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Old 10-24-2011, 08:23 AM
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virgil carter virgil carter is offline
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Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Tutorial Thread
Painting Buildings in the Landscape in a Loose and Colorful Way

Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Virgil R. Carter

NB. Homework thread is HERE

1. Tutorial Learning Objectives: Welcome to this tutorial on painting buildings and other structures in a loose and colorful way. Since this is the introduction to the tutorial, we’ll begin with some general information about the tutorial. Next week, we’ll begin the first week’s lesson, so here’s the learning objectives for the tutorial:
a. Key Fundamentals: Familiarization with selected fundamentals for drawing & painting buildings, structures and geometric objects in landscape paintings
b. Various Approaches: Awareness & understanding of options for composing & painting buildings in the landscape in loose and colorful ways, including the options for illumination, shade, shadows and reflections
c. Putting It All Together: Synthesis & application of the selected fundamentals and approaches in paintings using varied landscape & urban settings

2. Why A Class on Buildings & Other Structures: Buildings and other structures are common landscape objects, found sometimes as secondary elements and often as primary or dominant elements in a given landscape setting. The combination of natural objects with geometrical objects often creates some of the most striking and memorable landscape paintings. Thus, it’s important to learn how to compose, draw and paint buildings and other structures. There are ways to simplify and personalize the use of buildings, which is our goal in this class.

3. Level of painting experience: I’m aiming the instruction at advanced beginners and intermediate painters, who already have some understanding and consistency in mixing and applying watercolor paints in landscape paintings. If you are an early beginner, you are welcome, but I will spend most of the Tutorial Thread on principles of drawing and painting buildings in the landscape, rather than an introduction to paint and equipment. Using the Homework Thread, however, we will be able to discuss any and all painting issues you wish to raise. Our goal is to make the tutorial both a useful learning experience, as well as an enjoyable one.

4. Painting Loosely and Colorfully: This is not a course in photorealism or even architectural rendering. We aren’t going to spend much time exploring how to faithfully capture rusty metal siding, brick or stone masonry, 6 over 6 windows, or how to do believable house portraits. These are all well and good, but, our focus will be on painting buildings and other structures in a personal, painterly way, i.e., loosely and colorfully. Don’t despair: what we do here will help you become a painter of house portraits, if that’s your goal! And we will cover building vignettes, windows and how to enliven your painted buildings!

5. Required Materials: Use whatever you are used to, but here are some suggestions, if needed:

a. Sketch Book: 8.5” X 11”, 70 lb sketch paper, spiral bound in order to lie flat
b. Soft pencils: Soft (Min. B or 2B lead) & kneaded eraser
c. Watercolor Paper: Recommended is artist grade, 100% cotton, minimum 140 lb, watercolor paper (cold press surface suggested); enough to execute paintings for the tutorial on quarter (15’ X 11”) or half-sheet sizes (22” X 15”). Painting large is part of the learning experience! Artist grade watercolor paper may be the single most important element in successful watercolor painting, so don’t economize here unless it’s essential.
d. Paint: Use yourestablished palette with watercolors in transparent, opaque and staining paints (important to have transparent, opaque and staining paints for maximum colorful effects). FWIW, here’s the paints from American Journey & DaVinci that are normally on my palette: Hansa Yellow (PY97), Gamboge (PY3 &PY42), Raw Sienna (PBr7), Cadmium Orange (PO20), Burnt Sienna (PBr7 & PR101), Cadmium Scarlet (PT108), Quinacridone Rose (PV19), Permanent Magenta (PV19 & PB29), Ultramarine Blue (PB29), Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3), Manganese Blue (PB33 & PB15), Andrew’s Turquoise (PB 36, PG7 & PW6), Phthalo Green (PG7), Skip’s Green (PY3, PG7), and Indigo as a darkening neutral. You should use whatever paints you have and are used to. Strive for artist grade paints, from any recognized global manufacturer of watercolors, if your budget permits.
e. Brushes: You can get by with just four brushes--1”-2” flat (for dampening the paper and very large washes), and for everything else a No. 12 (or larger), 8 and 4 rounds, or whatever you are used to (good nylon fiber will do, as long as the rounds will point well). I’m also partial to squirrel mops, but these are an “acquired taste” in brushes! The suggested brush sizes will enable you to paint easily on quarter, half and full-size watercolor sheets for a very long time.
f. Other: Palette and other necessary equipment that you normally use.

6. Tutorial Information

a. How We Will Work:
i. Buildings as shapes: One of our key approaches to painting buildings (or any other subject) loosely and colorfully, however, is a mindset: we will see and think of buildings as interesting visual abstract shapes, rather than as objects, or “things” with tons of detail, pattern and texture to be mastered and slavishly rendered. Buildings and other structures are simply shapes, the same as trees, mountains, skies and other landscape elements are shapes, to be used by the painter to make an interesting composition and design. Shapes can be easily moved, edited, enhanced and linked to other shapes in a painting to create to create a work that is a visually interesting and personal painting. So that’s the way we will think and treat buildings: as interesting visual abstract shapes!
ii. Use of Sketch Book: Another key approach to painting loosely and colorfully is the use of a sketch book. If you took my previous tutorial “Painting Loosely and Colorfully in Watercolor Landscapes”, you know what I’m about to say about sketch books.

I recommend everyone get and use a sketch book for each of the exercises in the tutorial. Why a sketch book for watercolor painting? Here are three important reasons why a sketch book is a painter’s best friend:
i. Make a plan for success: A sketch book lets you explore many options and confirm your painterly intent. The explorations allow you to begin painting with a plan.
ii. Work out the issues before painting: Issues such as perspective, composition, illumination, values and color, etc., can all be explored and evaluated in your sketch book. Your executed painting can truly be loose and colorful, based on your pre-painting work, and your decision-making, in the sketch book!
iii. Get past the first 20 minutes of the painting: Your sketches should be developed with sufficient information in them for you to use them as the guide for your complete painting. With properly developed sketches, you can confidently work through your painting from beginning to completion, by simply painting from your sketches! You will know if you have sufficiently developed your sketches if you can paint from them with little or no reference to your photos! Your sketch book is your best painting friend—so use it!

b. Course Logistics: The tutorial is organized as follows:
i. Tutorial Thread: This is the thread you are reading now. It is where each lesson will be posted, one after another, generally every 6-7 days. The thread is “locked” and only the WC Moderators and I have access to add materials in this thread. The first lesson will be posted in this thread on 1 November.
ii. Homework Thread: This thread is the “open” thread, where all participants will post their work, questions and comments. This thread should be open as you are reading this and you can post early questions and comments there. It’s our “virtual art studio!” It’s where I will respond to work that is posted and to the questions and comments you may post. This is where I will let you know when the next lesson is posted in the Tutorial Thread.
iii. Formal Instruction vs. Painting: One of the classic and traditional methods for instruction in art is to have students paint to the maximum extent possible. There is no learning substitute for painting, painting, painting! To that end, this tutorial is organized with formal instructional content in the early lessons. This means linked, step-by-step learning material in the early lessons. Each of the early lessons has a painting exercise designed to employ the fundamentals of that lesson. Subsequent lessons employ application of all of the preceding fundamentals, plus introduction of new fundamentals. We will study a succession of building subject matter, from simple to more complex, each offering new and different challenges. Our step-by-step learning process will be supplemented by our discussions and explorations on the Homework Thread. The Homework Thread is the place to post your work, ask questions, review other’s work, and build greater awareness and understanding of painting buildings. You will find the Homework Thread a great learning experience, so visit it as frequently as you can. If you pay attention, and participate energetically, I guarantee you will expand your knowledge of and skill in painting buildings loosely and colorfully! And we will share a lot of fun together! How much better than that could it get?
iv. Tip: Participants may get the most from the tutorial by copying and printing the Tutorial Thread, keeping the printed version in a three-ring binder for easy reference where you paint. Sometimes it’s easier to see and comprehend materials when they are in printed format, rather than reading from your monitor. The binder also becomes a permanent reference for future use.

c. Definitions: Loose and colorful are relative terms; they mean different things to different people. That’s good! What’s important is what the terms mean to you, based on the way you paint! If it helps, I’d say that “loose” is synonymous with “spontaneous”; it does not necessarily mean “fast”, “alla prima” (painted all at once in a single application), or “undisciplined”. Loose, to my way of thinking, has nothing to do with how fast one paints, or how many passages one paints. A painting is neither better nor worse simply because it’s painted fast or painted slowly with repeated applications, over time. It’s the finished painting that matters. “Colorful”, in my view, is synonymous with “painter’s colors”, as opposed to “local colors”, meaning color choice is up to the painter, based on personal, painterly intent, rather than striving for technically accurate local colors. Imagination and experimentation are welcome in painting colorfully! Don’t use colors just because “they are there” in the reference material for a subject. You’re the painter and you get to decide what you do (or don’t)! So be bold and have “colorful” fun!

d. Painting Like Someone Else: The idea in this tutorial is not to paint like someone else. The idea is to enjoy and learn, while pursuing one’s own personal intent for painting buildings and other structures in the landscape. We will focus as much on “personal intent”--why you are painting a subject and what you wish to communicate about the subject--as we will on technique. Intent and technique are equal partners in strong and memorable paintings! Think about it: technique alone does not make a memorable painting. And intent, executed poorly, is simply confusing, not engaging!

We will strive for a loose, colorful and individual approach as the means to create visually engaging paintings. A lot can be learned by “walking around”, and looking at how others approach painting buildings loosely and colorfully. We can (and should) learn from one another! So, pay attention to the paintings and comments in the Homework Thread, frequently adding your work and your own constructive and supportive comments. You’ll soon find that the Homework Thread is a great learning resource, in addition to the Tutorial Thread, and it’s a lot of fun!

I’m very glad you’re here. Clean up your palette (no dirty grays in this tutorial!), get some clean water and stay tuned for the first lesson to be posted on ! November 2011!

The HOMEWORK THREAD for this class can be found here. Please post your questions, comments, and work in it.

Virgil Carter

Last edited by painterbear : 11-06-2011 at 10:11 AM.
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:08 AM
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

(NOTE: This is posting one (1 of 2) for Lesson One. Begin your reading here, and continue through posting two, below. The technology only allows for 15 illustrations per posting, so this lesson had to be broken into two parts. Sorry for any confusion.)

Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way: Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Week 1
Introduction to Key Basics

Lesson Objectives: Week 1: Hi folks--let’s get started! This week we will introduce, build awareness and understanding of three initial fundamentals which will act as a foundation for our subsequent work in the tutorial. When we have covered the three fundamentals, we will have a sketching and painting exercise that applies the lesson’s learning objectives. Read on!

