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Old 08-27-2005, 07:04 PM
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Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

I spent a couple of hours this morning with my camera and my wifes antiques, setting up still life compositions to paint. I think they came out great. I have about twenty good pictures. The trouble is that they are very much 'chiascuro' pieces--which did not occur to me until I inspected them on the computer screen. This is not something that I have ever attempted in watercolor. I would have set up different lighting if it had thought of it.
I would like some advice, as I intend to give this a try. I suspect that I should attempt to get those darks by glazing in layers of different colors, wet over dry. Is that right? I do not want mud.
Any and all advice is welcome. A number of different methods to choose from would be wonderfull. The more tips the better. The following photo is typical, some shots are more complex and have more colors, most have the same value contrast--very few have less.


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Old 08-27-2005, 07:41 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

You are absolutely right; you do not want to get very, very dark by glazing. Have a look at candles painted (possibly by Uschi? I can't remember) in this forum (probably w/c Gallery?). This will convince you that w/c absolutely can produce this sort of painting.

What you want to do is mix a very dark color, and brush it on in one application (if possible). Then, in some areas, soften the edge. Judging from this photo, you might want some slightly less black areas, so a tiny bit more water in your first mixed black will work. See if there was a WIP on those candle pictures; that would probably be perfect advice.

Note: I see you're a bit new to WC! so I figure I should explain: Have you seen the search facility for a particular forum? Just click on the Gallery subforum, then just above the list of all the threads, on the right side, there's a search box for looking through that particular forum.

P.S. Forgot to say -- lovely photograph! Great!

P.P.S. I found one link, to give you a taste. This is by Uschi, and there are more than one of them, and you can find them by using the 'Forum' search (click it and it opens a search box):


Last edited by FriendCarol : 08-27-2005 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 08-28-2005, 01:40 AM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

I have not tried chiascuro in waterclours either, but boy isn't Uschi's candle painting just beautiful..


When I looked at your rerf pic, I immediately thought of grisaille. Someone here did a terrific wip in wc on grisaille pears. http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...4&page=1&pp=40

I really do love your ref pic, those yellows are just delicious, the reflections on the coffee pot wonderful..

Really looking forward to seeing your painting..
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Old 08-28-2005, 03:55 AM
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Thumbs up Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

This should certainly make a wonderfully strong watercolor!

Good luck with it.

You've been pointed in the right directions for help.

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Old 08-28-2005, 07:19 AM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Your photo is very dramatic and the lighting is what makes it so.

As you see in Uschi's painting above, It is possible to do dark in watercolor. The background of my pink iris painting (see in my signature) is also very dark and was done in several layers because I started with a lighter background that didn't work. I just kept adding deeper and deeper tones one on top of the other letting them dry completely in between and being careful not to scrumble with the brush as I put on a new layer.

I don't know if you are into air brushing but I just read Arleta Pech's book Painting Fresh Florals in Watercolor where she did one exercise using an air brush to paint a very dark background before finishing lace and flowers in the center area.

Hope you have success with your chiarascuro painting. Look forward to seeing it.

Sylvia
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:55 AM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Thanks for the advice. I now know that it is possible to do what I want to do. Those candles prove it and so do those grisaille pears. That is one hell of a link! I am totaly intimidated.
I see the background as being a rose-bronze at the top left and green at the bottom left with dark,dark brown moving accross from the right. I may do a variagated wash from rose at the top to green at the bottom and then try and come up with some kind of dark brown to wash over that (when totaly dry) in a graduated manner from the right to left, dark to light. I wonder if a choice of granulating colors would be a good idea?
Using a grey grissaile (prussian blue/burnt umber) for the underpainting of the pewter pot, plate and fruit sounds like a good idea. To maintain the unity, I should probably try to use that technique on cloth and table too. I will use the same rose in the background, the cloth and in the highlights on the pot--I think I can sneak a little into the table too. I think the green in the lower part of the background is (and should be) the middle green of the apple and the green highlights in the pot (or should it be lighter on the pot)? I still worry about turning the darks to mud. I think I will do the sketch today and do some color experimentation on the backs of old paintings, while I wait for more advice. I am as self-critical as Aselka, who did those wonderfull pears, but no-where near as good.
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Old 08-28-2005, 10:47 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Ian, don't be afraid of the darks.

