Tag: watercolor

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 28: The Sound of Trains

Learn the inspiration behind this visual journal page as well as the supplies and steps I took to create it. Learn how to start your own visual journal by reading about mine. This particular post focuses on a memory/sensory tie I experienced with the sound of trains. Read more here.

There is something about the sound of trains.

It first started on trips to visit my grandparents. They lived in a small town, it’s biggest claim to fame being their proximity to another small town, known only for their major, annual golf tournament. They were on the South Carolina side of the Georgia, South Carolina border. A place full of ya’lls and yes ma’ams.

I remember driving down the small town roads, turning onto their street, finding it odd they didn’t live in a traditional neighborhood. Commercial areas transitioned into residences without the signage and dead end streets of the neighborhoods I was so accustomed to. This was reminiscent of a different era, which was reflected in so many ways in their home. From the split level, ranch style house, that lived on a non-neighborhood street, to the objects it held within it’s walls.

This was the house my mother grew up in, and it felt like home.

I remember lying in bed, full of “grandmommy macaroni and cheese,” dreaming about the animal shaped pancakes that would surely be waiting for me the next morning, hearing a train whistle in the background.

I feel asleep to that sound many times as a child and the memory traveled with me into adulthood. The funny thing about memories associated with senses is you often don’t realize they are tied together until you experience it.

At twenty-three it had been years since I spent the night at my grandparents house and I had just bought my own house. My new husband and I moved into our sweet 1940’s Atlanta bungalow our first year of marriage. In the days and weeks that followed, we unpacked and settled in. I distinctly remember slowly drifting off to sleep one night when I suddenly heard the sound of a train.

I was immediately thrust back into my grandparent’s house, sleeping next to my sister, looking out the window of the only slightly second story. My new house didn’t quite feel like home yet, but in that moment it began to.

Eight years later I am still living in my adorable house, listening to train whistles, fully feeling like this is my home. My adult home, with the train whistles of my childhood, with my babies now falling asleep to the same sounds in a different town.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual journal
  • Rubber cement or another type of adhesive
  • Scissors
  • White paper
  • Magazines
  • Watercolors
  • Paintbrushes
  • Water
  • Gesso
  • Pencil

HOW TO

For this visual journal page, I knew I wanted to focus on a train. After searching for an image of a train, I came up empty handed. I couldn’t find the exact angle or size that I wanted and needed to fill the two pages of the book. After brainstorming. I finally decided to paint the train myself using watercolor.

I sketched out the body of the train, referencing images online to plan out the design and colors. Once I had a base sketch, I began filling it in with watercolor. I started light and slowly added in the shadows. If you go too dark too quickly with watercolor it is difficult to add highlights back in. It’s best to work light to dark and plan ahead. Once the paint dried, I cut it out.

Once the train was finished I decided to create a background using magazine images. I liked the contrast between the realistic imagery and painterly train as well as the difference in the shiny texture of the magazine and the matte finish of the paper. I knew I wanted to create a color fade in the background to create a feeling of dusk. As I flipped through magazines I kept my eyes peeled for any large sections of black, dark blue, purple, yellow, and green fields and grass. Anything I thought could work, I ripped out.

Once I had a sizable stack of magazine pages, I began ripping them up. I love the look of collaging with ripped pages. The soft, organic edges create a more interesting pattern than cut edges. I separated the ripped up pieces into piles according to color. Because I wanted it to look like night was pushing out day, I began layering the lightest colors first. As I moved from the middle of my visual journal page up, I overlapped the dark colors over the light colors until I had black at the top of the page. Check out a post that details the process of creating a magazine fade here and here as well as a Youtube video here.

Next, I worked from the middle of the visual journal down. I used fields as the background of the landscape and worked my way forward to grassy patterns. As I glued the foreground down, I kept checking the placement of the train until it was positioned the way I wanted it. I glued the train down, than continued overlapping the grass over the bottom of the train and continued to move towards the bottom of the page.