This week’s learning objectives focus on the following three fundamentals:

Approaching Buildings--Fundamental 1: An introduction to six principles for approaching buildings loosely and colorfully
Seeing and Understanding the Form of Buildings—Fundamental 2: Awareness and understanding of the basic forms of buildings
Analyzing Photos & Drawing Buildings in Perspective—Fundamental 3: Application of simple perspective sketches and paintings from photos (and real-life building subjects)

1. Fundamental 1: Introduction for approaching buildings loosely and colorfully
a. Correctly formed buildings: For most representational paintings, buildings and structures need to be reasonably correctly formed and drawn in order to be believable. For example, verticals and horizontals need to be just that! The placement of buildings in the landscape and how they are viewed also needs to be believable. We’ll cover more on this as the tutorial proceeds.
b. See buildings as interesting abstract visual shapes: To simplify working with buildings and other structures in the landscape, think of them as interesting abstract shapes, not “things” that must be highly detailed and slavishly labored. Viewers of art are intelligent people and can recognize a building simply by its shape! Not much more is really needed to communicate a building or other structure other than a believable outline! Interesting buildings are those with interesting shilouttes and masses, and which, when painted, include painterly gradations of hue, temperature and/or complementary colors within the major shapes. Don’t get preoccupied with trying to render stone masonry, horizontal lap siding, windows full of small panes of glass, etc. Focus, instead, on seeing and creating interesting (and correctly formed) abstract visual shapes. The painting below is an example of how one can immediately recognize a building simply by its shape and mass:

c. Simplified abstract design: Simplicity in your subject matter is usually the best approach. This is doubly true when it comes to buildings and other structures.
• Compose and paint a translation, not a literal description.
• Before painting, identify your intent—your “big idea” and desired painterly effect. Never start a painting before you have done this.
• Compose buildings and other subject matter as an abstract design and color, with a few strong & visually interesting major shapes; use only the essential elements necessary to communicate intent.
• Don’t get caught up in a wide variety of disparate local forms and shapes, details and color. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean it has to be in the painting! Learn to compose and edit creatively!
• Strive for a highly luminous building, particularly if it is to predominate in the painting. No scrubbing and no mud!

d. Six Principles for Painting Loosely and Colorfully: If you painted in my previous tutorial “Painting Loosely and Colorfully with Watercolor Landscapes”, you will recognize these principles. They are as applicable here, as in the last tutorial, since we will be painting a variety of building types in diverse landscape settings. Here’s a brief summary of the principles to keep in mind, in order to paint loosely and colorfully:

1. Use a sketch book: As I said in the Introduction to this tutorial, a sketch book is one of the secrets for painting loosely and colorfully. Use it as a diary for notes and ideas, as well as to establish your painting intent. Using thumb-nail sketches one can simplify the subject, establish proper perspective, confirm best composition, establish the value plan, work out the color structure and develop the area of interest using contrast. Pretty powerful tool, that sketch book, eh? So make use of it! Here’s an example of my sketch book in use for the painting at the very beginning of this lesson:

2. Painting shapes: Here’s the other major secret for painting loosely and colorfully. Think of elements of the painting as interesting abstract shapes, not “things” to be rendered with slavish technical accuracy! This includes buildings and other natural, organic shapes in landscape paintings. Collect isolated individual shapes together into major shapes and “ground” them, from floating off the paper, with the use of shadows where appropriate. This means you must move, edit, omit, link and consolidate disparate individual shapes from your source material into unified, major shapes using your sketch book! Do this and you will have a much stronger and more personal painting! Remember: it’s the finished painting that counts! No one will ever look at your source material to see if you rendered it accurately. Viewers will only look at your finished painting to see if it’s well composed and executed, engaging and a pleasure to view! Print these last two sentences in the largest fonts your printer has and tape this to the wall above your easel!

3. Composition employing dominance: Dominance simply means something is clearly predominant in the painting, and everything else is supporting and secondary. Dominance makes clear your intent and “what the painting is about”! Use your sketch book to explore and figure out what’s really important in your painting. Usually your area of interest is the dominant area. There are various ways to establish dominance, which are described in more detail when we deal with composition later in this tutorial. For now, just remember to identify and focus on what’s really important in the painting and make everything else supportive and secondary!

Here’s an example of dominance in a composition by creating a visually interesting dominant shape, which just happens to be a building! Other shapes in the composition are supportive and secondary to the area of interest. Do you see how the building shape dominates the painting? We will learn later in the tutorial that shape is only one way to establish dominance in your composition.

4. Simplifying values: Values are important in realist paintings since they enable believable three-dimensional forms, help the perception of space/depth within the painting, direct the eye to the painting’s important areas through the use of contrast and enable variety and movement within a painting. Landscape paintings can be made effective by using a simple 5-step value structure (light, mid-light, middle, mid-dark and dark values). Every watercolor paint hue has an inherent value, which may be lightened by adding water or darkened by adding a darkening neutral such as Indigo, Sepia or other dark-valued paint. Master these five values in your paintings!

Here’s an example of a 5-step value scale to achieve different value effects for the same composition. Look closely to see how attention is drawn to the trees on the horizon, using value contrast in different ways:

5. Cranking the color: Painters have a choice in their paintings, i.e., “painter’s colors” (a highly personal color structure), or local colors (technically accurate subject colors). Painting loosely and colorfully can use either option, but the goal of this course is to encourage the use of personal, painterly color structures, to express emotions, ideas and feelings, rather than striving for completely accurate photographic rendering of the subject. We’ll talk more about personal color in a subsequent lesson. For now, start thinking about your approach to personal, painterly colors.

6. Contrast--Focusing attention on the area of interest: Creating strong contrast in a painting is not a solution for an entire painting. Strong contrast is best reserved for the area of interest, where one wishes to direct the viewer’s eye and encourage it to linger. For example, in the two studies above, the area of interest is the trees on the horizon, where the greatest contrasting values occur (in the first example) and where dark-valued “bookends” are used to direct the eye to the lighter valued area of interest (second example). Contrast helps the area of interest to be dominant in the painting, while other areas are supportive and secondary. There are a variety of techniques for achieving contrast include: values (light adjacent to dark), intensity (pure next to grayed hues), temperature (warm against cool), edges (hard edges attract the eye, while soft and lost edges allow the eye to “see” but keep moving), people, animals & vehicles (the eye almost always is drawn to these) and detail (like people, the eye is drawn to detail, so limit detail to a modest amount only in the area of interest and little elsewhere!). This is another subject that we will explore in more detail in a later lesson. Meanwhile, hide your Number 2 brush and riggers!

2. Fundamental 2: Seeing & understanding the form of buildingsa. Five basic geometrical shapes: To understand buildings and structures, one only has to understand five basic geometrical shapes, and how to draw and paint them under various lighting conditions. Of the five shapes, the rectangle is often the most common shape for buildings and many other structures. Smaller buildings are often horizontally oriented rectangles, while high-rise buildings are frequently one or more vertically oriented rectangles. Triangles or pyramids, cylinders, spheres and cones are shapes also frequently found as elements in buildings and structures. Master drawing and painting rectangles, however, and one has largely mastered drawing and painting buildings! See the following illustration for the five shapes, and some common variations:

b. A building’s basic “building block”—the rectangle: Here’s an early tip to help you master perspective of simple buildings: look closely at the source photograph of a building and find the key “basic rectangle” that comprises the major form of the building. Make the “basic rectangle” the basis of your beginning perspective drawing. When you have identified and located the “basic rectangle”, virtually every other element of a building is one of the geometrical forms that have been added to the “basic rectangle”. Thus, to simplify drawing buildings in perspective, find the “basic rectangle” and draw it correctly in perspective first. Everything after that is simple addition! Now you know the secret for developing a simple perspective! See the following illustrations—can you see the “basic rectangle”? Once you’ve found and sketched the “rectangle”, the roof form can be added by simply placing one or more “triangular shapes” on top of the “rectangle”!

c. Examples of forms in buildings: See how many of the five basic geometrical shapes you can recognize in the following examples:

3. Fundamental 3: A Simple Approach to Analyzing Source Photos & Drawing Building Perspectives:

a. Introduction--Correctly formed Buildings:
i. Verticals: As I said earlier, for most realist paintings, buildings and other structures need to be reasonably correctly formed and drawn, in order to be believable. For example, verticals usually need to really be vertical (it’s amazing how many painters don’t recognize this or don’t execute it properly).
ii. Distortion/Exaggeration: Sometimes, deliberate distortion or exaggeration can add to the painterly effect of depicting buildings and other shapes. For example, a sagging roof ridge or eve line implies age and a certain visual interest. Missing siding, partially open windows or doors, a hole in the wall or roof, etc., all may provide interesting variety and energize the subject. A word of caution, however: first understand and practice the rules for correctly formed buildings and structure, before the occasional use of distortion or exaggeration. Remember, it’s often better to simplify subject matter than to overly complicate it!

Here’s an example of the use of distortion/exaggeration for visual interest. You can decide if it works to add interest, or would have been better to correctly form the buildings with consistent perspective. That’s always the risk one takes when using distortion/exaggeration with buildings and other structures.

iii. Need for Perspective: Why perspective? Since we are dealing with three-dimensional space in our realist paintings, we must have a believable way of illustrating objects in space—near space, middle space and distant space in a consistent fashion. That’s where perspective comes into play. Its perspective that helps us depict three-dimensional objects and space on our two-dimensional paper. Thus, we need a simple way to use this important tool. We can find that simple way just by analyzing the buildings in our source photographic material (or from life, when painting plein air).

b. Perspective: When Only One Face of a Building(s) is Visible: Look at your source photo, or real life subject. When only one face of a building is visible, the situation is simple: only one distant vanishing point is really needed, which can be approximated and estimated for the painting. In many cases the lines may approximate horizontal lines, since the Vanishing Point is often at such a great distance. Thus, there is minimal need for detailed perspective to draw a building when only one face of the building is visible. Isn’t that a wonderful discovery? See the following example, of a building with only one face visible, and little need for perspective drawing. The important issue with this type of subject is to properly form the horizontal and vertical elements:

c. Perspective: When Two Perpendicular Sides of A Building(s) Are Visible: When your source photo or real life subject has two perpendicular sides of a building(s) visible, then a perspective drawing is needed to properly draw the building(s) in a believable and consistent manner, in near, middle and distant space. Here’s an example of a building with two faces visible:

This need for using perspective and being consistent is magnified when the subject consists of multiple buildings, such as a village, town or cityscape subject. So, how can we simplify our approach and conquer Demon Perspective when a perspective is needed?

i. One-Point Perspective: One-point perspective is the simplest method to create a perspective. It has one Vanishing Point (VP) and looks like this:

Unfortunately, one-point perspective has many shortcomings: it is seldom believable, doesn’t work well in many exterior views, and almost always comes with an inherent “zoom factor” or “firing squad view” that is often detrimental to a strong composition for a painting. I will talk more about the “Zoom Factor” when we get to the subject of composition. For now, however, there are enough limitations with one-point perspective to encourage us to find another, better choice.
ii. Two-Point Eye-Level Perspective: This is the better choice. Two-point perspectives have two Vanishing Points (VPs). Each VP is located on the same horizontal Horizon Line (HL). When taken at human eye level (approximately 5 feet above the ground, based on an adult human), the Horizon Line (HL) is approximately five feet above the ground. This approach to perspective results in a quite believable view for both exteriors and interiors. Here’s a simple sketch example:

