Stick to your plan and pay attention to reference

Lesson 3

Whatever we are doing, we need some kind of a draft in our head or some plan which we keep in mind. However, it is easier said than done. That especially refers to classes. I have noticed that most people want to draw or paint without any plan and without any thinking. It might be so that when starting out it is hard to know what parts or segments should be paid most attention to. There are lots of simple things which make the object look multi-dimensional. By far, those are not only darker and stronger values. Strongly emphasized edges or absence thereof, always darker spots behind the lighter areas also contribute a lot to the spatial perception, not to mention color if it is used. I remember from early years I was told that the darkest dark should meet the lightest light. It can be tough to implement, especially when not having a real reference, but just a photography or sketch. I am personally not excited about patterns which repeat in a regular rhythm such as petals or trees along the path, blooms on a branch and similar things which we unintentionally place on our canvas when there is no firm plan or sketch.

 

Magnolias, recent class demo and I always work together with students straight in front of the class

Why am I saying: pay attention to reference? Because most people don’t do that. When we are just beginning the painting, they would have a look at the reference image or set-up. After a while, I notice nobody looks any more at the reference. You have to! The only exception is when it is a completely abstract work which has been drafted in one’s imagination or when we paint from memory. Painting from memory takes practice, however, and beginning artists cannot handle that too well. Reference or value drawing (if you have created such) has all the answers: where to use dark color, where to make strong edge, where to wash edges to lose them, where to place highlights and what exactly the shape of something is. It is extremely important, much more important than what brush to use. Talking about brushes: always use these ones which you feel comfortable with and which suit the size of the area you are working on. Very simple. We can use no brush at all, use a sponge or palette knife, that is a matter of a preference and choice. I know how some instructors want to make rules about everything. There are no rules in the use of tools. It is very obvious that using a very wide brush for tiny spot is simply difficult and vice versa. I know a lot of artists who create the entire painting with just one brush. I do that sometimes, too.

 

The Pink rose, recent class demo

So, the conclusion is: do not change things around dramatically or completely when the work is halfway through and always keep an eye on the reference. That’s why it is so rewarding to paint from real objects, live is live and photo is just a photo. Live comes with smell, touch, very visible shape and very noticeable values. Do not pressurize yourself and painting: there are moments when we need to stop and make a decision about the next step.

 

Purple pansies, finished just yesterday

Paintings and drawings really hate when they are not treated with due respect. It is much better to allow everything to develop in a natural way. For illustration I have attached the recent flower paintings. There are many more, but they just need finalizing touches. You know: painting is never done, right?

Million shades of everything: experiment!

When somebody wants to try painting, they usually are not very excited about getting lots of materials. However, some people would like to have their own paints, at least some of them in order to work on sketches or perfect the scenes we have done during workshops.

Acrylic color mixing art classes for beginners

Did you know that using just ultramarine blue, primary magenta, cadmium yellow medium and titanium white, it is possible to mix up quite a few thousands of shades, and these mixes are pretty much unlimited taking into account how slight change in proportion would alter the color? We don’t usually use only premixed colors or paints straight from the tube. Everybody is aware that yellow plus blue allows mixing up greens, and red plus blue creates purple shades.

Acrylic color mixing art classes for adults

Adding yellow to different shades of blue and red causes the graying effect and results in fantastic variations of neutrals. Why do we need grey shades and background neutrals? Well, they make other colors shine. We don’t have to always paint sunsets in order to observe how yellow shines on a grey-blue or purple, but we often need those fairly saturated neutrals to build up some scene or object. They also give all objects more substance.

Acrylic color mixing experiment

One can have color charts and theory books and check out all available information on color mixing, yet not manage it when it comes to painting. How so? We know many things in theory. Quite a lot of them, but when it comes to applying the theoretical knowledge in practice, everything is completely different. I’ve observed the following: we just discussed some approach or principle, and we are now about to use what we learned about it practically. What happens? Nothing. Theoretical knowledge without decent amount of practicing is worth zero.

Acrylic color mixing Spring paintings

We were doing a lot of spring scenes, roads and fences recently.

Acrylic color mixing workshop image

This is the image we got done within 3 hours.

I slightly adjusted it later, mainly trees.

Acrylic color mixing workshop Spring scene

Painting, drawing, singing, dancing, playing an instrument and similar can be only taught by explaining, showing and demonstrating. Plus theory which many people assume the most important part and that is not true. The rest is up to that person who wants to acquire new skills or ideas. Because they will have to do this on their own: they will have to use what they just saw or heard about practically, and they will be moving brush and adding colors. It is a great exercise for decision-making: we have to make a decision every second or even more frequently.

