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Old 12-17-2017, 01:11 AM
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Six Studies of a Pear

My watercolor skills are... not... um... well, you'll see, lol.

However, I like the medium and its simplicity (water vs. other annoying media like mineral spirits) and I want to be able to sort of at least play around in it. Thank you in advance for comments/advice. I apologize that the pictures are bad. I wasn't able to catch a very good quality; my camera makes it too dark and my phone makes it too light (hence why I included both). The colors are not as washed out as my phone camera makes it appear. Unfortunately, I don't have access to a scanner that will handle this size paper (the one I have at work is the feed-through type that will take up to 11" wide only; this is 9x12 paper and I'm not sure I can manage to trim a whole inch off the edges without losing some of the actual painting).

I found this thread, with this picture of a pear. Normally I'm not inclined to paint fruit and still life subjects (I admit a love for landscapes), but I liked the pear for some reason, and I thought, "I could maybe work on that." I'm intimidated by complexity, so this pear is simple but also lets me play with color. Each pear is a quick enough study that I don't get bored or frustrated just with sheer time involvement.

So: six studies, playing around with different techniques, some of which I've never tried before and some of which I've never mastered (my patience is thin and failure frustrates me, so my practice tends to be brief). (The original intent was to keep trying with similar techniques and attempt to improve, but I kept having different ideas so after the first two I decided to just go with it.) I told myself that what happens will happen, and not to get angry/give up.

I mixed up some colors and kept using the same ones across the whole page, for simplicity and to keep all of the pears harmonious (and because this was a technique study, not a color study). A light yellow green; another with a bit more green added; an orange-red; the same very diluted; the same with a bit of reddish brown added (for stem and such); and an olive green (the second green with bit of a dark brown, umber-ish color added), for that shaded-green part on the lower right.


#1: Attempt at realism, -ish. I tried to use dry-brush techniques on the reddest parts. This had some success with intensity, but the end of the red used there is very abrupt. I can't decide how I feel about that, but I resisted the urge to try to "fix" it. (I wonder if it would have been less abrupt had I used my fan brush rather than a small flat.) One lesson I *have* learned well in watercolor is that the more I try to repair a mistake, the worse it gets! Leave it and move on. (It's also a lesson I've learned in music and dance-- if I mess up, I need to keep going and forget about it. If I continue to think about it as I go on, I will be distracted into messing up again. Yes, this is always a lesson I learn the hard way, usually multiple times before it sticks!)

The dots seem contrived. One thing about a pear is all of the tiny variations in color. I had a hard time capturing that.

For the reflection of the light, I just left a small area of the original light-green wash (I felt white might be too harsh, based on past experience. I don't really know how to make these look natural). The reflections look fake anyway, in all studies.


#2: Having a go at all wet-in-wet. It did come out sort of with the effects I want it to, but you can see the places where I got impatient and didn't wait long enough for parts to dry before I continued (this also a symptom of not having a good grasp on "how wet" the paper is or how wet it is will influence certain behaviors of the paint). And you can see a total muckup on the right middle where the reddest bit shades back into the green, because I used two different washes of green and laid in the red, but the area with the first wash was too dry, so then I was belatedly trying to re-wet the drier areas and... yes. This is what happened. Muddy mud.

I decided to try a contrast on the edges with a light shadow wash. Instead of using straight black, I decided to pick up a technique I found on one of the color-tutorial threads here and make the shadow tinted toward the complementary of the pear (yellow-green pear; red-violet shadow) in order to make the pear "pop" a bit more. I went back in and softened the edges with clear water later. I sort of like how it came out. (This technique makes me want to try it with painting a Gala apple; I think it would lend itself well to the striations in color that a Gala has.)

Reflections created by scrubbing out some color with a cloth.


#3: Playing with mixed-media; I put down some strokes of color in colored pencil (regular, not watercolor pencil, though if I had the latter it would be fun to try the same with them, assuming they would blend slightly but not entirely with the wash). Mostly I just wanted to see what effect I would come out with. It's interesting. Some of my pencil strokes could have been smaller so they were less obvious.

#4: An attempt at a loose dry-brush technique, but I have yet to figure out how I can use a dry-brush technique with wet paints... then the brush gets wet and there goes my dry-brushing. I need to read up on this.


#5: Having a go at underpainting the red parts. I failed at making the red parts not-homogenous (and I meant to glaze in a bit more in spots before I went in with the greens, but then forgot when I returned to the painting after drying the first layer). I also forgot to add the olive green on the lower right when underpainting, and adding it later caused a backrun, though this got sorted out a bit with the subsequent wash. I also admit that on these last two (especially this one), I was scraping the bottom of the mixing dish with the green colors; I didn't want to mix more when I was so close to done.