The simplest approach to a two-point eye-level perspective is when the viewing position and the subject are both on level ground. Minor adjustments are necessary when either the viewing position and/or subject or not on the same ground plane, i.e., located on a hillside or valley.
Virgil Carter

Last edited by painterbear : 11-06-2011 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 11-01-2011, 09:10 AM
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

(Note: This is the second posting (2 of 2), for this lesson. If you have not yet read through posting 1 of 2, above, just scroll up until you get there and begin the lesson.)

d. Constructing Simple Two-Point Eye-Level Perspective: A simple and accurate two-point perspective can be constructed in only two steps using your source photo (or from life). The good news is that with some experience, the process quickly becomes intuitive and simple! Here are the two steps: 1) Analysis of perspective clues from your source material in order to help you replicate the perspective in your sketch book and on your watercolor paper; 2) Actually replicating the perspective in your sketch book & on your watercolor paper. Let’s look at each step. Caution: it takes more words and time to describe the process than to actually perform it. So, read on and don’t be dismayed!
i. Analysis of Perspective Clues From Your Source Material: Before you can accurately replicate the perspective in your sketchbook and on your watercolor paper, there is some preliminary visual analysis to be done. We’ve said that when there are two perpendicular faces of a building visible to the viewer, then a two-point perspective is needed. The clue for constructing the perspective is based on remembering that most buildings are composed of a basic rectangle. So look carefully at the subject building, find the basic rectangle with its two visible perpendicular sides. Let’s use the subject building below:

Here’s the important clue to make perspective simple: each of the two visible perpendicular wall planes of the building’s “basic rectangle” is aligned with a different Vanishing Point (VP). And the two Vanishing Points are always connected together by a horizontal Horizon Line (HL). In many cases, we will find that one VP may be located relatively near to the building, and the other VP may be located relatively far from the building. If you can find one VP, you can locate the Horizon Line and thereafter approximate the other VP.

Here’s how to analyze your source materials to find the locations of the VPs and HL:

1. Step One--Finding Vanishing Points & Horizon Line on Your Source Photo: Looking at our reference photo, we find the “basic rectangle”. See the example below:

Vanishing Point: To find one of the VPs and the HL simply extend several of the horizontal lines, in each of the visible perpendicular wall planes, until the lines intersect on the left and right of the building, respectively. Remember, each of the two visible perpendicular wall planes is governed by a different VP. See the example below:

Horizon Line: Once the first VP has been located through the use of intersecting lines from the building’s “basic rectangle”, the Horizon Line can be extended horizontally, through that VP, a sufficient distance until you can approximate the location of the remaining VP. Remember, both VPs are located on the same horizontal Horizon Line, so finding one VP means you can easily place the HL. As you can see, above, the VPs in this subject are relatively far from the subject. For proper perspective, one must see and understand the approximate distance from the building of each VP, whether near or far. In this case, both VPs are rather far from the actual building, right?

Other Building Forms: Once the two respective VPs are located, all the remaining building forms can be added and properly aligned with one or the other of the two VPs. This is achieved by knowing that all planes parallel to one of the planes of the “basic rectangle” are governed by the same VP as that wall plane. The same applies to all planes parallel to the other plane of the “basic rectangle”. A chimney, for example, is a vertically oriented rectangle with two perpendicular planes visible. Dormers are triangles above two perpendicular rectangular faces. The overhanging roof, supporting columns and porch, are other examples of forms that have planes parallel to each plane of the “basic rectangle”.

Remembering the five geometrical forms that comprise most buildings and structures will allow one to add almost any necessary form to the “basic rectangle” of a building to accurately draw and paint it.

Pitched Roofs: Pitched roofs may be initially confusing for some painters. To simplify, recall our basic building shapes. The gable ends of a pitched roof are simply triangular forms on top of one face of the “basic rectangle”. To find the apex of the triangle, first find the mid-point of the rectangular wall on which the gable is located (two intersecting diagonal lines locate the mid-point). Thereafter, extend a vertical line through the wall mid-point to approximate the height of the apex of the gable end. The long, horizontal ridge line is parallel to one of the walls of the “basic rectangle” and aligned with VP of that parallel wall. Remember to provide for roof overhangs and thicknesses. See the following example for an illustration of these points concerning pitched roofs.

2. Step Two: Replicating the perspective in your sketch book & on your watercolor paper: So now, you have analyzed your source photo, found the HL and two VPs necessary to replicate the building with all its elements in your sketch book and on your watercolor painting. And you have a good understanding of constructing the roof and other special shapes. Now, let’s replicate the building in your sketch book so you can make the necessary studies for your painting.

To replicate the perspective drawing of the subject building to your sketch book and watercolor paper, you must look at your analysis, particularly at the proportional relationship of the VPs and HL to the source building. For example, where is the HL compared to the photograph of the building? Is it close to the top of a first floor door, or somewhere else? The location of the HL will vary depending on the elevation of the viewer and the elevation of the source building. In this case, both viewer and building are on the same relative level. How far to the left and right are the VPs, as compared with the width of the source building? Are they 2X, 3X or what? When you have confirmed these proportions in your analysis, you are ready to draw the perspective by replicating it in your sketch book and on your watercolor paper. You don’t have to be precise with your proportions, but you need to be similar. Believe me; this process will become intuitive with just a bit of experience. With experience you will be able to analyze and replicate the building perspective in your sketch book and watercolor paper with a minimum of analysis of your source photo!

Process for Drawing a Simple Perspective: Using our analysis of our source photo, here’s a step-by-step process to create the perspective:

a. Establish the eye-level Horizon Line, perhaps near the lower horizontal “thirds lines” of your sketch composition. We’ll talk more about “thirds lines” when we investigate composition later in the tutorial.

b. Locate the two Vanishing Points on the Horizon Line at the same proportional distance from the building as in your analysis, and draw the “basic rectangle” forming the building. Remember, the distance of each VP from the building doesn’t have to be precise, but it should approximate your analysis for the perspective to resemble the source photo. To review, here’s the location of the VPs for this particular building—in this case, the VPs are rather far from the building, so you will need to position them in a similar fashion:

When you have located the VPs, draw the nearest vertical edge of the “basic rectangle” with the same proportions above and below the HL as the source photo. Thereafter construct the remainder of the visible portion of the “basic rectangle”, using the proportions of your source photo. Remember, one visible wall plane is connected to one VP; the other visible wall plane is connected to the other VP. Check your “basic rectangle” to see if the HL passes through it with the same proportions above and below the HL as in your source photo. Redraw if needed to get proper proportions.

c. Add the necessary additional geometrical forms to the “basic rectangle” of the building to complete the overall visible form of the building. Remember, every form that is parallel to one of the “basic rectangle’s” visible wall planes, such as a face of a chimney or a visible gable end of a roof, is also related to the same VP as the wall plane to which it is parallel.

d. Remember to make verticals vertical!

e. Complete construction of the building’s remaining forms, by adding lines for roof overhangs, thicknesses for window and door openings, etc.

f. Now add the outlines of remaining natural, organic landscape shapes to complete the painting composition. Voila! Your first building sketch is finished!

g. Repeat your sketch studies until you have a desirable composition with enough value, color and contrast information in the sketch to use for the painting. Your sketch, like your painting, should clearly show the area of interest and “what’s important”! Thereafter, replicate your sketch on your watercolor paper so that you can execute your painting. The sketch on your watercolor paper only needs to be a light pencil outline of the major shapes, properly formed and located, as shown in your sketch book. You will refer to your sketch book studies throughout your painting process!

3. Helpful Perspective Rule: Here’s a helpful perspective rule: All lines for objects above the Horizon Line are inclined downward towards their respective Vanishing Point; all lines of objects below the Horizon Line are inclined upwards to their respective Vanishing Point.

This Week’s Exercise

Photos to Use: Here are two photos to use for this week. The first photo shows a building with one face being primarily visible. Thus, no perspective is really needed. This historic house is located in the small 18th century cross-roads village of Sugartown, PA, USA. The second photo shows a building with two visible faces. Accordingly, an eye-level, two-point perspective is necessary. Don’t be surprised when you find that, due to the house being on a small hill above the viewing position, the Horizon Line will be below the house! The position of that Horizon Line illustrates the elevation of the viewer when taking the photo! This historic house belonged to Benjamin Ring, a Quaker farmer and miller, and served as General Washington’s headquarters before the Battle of the Brandywine, in Chadds Ford, PA, USA, September 1777. Both houses have been restored to their original condition.

The photos have been carefully chosen to keep building shapes and perspective simple, and to have a reasonable photographic composition that will enable a well-composed painting, using the existing photographs, with little or no editing. So you can sketch and paint “what you see” in the photographs for this exercise.


On the Photos:

• Print each photo on your black and white printer, as large as possible on a single sheet of paper, respectively.
• Using a pencil or black pen, on the photos find and draw each building’s “basic rectangle”. Using a ruler or straight-edge will be helpful. For the Sugartown house, with only one face largely visible, you will quickly find that the top and bottom lines of the “basic rectangle” are essentially parallel, meaning the Vanishing Point is at an extreme distance. With only one face being primarily visible, the building may be sketched without perspective! Remember to keep the verticals vertical and the horizontals horizontal!
• For the Ring residence, two perpendicular faces are visible, requiring a two-point perspective. With a pencil or black pen, find and draw building’s “basic rectangle”. Then, extend the lines of the top and bottom of each wall of the rectangle to find the two VPs. Remember, each visible face goes to a different VP.
• When the near VP is located by the intersection of the lines, draw a horizontal line through that VP intersection. That is the Horizon Line. Extend it in the direction of the remaining far VP, so that the VP can be found or reasonably estimated. Remember, it may be at a comparatively far distance, so a good estimate of the VP location will be workable.
• Complete the analysis of your photo, by extending the other key lines comprising the remaining key building forms (roofs, chimneys, doors, windows, etc.) to their respective VPs.

In Your Sketch Book:

• Using a soft pencil, replicate each of your two buildings in individual sketches in your sketch book. Make each as large as possible in your sketch book. Use separate sheets of paper, beyond your sketch book if needed, to locate the VPs. It may help to use some small strips of tape to hold things in place while you locate the VPs. The goal is for you to learn to see the information in your photo, and to be able to accurately replicate that information in sketch form to draw the proper building perspective.
• Using a soft pencil, draw the outline of the other major natural landscape forms found in the source photo.
• Finally, using a soft pencil lay in the values found in the photos, from light to dark, using a 5-step value scale (light, middle-light, middle, middle-dark, dark). The goal is to reproduce the values of the black and white photo onto proper perspective sketches of the two buildings in your sketch book.

On Watercolor Paper:

• Lightly sketch the outline of each building and major landscape forms on individual sheets of watercolor paper.
• Execute a separate painting of each of the two buildings and their visible landscape elements. Before painting, review the previous information on Fundamental One: Approaching Buildings Loosely and Colorfully.

