERE ARE NO MISTAKES THAT CANNOT BE CORRECTED.
ELEMENTS OF GOOD COMPOSITION
I. Focus Point. The main point of interest at which you want to direct the viewer’s eye.
- Lines or “arrows” direct the eye to the focus point.
- Sharp contrasts of light against dark values will help keep the viewer’s eye at the focus point.
- Contrasts of complementary colors help to draw attention to the focus point.
- Exaggerate the focus point, but try not to make it too contrived.
NATURE IS BEAUTIFUL, BUT NOT ALWAYS GRACEFUL, THAT IS YOUR JOB.
II. Form or Pattern. E.g., A form that is easy on the eye and is not distracting, e.g., “S” shape, spiral.
- The pattern directs the viewer’s eye to the focus point.
- It helps create a dynamic picture to keep your viewer’s attention.
- How the pattern flows helps give the picture a feeling of movement.
III. Keep it simple, eliminate any clutter, so it is not busy.
IV. Asymmetry is more interesting than symmetry, which can be boring and lose the viewer’s interest.
- Try NOT to make perfectly straight lines or patterns. Make it lively.
- Vary shapes slightly; it adds interest. A bit unpredictable or uneven is best.
- Keep focus point away from the center.
- Your picture does not have to be perfect; it only has to be believable.
V. Good composition looks good from a distance or up close.
1. Frequently move about 9 feet away from your art to view it.
a. When you are close to it and on a flat surface, you are getting a distorted view.
b. You will be amazed at the things you will see about your art when at a distance.
VI. Once you have an outline, remove the picture you were using.
Why? Because the world of reality has its limits, the world of imagination IS BOUNDLESS !!
- From this point on, your piece of art will be YOU.
- Change any part of your outline by erasing and adding new lines or details based on the above techniques.
VII. “FEEL GOOD” aspect. Does it feel “right,” especially from a distance?