After the page was finally filled up, I added the steam coming from the train. I decided this was a perfect space to incorporate text in a way that blended with the image. I used gesso and a paintbrush to loosely add the steam, then painted the letters in a similar way so they would blend in with the steam. Once the gesso dried, I used pencil to emphasize the text a little more.

CHALLENGE

Create a visual journal page about a memory/sensory tie you have experienced.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my visual journal and check out my blog. You can find an image of my grandmother in a recent post here. She unknowingly became the subject matter for a printmaking project. Don’t forget to save this project for later by pinning it, or saving it on your social network site of choice. Thanks for stopping by!

Interested in teaching a visual journal lesson in your classroom? Check out my teaching resources here and my magazine fade visual journal handout here.

Learn the inspiration behind this visual journal page as well as the supplies and steps I took to create it. Learn how to start your own visual journal by reading about mine. This particular post focuses on a memory/sensory tie I experienced with the sound of trains. Read more here.

Visual Journal Page 21: The Perfect Combination

I have said it many times, I have the sweet tooth of a 7 year old. My sugar palate never seemed to mature to the dark chocolates of my peers, I have always loved the 100% sugar, fruity varieties of candy that are marketed towards children. For many years, Skittles have been my reigning favorite, a fact that my hubby knows well.

Nick will periodically come home after a grocery trip with a share size Skittles bag. When we go see a movie, no questions asked, Skittles are the staple after popcorn. On road trips he will stop for gas, even if we don’t really need it, just to go get me a bag of Skittles.

Over the years, not only has Nick stored my favorite candy somewhere in his brain, he has also noted my favorite color combination: purple and red. I don’t know what it is about purple and red, it is the most perfect flavor combination out there. I don’t seek out purples or reds to eat individually, it is a combo deal, otherwise any color will do. I can’t even refer to them as their flavors, because a skittle flavor is unique to it’s color, and trust me, purple and red is it. As Nick and I snuggle up on the sofa to watch TV or sit in a movie theater, he will pass along Skittles to share. Without fail, if he ends up with a handful that has purples and reds, they come straight to me.

This is not something I ever made a point to tell him I needed. It was never a discussion, argument, or requirement. It was just something he noticed I liked and did for me unprompted. Moments like these define our marriage. It’s not the buying of houses or birthing of children, it’s the fact that I get every purple and red Skittle Nick comes across. The little things matter the most, because the little things add up to better days, weeks, months, years, and a continued growth together, not apart. The little things mean the other person is still paying attention, wants to know more, and do more to make you happy. Not because you are supposed to buy that house or procreate, they do things to make you happy just because they care enough to want to.

It’s scary how well you know me.

SUPPLIES:

  • Visual journal
  • Gesso
  • Paintbrush
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor
  • Thin Sharpie
  • White colored pencil
  • Rubber cement

HOW TO

For this visual journal page, I decided to focus on the colors of the red and purple Skittles. I brainstormed different ways of including them, an avalanche of purples and reds, a Skittles package with nothing but purples and reds, but I ended up deciding that it isn’t the quantity that is important, it’s the combination of a single purple and a single red. Once I decided on just two skittles, I opted to draw hands cradling them, as if they were something delicate and special, not something I am about to chew up and digest.

To create the visual journal page, I started by ripping a page from my visual journal book. I did this because I wanted to make the arms and hands stand out against the page and decided to use watered down gesso to do that. Since gesso is liquidy, I didn’t want it to soak through the other pages of my book. I lightly sketched the outline of the arms and hands, then filled them in with gesso. Once dry, I added details and shading with a pencil. Gesso creates a nice, smooth surface to draw on top of.

After I finished my hands, on a separate sheet of paper I drew my skittles and filled them in with watercolor. I didn’t add much water to the pigment so I would end up with a nice, vibrant color. While waiting for the Skittles to dry, I moved onto my paint splatters. I added more water to the watercolor pigment, painted a thick line on a sheet of paper, and blew it at an angle to make the paint splatter. After the skittles and paint splatters dried, I cut them out.