Critique & Comments

• Post examples of both your sketches and painted exercises in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread

Next Week: Class 2 will cover: 1) Placing buildings in the landscape; and 2) Personal color.
Virgil Carter

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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way
Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Week 2
Painting a Simple Building in the Landscape

Objectives: Week 2

OK, last week we put Demon Perspective in her/his proper place. Now we are ready for more painterly explorations, right? This week we will build our knowledge and skill for painting buildings by covering three new fundamentals:

Placing buildings in the landscape--1: Buildings may be predominant or subordinate elements
Personal Color: Some approaches for the use of personal and painterly color
Synthesis: Combine and apply the fundamentals from this and our previous lesson

Review of Last Week’s Objectives:

Last week we covered:

Approach: Approaching buildings loosely and colorfully, including 6 principles for painting “loosely and colorfully”
Form of Buildings: Seeing & understanding the form of buildings
Perspective: A simple approach to analyzing a source photo & drawing a building in perspective

This Week’s Lesson:

Fundamental One: Placing Buildings in the Landscape--1:

Predominant vs. Supportive: Buildings, and other structures, may be either predominant in a landscape painting, or they may be supportive and secondary to some other dominant element. In the first example, below, the Abbey de Senanque, in the Provence region of France, is really an interesting secondary backdrop shape to the rows of lavender in the foreground The geometric shapes of the buildings create an interesting contrast with the natural, organic shapes in the foreground and distant background. But we can’t say that the buildings dominate the photograph can we? In the second example, below, in a small village in the Cotswolds, north of London, the buildings clearly dominate in the scene. The red car provides an unintended counterpoint to the buildings, each competing for the viewer’s eye! The two photos illustrate buildings placed very differently in the landscape. Let’s explore the issue of buildings in the landscape further.

Classic Three Landscape Planes: Let’s look a bit closer at placing buildings in the landscape. Classic landscape paintings have three planes, as a means to introduce three-dimensional space into our two-dimensional painting: the planes are the foreground, middle-ground and background. A painting’s area of interest may be located in any of the planes so don’t think that the foreground is the only location for the painting’s area of interest. Depending on one’s painterly intent, buildings and the area of interest may be found in any of these planes. The area of interest really depends on one’s personal intent. Just keep in mind, however, that it’s usually the area of interest that’s most important in a painting. Therefore, it’s usually the area of interest that receives the most emphasis, attention and painting “fireworks”. Remaining areas must be painted so as to be secondary and supportive to the area of interest. This is where your sketch book, and thumb-nail sketches, becomes invaluable! Use your sketch book to study how best to make the area of interest predominate and the remaining areas to be supportive and secondary.

Let’s look at some examples of buildings as the center of interest in each of the classic three landscape planes. The first example, below, is a building located in Roussillon in southern France, composed of several continuous shapes, which occupy the foreground and dominates the composition using the strong geometrical shape of the buildings. Intense mid-day illumination produces a strong contrast between illuminated surfaces, shade and shadows:

The second example, below, is Pemaquid Light, Pemaquid Point, ME, USA, a series of linked shapes that sit on a middle-ground rock outcropping, overlooking the ocean. The sun has set and the overall ambient lighting is colored by the violet of early evening. Even though the buildings sit in the middle ground, they clearly are the area of interest, aren’t they? Foreground and background are really of minimal interest aren’t they?

The last example, below, is the Melk Monastery, outside of Vienna, Austria, which is viewed in the background primarily as interesting shapes against the sky. Here, while the monastery is in the distant background, it’s clearly the area of greatest interest, primarily due to its interesting and varied shape. The atmospheric effect (the effect of moisture in the air on light and vision) evident in the photograph adds softening as well as distance to the composition. The middle-ground trees and even the colorful foreground river boats add supportive shapes and color, but it’s the monastery shape that captures and holds the eye. Can you see how the background buildings become the area of interest in a painting?

Building Vignettes: A vignette is a closely cropped composition, where only a portion of a building is visible. We will cover this placement of buildings in the landscape in more detail later in the tutorial. For now, just think of vignettes as either: 1) A building object in space, or 2) A space, defined by building objects. See the following examples. The first photo, below, is of the spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, highlighted against a high-rise building (building shape in space), and the second photo, below, is a wonderful street scene in the small town of Vaugines, in the Provence Region of France (a space defined by buildings):

Building vignettes are usually closely cropped subjects, often in near-space, “up close and personal”! During this tutorial, we will cover all of these examples of placing buildings in the landscape. With these thoughts about placing buildings in landscape paintings in mind, let’s move to our second fundamental for this lesson.

2. Fundamental 2: Personal Color: In this tutorial, we are emphasizing painting “loosely and colorfully”. As a result, we will turn from local colors and explore “painter’s colors”. A frequently asked question is “how does one determine the colors to use for painter’s colors”? Here are some approaches, but remember, it’s your choice—you’re the painter! This is going to require some of you to put on your “creative thinking cap”!

Start with Color Relationships: Rather than thinking “what color should I use?” start by considering some of these relationships on which to base your intent and your painting:
• Establish the desirable value of the potential colors, i.e., light or dark
• Determine the temperature of the potential colors, i.e., warm or cool
• Identify the intensity of the potential colors, i.e., pure or muted/grayed
• Select the color(s) and mix on the paper whenever possible for maximum “painterly” color effect, letting colors intermingle in dampened shapes

Choosing Colors: “How do I choose personal, painterly colors?” In the end, the answer is always individual, determined by your intent and greatly aided by lots of practice. Here are six approaches to developing personal color that I have found to be useful as a starting point:
  • Derived from one or more local colors: An entry for a historic building in Washington, DC began with some beautiful rose-colored stone that was deliberately exaggerated in my painting:

  • Expressing the color of light: An early evening in Washington Square during the Christmas season in New York, in which the color of artificial illumination pervades the painting:

  • From an atmospheric condition: Coastal landscapes are often affected by varying degrees of moisture in the air, with the result that views may range from very colorful to muted and grayed. In the case below, the painting is an exploration in muted and grayed color, rather than any particular atmospheric condition:

  • Expressive color: In the following agricultural scene, the intent was to express the simple, pastoral nature of the subject, in a personally expressive manner, rather than render a photographically accurate painting. The expressive intensity and warm-cool pairings contrast with the previous muted painting:

  • What if” color: In the following painting, “what if” the overall ambient light was a soft rose-violet color—the beginning of early evening? The actual subject was photographed during mid-day, when local light is its most neutral--not very interesting! The “painterly” warms and cools evolved from the initial introduction of the rose-colored illumination.

  • Outrageous color: Here, an exploration of how far intensity might be pushed using the compelling shapes of a large farm in Norristown, PA, USA. The result might well be termed an outrageous use of high-key personal color! Outrageous color may or may not be for you, but do you see how it is one way to create a painterly and personal expression?

Harmonious Color Family: Another common question has to do with “how can I develop color harmony—an agreeable and appealing color family for my painting?” One common response is to use a very limited palette of colors—preferably a few single-pigment, transparent watercolor paints. It’s an old mantra that is derived from the Impressionists. This approach will often work, but it is far from the only solution, and, of itself, no guarantee of a harmonious painting. Here are some additional approaches for color harmony, with the potential for far greater color intensity and variety than is possible with a limited palette using only transparent paints. Consider one or more, if you are concerned about personal and painterly color harmony:
  • Keep your major color structure simple (look at the examples above, where you will frequently find a selective range of colors in use)
  • Use an overall major “control color”, e.g., the color of light, etc. A number of the paintings, above, derive their effect from a carefully considered color of light
  • Use 3 or so analogous colors w/complementary “jewels” for energy
  • Select complementary colors in major/minor relationships
  • Use limited, but dominant color intensity w/a majority of grayed, complementary hues
  • For strong effects, pair contrasting temperatures, with dominance of one or the other
  • Limit to two major colors, linked together with a third “bridging” color, that links the two selected colors on the color wheel, and “bridges” from one color to the other
  • Assess and build as you go, using combinations of the above
Here’s one example of a colorful, yet simple and harmonious painting of a building in the landscape. Note how this is achieved with a limited range of color, visually interesting abstract shapes, and virtually no detail other than the limited suggestion of some (but not all) windows. I painted what I felt, not what I saw:

Mixing and Applying the Color: Painters seem to fall into several categories when it comes to mixing and applying paint. Some painters enjoy painting alla prima, i.e., doing everything (or as much as possible) in a single, initial, all-encompassing application. Other painters apply their paint in stages, sometimes wet into wet, sometimes letting previous applications dry before proceeding and sometimes using both techniques. The extreme of this approach is glazing, in which layer after layer of transparent color is built up over each previous color layer, once the previous layer has completely dried! Because the previous layer of paint must be completely dry before the next glaze may be applied, this is a slow and laborious approach, but one which produces wonderful effects! I’ve found that there are at least four categories of painters when it comes to mixing and applying paints:
  • Palette “stirrers”
  • Direct application, on-the-paper “minglers”
  • Layer by layer “glazers”
  • Combinations of the above

There is no “better or worse” approach for mixing and applying painterly color, only whether or not an approach works for you and your intent. And your paintings will be neither better nor worse because they were painted quickly in an alla prima technique or because you painted in a series of repeated passages over time! Paint the way you are comfortable painting!

I will suggest, however, that some wonderful colorful painterly effects can be obtained by pre-dampening shapes and introducing colors directly on the paper, wet in wet, letting the selected colors mix and mingle with a little help by tilting the paper this way or that. But how you mix and apply paint is up to you. Experiment and try as many ways as you can imagine!

Considerations for Enlivening Buildings: In order to make buildings lively and engaging here are some additional considerations particularly applicable to buildings:

Enlivening effects: Here's a principle that many early painters of buildings and other structures in the landscape should read several times? Buildings with carefully considered variations in their wall and/or roof surfaces, plus a variety of edge conditions are generally livelier and more interesting than those which are uniform in value, hue and edges. So, strive for variety, rather than uniformity in your paint applications! More often than not, uniform paint application leads to dull and uninteresting paintings! Here are two ways to enliven your buildings:
  • Value variations: Vertical building surfaces are not usually uniform in value from top to bottom or from one end to the other. Strive for variation in values in the visible building shapes. Sometimes it can be as simple as having one end of a building lighter and the other end darker, so long as there is a visual dominance of one or the other. Taller structures (high-rise buildings, church spires, etc.) may be gradated light to dark, top to bottom (or vice-versa) for dramatic painterly effect, contrasting with the sky color and value.
  • Color and temperature variations: Vertical surfaces and roof may also be graduated hues, indicating hue and temperature differences. Sometimes, buildings that are warm at one end and cool at the other are very eye appealing. In addition, reflections at intersections of vertical and horizontal surfaces, i.e., roof eve lines, porches, the ground-plane, etc., add further enlivening opportunities. Use these sparingly, but creatively, particularly in the painting’s area of interest.

