Sunday, March 1, 2020

Koala Bear in Eucalyptus Forest in Gouache

The situation with the terrible forest fires is Australia, and the shocking scenes of the deeply affected wildlife, naturally resulted in an outpouring of response from the global community. For many artists and art teachers, this response produced thematic artwork and art projects. I, too, couldn't help but be moved and inspired by Australia's lovely koala bear. I turned this inspiration into both an important opportunity to discuss the forest forest and climate change with my younger group of kids (ages 8-10), and to continue to develop our gouache explorations. 

We completed several gouache projects over the last semester and last year, so my kids have a pretty good understanding of the qualities of gouache. Most of our projects involved an introductory guided drawing lesson, to help them visualize and map out the features and placement of our subject matter. This time, however, I decided I would set them off completely on their own, and NOT do a guided drawing to begin our lesson. Instead, each student was to choose a photograph of a koala that they liked, and they would have to draw this by observation on their own. The intention here, is to release the responsibility of drawing to them, to make them more independent artists, and to have them produce more original art work. 

Well, there was some nervous freaking out at first when I told them: you're on your own! But this tension subsided when I reminded them how to look for placement and sizing of their sibject. Their koala should be LARGE, centered, drawn out in basic shapes with head and facial features first, then body, then refined for detail.
Observation observation observation! 
Granted, there was lots of individual urging and reminding to look for exact shapes and size relationships, in order to get things 'right'. In the end, we did alright. The pride that comes from creating unique art, independently, is powerful.

Teacher Sample

Teacher sample in progress
Teacher sample in progress

Class collage. Kids ages 8-10

Drawing by Observation:
Students chose a koala photo they wished to paint. I printed out many options for them. They drew out their bear in pencil, large and centered. We started with head, eyes and nose, then body and arms and legs. The koala must be on a branch. 

Background and Branch:
We used a limited palette of blues, greens, yellow, ochre, brown, black and white. 
Starting with the background, we painted a blotchy, "tiled" effect using a flat edge brush. Dipping into our colors and mixing directly on the paper, and painting using an "x" motion to create blocky texture, we moved our colors around our paper, adding more white for tints, more blues for darker blues and darker greens for deeper tones. 
Our object: to create a textured background reminiscent of a dense, leafy forest.

The branch was painted in browns, with the addition of ultramarine blue mixed with brown for a deeper shadowy tone. Again, white was mixed with our browns to create lighter, highlighty areas. Tints, tones and shades of browns were mixed directly on our paper, not in our palettes. Students were encourages to observe the different textures and tones in their tree branch reference photo. 

This was all we managed in day 1 (90 minutes). 

Student progress Day 1

Student progress Day 2

Koala painting:
Using only burnt umber brown and ultramarine blue we created a natural grey color. With the addition of black and white, we darken and lighted our greys. We began by painting an overall mid-tone of grey around our bear, then dipped our brush into white and painted over top our grey in order to create lighter grey values. More white was layered over top where the bear is even lighter. Similarly, we worked in darker areas by using more dark grey where the bear is darker. We used a dabbing technique with our brush to mimic the fur texture. Students were continuously encouraged to observe their photo closely and look for changes in grey value, in order to create dimension.

Eyes and nose:
Using a small detail brush we painted the eyes using only a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber brown. We created a lighter brown-grey for the eye ball, and very darker grey-browns for the eye contour, with black for the pupil and white for the reflection spot. The nose is also a very deep brown-grey, with the addition of blue-grey at the nose bridge for dimension. 

Dry brush texturizing:
With a dry brush technique using a bristle brush, we very lightly stippled and dabbed white over top where the bear is very light, like at the ears, forehead, around the eyes, bridge of nose, and wherever the bear is lighter. This dry brush technique also mimics the unique fur texture of the koala bear, which appears a bit stippled. 

Foreground leaves:
Lastly, students added eucalyptus leaves in the foreground, coming in from at least three sides, with some overlapping. Student were to mix many different greens for maximum variety and interest. 

This project took 2 90-minute classes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Mia Charro Animals with Floral Crown

Mia Charro original art

I fell in love with the animal illustrations of Spanish illustrator Mia Charro the instant I saw them, and kept them in mind for a potential children's art project. 

See the artist's work here. 

A few years have gone by since then. This spring semester I finally felt the timing was right to create a project for my kids around the artist's enticing work. We've been working with gouache paint lately, which is the choice medium of many illustrators and designers, in part because of it's layering potential (both dark over light and light over dark), the ease with which colors and values can be blended, allowing for areas of smooth transition, and its bright, bold colors. I figured a Mia Charro project focussing on each of these gouache painting properties would be a great way to continue our gouache explorations. Of course, the learning objectives don't just stop there! More observational portrait drawing practice is always welcome, as is exercising the principe of variety with a goal towards creating good composition and with overlapping in our flowers for a sense of depth. Color mixing is also an objective, as students will mix their own fur colors with all the necessary values to create dimension. Their floral crowns must exhibit lots of color variety too, while also repeating colors for balance. Particularly, their greens must show a range of tones to take them well beyond just straight-from-the-tube green.