Okay, sorry. That just came up (really, I couldn't help it!) as I was about to say this: If you know the handprint site, Mr. MacEvoy has a page about how to ensure brilliant (or no mud) colors. Huge amounts of detail (as per usual ), but basically, you want to mix the color, then lay it, without 'fuzzing' the fibers of the paper more than absolutely necessary.

So, either mix the dark and lay it with single strokes (very dark washes), or you can glaze, with single strokes on top of completely dry layers (as Sylvia explained). A wonderful-beautiful, user-friendly sable brush (I love my da Vinci flat #20 for washes!!! and my Escoda #20 for tighter corners!!!) makes it so much easier, but it can be done even without perfect tools.

If you get worried, simply tell yourself this one you're about to do is just the first of a series; you're experimenting. That's what I do, to take the pressure off.

When you do get there, the result is going to be great! And think how much you're going to learn along the way.
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Old 08-29-2005, 05:19 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Just to give you something else to think about, I use darks in the background a lot and I build them up using glazes. I try and put in a glaze of a lot of the colours I am using in the paiting and it helps to tie the background and subject together. Each glaze is added when the glaze beneath is totally dry and you can alter the amount it covers what is beneath so the under layers shine through and give it depth. I don't get mud as long as I put each glaze on gently and don't scrub them together.
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Old 08-29-2005, 06:49 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

You may also want to look at some of Nick's tutorials -- the taratella comes to mind immediately. He puts lots of color on and darkens it up, but the color underneath gives depth instead of mud.

Can't wait to see the finished product!
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Old 08-29-2005, 08:03 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Thanks for the advice, everyone.

I'm heading over to Handprint right now to check that out that suggestion.

I believe a will be ready to give this painting a try pretty soon. I have a similar photo with a less conventional composition that I am really dying to try, but is is seriously challenging, so I will use this one as the test piece and see what I learn.

Ellen, I took a look at your site. Wow! I envy your grasp of watercolor! I have so many ideas, but I don't have what it takes to execute them yet. I really enjoy the learning process, however--which is good thing, as I have so much very much left to learn.
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Old 08-30-2005, 07:03 AM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

This is going to be interesting Bruce, we'll be learning with you

Doug
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Old 08-30-2005, 02:11 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Well, isn't that nice, I drop in here and what do I see, my painting Friend Carol I am honored that you thhought this was good enough to use as an example.

Ian, this is one heck of a beautiful photo!!!!! Sure hope you can pull it off, it would be worthy of a magazine!!!!

My advice would be to wet the desired area, let the water sink in and then drop in your colour; do this over and over again. i.e. let's pretend you are painting the tea pot, prewet the WHOLE area each time, as long as the paper isn't too wet the new colour will float into the area and not leave any sharp edges because once you have a few coats of paint on there it will be near impossible to soften the edges without adversely affecting the previous coat.

Even when prewetting after a few glazes are already in there, be creful not to lift pevious colour, as one of my friends used to say, just let the wet brush gently kiss the paper
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Old 08-30-2005, 04:00 PM
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Re: Help!--chiascuro in watercolor?

Ian, do you know what I love about this website??? When one person asks a question, we ALL learn stuff...

I use darks in my backgrounds a lot, too... however, I tend to use juicier mixes, with fewer glazing layers than most of our artists... Arleta Pech has been one of the artists that inspires me and she has painted some compositions very similar to yours (except they have beautiful flowers in them...)...

No matter how you decide to approach this, I will be sitting right here in the front row cheering you on!!
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