Here’s an example of some of these enlivening effects applied to a painting that also features backlighting. Backlighting, in and of itself, can be enlivening and compelling. Color, value and reflections may all play roles to enliven the painting and transform simple buildings into something more dynamic:

(Note: due to the limitation of 15 photos maximum per posting, I will continue the tutorial in the next post, below. Read on!)
Virgil Carter
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

(Note: this is the continuation of Lesson Two, so keep reading!)

Here’s an example of some of these enlivening effects applied to a painting that also features backlighting. Backlighting, in and of itself, can be enlivening and compelling. Color, value and reflections may all play roles to enliven the painting and transform simple buildings into something more dynamic:

Finishing touches for Buildings: Here are some finishing touches that may help your building to meet your painterly intent, particularly when the building is dominant in the painting composition:

Use windows & doors selectively & creatively
  • How to use: Don’t paint every door and window that you can see. Put them where they help the painterly effect—don’t worry about where the windows & doors are in the actual subject. This is a painting, not a photograph!
  • Level of detail: Remember, we are treating the building as a visually interesting abstract shape! Use suggestion. For example, don’t worry about actual details for each and every window, unless the painting is about the window itself. To suggest a 6 over 6 window, for example, it is not necessary to paint all 12 panes!

Illumination Effects on Windows
  • Strong light: Strong natural illumination may cause reflection in window, i.e., sky or near object’s shape and color. Paint bottom of some window or glass door segments with greater intensity/value than upper segment to suggest reflected “sky effect” in the upper areas.
  • Weak light: Weak natural illumination may cause transparency through a window and a view of an interior shape or color, as in the painting above. Paint interior objects, i.e., drapery, wall-ceiling line, people, etc. to suggest glass transparency where it may be helpful. Don’t overdo!
  • Little or no light: Limited natural illumination may enable the warmer interior artificial illumination to show through to the exterior, as a “glowing” interior.
Look at the following example for illumination effects with windows in weak natural illumination:

Sometimes the play of light and shadow may make a window or door the area of interest. In such a case, the window is developed much differently than the example above, where the window was a secondary element:

Building Details, Pattern and Texture: Once again, remember that we are painting loosely and colorfully, thus we consider buildings to be just another visually interesting abstract shape! More often than not, the details, pattern and texture of a building tend to be only “up close details”, visible only if the building is the major element in the foreground, i.e., viewed “up close and personal”, or if one is painting a vignette. When the building(s) are in the middle ground or background, it’s really shape, color and value that are the key visual elements. Even when buildings are the key foreground element, details, pattern and texture should be done last and only to the absolute minimum to obtain the desired painterly effect and communicate the desired feeling for the subject.

I know some of you like the idea of painting details—many people do! Remember, however, we are focusing on painting your feelings and emotions about the subject—your intent! This tutorial is not about technique--rendering a color photograph of the subject! Generally speaking, a much stronger painting will result if one follows the six principles for painting loosely and colorfully, from Lesson One, before considering details, pattern and texture. That’s because all the details, pattern and texture in the world will not compensate for a poorly composed and executed painting! Stay loose and colorful! Focus on your intent, not your technique! Does this make sense?

OK, we’ve covered a number of key fundamentals for sketching and painting buildings, but…how can we actually apply them in our painting process? Here’s an overview of two approaches for painting loose and colorful buildings and other structures in a landscape painting. Of course, you may follow any desired approach you wish, but considering these two approaches may offer some insights for your personal approach to “painting loosely and colorfully”.

Two Approaches for Application of Personal Color: When you have developed your preferred compositional sketch with sufficient information to begin painting, there are at least two approaches to consider that will give strength and emphasis to the buildings and structures that are important in your painting

Approach 1—“Cranking the Color”: After completing your sketch book studies and sketching your composition on the watercolor paper, start your painting by laying in washes for the lightest value shapes, which are generally found in the sky and some elements in direct illumination. This approach generally does not save and utilize white of the paper, as whites may often compete for attention with the intense hues and values of the colors that may be used when “cranking the color”! In a general sense, the sequence of painting in this approach follows the order of values, painting from lightest to darkest, in the following general sequence:
  • Sky: often the lightest value (so this is often the beginning point in this approach; some painters use the initial wash to infuse the entire painting with a desired color of light for mood and feeling, i.e., yellow for early morning light, pinky-orange for late afternoon setting sun, etc.). Bring some of the sky color into the foreground to link and unify the painting.
  • Horizontal ground surfaces & water: varied values, perhaps a half-step darker value than the sky, depending on intent and desired painterly effect. Being horizontal, there is considerable reflection of light in these planes.
  • Background: Ranges from light-middle to middle value, but generally with indistinct, soft or lost edges and cool colors, so as to recede in space. Backgrounds may be lighter or darker value than horizontal ground surfaces and water, depending on painterly intent.
  • Inclined building roof elements: Somewhat darker than the sky & ground/water surfaces, but almost always lighter value than illuminated vertical building walls, due to greater reflected light from the sky. In some situations, a portion of the roof may have a lost edge with the sky, suggesting the reflection of light on the roof back to the sky. Keep your roofs light to middle-light values! From a visual sense, dark roofs (even black roofs) are lighter value, due to reflected light, than the shaded vertical planes of the building, even a white building. This may sound illogical, but it is visually true! Of course, if you are striving for a special effect, you may not always want to follow this rule (but you should be very aware of it and have a conscious reason to not follow it!).
  • Illuminated vertical walls, columns & other vertical geometrical elements: Generally darker value than the roof, due to less reflected light from all vertical planes; frequently ranging from middle-light to middle value for illuminated surfaces.
  • Shaded elements: Painted as the middle values are laid in. See further comments about shaded elements below.
  • Shadows: Usually painted as one of the last elements in the painting, due to the dark values involved. Shadows are darker value than shaded elements. See further comments about shade below.
  • Vertical trees & foliage: Generally painted as one of the last elements in this approach, since these shapes often have the darkest values in the painting (but not black). The exception is when these elements are in the background, described above.
This approach and sequence of painting is a guideline only. You certainly may vary from the approach and sequence, based on your painterly intent.

Here is an example using many of the principles above in a deep-space landscape in which buildings are a supporting, yet important geometrical element to provide interest and variety for the eye:

Approach 2—“Painting the Light” by Retaining Whites: Some painters prefer to leave directly illuminated areas partially or completely white, I.e., roofs, walls and ground planes, using color and value for the shaded and shadowed shapes to create contrast and direct the viewer’s eye. This approach resembles the technique of the Impressionists, employing relatively large areas of the white of the paper as part of the design. As such, this approach calls for greater use of tints and hues of light to middle value ranges, limiting darks to a minimum and, when darks are used, used as pure color for accents. In order to be most effective with this approach, do as the Impressionists did and avoid neutralized tints and grays. This approach is sometimes called “painting the light by painting the shade and shadows”. General painting sequence is the same as Approach 1, painting from light values to dark, but with the adjustments for reserving whites and the use of more limited colors in tints and mid values as described.

Here is one variation of this approach, with limited saved whites. This middle-space landscape uses the shaded walls to link the buildings into a single major shape. The painting is by master painter William “Skip” Lawrence, from his book, Painting Light and Shadow, North Light Books, 1994. This is also a good example of using a major “control color”, derived from the color of light, in a painting:

Special Consideration for building shade and shadows in the painting process: We will cover illumination, shade and shadows in greater detail later in the tutorial. For now let’s adopt the following definitions:

Shade: The planes of an object that do not receive direct illumination (sometimes called shape-shadow or form-shadow). Basic point to remember is that shade is found on the object itself;
Shadow: The shapes cast by an illuminated object upon adjacent forms and surfaces (sometimes called cast-shadows). Basic point to remember is that shadows are cast by the object onto other objects and surfaces.

In general, remember that shade and shadows are generally cooler versions of their similar elements in direct illumination. In addition to being cooler, elements in shade tend to be mid-values and elements in the shadows tend to be dark values—so get the values right the first time! Paint the mid-values for shade on the building and ground plane areas in shade. Usually the dark value shadows and dark landscape elements are painted close to last. Make these luminous and colorful cool tones with their own gradation. Strive for varied edges on shadows and landscape elements to help them remain supportive of the dominant area of interest. Avoid using pre-mixed grays or diluted blacks for shade and shadows—this will often kill the color harmony of the painting (unless you have previously used a lot of pre-mixed grays and blacks)!

Here’s an example of the late afternoon effects of illumination, shade and shadows on buildings and the landscape:

Final Adjustments & Completion: Tie your painting together with any needed adjusting washes and restated passages, to achieve overall balance and harmony. Finalize with a few details, but only if really necessary.

Knowing when the painting is finished: Your painting is finished when you reach for a small brush to add details! Or a knife to start scratching texture! Remember, if a painting is not composed and executed well, doesn’t have strong shapes and a clearly recognizable area of interest, all the detail in the world won’t save it! So don’t think you can make a painting better by adding lots of details. Instead, walk away and celebrate your finished painterly work!

This Week’s Exercise: A single building as the subject

Photos to Use:
Here are two photos for this lesson—one with stronger perspective and one with a lesser degree of perspective. Each photo has a building as part of the natural landscape. The first photo is the foreman’s house in the worker’s housing area at Hagley Mill, in Wilmington, DE, USA, where the DuPont family manufactured gunpowder and blasting powder along the Brandywine River, from 1802 until 1921. The second is the house of John Chadd, for whom the township of Chadds Ford, PA, USA, my home town, is named. It was in this vicinity that General Washington fought the British and Hessians, under General Howe; at the Battle of the Brandywine in September 1777 (I suggest you eliminate the contemporary guy-wire supports from the left area). Select one of the photos as your subject. Feel free to change composition, objects, lighting or anything needed to improve composition of your painting, but strive to replicate the actual house in the chosen photo:

In Your Sketch Book:
o Select one photo; explore and resolve the building’s perspective
o Select and develop your preferred composition for the painting with sufficient information to execute the painting. Remember, your composition is yours—it’s not limited by the source photo!
o Explore your intent in your sketchbook, i.e., what you feel and want to express about the subject, rather than technique

For Your Painting:
o Using your selected sketch, lay-out the composition and major shapes lightly in pencil
o Execute your painting, following the fundamentals described in this and previous lesson

Critique & Comments:
• Post examples of your sketches and painting in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread

Next Week: Painting a group of buildings

(end of Lesson Two)
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way
Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Week 3

Painting Groups of Buildings in the Landscape

This week we will cover: Expansion of previous teaching points to consider some of the challenges and opportunities when more than one building is involved as subject matter.

Review of Last Week’s Objectives:
Last week we covered:
Placing buildings in the landscape—1 (Predominant vs. supportive & Three Classic Landscape Planes): A simple building in the landscape
Personal Color: Approaches for personal and painterly use of color in a painting
Last, we had a lot of fun exploring personal and painterly color with a simple building in the landscape. The sketches and paintings have gained strength and power each week, as we explore new principles and apply our knowledge of how the principles can be used. Now, this week, let’s continue to expand our awareness and understanding with two additional fundamentals.

