Saturday, 9 October 2010

Art class 2: Layering

fig 1: Crab Apples
Yes, art class has started again after Summer recess. Julia our tutor has taken control of us and decided that we should all paint the same subject. Hurrah for that, but notice would have been nice as most of us are halfway through projects, never-the-less, I am all in favour as this is how I feel teaching art should be. It gives us all practice in the basic principles before we branch out with our own techniques. Also, seeing how everyone else perceives and translates the same subject is so interesting.

Julia arrived with a large bag full of crab apple twigs (amusingly complete with ladybirds which got taken away (I would have preferred to include these in the painting, but I guess it would have complicated things.)) Our task this time was to paint one twig each using the layering technique, being guided by our tutor at each stage.
Our first instruction was to very lightly and quickly draw the twigs, missing out (or erasing) the lightest lines. Next we had to make the lines in shadow a little bolder.

Now we came to painting and were instructed to pick out the lightest shade of the apples, mix the colour and apply a very light wash over all the apples. This apparently is called the "T wash". Then we applied the same technique to the leaves - the very palest green over them all, followed in the same way with the stalk. During the work, we were instructed to keep a colour chart, including the shades we didn't use (some of which I put a line though) - see diagram 2.
Next we applied the mid wash, which for my apples was the lightest red. Again we followed the same pattern with then leaves, but this time carefully leaving the t wash of the veins showing through. Eventually the darkest colours were added, then last of all some shading in the appropriate places.

A lot of us already knew something about this technique, but working this way was good practice and we all now have the basic fundamentals of layering.

fig 2: Palette
Summing up, in my mind this is a very good method for detailed or illustrative work producing neat, formal paintings. I would, however prefer to use it much more loosely, not worrying too much about keeping within the pencil lines, and I would definitely prefer adding a little wet-in-wet in places. A lot of people say they would wish to paint in a more loose style and I would agree with them up to a point though for me, I like to have some control over my washes at the same time.


  1. The fruit study looks very pleasing ... as you say, this is like a botanical illustration. I think your lessons will be very useful for later creative experiments.
    Not having a clue about watercolour techniques, I've now learned some from your post ..... thankyou Frank :)

  2. I almost missed this post Frank! I've been very busy on an acrylic painting so haven't been so much on the pc over the last couple of days. It's great that you shared what you learned at your class with us. Thank you! :0)

  3. Alice - Yay, maybe we'll be seeing a watercolour painting from your stable any time now!

    Sandra - you're welcome, but I'll be having a whip round for my tutor's fees later LOL!
    Looking forward to seeing your acrylic soon.