Monday, May 20, 2019

Art drawing of Winter Trees

Art Drawing 
Watercolor Painting

Basic Composition 
When it comes down to it, a painting is just a series of shapes and lines of varying tone and color, applied to a blank sheet of paper.  How you arrange those shapes and lines is important, and how spontaneous and free your approach to the the activity is, there must be a satisfying underlying structure. If it isn't, then the vision you are hoping to convey, may be severely compromised.  The art of picture organization  is known as composition. Refer to the previous discussion on Principles of Design to cover Focal Point, Contrast, Balance, Graduation, Variation and Alteration, and Tangents. 

Drawing and Painting Trees
There are a few things in the landscape more fascinating than a winter tree.  Winter seems to bring out a curious combination of vulnerability and strength in trees; they are so bare in their skeletal form and yet have the ability to withstand almost anything and everything that the elements might throw at them.  

Successful sketching is all about observation.  Once I am satisfied with the basic outline, I look at where the light appears to be coming from, and then apply an even shading accordingly. Very often, it is not until you sketch a subject like this that you really begin to understand it; I find I have to draw it.
A photograph of the place will help you with information that may be lacking from your sketch

Photo reference of Winter Trees

Sketch of outline and shadows

On location painting of Winter Trees


Saturday, April 20, 2019

Principles of Design - Overview

Principles of Design

"Path of Light"

A work of art can be analyzed by considering a variety of aspects of it individually. These aspects that make up  a painting are often called the elements of art.  The principles of design are what we do to the elements. I designed the chart above to show the elements of art in the center with the principles of design along the edges.

The design principles were used in my watercolor painting, "Path of Light."  Unity is helped by dominance in line (the straight); in value (the darks), in color (the cools), in texture (the roughs), in size (the dark space), and in direction (the horizontal).  Contrast is found in the values of light and dark located at the focal point.. Gradation is shown on the grass at the bottom of the painting.

Information from Wikipedia on Visual design elements and principles. 
"Design elements are the basic units of any visual design which form its structure and convey visual messages. There was a painter and design theorist, Maitland E. Graves (1902-1978), who attempted to gestate the fundamental principles of aesthetic order in visual design,in his book, The Art of Color and Design (1941); he defined the elements of design as line, directionshapesizetexture, value, and color, concluding that "these elements are the materials from which all designs are built."

Seven Elements of Design
Line – Types of lines are thick or thin, broken or unbroken, soft or hard, curved or straight.  All of them may be in a painting, but only one type should be dominant.

Direction – A well designed painting will have a directional dominance that is horizontal, vertical, or oblique. The dominant direction is determined by the lines, linear shapes, and the angular shapes.

Shape - Anything that has height and width is a shape and may be placed in one of three categories: curved, angular, or rectangular shapes.  Shapes in all three categories may be in a painting, but only one type should be dominant -- that is, some of one type should be larger, appear more often, or both.  
Make all shapes, positive and negative, with two different dimensions, with an oblique thrust and with incidents along the edges (i.e., jigsaw puzzle)..

Size – Shapes are of various sizes in relation to one another: larger, smaller, or the same size. 

Texture – Texture is defined as the surface quality of objects and is detected by touch or sight. Many textures exist in nature, but all are variations of the three with which the painter deals: rough, smooth, and soft. Shapes may have any texture in the interior, but that texture that identifies them must be at the edge. 

Value – Value is the lightness or darkness of colors.   More important for readability.  Mood is set by dominance of one value.

Color -hue, intensity, and value.  Harmonious and complementary colors are the categories of color. 

The Principles of Design are a set of guidelines to be used in planning a painting. Principles applied to the elements of design bring them together 

When all elements are in agreement, a design is considered unified. No individual part is viewed as more important than the whole design. A good balance between unity and variety must be established to avoid a chaotic or a lifeless design.
Dominance is created by contrasting size, positioning, color, style, or shape.The focal point should dominate the design with scale and contrast without sacrificing the unity of the whole.

 Eight Principles of Design
Unity – In the end, any design must be a complete unit, rather than a collection of several. The treatment of the element that appears in one section should be echoed in another part so that all sections are related.

Contrast – Sometimes called conflict, contrast  means "opposite of."  This produces tension between versions of an element, creating interest and excitement. In color, use a complementary color side by side.  In line; straight against curved.  In value; light against dark.  In shape, round versus angular.  And in size, large against small. In direction, horizontal against vertical, and in texture, rough against smooth..

