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Old 03-31-2010, 10:35 PM
Deborah Secor's Avatar
Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

I hope all you "gouachistes" are ready to paint rushing streams, moving water, rocks, splashes and other fun water subjects! When Maggie started these threads she thought it would be a good idea to suggest the subject matter, just to encourage us to try various things and learn from one another, but we're honestly interested in anything you paint using gouache, so don't be shy. This month you can take on the challenge of moving water and rocks, or show us whatever is on your easel.

Some of you may already be aware of my free online landscape book, drawn from my 25 years of painting in pastels, but I've pulled out a bit of what I've written about these subjects that I think applies directly to gouache.

Here's a painting to look at as you read.

Green River Falls, 6.5x4.5" (HUGE for me!)

Quote:
Moving Water

The key to painting water that's moving is to think about where it's coming from and how it's descending. Water always seeks its own level, so unless it's in a basin of some kind it's moving. Ask how fast the water is falling and what's in its way as it does. It may be slowly draining, moving along deep underneath, and fairly placid on the surface. That's where you'll often find reflections occur. Or it might be dashing merrily along, splashing and gurgling as it careens downward from rock to rock. In that case you see lots of splashes and foam indicating the movement.

Draw the stream bed like a roadway, with the edges parallel and in perspective, greatly simplified. Then decide what direction the water is moving. It's going from high to low, of course. Streams and rivers are always subject to the terrain they move over. What happens underneath the water determines what it looks like on top. If there's a big boulder in the way the water will curve around each side, splash up onto it, or cover it, forming a large dome of cascading water. Smaller rocks scattered across the stream bed make ripples on the surface. Smooth sandy bottoms make for smoothly moving water.

What color is water? Usually the water's color is determined by the depth, the sediment, and the color of the rocks or sand. Look for the local color, whatever it is. Water is usually only blue when there's clear blue sky over a large reflective area. More often it's greenish, tea colored or dull brown--and occasionally milky white with glacial runoff.

Shadows crossing the water break the reflections, and allow you to see down into the water itself. It's best to think of water from the bottom up--paint the color of the sand or rock, then 'submerge' it with a pass of the water's color over it. Reflections, foam and sparkles can be added last.

As a rule reflections in clear water are muted versions of what is seen above. Dark colors reflect slightly lighter, light colors reflect slightly darker. Mediums stay about the same value.

Have you ever stood at the edge of a pond and found yourself leaning out over the water in order to be able to catch a glimpse of the fish and rocks beneath the surface? As you look almost straight down into the water you can see more clearly without much reflection obscuring your view, except perhaps a very pale reflection of the sky above you. Conversely, when you look out at the distant surface of the water in the middle of a pond, you generally see only the sky reflected. The angle at which you view the water’s surface will determine the amount of bottom details and reflection to paint.

Think of a ripple as having a little mirror on each side. There are basically two reflective shapes, the front and back of the ripple, with the front side pointed toward you and the back pointed away. However, keep in mind that each mirror is supple and bends in all directions easily, curving and shaping the reflections fluidly.

(c) 2009 D. Secor

Quote:
Rocks

People seem to think that rocks are difficult to paint. The cure for 'baked potato' or 'soft ice cream' style rocks lies in selecting rocks that have interesting planes with sharp light and shadows to reveal them.

Pick up a rock and hold it in your hand for a few moments. One thing is clear: your rock is hard. Whether the angular facets and sharp fractures of granite or the soft rounded shapes of sandstone, the unmoving weight and unyielding hardness of rock must be made clear to your viewer. Rocks are stable, constant, firm. This permanence, though illusory, must be communicated.

Look for the special way that rocks come to relate to one another. The weight of rocks causes them to fall to the lowest point possible, often leaning into or on top of one another. That can be visually interesting.

A shadow crossing over and around a rock more clearly defines its shape, whether rounded or flat, textured or smooth. Shadows often pick out cracks and other variations that identify these as rocks—and not as a pile of mashed potatoes. In contrast, mashed potatoes are soft and rounded with very few distinct planes. True, there are rounded rocks, some that even resemble mashed potatoes, but it’s the job of the artist to communicate the hard, unyielding qualities of even these rocks. More often you will paint ones that are far more recognizably rocky rocks.

If there’s one aspect that’s key to rendering rocks believably, it’s finding and identifying the planes. Locate three primary planes: dark, medium and light. Mark the darkest areas of value, where deep shadows occur. Then select a medium value for the half-light areas. Where the light strikes most strongly assign the lightest values. Then mass together these value areas into pleasing shapes, perhaps rearranging the rocks in your drawing so that the planes are more clearly indicated.

Observe the colors in each value plane. It’s in the middle tones found in the half-light areas where the most stimulating colors reside. Think about the colors of rocks in general. Yes, most of us think of gray or beige, which are not inaccurate descriptions. Yet consider the great variety of colors found in rocks. It’s best to use a common color throughout the dark, medium and light planes in order to identify a rock as being made up of a single material. If you select a purple for the shadowed side, be sure to include lavender in the sunlit side. You most certainly will want to mix various colors of the correct value, creating an exciting depth of color, but don’t neglect the identifying color in all the areas of value. Be careful not to paint a rock that’s yellow in sunlight, blue on the shadow side and red in the half-light areas or it won’t look like it’s made of the same material.