I’m always encouraging students to experiment. Experimenting and exploring is the key to knowledge. Why? There is never only one correct way of painting or drawing something. In fact, there are thousands of ways when we are trying to get similar results. Let’s take for example video tutorials. How to paint trees? How to paint clouds? How to paint forest? The answer is: whatever way you find it suitable for you because these tutorials will show how to paint trees according to X, or clouds as Y is seeing and perceiving them, and forest in a manner of Z, but A might consider such trees incorrect, and B will tell you that nobody should paint clouds like Y was doing them. If video material gives you push and you’re trying to figure it out after watching how effortlessly somebody has done it, fine. However, when you are one on one with brush and paints, things are not the same. The more paint colors you have, the more confused you might become. Well, many color mixes yield very close colors, especially in acrylic where everything will be much darker after it dries.

Do not allow anybody to steal the pleasure of discovery from you! Some people are very insecure initially since they believe they don’t know enough about painting to paint. Well, that’s just wrong. There are artists who have more experience, but nobody knows everything about everything. The other matter is that we develop our mastery and build experience only when we take creative risks and dare to explore and experiment. Therefore, experiment, experiment, experiment! It is good to ask a question when something is not happening the way you expected, but there is no need to check every single move on the internet and perform major search just because you are not sure whether to use blue-green or yellow-green on some spot. Do it your own way, it might take longer, but all efforts will pay off when you’ll have painted exactly what you were trying to.

These images show my efforts trying to take a decent picture of a wet painting in a poorly lightened room.

Acrylic color mixing Road to Spring

However, I quite liked two of these not ready for a website images:

Acrylic color mixing Spring scene

This has reflection because it was too wet.

Acrylic color mixing Spring painting

This came out darker than in reality

It is much better to have your own painting on the wall than some print. Print is a print, it will never have the energy of an original, therefore it makes sense to frame also kids art because it has that special touch. Does our art have to be perfect? We can certainly try to get to that stage, but absolutely flawless and impressive art is extremely rare. It sometimes happens, obviously not with every single piece. I’m doing this all the time: just working towards one great picture which will be the best ever.

Two major errors are these: beginners try to paint with hardly any paint, with a tiny droplet of it. In acrylic that means, it dries out almost instantly.

Acrylic paintings art classes for teens

The small poppies, just a 15 minute exercise, looks good on the wall, not that great as a picture.

Second: beginning artists always pay attention to color and most often absolutely no attention to value. We can change color in a second, but for any painting we need some kind of values placed accordingly to our plans. Therefore: experiment! So that you can meet the spring in nicely decorated house and use your own paintings for that purpose.

Road to spring acrylic painting by Inese Poga

Finally got a better picture which looks more than the real painting.

Evolution of the blue cup, Part 2 Drawing and painting steps

I actually love drawing more than painting. During classes, I am usually giving quick demonstrations on what is the best way to draw some shape or object, what helplines to use, where to place something and why to do so. Students who have just started out need a lot of explanations why and what should be done in a drawing or painting. That includes explanations about different types of pencils, brushes, paints and paper.

I did not plan these drawings and paintings, but added to them some item whichever I needed to demonstrate at that moment. We don’t use masking fluid because the class is too short. We are using just paper, brush, paint and plenty of water; in fact, we are learning how important water and paper towel is in achieving the desired effect. Every step needs to be repeated for many times until its purpose is clear.

Drawing the blue cup and carrots

Adding watercolor to drawing

Adding background to simple watercolor still life

I drew the cup first so that students would know where to start. I added some carrots later since we needed to see how to apply watercolor on them.

I drew the pot at first and added some items as we needed to apply some watercolor paint. My painting style could be actually described as drawing with the brush.

 

Still life demo watercolor vegetables

Adding background to watercolor still life

I have been drawing for as long as I can remember, and any drawing does not take me much time and I don’t usually have to look at paper all the time. I’d rather try to look at the object while I am drawing. Since the light is changing, I have to work fast and mark the darkest values right away. I sometimes simply remember them and recall the scene later. Our goal was not to achieve very close likeness or very realistic appearance. We tried to focus mostly on the basic drawing.

Good tools are very helpful, however one should not put off artistic activities just because materials are not perfect. We can always get everything as we go.

