Enthralling Day Three!
Painting people - something I thought would be quite a breeze as I have drawn and painted so many of them over the years. Don't know if it was the workshop pressure situation or trying to follow Hazel's steps, but I really struggled to begin with as you can see in the top set of figures. Part of the problem was still adding too much water to my washes and not controlling the blending enough ("You are in control!" says HS) But once again I learnt so much and have been rejuvenated and enthused into wanting to paint people as subject matter again, instead of just for 'work'.
We began with figures on white paper as coloured 'silhouettes', as with the ostriches and antelope. Using the size of the brush (an old brush with the point worn down is good in this case) to dictate the size of the head, Hazel made dots and (carefully shaped with brush) dashes to indicate head, arms and legs - hardly worry about the feet, she says, just a touch of shadow to ground the figure. And "to make figures with life... let the watercolours run together... watercolour is beautiful... the reference is just a guide... bad photographs make good paintings... the secret is to make your colour merge..." - some of her running commentary as she effortlessly produced her line of people strolling away, quite ready to go into a frame or a book. Off we went to try and emulate her - and found it was not effortless at all!
On to 'people with props' - umbrellas, baskets, on donkeys or bicycles - are shapes of shade and tone, not separate elements attached to each other, so again allow colours to merge. "Catch or make the attractive shape...Where arms cross the body, leave a white line on top, allow the shadow side to blend in."
Now here is something I'm sure I should have known, but didn't - if your watercolours are transparent they'll blend together, but opaque watercolours will push out and overtake the transparent colour, as in this example where she's indicated a bright pattern on a skirt by touching Cadmium yellow and red into transparent Turquoise. The turquoise on the right was touched in with transparent Indian Yellow, and it immediately blended with the blue to make green. So if you have a 'coloured silhouette' figure, and you want to add a bright punch of colour for pattern or to introduce light, touch an opaque into the wet transparent. If you mix opaques with transparents on your palette, you'll make mud - who knew??!! I bet many of you did, but it's a revelation to me!
Hazel then went on to paint a quick 'reflected light on whites' painting before lunch, using our own Jacques Kallis and Graham Smith as reference - I couldn't believe the vivid aureolin yellow and prussian blue she washed into the 'white' shadows to start with, but by the time she added the bright green grass, it all calmed into a coherent and believable painting of the cricketers. I didn't have time to finish mine, but here is the beginning of it to show how startling are the shadows before they're put into context by the field (mine may be a little more startling than hers). She hardly mixes colours on her palette, mostly allowing them to blend on the paper - "what people love is the watercolour, not the picture of the cricketers!"
After lunch we were faced with the challenge of a closer up figure, with strong highlights. This one really reminded me of my days as a renderer in the ad industry, and I trusted myself a bit more to do it the way I would have with Magic Markers, rather than nervously follow step by step, and actually they are very similiar methods! Leave the highlights white, in with light tone of burnt sienna, carefully forming the shapes in the face, drop in darks of a mixture of burnt sienna and Winsor violet, then the blue shadow value of the shirt, leaving the edges of the glass and the coke can white. Leave highlights crisp, soften and blend in the shadows - add the stripes in a 'pure' colour, in this case, Hookers Green. Add details into glasses, cans, chair (I should have put more colour into his sunglasses) and wash in the background, carefully leaving the highlighted contour of head and shirt. Voila! This is mine - one I was relatively happy with!
Throughout the day Hazel had been egging us on, saying she had so much more to show us, full of excitement and enthusiasm, but by this point we were all fading - she persevered though, with yet another demonstration of strongly lit figures with deep darks contrasting the lights, I don't think any of us attempted this at the end of the day, we were kaput! Here is Hazel's beautiful painting though - when I get to referring to my notes and attempting this project, I'll put it up on the blog too.