Watercolor Class #2

I took my second watercolor class on Saturday. It was again offered by the Figge, but this class was held at the Stone Building at VanderVeer park.  We met in the hot, old building for about an hour while the teacher (a former art teacher at Pleasant Valley) demonstrated various techniques (how to use salt, Frisket, saran wrap, etc.) to produce different effects.  Then she walked us through her hand-outs, which contained several tips on color combinations and composition.  Many of the tips came from “Painting Flowers in Watercolor” by Karen Simmons, a book the teacher highly recommends.  After the introduction, we gathered up our gear, braved crossing Central Park, and settled in for some plein air painting.

The class instructions did not tell us we would be painting outside, so I wasn’t very prepared, meaning I didn’t slather myself with sunscreen.  I tried to pick a shady spot, but the damn sun moved, and I ended up getting pretty burned on my shoulders.  Despite the sun, though, the first hour/hour and half working out there was super relaxing.  The flowers I really wanted to try painting (nice, symmetrical, small orange daisies) were in the full sun, so I settled on some slightly more complicated flowers (from the Gerbera family, I think?).  They were a almost flourescent shade of fucshia, especially around the edges.

I settled in on the detailed work, painting the inner parts of the flower in tiny detail, outlining the leaves and pulling the color down the petals.  I used the end of a paint brush to “bruise” the paper where the vein ran down the petal.  The effect was very subtle, but interesting. I can’t find any good light this morning, so I apologize for the shadows on the pictures.

While working on the flowers, the time flew by.  The teacher came over periodically and gave me some tips on color (needed to add more purple to get the color truer).  Some park visitors wandered by and said the painting looked good, which made me happy.

Then, I had to start on the background.

I HATE doing backgrounds.

Backgrounds suck and ruin all of my artwork.

I need to start blowing up my subject matter, so that it takes up all of the paper space.

I was fairly happy with the flowers; at least, I enjoyed working on them.  But, once I started on the leaves, I quickly got frustrated.  First, I used the wrong color and made the leaves too dark and dead.  Then I was at a loss about how to fill in all the white space, so I just started adding random leaves in everywhere.  And, I added a nice, washed-out sky.

So, the painting is definitely not hang-up worthy.  But, it was a good learning experience.  I learned that painting outside sucks. You get sunburned, you can’t easily get fresh water, your subject material has the gall to move with the wind, your eye can’t capture the changing colors as the sun passes over, etc.  I am definitely more of a paint by photo kind of gal.

The five other students in the class produced some nice work.  One especially chatty student (a retired woman who just recently started painting), painted a very Salvador Dali-ish canna leaf.  It was swirly and crazy and super cool.  Maybe that’s the key to producing something beautiful – you need to “interpret” it and not try to make a carbon copy of it.

It was a good class, and I’m glad I took it.  I don’t see myself doing a lot of paintings of flowers/plants (I enjoy painting houses much more), but  it’s nice to spend 3 hours with a random group of people who are content to sit outside and try to create a thing of beauty while getting to know each other.

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  1. Beautiful art, but just relax and have fun with it. I find myself getting tighter and tighter on my painting (being a graphic artist by profession) and it seems to take the fun right out of it. The last few paintings that I have done, had colors and technic that I would never used before, and they were a blast to do. Good luck and they’re looking great!

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