Teacher Sample in progress
Teacher Sample with collage shirt
and white painted background

Day 1:
Students each chose a Mia Charro animal they wished to interpret. Students were given a large beige multi-purpose paper (29x42 cm, 11.5x16.5 inch) and drew their animal face with torso largely on the this paper, making sure to leave enough room at the top for the floral crows. We free-hand drew, identifying roughly where in our paper our eyes should go - often halfway or slightly higher on our paper. From here, we mapped out the location of our other features, always ensuring there is enough space for torso and crown.
The base color of our animals were painted in first, with no details yet. The lighter value areas of our animals were painted overtop of our base layer, helping us to slowly build up the form and dimension in our faces.
The rule is: start back to front, and large to small. Values were continually adjusted by adding more white to our colors, and transitions between colors were smoothed out by blending our edges of colors.  
This was about as far as we got on day 1.

Day 2 and 3:
Students continued working on their animals, adding all necessary details, including eyes, nose and fur texture using a small detail brush. 
Students began painting the flowers in their flower crown. We started with 4-5 main flowers at the front, then added lots of smaller flowers, leaves and stems around and behind them. Attention and care was given to creating good composition in our flowers with plenty of variety and dimension, and to adding details to our leaves and flowers. Lighter and darker colors were mixed to create value in our flowers. Students were encouraged to mix their own greens, for a broad variety of leaf colors. Greens were mixed with blues, yellows, reds, browns, black and white for lots of different green tones and values. 

Students had the choice of painting the shirt of their animal in gouache paint, or of cutting out a patterned paper and collaging the shirt. In the latter case, students used tracing paper to trace the shape of the animal's shirt area, then traced and transferred this onto their patterned paper. This was then cut out and glued on their animal. 

Students had the choice of painting their background in a light, soft color which gently offsets the animal and flowers, or of leaving the beige paper unpainted. Those who left the paper unpainted traced the inside edge of their taped border with black pen, so that they too would have a border once the tape was lifted. 

Finally, the washi tape was lifted to reveal a light border and our Mia Charro animals with flower crowns are done! 

These turned out spectacularly, and with the many little changes and personal interpretations we made to our animals, each is uniquely our very own.

Finally, the washi tape was lifted to reveal a light border and our Mia Charro animals with flower crowns are done! 

These turned out spectacularly, and with the many little changes and personal interpretations we made to our animals, each is uniquely our very own.


Kids ages 10-13

Kids ages 9-15

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Winter Hedgehog in Gouache

This project was inspired by an illustration I found on Pinterest a while back, which I've not been able to relocate since, and whose artist I'm unfortunately not able to give due credit. See it below.
Original Pinterest illustration
I thought this would the perfect little winter project for my younger age group (8-10 years old) to interpret, and a great way to continue our explorations of gouache.

Teacher Sample

The project I created around this piece incorporates opportunities for students to explore a range of techniques, including brushwork, blending and layering.
There is also the development of a landscape, with a defined foreground, middle ground and background.
There is also a focus on the elements and principles of variety (in the foliage), and of value and painting form (in the shadowing and highlighting of the mushrooms and the hedgehog).

In a small format painting (24 x 24 cm,  or 9.5 x 9.5 inches), there is a lot of learning ground to cover.

Class collage. Kids ages 8-10
See my youtube channel for a full tutorial on how to do this project: VIDEO TUTORIAL

I precut watercolor paper into squares and taped down the borders with washi tape.

We used a limited palette of:
ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, yellow ochre, burnt umber, red, dark green, and white.

The hedgehog was drawn using both a teacher drawing demo on the whiteboard, and by looking at visuals of hedgehogs. Basic shapes is the best way to start: start with a sideways egg shape, then reshape the front for an upward scooping snout with a point. Nose goes on the tip, and the eye goes on the opposite edge of snout. The body has two parts - the top prickly part in dark brown, and the lower half in lighter brown/ochre. This line is drawn in, with spiky hair peeks and an ear shape. There are four feet, with stumpy little legs. The ones closer to the viewer appear slightly lower.
We drew in the horizon line, crossing behind the hedgehog, the middle-ground line crossing behind his legs.

We drew two mushrooms, one larger than the other, using basic chubby triangular shapes, and thick stems which are wider at bottom than at top.

Sky was painted from the the top of paper to middle-ground, from dark to light, using blues with burnt umber, pure blue and blue with white.
Middle-ground was painted in a lighter blue, and foreground was painted in an even lighter blue, almost white.

Dark to light gradation sky
Hedgehog: Belly of hedgehog was painted first with ochre. White was added directly on top, in areas that have a lighter value or a highlight, and blended into the ochre. Top of body was painted in burnt umber. We added a bit of ultramarine blue to the brown for a deeper brown wherever there is shadow.
Snout was painted in brown, and white was added at top and blended in for a highlighted edge.
Legs in brown, with darker brown for shadows and lighter for highlights.

Day 1 progress
Mushrooms: Snow caps were painted first in white. Then the red part. Stems were painted in browns with white lightly blended in on one side for a highlighted edge. White dots were added over top of red once it was dry.

The moon was painted in white.

Light brown dashes were added on the back of the hedgehog using a tiny detail brush.

