Art Classes and Education

Class Three

I would’ve liked more time to re-do my homework painting, but once I got to class and started talking to the other students, I discovered that my problems with the scooping technique were not unique to me. Lisa’s official criticism was pretty much what I had learned on my own – keep the palette clean and separate, no more than 3 or 4 brush strokes at a time, then clean the brush. Try scooping just 2 colors if it’s getting muddy and plan well enough that you don’t have to go back over what you’ve already painted. She said my technique was good and seemed happy, reminding me that the point of these paintings is to learn the technique. Painters rarely use one single technique to paint an entire painting, rather using a combination for different areas.

Today’s class went super fast, right from the minute we started we were painting. You pretty much need to be there and get your paints set up early, get your water, so you’re ready to go as soon as the clock officially strikes class time. We painted the whole class, no more color theory! Well, technically we did mix blacks today (huge PITA with my crappy paints that have too much white in them to ever really go black),but then we used those blacks right away to paint a gradient background for something we’re going to put together next class.

There was a big still life scene set up in the middle of the room with several different objects on it. Today’s lessons were using different techniques to paint different objects using our red, yellow, blue color palette. The first object I painted was a tall wine bottle using a watery, translucent technique almost like watercolors. I had to keep really watering down my blues and greys to get the right highlights and shadows without appearing too heavy. Next I did a teapot using only my palette knife. That is a lot tougher than it looks and took quite some getting used to. I stuck mostly with blues for that one and found it interesting, but not anything I’d want to do again if I didn’t absolutely have to. It’s so hard to control where the paint is going with the palette knife and it gets so chunky…not for me.

Next up – the loaded brush again, this time all blacks and darks. We were allowed a bit of color with the alizarin crimson, but I had a tough time trying to load up a brush with different shades of black and get an identifiable object out of it. I was trying to paint a rubber glove and I think it looks more like a big black blob. So tough to identify where the fingers are when you’re painting with pretty much all black. This one will definitely need some more explanation and some examples before I grasp it.

The two I didn’t finish are my homework assignments for the week – one object in all white using repetitive brush work (dots, squares, lines, whatever but ONLY your whatever) and a dry brushed object in neutrals. Next class we’re going to cut out all of our different objects and then move them around the background so we can play with the concepts of visual weight and composition.

As we painted the background today, a table draped in fabric, I realized how tough it is to just paint a blanket laying on a table. Doing the individual folds and details, getting the depth when there are no objects…tough! I hope there will come a day when I can paint things from sight with ease.

The big lesson we’re working on is learning how visual weight is affected by the colors we choose and by the texture we use in our paintings. Bright, full chroma colors (those on the outside of the color wheel) don’t look natural so they really pop. They look heavy. Dark colors too and dark areas in a painting. Using more neutral, diminished colors gives the subject a lighter feel. The analogy Lisa used here is a painting of a feather and an anvil. If the feather is in bright primary colors like yellow, red and blue and the anvil is in muted diminished greys and neutrals, the feather will appear heavier, even though our brain knows that’s not true.

I think the texture part is common sense – heavy texture, thick brush strokes give more visual weight. It was fun to really play with this to the extreme though.

I’m looking forward to practicing all of these techniques and then playing around with our composition and placement more. I’ve already learned so many things I want to try in my own paintings. Yay!

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