This Week’s Lesson Objectives:
Fundamental 1: Placing Buildings in the Landscape—2 (Group of Buildings)
Fundamental 2: Exploring Three Key Fundamentals of Composition
Synthesis: Combine and apply the fundamentals from previous lessons
Fundamental 1: Placing Buildings in the Landscape—2 (Group of Buildings): Compositions that include a group of buildings are similar in many ways to last week’s teaching points on composition using a single, simple building. A group of buildings, however, may pose some additional challenges for drawing and painting buildings in the landscape. For example,
• The buildings may differ in orientation, height and ground elevation, meaning each building may have its own unique Vanishing Points on a common or different Horizon Line
• The buildings may be connected or separate
• The buildings frequently will be of different materials, colors and styles, thus posing a challenge to create an area of interest, with supportive, secondary areas
Approaching a Group of Buildings: They are approached in the same manner, using the same approach that we used in the last lesson for a single building! The only difference is that there is more than a single building! So start with the dominant building shape and work from there. Each building may have its own Vanishing Points, often on a different Horizon Line, unless they are parallel and on the same elevation.

Here’s a summary of the fundamentals that we have covered in previous lessons that should be your check-list of steps for approaching a group of buildings:
Approach the buildings loosely and colorfully: Form them correctly, but see and develop them as interesting abstract visual shapes
Building Form: Identify and use the five basic geometrical shapes, as may be needed, to model the buildings;
Perspective: Develop a simple perspective, if two building faces are visible, using the clues from the source photos;
Composition: Last week we said that:
o Buildings in the landscape may be either predominant or supportive; they may be the area of interest, or they may not—it’s up to one’s painterly intent.
o A landscape’s area of interest may be located in any of the three classic planes of a landscape painting, i.e., foreground, middle-ground or background, so long as the area of interest is treated to be the dominant plane and the remaining planes of the landscape are treated so as to be secondary and supportive;
Illumination: Pick the type, intensity and direction of illumination, shade and shadows that best supports your intent. We are going to cover illumination in detail in the next lesson, so for now, simply pick the direction of illumination and execute it consistently throughout the painting;
Use the 6 Principles for Painting Loosely and Colorfully: 1) Use a sketch book; 2) See and paint shapes, not “things”; 3) Develop your composition using dominance; 4) Simplify the values; 5) Crank the color; and 6) Use contrast to draw the eye to the area of interest
Personal Color: Decide on local color or “painter’s colors”
Painting Approach: Identify the desired approach to painting that best supports your intent
These points apply equally to paintings with a group of buildings. The primary distinction when painting a group of buildings is that one must first decide if the buildings are the area of interest. If so, then a second decision is often needed: which building or group of buildings is the primary area of interest and which are secondary and supportive? Or are all the buildings equally important to the area of interest? It’s your painting and your decision!

Fundamental 2: Exploring Three Key Principles of Composition: For our tutorial, we will focus on three compositional principles which will strengthen our painting of buildings and other structures, regardless of how one may choose to place the building in the landscape. This will not be a highly detailed exploration of composition; time and space don’t permit. For those who really want to explore landscape composition in depth, go to the Wet Canvas demonstrations (see the “sticky” in the Learning Center listing demonstrations, and thereafter go to Johannes Vloothuis’ 23-page article here: http://www.wetcanvas.com/Articles2/135/120/

Composition Goal: This lesson’s goal is to create a composition of visually interesting major shapes, with a strong and obvious area of interest. So, gather, develop and link your individual painting shapes, i.e., basic building, shadows and landscape shapes into a few large, unified shapes. The following principles will help you achieve this goal:
Compositional Principle One: Placement using the Rule of Thirds: Most landscape paintings are composed of many individual objects or shapes. Where does one place objects or shapes in a painting to create a strong composition? How can these individual shapes be collected and located into major shapes? Where does one best locate an area of interest? There are many answers, but usually not in the center of the paper! Placement of major shapes and the area of interest in the center of the paper may result in a static painting, with overpowering balance and reduced opportunity for movement. Placement almost anywhere away from the center will create greater movement and increase the dynamic sense of the painting. So, be watchful about the center of your watercolor paper!

One compositional approach, the Rule of Thirds, is modeled after the classic proportions of the Golden Mean, and serves to divide the paper vertically and horizontally into thirds. The four points where the division lines intersect are often considered optimal locations for areas of interest. The horizontal and vertical “thirds lines” also are useful for subdividing the paper and locating major shapes, supporting the area of interest. See the following examples:

Here’s an example of a composition that is largely centered on the paper (only the figure is offset from the center). It’s interesting, but it’s a rather static painting, due to its centered composition, and there is little movement, except inside the bakery:

Here’s an example of a composition approximating the Rule of Thirds (in this painting, the buildings are located close to the upper horizontal thirds line and the horse is close to the upper left “thirds-point”). Do you think the painting below is more dynamic, with better proportions and more movement, than the painting above?

It’s not necessary to rigorously align shapes in a painting with these “thirds lines” or the four intersecting points, in order to create a composition that is dynamic and has inviting proportions. The lines and the intersecting points are only guides for your use.
Compositional Principle Two: Dominance:
Definition: This simply means something in the painting is predominant; usually the area of interest, while everything else is supportive and secondary. Remember, the old mantra: “If everything is important, nothing is important!” So, figure out what’s important in your painting and make it dominant! Everything else in the painting should be supportive and secondary. This is where your sketch book becomes a major asset—it enables you to resolve how you can best communicate what’s important in your painting!
Achieving Dominance: There are various ways to make a portion of the painting dominant. The first three are especially important for landscape paintings, so pay particular attention to them.
Shape: A primary shape which is much larger or more complex and detailed vs. a number of secondary shapes that are simple and not competitive
Color: A major use of a “pure” or more intense color vs. supporting uses of more muted, grayed shades, tones, or even tints
Value: A major use of strongly contrasting values (light vs. dark) compared with less contrasting values elsewhere in the painting
Edges: Shapes are defined by edges; primary shapes often have clear, “hard” edges vs. supporting shapes often have soft/lost edges
Light: Light effects shapes; primary shape illuminated in strong “spotlight” vs. secondary shapes illuminated in muted “floodlights”
Temperature: Contrasting warm & cool temperatures create contrast & attract the eye as with values; primary shape with warm-cool contrasts vs. supporting shapes with little or no temperature contrasts
Combination of the above: Greatest effect of dominance is often achieved by a combination of these techniques

Here are some illustrations of these approaches to achieve dominance in a composition. The descriptions, above, help explain each of the following illustrations. Some of the illustrations may appear visually similar, at first glance, but carefully read the descriptions above to understand the illustrations. For example, the illustrations for “color” and “edges” appear similar. Carefully consider the definitions above and you will see how the illustrations differ:

Important Note: If these are ways to successfully achieve dominance in your primary area of interest, it follows that you don’t develop your supporting and secondary areas using the same approaches to the same level of intensity.
Compositional Principle Three: Framed Views: Framed views can help the viewer’s eye to move toward the area of interest quickly and without confusion about what’s important. Such framed views can frequently be found in nature or designed in your composition in such a way as to be believable, by creating and/or moving existing shapes as needed. Framed views are quite common with buildings, particularly in town and cityscapes, if one learns to recognize them.
Shapes Creating “Book Ends” or “Tunnels”: Local shapes may be present, and/or may be creatively designed that help create “book ends” or “tunnels” that frame the area of interest and direct the viewer’s eye. The presence or creative addition of shade and shadows may reinforce the effect and help focus the viewer on the area of interest. See the following examples:

Color, Value & Temperature: Use of color, value and temperature may also help to increase the visual impact of framed views. For example, use of complementary colors, contrast through intensity, value and temperature may all be used to enhance a “bookend or tunnel effect” that directs the eye towards the area of interest. See the example below, which employs a limited palette, but incorporates use of color, value and temperature to increase the visual impact of a framed view in the old, historic part of Rome:

Compositional Caution--Beware the “Zoom Factor”: The “Zoom Factor”, sometimes called the “Firing Squad View”, is almost always a factor inherent in one-point perspectives, and may be found in some two-point perspective compositions. The name comes from the strong visual shape that can grab the viewer’s eye and pull it into, through and out of the painting with hardly a pause! For example, a strong ground shape—a street, sidewalk, water or other feature—can easily create the “Zoom”! This is not good, since one hopes the viewer will linger and spend time looking around the painting!
Here’s an example of “zoom” that quickly and effectively takes the eye out of the picture. One doesn’t spend much time looking around this scene in Savannah, GA, USA:

What to do about the Zoom Factor? The best solution is to avoid compositions that have such a view. Find other compositions that engage and hold the eye in the painting. If this is not possible, the Zoom Effect can be mitigated by the thoughtful addition of people, cars, and other urban shapes that will interrupt the “zoom”, and allow the eye to pause and linger in the area of interest. A really good “stopper” such as another building, perpendicular to the zoom view makes a strong composition out of a potentially weak one. See the following examples.

Here’s an example of a view of a small town on Cape Cod, illustrating how the “zoom” can be slowed, using people, cars and other urban shapes (flags, trash cans, utility poles, etc) , to engage the eye and cause it to linger within the painting:

Here’s an example of using two “stoppers”—a curved façade and a tower shape, in Brugge, Belgium, to halt the “zoom” and allow the eye to linger within the painting:

Here’s an example of a composition of a square elsewhere in Brugge, Belgium without any “zoom”--the best composition of all:

This Week’s Exercise: A group of small buildings in the landscape
Photos to Use:Here are two photos for this lesson. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the fundamentals for painting a group of buildings without overwhelming challenges. Each photo has buildings as dominant elements in the composition. Each photo contains a number of useful clues for the forms and perspective of the buildings. For example, look at the horizontal siding in the right building in the top photo. The lines of the horizontal siding point to the Vanishing Point! Simply extend the lines until they intersect in a common point, i.e., the Vanishing Point and the Horizon Line! The second building has similar clues to find the near Vanishing Point and Horizon Line.
Select one photo as your subject. The first photo is an intersection in the small, historic township of Thornton, PA, USA, not far from my home. It illustrates an overcast day, with muted illumination. Of course, you may change that to fit your painterly intent. The second photo is a former woolen mill, turned museum, in Lower Slaughter in the Cotswolds in the UK, on a crisp Fall morning. Change the illumination, as needed, to fit your painterly intent:

In Your Sketch Book:• Explore and resolve the building’s perspective
• Use thumbnail sketches to explore the six principles for painting loosely & colorfully
• Select and develop your preferred composition for the painting with sufficient information to execute the painting
For Your Painting:• Using your selected sketch, lay-out the composition and major shapes lightly in pencil
• Execute your painting, following the approaches described in this lesson and previous lessons
Critique & Comments:
• Post examples of your sketches and painted exercises in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread
Next Week: Buildings in an urban setting
Virgil Carter
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way
Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Week 4

Painting Buildings in an Urban Setting

This week we will cover: Application of the fundamentals of previous weeks to an urban scene.