Wet rocks can be exquisitely beautiful. Under water rocks glisten like multicolored gems. Even rocks that are splashed by a stream become spectacular colors where they’re wet, darker in value and richer in saturation, in contrast to the slightly duller colors and paler values of the dry portions.

(c) 2009 D. Secor

And here's a close-up of the painting above so you can see the brushwork in the water. It's on Somerset Black Velvet paper--that's why the the black is popping through. I hope you can sense the rocks along this slope with the water bouncing down and around and over them.


This one just shows the glossy ripples along a sandy bank of the Rio Grande.

Rio Grass, 2.5 X 3.5"

And this one shows you some submerged rocks.

Falls River, 4.24 x 3.25", on Somerset BV

I'm posting this early because I'm going to be gone a good portion of the day April 1, and I want us to be able to get started with a fresh focus. So, I'd love to see what you have that's watery or rocky, or both.

Or show us what you're working on now!

Deborah
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Old 03-31-2010, 11:55 PM
MichaelFraley MichaelFraley is offline
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Excited about the possibilities! Thanks, Deborah.

= Michael
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:36 AM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Gasp! Stunning intro. I've got to get the gouache brushes wet this long weekend.
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:27 AM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Deborah,

What a lovely painting and your write up about moving water has given me lots of food for thought.... Thought I would encourage everyone to try out Somerset Pastel Paper as I have only just 'discovered' it myself for gouache work. It's a joy to work on, and you don't feel that you are battling with the surface... gouache just glides right on. I bought a mixed color pack in quarter sheet size to try out different colors. If you work very wet you may have to stretch it first. Wish I had tried out this paper before as I like it very much.

Maggie L
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Old 04-01-2010, 02:47 AM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

WOW! What a start! Thanks Deborah for this wonderful thread.

Doug
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:48 AM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Terrific start, Deborah! I'm in for this one!
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:16 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

deborah ..loved reading your text thankyou ..very striking painting on the black paper
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:39 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Hi Everyone,

My timing here must be good. This little piece is about to go on my blog as my painting for the day, but I'll post it here as well. There's no water, but there are rocks, so hopefully it counts. It's nowhere near as dramatic as Deborah's, but I don't tend toward the dramatic very often. I don't know if it's necessary to say "comments are welcome" in this thread, but they are always welcome on my posts on WC.

5x7 ~ Gouache on gessoed Crescent board

And a couple of details. I've sharpened them up a bit so the brushstrokes show up more.


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Last edited by Old Tex : 04-01-2010 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:45 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Deborah .. thanks for this stunning and inviting opening!!!
Count me in.

Ralph ...
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:01 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

wonderful thread Deborah !! thank you for the comment..
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Old 04-01-2010, 07:47 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Hi Deborah,

I would like to try gouache, where do I start? I have a small tube of Pelikan Plakat-Tempera #02 white that I bought years ago and never used, is this what I would use to my watercolors or do I buy special gouache paint?

Thanks,
Mary
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:06 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Oh good, I'm so glad you all are into it and ready to get going!

And Ralph is ahead of the game... Love the painting! I walked up to the monitor from across the room and it reads beautifully. And small--when did you start doing such little ones? Careful, before long you'll be down to the size I paint. The Crescent Board is new, too, isn't it? How do you like it compared to the other surfaces you use? I really enjoy the transparency of your strokes--I can see the color of the paper, much like a watercolor. It has a dignity I like. "Stately Tree."

Maggie, to clarify for me, when you say 'Somerset Pastel Paper', do you mean the Velvet? I know the mill makes a lot of different papers, and the velvet, which is a printmaking paper, comes in a range of neutrals and black. It is so nice for gouache, I agree!

Here's another one of mine, (which I gave to the friend who shot the photo I used):


Shady Spot, 2.5x3.5"
I think I'm going to paint this one again, this time on the Somerset BV, just to see what it might look like with more contrast.

Deborah
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:19 PM
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Deborah Secor Deborah Secor is offline
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Mary, you can give it a try and see what results. I have some very inexpensive 'tempera' tubes that were given to me early on, and I mixed them with my gouache paints--though I've never used watercolor. Maybe some of the others here have more details on that, and you can go over and check in the Casein, Gouache and Egg Tempera forum, too!

Deborah
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Old 04-01-2010, 09:51 PM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Deborah, thank you for such an intriguing, beautiful opener. The excerpts from your pastels book have given me all sorts of ideas and your examples are breathtaking. I love them all. That last little one you gave the photographer, I'm very happy you're going to paint that scene again. It's so cool.

Ralph, your landscape is gorgeous too. Gouache just seems to work so well for small pieces, it rocks.
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Old 04-02-2010, 03:58 AM
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Re: GOUACHE CORNER: April -water and rocks

Great start to this thread, which I hope to get in on too. I love streams.

Deborah --- that first one has such great energy! I looked around locally for some of that Black Velvet paper with no luck, will have to order some. Maybe by the time it arrives, I'll have an inkling of an idea of how to use the gouache. (have used mostly oils and pastels, but nothing much in last couple of years).

Tex --- love your painterly rocks.

Dan
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