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Thanks to Sara Rosso of The Daily Post for this challenge. This past year has held many adventures, which are now wonderful memories.
I gave myself a mind-stretching exercise today, involving both positive and negative painting. Positive painting is painting the shape of an object, which in watercolor usually results in a darker object on a lighter field. Negative painting is painting the space around an object. In watercolor this usually results in a lighter object on a darker ground. My goal today was to paint shapes whose edges described objects in the positive on one side and in the negative on the other edge.
It may be easier to see in this photo I took after painting a couple of the shapes.
The top of the shape describes a fern, and the bottom space also describes ferns, although I think I could use some work on the negative shapes.
I will use this painting as a card, but its value to me was greater as an exercise in learning to think about the edges of shapes.
“It takes 120 bad paintings to know something about painting.” - Larry Seiler as quoted by Jeff Mahorney in his blog
Each painting is small in format and should be completed in about an hour or less.
My goals are to improve my technique, to paint faster, and to gain experience with a variety of subjects.
In my earlier post I showed a tracing of the darks in the picture I am working on, “Sitting on a Curb.” For comparison, here it is again:
The next step was to make a negative of this tracing:
As you can see, I have modified some of the shapes. Seeing them in a different format, (here the negative image) helped to point out some needed changes. So now it is evaluation time. What questions do I need to consider?
Are the shapes recognizable and will they be interpreted to mean what I am trying to say?
Are the shapes interesting and entertaining? Do they interlock with each other?
Is there a dominance of either light values or dark values?
I think the shapes are fine, but I am concerned about the dominance. I think the lights and darks are about equal, so I am going to make the background grass become all a dark shape, with mid-values for texture.
Now the challenge is to apply this to the painting!
Yesterday in watercolor class, Gwen Bragg introduced us to another planning strategy. The first step is to take a sheet of tracing paper and make an outline drawing. Then, taking another piece of tracing paper, lay it over the first sheet and make a black and white value study, using a black marker and the white of the paper. The third step is to lay another piece of tracing paper over the first two and make a negative of the second drawing, filling in black where the white spaces are.
Those of you who have been following my blog may have noticed that the project I “launched” in January has fallen by the wayside. It got to a level where I liked what was happening but was struggling with what to do next. I also found that I was reluctant to continue for fear that I would mess it up. How much emotional investment do I have in this piece of paper and layer of paint? Too much, I guess! I have gone back to “Sitting on a Curb” and am applying this planning approach with it. Today I copied the line drawing and made the first value study.
I found several interesting things. First, I need to pay more attention to the edges of my shapes, making sure that they convey the information that is needed. Second, I have massed more of the shapes together, being forced to decide if an area should be dark or light and not falling back on a middle value. Third, I need to address the background shape above the children’s heads.
As I struggled with this today I became aware of how much WORK was really involved – and how much I wanted to avoid it! I would rationalize that I needed a break to clear my head and instead of going back right away, the vacuuming is done, the refrigerator is clean, and the piles of paper in the kitchen have disappeared. The ultimate in avoidance tactics will be when the checkbook gets balanced!
Tomorrow, I will decide on the background shape and then try the negative of this study.
Negative painting is the term used for painting the spaces around an object or shape. One essentially paints that which isn’t there (the negative), leaving the object (the positive) as the lighter shape. Today I used this technique to make valentines, since Valentine’s Day is next week.
My first step was to tear the watercolor paper into the size I wanted for cards. The dimensions were mandated by the size of the envelopes. Then I taped the paper to my painting board, covering over 1/2″ on each side to leave a border. I wet the surface and put in a light wash of the selected colors.
After letting this dry, I traced some hearts on the paper. I painted around the hearts.
When this layer dried, I traced some more hearts, overlapping them with the first layer. Then I painted around both layers of hearts.
After several times of layering in hearts, I penned in a border, removed the tape and had a finished card.
After taking a week off from painting because we were traveling and helping my daughter with her new baby, this was a good exercise to get me thinking like an artist again and energized to finish the projects already started.