Tag: watercolor how to

Teaching Watercolor to High Schoolers (when you don’t know how)

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.

A few years ago I began teaching a painting class, after taking a a three year break to focus on ceramics and sculpture. While I loved teaching 3D art, I was excited to move back to the two dimensional world. I always loved painting. and couldn’t wait to teach a course that focused on it. However, in order to teach a well rounded painting course I knew I would have to teach watercolor. And I hated watercolor.

My mom is an amazing watercolorist. Not only was she an amazing watercolorist, she was also an amazing portrait artist. Two skills that I am not naturally gifted at. Growing up I remember a number of times when my mom attempted to teach me watercolor techniques. Despite her many tips and suggestions, I was impatient and couldn’t wrap my head around the need to plan ahead and work in layers.

At the point when I took over the painting and advanced 2D courses, and realized I would have to teach an advanced level watercolor project, I had yet to create a successful watercolor painting. It was time. I was going to have to learn to properly paint with watercolors, because I was about to have to teach it.

How to paint a path using watercolor paints.

I started with the basics. I needed to plan ahead and pace myself. I knew from experience if you went too heavy too quick you could never get back to whites and lighter colors. Watercolor is about glazing, adding thin layers on top of each other, and letting the layers dry in between, to create detail, depth, and build in shadows.

I began doing watercolor testers. First, just blobs of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding other material such as salt. I watched YouTube videos and checked out a few watercolor books. Next, I began combining the techniques to create simple landscapes. The above path started with wet watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry, then adding in dark shades. I left lighter areas untouched, and tried not to go too heavy too quick. The final layers involved adding the detail such as the grass. I didn’t shy away from incorporating other colors, such as blue and purple, into the shadows.

How to paint a floral bush with watercolor paint.

I continued to work with combining techniques, planning ahead, and building my color in layers. I had my mom once again show me her techniques, and began thinking and applying them in a different way than I had before. I realized at heart, I am an oil painter. I like to throw down color, mix it together, and cover up mistakes as a I go. You don’t have the luxury of that with watercolor. You must plan ahead. You must work slow. You must think highlights vs. shadows before you lay them down. I had to change the way I thought about painting in order to successfully complete a watercolor.

For the example above I tested wet on wet by wetting my paper first, then adding green, yellow, and blue watercolor. I allowed the first layer to dry, then added brown and more blue to push my shadows and value. I then used a mostly dry brush and painted in a floral shape.

The first steps in watercolor painting, doing a base sketch and inking.

Once I felt confident in the watercolor techniques I was testing, I decided it was time to start my project example. The assignment was for my Advanced 2D art class, the last step before AP Art. They had to select a part of our school’s campus to turn into a watercolor painting. They could go inside, outside, it was up to them, but it had to have some sort of architectural feature in it. This assignment forced them to go out and take pictures to work from, making them consider angles, framing, and composition. It required them to focus on perspective and lines, with the architectural element. And it also focused on honing their watercolor techniques to create a realistic image.

Although they were focusing on a section of the school, I encouraged them to think about what part of the school was important to them. Where was their favorite class? Where did they spend the most time? What space best reflected their view of the school? While I focused on our school for this project, it’s also a great opportunity to have students think personally, and bring in a photograph of a place that is important to them.

For my example, I did not focus on a section of the school. Instead, I opted to kill two birds with one stone, complete an example and create a wedding present for my brother-in-law and his wife. I chose an image of their wedding venue, a beautiful southern house called Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

There are two ways I like to do my examples. The first, is complete them before my class starts the assignment to make sure I like it and it will be successful. The other way is to do it along with them. I chose option B for this project, which was scary since I was not confident in my watercolor ability. The benefit of working on my painting along with my students is I can tell them what issues I come across as I work through them. It also allows me to continue demonstrating techniques throughout the project. And although I wasn’t very confident in my watercolor painting abilities, it showed them that I could do it. I kept telling them if I could do it, they absolutely could as well.

Before I introduced the watercolor project, I completed my base drawing. I used pencil, then went ahead and traced over the lines using a waterproof pen. I kept the ink lines tight in sections I knew would be in full view, and loosened up in the areas that would have foliage overlapping it. I at least wanted to base drawing to be complete, so when I introduced the project I could go ahead and demonstrate some watercolor techniques.

A partially finished watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

Next, I began painting. First of all, I apologize for the huge jump from zero paint to 75% complete. I always intend to photograph throughout the process, but I often get caught up in what I am doing. I started with the sky, using wet on wet and blotting out the clouds. Next, I went into the roof and walls of the building using a combination of wet on wet, dry brush, and adding salt for texture. I then continued adding details and blocking out color for the background.

As I continued to add detail I slowly built up the shadows and was very careful not to go too dark too quick. I constantly told my students they could always go darker, but couldn’t go lighter. They were going to paint the painting at least four times through the layering technique.

A watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.

The final touches came with the trees and bushes that overlapped the front of the building and were the darkest color. I then went back in with pen and added more lines as needed.

I was very pleased with the final product and with myself for pushing out of my comfort zone by tackling a medium I had never liked before. Since this painting was completed, I have done a number of other landscape and architecture watercolor paintings. I have a new found love for it, and although it will never be my first choice, it isn’t one I will shy away from anymore.

A framed watercolor painting of Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, SC.I matted and framed the painting for them as a Christmas gift. I hope they cherish is for years to come.