Review of Last Week’s Objectives: Last week we covered:
• Placing Buildings in the Landscape—2 (Group of Buildings)
• Three Key Principles of Composition
In our exercise, we applied the objectives of the tutorial to a group of buildings in the landscape

This Week’s Lesson Objectives:
Fundamental 1: Placing Buildings in the Landscape—3 (Buildings in an urban setting)
Fundamental 2: The Importance of Illumination (Lighting, shade, shadows and reflections)
Synthesis: Combine and apply the fundamentals from previous lessons
Fundamental 1: Placing Buildings in the Landscape—3 (Buildings in an Urban Setting): Urban settings are similar to compositions with multiple buildings. In many ways, urban scenes are simpler than scenes with multiple individual buildings, since in urban areas the buildings often appear connected as linked major shapes. There are, however, some unique elements in urban settings:
Limited Views: In urban settings, visible objects may be limited to only portions of buildings, i.e., tops of buildings or pedestrian-level views, due to the significant heights often found in the urban environments, combined with the difficulty in getting far enough away from a subject in an urban setting to see all of it.
Directional Views: Urban settings frequently have strong eye-level directional views, due to the closeness of buildings and limited “view corridors” in highly urbanized settings. Thus there is strong potential for the “zoom factor” and the need for mitigating strategies in the composition of a painting, as discussed in an earlier lesson.
Simple Perspective: Urban scenes often have simple 2-point perspective, since many urban areas are laid out on a rectangular grid of streets. This urban rectangular grid helps to simplify the perspective needed for multiple buildings by using two common vanishing points for all buildings that are on the same rectangular grid and at the same ground elevation. Look at the photo of New York, below, as an example.
Many Buildings: Urban subjects may have a number of closely placed buildings visible. Again, “keep it simple” and treat them as a single, major shape with only a suggestion of differentiation, windows and detail, unless the buildings are the primary area of interest. Use your sketch book to decide whether the pedestrian level or the building’s upper elements are most important for your painterly intent. Give some emphasis to whatever is important and let the rest of the buildings fade into soft, muted shapes.
Building Form: In many cases, buildings in urban settings are simply tall rectangles, sometimes with other limited geometrical shapes. Just remember the basic geometrical forms, from an earlier lesson, that comprise all buildings, small or large, and you will be able to draw all urban buildings in a simple and loose manner.
Complexity and Clutter: Urban scenes may be full of complex, cluttering shapes, i.e., people, cars, and other objects common to urban sidewalks and streets. Thus, “keep it simple” takes on important meaning, as one must thoughtfully use one’s sketch book for studying and editing the composition to include only the absolutely essential shapes to tell the desired story. Don’t get bogged down with lots of urban clutter, unless that’s really your intent!
Fundamental 2: The Importance of Illumination:

Introduction: Learning about illumination, and the related elements of shade and shadows, is an important component of painting buildings and related structures (as it is for other landscape subjects). In fact, buildings often draw much of their appeal and unique appearance from varying illumination, and the resultant shade and shadow effects. Thus illumination is a crucial element in the successful painting of buildings and other structures. Let’s dig a little deeper into the idea of illumination, shade and shadow:

Type and color of illumination: Illumination may be natural (day, night) or artificial (outdoors, indoors). And illumination has various colors. Take a look at the following chart that illustrates the colors of various types of natural and artificial illumination, in degrees Kelvin:

You can see that both natural and artificial illumination have a wide range of color, based on temperature in degrees Kelvin. To see this chart in more detail, you can Google “color of light”. You should also consider the emotional power of various “painterly” colors of light in landscape settings, i.e., yellow light in the early morning, pinky-orange light in late afternoon and a rosy-violet light before darkness sets in.

Here’s a key principle to remember: the type and color of illumination affects everything in a painting. No object in a painting is immune to the type and color of illumination that you desire to use. For example, an early morning yellow light will infuse everything with it yellow hue. So pick the type and color of illumination, and develop it consistently throughout the painting. Use illumination creatively; don’t be limited by local conditions shown in your source photo, or when painting from life. Pick the lighting effect that best supports your painterly intent. You’re the painter—you can do what you want!

Intensity of illumination: Illumination may be strong, weak, or atmospheric (meaning affected by moisture in the air, i.e., forms in the distance become cooler and indistinct, as well as a result of direct moisture such as mist, fog, rain or snow). Pick the intensity that works for your painterly goal. Remember that your area of interest should have an illumination type, color and intensity appropriate to make it recognizable as the predominant actor in your painting drama!
Strong illumination: Here’s an example, below, of strong illumination, which can be used for your subject matter. Strong illumination allows the painter to dramatize the subject. Strong illumination is characterized by intensely colored shapes, strongly contrasting values on illuminated vs. shaded surfaces, with dark valued, colorful shadows:

Weak Illumination: In this example below, the ambient illumination is weak and the illuminated shapes, shaded surfaces and shadows are muted and grayed, compared to the example of strong illumination, with its intense hues and values, above. Weak illumination is characteristic of overcast days, for example, and allows the painter to create a different, more “contemplative”, restful effect, compared to “in your face” strong illumination:

Atmospheric Effects: In the final example, below, atmospheric conditions (fog, mist, rain, snow) generally reduce shapes to mere outlines, with little or no detail, generally weak values and grayed hues, little difference in illumination striking various faces of the shape, and virtually no shadows. Atmospheric effects allow painters to create “mystery” and “imagination” in paintings. To use this type of illumination effectively in a composition means the subject must have a strong and interesting outline, since that becomes the most notable feature of objects in such conditions:

Direction of illumination: Four of the most useful directions for illumination in a painting are: 1) Front; 2) Three-quarters; 3) Side; and 4) Back (or Rim) lighting. Each lighting direction has unique characteristics and offers different opportunities for the painter. Choose the direction that best supports your painterly intent:
Back Lighting: Back Lighting often helps to dramatize buildings by uniting their shapes in colorful shade, by creating contrast with illuminated surroundings and by the use of long, directional shadow shapes. Back lighting also has the potential use for an illuminated “halo” or “rim” lighting effect, where the direct lighting can be very dramatic as it is visible around the top or sides of landscape objects.
Side Lighting: Side lighting is also dramatic. Side lighting, where some planes are illuminated, and other planes are in shade, offers the potential for strong hue and value contrast in landscape shapes. In side lighting, cast shadows have the potential to become strong shapes. Choose the direction of illumination creatively for your best painterly effect, to show what’s important about the buildings/structures. Ignore the actual direction of illumination if it’s not helpful for your painterly intent.
Compare the different effects due to direction of illumination in the following examples. Of the four directions shown, front lighting is often the least interesting, since all faces of an object are equally illuminated, there is no visible shade and visible shadows are minimized—do you see how it is much less interesting than other directions of illumination?

Additional Thoughts on Planning and Using Shadows

Shade and shadows help define the intensity and direction of illumination; help “model” objects, showing their mass and dimensionality, and connect the objects to the ground plane.

In the following illustration, dramatic back lighting is used; some building planes are illuminated and other planes are in shade. Shadows become strong compositional shapes to help make an energized and dynamic painting characteristic of an urban setting!

Using Shade & Shadows Creatively: Use shadows where and how you need them. Don’t worry about where the shadows really occur in your reference photo. Caution--be consistent with the direction of illumination and use of shadows throughout the painting. Use shadows creatively:
• To “anchor” your buildings/structures to the ground plane and keep them from “floating”.
• To introduce cooler, complementary color pairings with the building shapes and colors.
• To direct the viewer’s eye throughout the painting using various shapes of shadows in a creative manner. For example, a large foreground shadow may often help the viewer’s eye to enter the painting and move to an area of interest in the middle ground—see the building painting above!
Connecting Objects: Shadows can connect your shapes; they are major compositional tools for your creative use to connect various individual shapes and create major shapes.

Form of the ground plane: Shadows define the contours and form of the ground plane and other surfaces upon which shadows fall.

Shadow Color: Shadows are generally cooler, muted/grayed colors that can be used in support of your painterly intent. Shadows colors may be derived from: 1) the overall color and temperature of the ambient illumination; 2) the color(s) of the elements on which the shadow falls; 3) reflections from near objects; 4) the complementary color of the object throwing the shadow; 4) combinations of these. Shadows are never black or gray; they are never “universal” in color! Don’t miss the opportunity for luminous color offered by shade and shadows! See illustration below:

Shadow value: In strong illumination, shadows tend to be mid-dark to dark in strong natural illumination; shadows are greatly reduced in intensity and value in weak natural and most artificial illumination. In atmospheric effects (fog, mist, rain, snow), there will seldom be visible shadows.

Shadow Intensity and edges: The intensity (hue) of shadows (and shade) varies directly with the intensity of the ambient illumination, i.e., strong natural light will produce the strongest and most pronounced shadow hues. Conversely, weak light, of any source, will produce weak to no shadows. Further, for painterly effect, shadows may become less intense and more “soft edged” the further they are from the light source and the shape that casts them.

Building vs. Shadow Dominance: For a good painting, illuminated areas and shade/shadows should not be of equal intensity and compositional balance; one must predominate in order to have a strong effect of illumination, as well as for good painting composition. In the example above, it’s the objects, not the shadows that are dominant.

Using Reflections: Reflections of light occur at intersections of vertical and horizontal planes, i.e., roof overhang, wall–ground plane intersection, etc. Reflections may be: 1) a cooler color from the color creating the reflection (as above); or 2) due to how the brain perceives color, reflections may be the complementary color of the color creating the reflection (see below), which offers strong painterly color variations. These reflections add to the enlivening effect of areas in light, shade and shadow—use them creatively, but selectively. Caution--don’t “over model” your shapes with too much contrast of illumination, shade, shadows and reflections. Look at the reflections in the illustrations above and below to see the dynamic effects possible with reflections:

This Week’s Exercise:

Photos to Use:
Here are two photos for this lesson—one on 32nd Street and Third Avenue, looking west towards the Empire State Building, in New York (the office building where my company is located is the tall building on the left. Hint: that building, unlike all the other buildings is a free-standing building turned 45-degrees to the street). The other scene is from a small town in Switzerland, a completely different urban setting.

For most dramatic effect with your chosen subject, consider the most striking direction and intensity of the illumination. Based on your chosen lighting direction, use shade, shadows and reflections in a painterly manner. Do not simply copy the lighting conditions in the existing photos!

