Friday, December 27, 2013

Tips: Value creates distance

This very simple watercolor demonstration can help you have a better understanding how value creates distance in a landscape. 

This segment is from my Atmospheric Landscape DVD part 2, or you can find more information on how this basic technique is applied to other landscapes in my book Watercolor Essentials by Northlight Publications or visit

Monday, December 16, 2013

Tips: How to Paint a Rainstorm in Watercolor

With only a few simple steps and a limited palette learn how to do paint a rainstorm in watercolor. .. enjoy

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tips: How to see value

We all know that value is what gives an image depth, but many people have a problem seeing it. When you look at a subject you can easily see light and dark and maybe an occasional medium value. The trick is to notice other value changes, the more subtle ones. Because this is what will make your painting more interesting.

I know that many artists talk about values as numbers, I can never remember which way it goes 0-10 dark to light  / 0 - 10  light to dark.  Everyone seems to approach the scale a little differently. Either way the scale below will give you an idea of the range of value that can be used. 

For instance - See what I mean  

Values are very important to a painting but I don't think you need to feel that you have to remember which way or what number a value is. I think it is much more important to just start to have an awareness of them and intuitively begin to incorporate them into your work.

When painting my basic rule is:  For landscapes due to atmospheric conditions, darker colors in the foreground and lighter colors in the background to create distance. But sometimes there can be clouds, which can cast darker shadows on the mountains so occasionally changes may be needed. For flowers I approach it differently it is actually backwards, I usually have my lighter colors in the foreground and darker colors in the background to create impact. Dramatic value changes from dark to light or light to dark can help give the viewer a starting point that leads them through different values into the distance.
Value Example from my "Watercolor Essentials" Book   W/C 140 lb CP paper

How to see value
If you have been painting for a while you probably can just look at an object and see the subtle value changes without any problem. But for those of you that are just starting out and are looking for an easier way to see or understand value all you have to do is use any RED transparent film, acetate or hard plastic to eliminate all color and reveal only the values. This works well if you are plein air painting, doing a still life or looking at a photograph.

If you quilt you may already be aware of this nifty little tool that works for both quilting and painting.  You can get the Ruby Beholder available through quilting stores or online suppliers. If you would rather make your own that works too, go to your local Tap plastics and get a small piece of red Plexiglas and you ready to go.

The Ruby Beholder available through quilting stores or online suppliers

When working from photographs another very simple way to see value is to make a black and white  copy. This way you will be able to see the subtle value changes that you might not have noticed when looking at the color image.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tips: Proper care of Watercolor Brushes

Brushes can make a difference in the success of your paintings, many of them can be quite expense and if you take care of them they can last a very long time.

When painting I like to place my brushes on a terry towel to absorb the excess water and prevent them from rolling over the table and possibly on my painting. After painting I lay my brushes flat or at a “slight angle” tip down to allow the excess water to drain off. 


Cleaning your brush
I simply rinse my brush with clean water. Washing them with too much soap can damage and dry the hair making them brittle. If you feel that you still really need to wash your brush then use a mild soap, such as ivory, baby soap or brush soap (which is specifically designed for washing brushes). Put a little soap in the palm of your hand and work it into the hair of the brush. Repeat as needed.

To reshape your brush, wet the tip then flick your wrist in a downward motion to remove the excess water and reshape the point. If you prefer not to flick your brush, on a soft terry towel remove the excess water then gently reshape it back to a point and let dry.

In between paintings place your clean dry brushes handle down in a heavy clay, stone jar or pot, keep the ferrule (tip) side up in the air to dry. If you are not going to use your brushes for a long period of time you might want to store them in an airtight container. First make sure that they are clean and completely dry. A damp brush can create mildew and damage the hair, if you are storing them for an extend time consider mothballs to prevent against moth damage.

Do not use your good brushes for masking fluids and drawing gum
Do not use your good watercolor brushes for oil or acrylic painting.
Do not cut your brushes to reshape them
Do not leave your brushes submerged tip down in water or it will loosen the glue in the ferrule and the tip will eventually come off and ruin the shape in the tip.

When traveling
Consider dipping your brush into concentrated Murphy’s pure vegetable oil soap - let dry, once dry it holds it’s shape  (if needed you can try this method to reshape your brush or tame some of those crazy hairs that can happen) When you are ready to use them again simply thoroughly wash your brush with clean water to remove the soap. 


Saturday, November 30, 2013

2014 Workshop Schedule

Just in case you want to give Santa an idea of what to give you for Christmas, you might want to look at my 2014 Workshop Schedule

I have added new fun and exciting workshop titles and venues to my existing schedule such as Newfoundland Canada, Gloucester MA, Myrtle Beach SC, Dillmans WI, Mill Valley CA and the Napa Valley CA

What to expect in a workshop:
Please don't feel intimidated or think that you have to compare yourself to anyone else. A workshop is a place to have an adventure, learn new techniques, explore, experiment and just have fun.