#6: An attempt at dropping in color on damp paper. Once again I fell victim to not knowing exactly how wet/dry was too wet/dry. Also, I was letting it dry a little bit after the green layer and forgot to keep checking it and it dried on its own, so I had to re-wet before adding the red, and lost the textured color I had (which was not much anyway because the paper was still too wet when I added the green). Also, I didn't dilute the red enough (and forgot to test on scrap paper), so it is way too intense.


Critiques I'd like:
1. Finishing. This is always an issue with my work in any media. I know I stop before it's "done." I just am never sure what else to add (I'm really not naturally inclined toward visual art; I don't have an "eye" for these things so I really have to work on it), and sometimes when I do try, it comes out muddy and/or contrived and/or overdone. I watch tutorials and see the person doing it continue past a point at which I would have said the work was finished, and it looks great, but I can't for the life of me get into my head what more I can do to my work so it doesn't look half-done and elementary-school-ish.

2. How to fix, or rather avoid in future, the various mistakes (both ones I've outlined, and maybe some I don't even see).

3. I haven't the first clue how to make round things look round/3-dimensional instead of flat. I am certain there are tutorials here which I will read, but any tips specifically relating to these pears would also be appreciated.




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Old 12-17-2017, 03:45 AM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Practice is good Kat. I would approach the pear by painting wet in wet, a base
yellow colour with red dropped in to make soft transitions. Your second #3 is the best so far IMHO.

Try adding some fine spatter when dry using a toothbrush to get that texture. Shadows are what makes things look round, so decide where the light source is and apply a shadow on the opposite edge fading to nothing by the centre of the pear.

Doug
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Old 12-17-2017, 09:13 AM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Thanks, Doug! #2 and #3 are both sort of done like you describe (and #5 to an extent, just that the red is underpainted rather than glazed over the top). That seems to me to also be the best way. I like the exactness of the coloring on the real pear, but I haven't a clue how to capture it in paint; I think it would need more experience/skill than I have right now. (Both pictures are of the same painting, just with two different flaws of lighting. Either way the colors look more washed out than they are in real life.)

I had wondered if I should put in shadows, but wasn't sure since shape wasn't my primary concern. I'll try it next time (I'm sure I'll be doing the pear many more times).

I like the toothbrush-spatter idea. What might be a good way to keep the spatter from going everywhere rather than just inside the pear?
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Old 12-17-2017, 09:23 AM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Just tear a hole in a piece of paper to restrict the spatter. The paint you are spattering should not be too wet, do a test run.

Doug
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Old 12-18-2017, 05:25 AM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Hole in paper is an awesome idea. Thanks.
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Old 12-19-2017, 07:03 AM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Good idea, thanks!
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Old 01-01-2018, 02:50 PM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

One thing that will help with both the color rendition and creating 'roundness' is to paint the subject with a pronounced directional light, so that you get the shadow and the light effects to define the pear.

I took a workshop several years ago with Sue Archer, and though I, like you, am not a still life artist, found her techniques very helpful. Take a look at these pears she did: https://archerville.com/sue/stilllife/gallery1-15.html

Very nice explorations.
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Old 01-10-2018, 03:13 PM
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Re: Six Studies of a Pear

Best way to make pears look three dimensional - add modeling shadows on the pear and a highlight or two lifted out or left unpainted where the light strikes the skin. For this it helps to have a real pear there to paint from and a directional light on it. Cast shadows will also help.

Shadowing-shading is always the first step for me in making anything 3D and it helps to have the light over to one side and coming down at an angle, so there's a definite light side and shadow side. Fortunately, pear shapes are pretty simple, so shadowing them after a while is a matter of knowing the subject even if I don't see those shadows.

Make the color more intense in the shadow areas. Or blend a shadow color, a grayed violet is good for this, over the other colors while the pear shape is still damp. That gives soft edged shadows on the pear and a hard edge where the pear meets the background.

Cast shadows it's a matter of following their shape visually. There may be a little reflected color from the pear into the shadow, if so then exaggerating it slightly adds to the richness of the painting. But you can use the same shadow mixture for both the cast shadows and as a final shading over the colors of the pear. Deepening and intensifying the colors of the pear can work too.

These studies are good though! Pears are a great subject for this kind of testing, they stand up to almost anything in an experiment and will come out looking well almost no matter what you do.

If you don't have a photo reference with clear shadows and shading, and don't have a real pear, model one out of something like a kneaded eraser and just set it on your table or a bit of white paper to get the shapes of the modeling shadows and cast shadows. There are many tutorials on drawing and shading a sphere, a pear is a little distorted from that shape but all those shadow zones are likely to be there including a little sliver of reflected light at the bottom edge coming up from white paper if it's on white.

They're fun to do. If you're having trouble controlling the paint to get those effects, do a dry sketch of the pear with the modeling shadows first and use that as a reference while painting swiftly into damp paper, wetted only within the outline of the pear.

I also sometimes use watercolor pencils for the sketch, so that the color will dissolve and vanish within the painting. It's a handy trick. I'll use a color that mixes well with everything I'm using, like a gold or a yellow usually for a green or red pear.
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