Parallax: Be aware that in each photo, the camera exhibits parallax--the lens condition where very tall objects appear to be inclined toward the center of the photograph, rather than appearing vertical as they actually are. Your paintings should show the buildings as vertical, unless you want to mimic the effect. Select one photograph as your subject:

In Your Sketch Book:
o Explore and resolve the building’s perspective
o Use thumbnail sketches to explore the six principles for painting loosely & colorfully; explore creative illumination, shade and shadow possibilities
o Select and develop your preferred composition for the painting with sufficient information to execute the painting
For Your Painting:
o Using your selected sketch, lay-out the composition and major shapes lightly in pencil
o Execute your painting, following the fundamentals described in this lesson
Critique & Comments:
• Post examples of your sketches and painted exercise in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread
Next Week: Exploration of building vignettes in town/cityscape settings
Virgil Carter
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way
Exploring buildings in landscape paintings for advanced beginning & intermediate painters

Week 5

Painting Buildings in the Landscape

This week we will cover: Exploration of building vignettes in town/cityscape settings. This is lesson five of six, of our tutorial, and we are focusing on a new way to see and develop buildings in the landscape, the vignette.

Review of Last Week’s Objectives: Last week we covered
• Placing Buildings in the Landscape—3 (Buildings in Urban Settings)
• The Importance of Illumination
This Week’s Lesson Objectives:
• Fundamental 1: Placing Buildings in the Landscape—4 (Building vignettes in town/cityscape settings)
• Synthesis: Combine and apply the fundamentals from previous lessons
Fundamental 1: Building Vignettes in Town/City Settings: Building vignettes are similar to last week’s urban subjects, but with some important distinctions and challenges. Rather than seeing and painting a series of buildings in an urban setting, or even a single building, vignettes are focused on only a part of a building. Vignettes may also be focused on an exterior or interior space, formed by a portion of one or more buildings. Said differently, vignettes are “closely-cropped compositions”, where we might see, as an example, more of the street level view of a building, or in another example, the upper elements of a taller building.

Last week, in an urban setting, we were looking at buildings as objects in space. This week, just to widen our exploration of buildings in the landscape, we are looking more at: 1) an interesting portion of a building; 2) interesting space defined by buildings.

Vignettes present some challenges for painters, including composition, movement and center of interest. Here’s some thoughts about these challenges:
• Composition: Closely-cropped compositions often tend to fill up our watercolor paper and can easily become centered on our paper. Centered, or symmetrical, compositions, by definition tend to be more static and have less movement to them. So use your sketch book to carefully study composition and avoid static compositions.

• Movement: Movement means developing and executing a painting so that the viewer’s eye moves around and through the painting, in a lyrical, enjoyable manner. There have to be interesting shapes and colors to attract the eye. They have to be arranged in ways so that the eye moves in natural, enjoyable patterns. Movement requires a thoughtful study of linked shapes, hues, values and the creative use of edges! Edge variety is a key to movement! Did I mention how important edges can be?

Center of Interest: Vignettes are no different than other landscape paintings. For a strong and enjoyable viewing experience, there needs to be an area of interest. That means there needs to be a predominant area, and the remaining areas should be supportive and secondary. By now, you should have a clear understanding of how to plan and achieve this priority in your painting. The challenge with vignettes is that because they are closely-cropped it is easy to just treat every shape and element the same way, with the result that everything is developed in the same fashion and it is not clear what is important.

To successfully deal with these issues before painting, what should you do? Yes, that’s right, you should use your sketch book, study and resolve these issues.
  • Flat, dull shapes: There’s a related challenge with vignettes: creating flat, dull shapes. When dealing with closely cropped subjects, for some reason, many people may tend to just drop in a single color for a major shape here, and another single color major shape there. So remember to strive for hue and value variation. One of the biggest and most powerful tools to enliven and energize vignettes (and all other landscape compositions, for that matter) is the creative use of illumination, shade, shadows and reflections—the subject of Lesson Four!
  • Use of Illumination: Creative and imaginative use of illumination, shade, shadow and reflections will energize and enliven every vignette! You will be amazed at what these powerhouse tools can do for vignettes. Ignore the actual lighting and effects in your source materials, whether painting from life or from photos. Instead, think about how “painter’s lighting” will give you’re the strongest impact for your painterly intent for the subject. For example, it may be a noon-time photo, but think of late afternoon with long shadows. It may be a bright day, but think of a foggy day. It may be daytime, but think of night time. You get the picture!

Vignettes may seem simple, but don’t be fooled. Because they are closely cropped compositions, the need for a thoughtful approach is important. Being “loose and colorful” will benefit from a thoughtful study and a plan of attack. Thus, review Key Principles of Composition (Week 3), Illumination (Week 4), as well as the teaching points for “Buildings in Urban Settings” from Week 4. Keep in mind that for vignettes, in particular, the creative use of illumination, shade, shadows and reflections will help to enliven your subject beyond what the source photo may show. To see what I am talking about, look at the painting at the beginning of this lesson. The creative use of color and illumination makes that painting a highly personal and painterly work of an urban space between buildings. So find you own way to achieve a similar result in this lesson.

Synthesis: OK, now it’s your opportunity to employ all that you have used to design and execute a painting of an urban vignette. If you are unsure about some of the fundamentals presented in past lessons, this would be a great time to go back for a review.

Remember, your sketch book is your best friend for a strong, engaging and enjoyable painting. Use it so that you can be as spontaneous, “loose and colorful” as possible once you begin to paint.

Photos to Use: Here are two photographs to use for a subject. Select one for your sketch book studies and your painting.

Both photos are taken in the picturesque “perched village” of Eze, on the Cote d’Azur in France. You wouldn’t believe how long I had to wait for a person to be perfectly posed in the distant walk-space in the first photo! As you can see in the first photo, it’s really about the space between the buildings. The second photo will be strengthened if you add a few people somewhere on the walk in the lower center of the photograph. Unlike the first photo, this photo is really about the tall building in the background. Depending on how you develop the people added to this photo, you may either continue the area of interest as the tall tower, or, alternatively, you may refocus the eye on the pedestrian level and the figures as the area of interest.

Use your sketch book to experiment with various approaches to illumination, shade, shadows and reflections to enliven the photo of your choice. Remember the camera’s parallax effect for tall, vertical forms and keep your verticals “vertical”!

In Your Sketch Book:
• Explore and resolve the building’s perspective
• Use thumbnail sketches to explore the six principles for painting loosely & colorfully
• Remember the rules for composition and avoid placing major objects in the direct center of your composition, unless you have a strong reason for doing so
• Explore creative options for illumination, shade, shadows and reflections
• Select and develop your preferred sketch for the painting with sufficient information to execute the painting
For Your Painting:
• Using your selected sketch, lay-out the composition and major shapes lightly in pencil
• Execute your painting, following the approaches described in this lesson
Critique & Comments:
• Post examples of your sketches and painted exercises in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread
Next Week: Final lesson (your choice of building subject) and gallery exhibition of your work in the tutorial, “Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way”
Virgil Carter
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Old 12-13-2011, 09:50 AM
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Re: Tutorial Thread: Painting Buildings in the Landscape Loosely & Colorfully

Week 6: Final Week

Painting Buildings in the Landscape & Gallery Exhibition

This week we will cover: Applying all of the objectives from previous lessons to a landscape-building subject of your choice, plus uploading a display of paintings from the course into our Homework Thread Gallery: “Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way”

Review of Last Week’s Objectives: Last week we applied the objectives from the early lessons to a building vignette in an urban setting.

This Week’s Objectives: Combine and apply the previous learning points from the tutorial to a subject of choice using buildings in the landscape.

This Week’s Lesson: Final lesson (your choice of building subject) and our gallery exhibition, featuring the work we have done during the tutorial.
Using All You’ve Learned: This week’s lesson is an exercise in synthesis, i.e., taking the knowledge and skill you have developed throughout the tutorial and applying it to this week’s subject of your choice. Continue to use the same fundamentals and approaches to making a painting as you have used in past lessons.
Approach: Remember our mantra: “keep it simple”! Don’t let the building detail, flag poles and forms deter you from your goal of seeing buildings as interesting visual abstract shapes that you will compose and paint loosely and colorfully! A lot of that detail can be safely ignored!
Curving Walls: A quick look at the first photo of a street scene in Brugge, Belgium shows you that a portion of the building façade and street are curvilinear. What to do? Careful observation will show two parallel wall planes at the left and right margins of the photo. Create the “basic rectangles” of each building, in one-point perspective, and thereafter, simply draw the curvilinear shapes in the same proportion as the photograph’s proportions. The distant tower is a separate building and has its own two Vanishing Points that can be found and approximated as we have learned, using the clues the tower is providing. The heads of the four people show you the eye-level Horizon Line for the perspective of all the buildings. Wasn’t it thoughtful of the one person to wear red and be at that point in the photo to draw our eye into the scene? Draw on!
This Week’s Exercise:
Photos to Use: Here are a variety of photos of buildings in the landscape: They have been chosen to offer a range of settings, where buildings are included. Remember, your goal is not to create a painting of photographic accuracy. Rather, you are to compose and paint the subject of choice “loosely and colorfully”. Select one of the photos as your subject (or you may substitute your own preferred building subject matter if you wish):

In Your Sketch Book:
• Explore and resolve the buildings’ perspective
• Use thumbnail sketches to explore the six principles for painting loosely & colorfully
• Use your sketch book to study creative uses of illumination, shade, shadow and reflections
• Select and develop your preferred composition for the painting with sufficient information to execute the painting

For Your Painting:
• Using your selected sketch, lay-out the composition and major shapes lightly in pencil
• Execute your painting, following the approaches described in this lesson
Critique & Comments:
• Post examples of your sketches and painting in the Homework Thread, together with your comments and questions
• “Walk” around the Homework Thread, looking at the work and comments posted there, learning from what others are doing
• Add your positive critique & discussion in the Homework Thread

Gallery of Paintings: We’ve worked hard during the tutorial, and we’re going to close out the session in a blaze of glory! For our exhibition, “Painting Buildings in a Loose and Colorful Way”, select a minimum of two of your sketches and paintings done during the tutorial, and post them as your personal gallery exhibition in our Homework Thread Gallery. No exceptions—everyone is expected to paint and post! We want to see your work! Add any comments that are appropriate, but especially what you learned from the sketches and paintings you’ve posted.

Thanks: A sincere thanks to everyone for helping make this course an enjoyable learning experience. After all, that’s why we are here: to have some fun and to advance our knowledge and skill in painting, right? This has been a good class. Everyone has worked hard, been inquiring and encouraging of others, and willing to push the margins of their individual comfort zone. I think during this course everyone has advanced their knowledge and ability to paint buildings loosely and colorfully. Do you agree?

Best wishes to everyone and their families. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a rewarding new year to come!

Course Evaluation and Suggestions: Please help me improve this tutorial by your feedback in the Homework Thread or by PM, if you prefer.

Evaluation: Please give me your evaluation of this tutorial
1=no value to me
2=marginal value to me
3=moderate value to me
4=high value to me
5=very high value to me
Suggestions: What suggestions would you like to make in order for the tutorial to be a better learning opportunity and more enjoyable?

Closing: You’ve all done well! You should be pleased with your work and progress over the duration of the course. I’ll look for your work on WC! Salute and High-Five! Happy Holidays to all!
Virgil Carter

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