Leaves and shrubs were added at the foreground, going off both sides of the paper. Using a tiny detail brush, green stems where painted high on both sides, and leaves added. We created different greens for our shrubs, mixing blues, ochre and white into our green. Smaller shrubs were added at bottom center front in different blues, greens, ochres and browns.

Stars were painted using a tiny brush with a light dotting texture. Then, using a toothbrush, a finer mist of white paint was splattered across the composition for that snowy feel.

Washi tape was removed to reveal a lovely white border.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Spring Chicks in Gustav Klimt Floral Field

This is one of my favorite projects from last spring, which I did with my youngest group of 7-9 year olds.
Seemingly simple, it's actually quite complex involving observational drawing, color mixing and color theory, and tinting and shading. It's also a lesson in variety and painting techniques with gouache.

The results where just so cute and so successful. The trick here is that the theme is a simple but effective one: adorable chicks in a calming, tinted field of greens with spring flowers. The other trick is to do each portion of this project step by step, with teacher demo. The kids quickly catch on and are quickly off doing their own work. 

Here's our class collage:
Spring Chicks in Flower Field 7-9 year olds
This idea was inspired by Gustav Klimt's floral field. I adore the texture, the variety of greens and the variety of field flowers in this piece. I knew this would be a good opportunity to teach color mixing, brush work and exercising VARIETY in our art. 
Gustav Klimt
Day 1
Step 1: I printed out a variety of chick visuals, both photographs and simple drawings. Students chose a few visuals and practiced drawing these on practice paper. I demo'd out loud while drawing a few, describing the curves, the proportions, and the details as I went along, so they could visualize the features. For example, a chick is basically two balls (body and smaller head) with the head connecting to the body in a seamless way without a visible neck; the belly and back are rounded and full; the beak is very small and curves at top and bottom; the feet are thin and the toes with nails are long... etc.  Students had a few attempts to draw chicks in different positions. 

Step 2: When we felt good about our chick drawings, we moved on to our good paper. I used a grayish paper, which gives the overall painting a slight tonal underglow - but white paper would work just fine too. We taped down our borders with washi tape. Students drew 2-3 chicks on our good paper at the bottom, leaving about 2 finger widths of space at the bottom. For a more interesting overall composition, chicks had to be in different positions, and optimally even facing in different directions. 

Observational drawing

How many greens can we mix?!
Step 3: 
Brush techniques: We painted our background using a flat brush in a 'tiling' technique. This means we painted splotches or 'tiles' of color in a loose, quick way, all over our composition until it was full of dense and slightly overlapped splotches with no space between them. 

Color mixing: Students were given palettes of 2 greens (hunter and leaf greens), 2 blues (cobalt and ultramarine), ochre, and white. The objective was to mix as many combinations of these colors together as possible, for lots of greens. We explored mixing blues with green, blues with ochre, and greens with ochre. We also discussed the difference between 'blue-green' and 'green-blue', noting that the dominant color in these mixes is indicated by the second color name. 

A quick bit of color mixing theory:
Mixing blues and greens with the color ochre tones down the overall look for a more earthy feel. You could use yellow instead of ochre, but you wouldn't get these same toned down hues.  Ochre is a dull yellow, which has a bit of red and orange in it. Red and orange are the compliments of green and blue. We know that mixing compliments makes brown.... so when strong blues and greens are mixed with a bit of ochre, you get a slightly toned down, more earthy result. 

Students painted with one color at a time, using this one color a few times throughout their composition before making a new color. They did this until they filled up their paper with dense, overlapping 'tiles' of many different blues and green mixes.  
Tinting: We regularly added white to our colors to create an overall tinted, softer feel. With gouache, while your paint is still wet, you can simply paint white right over top your blue-green colors, and this will mix with the wet color underneath, creating a tint. It's a quick and effective way to tint your composition and requires no additional palette mixing. 

Background first, then chicks
Using the 'tiling' method of paint the background

Our palettes of blues, greens, ochre and white
Painting the chicks in yellow, white and orange
Day 2
We painted our chicks with yellow and white for a soft, tinted feel. We added a touch of orange or ochre directly onto our painted chicks and blended this into our yellow wherever there is a shadow (under the belly, under the head, under the wing).
Legs and beaks were done with a fine detail brush in browns and oranges, also with attention to shadow and highlights. Eyes are just a little black dot, done with a detail brush.

We looked at Klimt's flower painting and noted the variety of sizes and colors. We also noted that his flowers are grouped in patches of like-flowers. Looking out the window, we observed that in our backyard, flowers also grow in patches of like-flowers. We also observed that Klimt's flowers were painted like dots, some bigger and some smaller. This is because the flowers are small and far away from the viewer, so we don't see their details - just a basic dot form. Using a small round brush, we painted patches of 'dots' all around. For variety we ensured that each patch of color had a unique cluster and color.

Flower colors:
We used red, purple, orange, blue, yellow and white. White was added to our colors for tinting and softening our colors.
Additional clusters of flowers were painted at the feet of our chicks to give some visual weight to our composition and to create a sense of foreground.

Border: The best part - we peeled off our washi tape to reveal our crisp border. And done!