I glued the skittles down first, then added a highlight and the “S” using a white colored pencil. Next, I alternated red and purple splatters around the hands, and glued them down with rubber cement. Last, I used an extra fine Sharpie to add the words on top of the paint splatters.

CHALLENGE

Dedicate a page to your favorite sweet.

 

Interested in teaching visual journals to your students? Check out my visual journal lesson plan here and bundle pack here.

Visual Journal Page 44: The Georgia Arches

Visual-Journal-Page-44-The-Arches

THE STORY

The University of Georgia is the stereotypical “college town”. It’s a small town, with a huge school, an amazing downtown, music scene, restaurants, and so many other things to entertain the thousands of twenty somethings that invade it each year.

I hate to admit it, but my college student years are now four years in the past, and continuously moving further back in time. Although I have a love hate relationship with my adult responsibilities and moving into the “late twenties” stage in life (I turn 27 in 3 1/2 weeks!!!), I am glad I am no longer a student.

By my fifth year in Athens I was a little over it. I was tired of finals, homework, and having no money. I was sick of going out to get a drink only to see obviously 18 year olds doe eyed and slightly scared about sneaking into a bar with a bad fake id. I was only 23 but felt like the oldest person in town. I was ready to move onto bigger, better things and there was no remorse as I packed up my final box, moved it out of my college-town-cottage-house, and into the big city of Atlanta.

Although I didn’t miss it then, it eventually caught up with me. As I headed into my first job and experienced real exhaustion as I tried to adjust to my 9-5 and crazy students I began to miss college life. More than anything I missed the idea of it, the lack of responsibility and having 10 am classes I could show up to in pajamas. As the adult world kicked my butt I missed college life, but it eventually grew into missing the town. The great city of Athens which seemed so small when I left it, but really does have all the character and charm you need.

I really realized this when two years later my fellow art teacher and I took over fifty of our students on a field trip to Athens to tour the campus, downton, and Georgia Museum of Art. As we rolled through the tiny streets in our extra large yellow school bus, with me pointing out my freshman dorm and favorite restaurant the nostalgia set in. How could I not miss such a great town?

After the field trip I began making a visual journal page to represent the busy, chaotic day of keeping up with 52 teenagers. I decided to paint the most iconic part of campus, the Georgia arches, and add our big yellow school bus on top. But after I painted the background I couldn’t bring myself to add anything else. That day wasn’t just about introducing my students to the University of Georgia, it was also about me rediscovering my love of this small town and developing a new appreciation for the five years I spent there.

It may be a plain visual journal page, but it’s meaningful to me. A snapshot, a single moment of reflection not on the field trip but of the five years walking around those arches until the day I graduated and could finally walk straight through.

SUPPLIES

  • Visual Journal
  • Paint brush
  • Watercolor set
  • Water

HOW TO

This page took only a few supplies and a short period of time to make. It was meant to be a loose painting, completely freehanded, with no base drawing to go off of. It was supposed to be the background, which is why I worked quickly to complete it.

After I finished I really liked the loose quality and decided to keep it as is. If you have never worked with watercolor before grab a scrap sheet of paper, preferably something thicker like poster board or actual watercolor paper. Experiment with adding a lot of water to the watercolors to get a transparent look, add less to get a bolder color. Put a blob of water on  your paper and add paint to just the edge of the water, which creates a bleeding effect. Try painting with the watercolors and adding water to the paper to spread it. The point is to have fun with it, experiment, and see what works best for you.

Once you have your technique down grab an image and try to recreate it. Challenge yourself to not do a base drawing, jump straight in with the paint on your paintbrush. My best tip is to never just us one color, if you have four shades of brown use all four, it will look so much more interesting than just one color. In my Georgia arches painting I use multiple shades of one color in every section.

CHALLENGE

Whip out your watercolor set and create a visual journal page using just watercolors, no pencil, no scissors, no nothing. If you don’t have watercolors go pick up a cheap set at your local arts and crafts store and give it a try!

Thanks for reading today’s post and following my blog! Help me spread the word about my blog my sharing it with others and on your social networking site of choice! Thanks for stopping by!

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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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