Dominance – If there's one principle of design more important than the rest, it is dominance.  . Dominance resolves conflict and regains unity.  This is done by making one larger than the rest, by repeating it more often than the others, by providing more value contrast around it, by putting the brightest color there, using all or a combination of these techniques.

Alternation and Variation  - These separate principles are easier to understand if we see them both as forms of repetition. Repetition in art is the act of repeating , and we may repeat with variation, or we may repeat with alternation. For example; when painting a forest, I have to repeat the tree shape over and over again. If I repeat it with variation, I might vary the size, shape, color, value and texture. If I repeat it with alternation, I create an alternating pattern of trees with one large tree and three small trees following, then again one large tree with three small following and so on. 

Balance – Asymmetric is informal balance in which a larger shape closer to the center is balanced by a smaller shape further out. When balancing shapes in a painting, it helps to know that a dark shape appears heavier than a light one; so that a small dark shape will balance a larger light shape. 

Harmony – Harmonious elements are simply those elements that are similar.  A straight line and a slightly curved line,  a circle is harmonious with an oval,  a color orange is harmonious with red.  Making elements harmonious is a great help in achieving unity.

Gradation – Gradation is an entertaining quality to the viewer without being too demanding visually. Mainly used with color, value and texture for transition of near and far to indicate distance. 

Complied by Everett of Everett's Watercolors


  •  Graves, Maitland, E. The art of color and design. 2d ed. New York, N.Y.: McGraw-Hill, 1951.
  •  Lidwell, William; Kritina Holden; Jill Butler (2010). Universal Principles of Design (2nd ed.). Beverly, Massachusetts: Rockport Publishers. ISBN 978-1-59253-587-3.
  • Whitney, Edgar A.  Complete Guide to WATERCOLOR PAINTING  ed Mineola, N.Y. Dover Pub,  2001
  • Couch, Tony Watercolor, You can do it Cincinnati, OH North Light, 1987
  • Ranson, Ron Learn watercolor the Edgar Whitney way Cincinnati, OH North Light 1994
  • Lovett, John Design and Color link

Thursday, March 28, 2019

How to Paint Clouds

Cloud No. 1  painted in Watercolor
Cloud No. 2  painted in Watercolor

In a landscape painting you will almost always have to paint a sky; and clouds are important as a landscape element.  The time of day and the location of the clouds in the sky are essential planning items in the composition  for the sky. . The "rule of thirds" is a good guideline:  One-third sky and two-thirds clouds or one-third clouds and two-thirds sky. Taking photos and sketching clouds outside is the best way to learn how to paint clouds. You need to find a variety of shapes and sizes.

There are several techniques to painting clouds. 1. Paint wet-on-wet sky colors leaving white paper to form the cloud shapes.  The wet-on-wet technique gives an abstract look for the sky and you never know what it will be until the paint is dry. 2. Paint  the sky, then lift  the sky colors while they are still wet to form the cloud shapes.  Lifting the sky color with a tissue gives more control of where and how large the cloud areas will be.  3. Another method I use often is the wet on dry technique.  Painting the sky colors around cloud shapes and then adding colors to the cloud shape after it is dry..

The two cloud shapes shown above were created by the wet-on-dry technique.

  • Draw a cloud shape with a light pencil line. 
  • Mix the sky color.  Choices are Cerulean Blue, Cobalt Blue and Ultramarine Blue. Blue is used for a sunny day, Other colors are grey for a cloudy day and yellow, orange, and red for sunrise and sunset. 
  • Load a large flat brush and paint the sky colors (varied from light to dark) around the shapes of the cloud.  Vary the edge shapes and values by adding water, blotting and changing the brush stroke using the sides and flat parts of the flat brush. The key here is to vary the edge shapes. 
  • After the sky color is dry, mix a variety of cloud shadow colors. Choices are Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine Blue, and Quinacridone Violet.  
  • Using a large flat brush, start in the center and apply the lightest color using three different sizes. Change color and apply the darker/grayer colors to the underside of the cloud. Using a horizontal brush stroke on the bottom to give the flat shape. A variety of gray colors are important to shape and give dimension  to the cloud.
  • Blend the damp colors with a dry brush moving the brush in different directions i.e., up, down, left, right. 

An interesting article from Outdoor Painter discusses how to paint clouds. The title and link are shown below.

How to Paint Clouds en Plein Air