I’m sometimes receiving messages like this one:

“I really wanted to learn drawing and painting all my life long, but something always came first: family, kids, work, tiredness, illness, lack of energy and later doubts whether I was able to even start it that late in my life. That never happened, I never found time for painting, and that hurts me because that was one of my dreams which could have been fulfilled so easily just having a bit more persistence.”

I’d say: do not let that happen.

Evolution of the blue cup, Part 1, drawing and painting in watercolor

Most of my students are absolute beginners in drawing. All of them expressed interest in doing watercolor still life, floral and some scenery paintings. Drawing from a real object is not the same as tracing a photo. Photography is already flat, and we don’t have to transfer anything in our imagination. We were following the basic steps for getting our basic shapes somehow right. My advice would be this: if you ever want to learn drawing freehand without copying ready images, start with drawing real objects. Even though first results are usually not breathtaking, improvement is steady, and this ability progresses with every new drawing one does. This actually means to exercise and develop our visual perception, to enhance the way we are seeing things. Everybody sees the same object in a slightly different way, and that doesn’t involve only one’s eyesight. Being able to transfer onto paper or canvas what we are seeing requires to know what we are looking for and what some particular object has which is worth implementing, keeping, emphasizing, enlarging, reducing, omitting, reproducing or transferring.

Almost after each class students would say that they are never going to look at some simple object the same way again would that be cup, carrot, flower, tree or sky. That’s exactly what I’m aiming for: to start noticing things which otherwise would draw no attention to them: shadows, values, colors, shapes, proportion and relationship within and between objects.

The beginner class means to start with explanations and demos about pencils, pencil lines, erasers, papers, brushes, brush strokes, ways of mixing up paint, mixing colors and finally applying paint on paper. Students who want to just try drawing and painting usually don’t have the best quality paper, brushes or paints. We are not using any masking fluid because the class is too short to wait until it would dry. The most embarrassing part usually is the bad quality watercolor paper. It almost seems that some Canson or Strathmore watercolor papers should have warning on them: do not use for watercolor painting. The weight was acceptable, it was cold pressed paper, but sometimes it was coming off in layers, not absorbing anything and so on. Well, we had to use what was available.

We began with mapping the paper: we allocated some spot to each object and did a very simple outline drawing. That sounds very easy; however, it took a while. Yet, we were trying out something completely new and not experienced before.

We applied the first washes. That took a while, as well. Beginner class is a very special one because people are expecting to make some discoveries and gain absolutely fresh experiences here. It’s not the same as a workshop with painters who already know what that’s going to be like.

Still life demo watercolor vegetables

My experience shows the following: students who have always been using photos cannot adjust to or it is more difficult for them to switch over to drawing from real life objects. Some of them were using grids, scaling and measuring each square, after that they drew in whatever was in the particular spot and accordingly applied paint. Some told they were unable to see shadows and shapes when there was a real set-up of some fruits, vegetables or other items.

Even though the first drawings may not be perfect, results will get better after a while, and there will be less and less objects which one cannot draw. Patience is still needed. I hope nobody expects to become a master in drawing just during one or two classes. Repeating at home what was learned in the classroom would be fantastic, too bad, many students don’t have time for that.

In my opinion, the best is: simply draw as much as you can, whenever time allows. It is not that important what the actual object is.

Tomatoes-parsley-jar still life drawing

Drawing classes for beginners

How else does exercising and practicing visual perception work? It facilitates the visual memory and some other brain functions. There is evidence that education and learning produce favorable changes in the brain regardless of age. Drawing and painting are always useful for stimulating the brain activity. Learning over time enhances memory and, thus, facilitates the survival of new brain cells.

NEW this fall: acrylic for teens and advanced drawing plus watercolor

Many teens expressed interest in acrylic painting last year.

Such classes are lots of fun, they are exciting, and students can create very real art for whatever needs they have: decorating teen’s room, giving as a gift or preparing a portfolio for future studies in an art college.

Acrylic painting classes

I have scheduled 1 acrylic painting class for teens and young adults (10 to 18 years) during this fall term.

Thursday 5.30 pm – 6.30 pm (teens/youth 10-18) Fee: $14

Lots of excitement, lots of discoveries, lots of fun, not to mention the happiness of having created something.

Materials are not included; however, the material list for teens is noticeably smaller than for adults.

Acrylic painting supplies

Canvas, canvas board or heavy watercolor paper approximately 14 x 18 in or 16 x 20 inches in size.