My students’ painting also turned out beautifully. I love putting the campus painting on display in the school. It gives the faculty, administrators, and student body a chance to see their school in a different light. It’s always interesting to see what part of the school they choose to focus on.

Megan and Vince were married in gardens right next to the plantation home. It was beautiful with the Spanish moss and pond as a backdrop to the beautiful wedding party, bride, and groom. The reception took place on the porch of the house. It was an amazing day from start to finish.

A photograph at the pier in Folley Beach, SC

This was a picture of my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, niece and myself during the wedding weekend. It was so much fun celebrating with the Panetta family and witnessing Vince and Megan’s commitment to each other. Nick and I also announced the coming of our first baby the same weekend, who is now a two year old wild man Cooper.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog! You can find the lesson plan and all the resources I use to teach this watercolor project at my TPT store here. I have also created watercolor how to posters here and here. Also check out different ways I use watercolor in my visual journal here and here. Help me spread the word by sharing this post on your social media site of choice. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Every year I teach a landscape, architecture watercolor painting to my advanced level high school art students. The first year I taught it, I had to first teach myself how to use watercolors. Read how I did it in this post and check out a link to my lesson plan and resources.

Visual Journal Page 39: My Snuggle Bug

Visual-Journal-page-39-Snuggle-Bug

I love my little 1940’s cottage settled in the outskirts of the city. I love the details, the layers of paint, the historic feel, and most of all I love standing in my kitchen, and gazing out to my giant backyard.

As Nick and I went on our house hunting adventure we looked at houses of all shapes, sizes, and states. Some were too big, others too small, some were recently flipped, others were falling apart, some had three feet of backyard, and others 6. As we searched for our perfect home we quickly realized one common theme was small property size. We would’ve loved a large yard, but we had to accept the fact that we were searching within city limits, and urban living doesn’t typically come with outdoor space. Nick and I had both come to terms with it, and our focus was on the interior, until we found our house.

The interior was beautiful, it was recently flipped, and the three bed, two bath was perfect for our small family of four, two humans and two dogs. I was already in love before I walked out back and saw the backyard that seemed to go on forever. I felt it was a done deal before that moment, but that moment solidified it. This was going to be our house.

One of our first purchases, after a lawnmower to mow our giant lawn, was two hammocks. We hung them, side by sid, between two of our oak trees. My spring and fall aren’t complete without afternoons spent reading, and gazing up at my leafy canopy. I love the mixture of birds, swaying branches, and city buses. I hear the hustle and bustle out front, but out back I am in my own oasis.

Our babies, Kody Bear and Jacob, also love our little oasis. A large fenced in yard means a lot of playing time, and sun bathing. I get my relaxation in my hammock, softly swaying, as I watch my babies playing. Shortly after hanging the hammocks, I made sure to get good use out of them, making it a priority to spend nice afternoons in my blue and red striped cocoon. This particular day was a nice 74 degrees, with a light breeze. I was catching up on my second read through of the Harry Potter series, and the dogs were running out their energy, when all of the sudden Jacob came barreling towards me, and lept into the hammock.

I squealed, and tried to free myself before he flipped us, but the sides of the hammock swallowed us both, and we were stuck. I assumed as soon as his four legs hit, and realized his safe haven was moving beneath him, he would jump out just as quick, but I was wrong. Instead, my 50 pound beagle mix snuggled up at my feet and fell asleep. I adjusted slightly, got back to reading, every now and then peeking at my sleeping baby, in awe of the fact that he was actually hanging out in a hammock.

Since that moment Jacob freely hops in the hammock with me, finds his space, and spends some quality time with his mom. I love every moment of it. It makes my hammock time even more special, he can be my snuggle bug any day of the week…

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement
  • Scissors
  • Watercolors
  • White paper
  • Book pages
  • Paint brush
  • Water
  • Colored pencils
  • Sharpie

HOW TO

I already had this visual journal page design in mind when I got to work. It was a mental snapshot of that afternoon, the image of Jacob eagerly waiting in the hammock is something I see every time I reminisce on this moment, and it was just a matter of translating it onto paper.

I decided to first re-create my background. I decided to use watercolors, since I hadn’t used them recently. I ripped two pages from my book, and set them aside to work on. I chose to do this, rather than work directly in my book, because the paint is water based. If I painted directly on the pages it would’ve bled through to the other pages, causing them to wrinkle up. By working separately, and gluing the pages back into the book, I prevent wrinkled and dyed pages.

Once I had my pages I sketched out the back of my house and backyard. Once outlined I used watercolors to fill in colors. I always mix a few shades of colors together to create a more interesting color palate. Once the painting was finished, I set it aside to dry. I then pulled out a piece of white paper and drew out my hammock and Jacob. I opted to color them in with colored pencil, to create a bolder look, and help it pop against the background. I slowly added layers of color and built them up until they looked solid and bright. I then added highlights with white, and shadows with black.

Once my drawing was finished I cut it out and glued it to the background. I then took the two book pages and glued them on top of two blank pages in my book. After that I stepped back to admire my handiwork, but it didn’t look complete. The background was a little too washed out, and contrasted to much with the bold colored pencil drawings. To help balance it I outlined the watercolor with a thin sharpie. This added detail, texture, and helped it blend with the drawing. Last but not least I added the words beneath the hammock with sharpie.

I hope you enjoyed todays post! Help me spread the word about my blog, and the joy of visual journaling, by emailing it to others, liking, sharing, commenting, and subscribing! Thanks for supporting me and visiting!

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