2 or 3 fairly soft brushes: 1 flat (1 to 1.5 in), 2 rounds: 1 size 8, and 1 size 12 with fine tips.

Acrylic paints:

Titanium white; Payne’s gray; Cadmium red medium, Cadmium yellow medium, either Cerulean blue or Ultramarine blue. More colors are optional.

Pencil, eraser, red, brown, blue markers

Pretty many sheets of thick paper towel and medium large plastic or paper plates

Kids and teens who want to draw more and use watercolor or watercolor pencils are welcome to attend 2 Tuesday watercolor and drawing classes and 1 Wednesday drawing, sketching and painting class:

Tuesday 5.30 pm- 6.30 pm (teens/youth 9-15) Fee: $14

Tuesday 7 pm- 8.30 pm (teens 10-18) Fee: $16

Wednesday 5.30 pm- 6.30 pm (teens/youth 9-15) Fee: $14

Development of observational drawing, visual perception and artistic abilities; starting with simple objects, perspectives and scenes and gradually achieving excellent results. Very exciting classes with plenty of pleasure to explore new themes.

Watercolor painting supplies

Materials include good watercolor paint set (please do not get absolutely spicy shades), watercolor paper from 14 x 18 and up to 16 x 20 in; 3 watercolor brushes: 1 flat (1 inch); 1 round size 8 and 1 round size 10-12, all with fine tips, pencil, eraser, cardboard base and painters tape to attach the paper, rather larger size plastic palette for mixing up paints and fairly many sheets of paper towel.

Watercolor pencils are optional.

Registration is already on.

Art classes: acrylic pancy painting

I have scheduled an introductory class for new students and those who might be interested on August 29 between 4 and 6 pm. I will pass out applications, answer questions and show materials.

I hope to see you at my studio-gallery!

Students told they really enjoyed my classes last year!

For any questions, please e-mail:

inesepogaart@gmail.com

Wake up and get in mood for spring

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Living in more and more civilized world, we are loosing our ties with nature and seasonal cycles. Light and sunshine are very important factors which can tremendously facililate our energetic resource regeneration and our recreation, but lack of these essential elements causes inevitable destruction and death of anything organic and alive.

Lux aeterna – the eternal light, is the light in its highest meaning, light as a symbol of timeless flourishing and development.

I don’t think, it’s coincidence that “luxury” and Latin “lux” (light) have the same linguistic root. And, yes, the sunlight is a luxury which we are taking for granted.

Animals and plants are more involved in natural processes, and, no wonder, they thrive and bloom, and are at their energetic top-levels in spring. I suppose, humans were pretty much the same, but the artificial surroundings, which allow us to imitate any season and, thus, facilitate our functions regardless of the weather, don’t require us to feel and understand nature any more. Most of us have our shelters, and who actually cares, how long it’s going to rain or snow.

However, those of us who have still maintained the extraordinary sensitivity to underlying processes of nature, would probably agree that spring has not lost its importance as a driving force of the new seasonal cycle.

Nature wakes up, live juices start to circulate in trunks of trees, grasses and weeds lift up their tiny heads, buds are getting bigger and bigger with every second, first blossoms show their faces to the sun, and birds give the best concert of the year, especially when the day is bright and sunny.

Well, it’s really the right time for new initiatives, new challenges and wake-up activities. This is the renaissance time of our town, city, area, land, country, hemisphere. This is such a breathtaking renewal of our mind and soul, and our body shouldn’t be left behind.

We are welcoming the return of spring with our colourful floral paintings in my studio-gallery, and I will show  in my next post how we are drawing and painting these artworks.

We had exciting March break workshops

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.

Chninese proverb

That is so true, and I would like to add, that knowledge or skills cannot ever bother you or become an abuse. What you have learned, is a life-long gain and a never ending opportunity to find out how exciting and unlimited one’s life can be.

We had a busy March break week. During the first workshop days we did a landscape, or rather marshscape with some marsh grass, distant trees and water. It seemed that the image was very well chosen, because results were genuinely impressive. We didn’t waste any single minute, and got almost done one more small scene with purple spring crocuses.

I think workshops are good for students who would like to refresh their skills, or get some inspiration for a new artwork.

 

Developing drawing skills

The truth is that we first have to learn seeing a three dimesional object in order to put it on a paper or canvas and recreate its  all dimensions with art tools and means.

 

Painting spring flowers

Alia and her beautiful painting of marsh scene