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Re: 4th grade watercolor landscapes

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From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Mar 13 2001 - 05:05:38 PST


As a landscape painter myself, working with many artists...I can tell you
that professionals never really look at trees and think of them as
"branches", nor concern themselves immediately with such, unless you are
talking specifically "winter" trees. Even then, they still concern
themselves with blocking in.

Subject matters little for artists because it really comes down to shape,
form, color. I teach my students that artists squint their eyes to help
them see a bit easier the shapes and color.

What I found is that it is easier to get something across to young people if
it appears as "magical" and thus carries its own compulsion to try. I have
a demo link here of mine, and specifically look at page 4, showing how a
shape is converted to trees quite easily and painlessly. The first is in
oils, the other acrylic, but the principles the same-
http://www.wetcanvas.com/ArtSchool/Landscapes/Roadside/index.html
http://www.wetcanvas.com/ArtSchool/Acrylics/Waterfall/

The way to translate this to watercolors is to mask. Now...highschool kids
are old enough to work liquid mask with, but elementary kids can get a feel
of it and the magic of it by using white crayon as a resist. After
sketching out a shape of a tree with a pencil, looking at any number of
photos from a magazine or looking at the real thing, have them squint their
eyes and see the sky poking thru. Tell them to think of their white crayon
as "light" and to make some marks that break the form's edges up. A few
inside the form. Later, they can make a few strokes to suggest tree trunks,
and branches. It is all suggestion that fools the mind to think what its
seeing is literal. Since the sky is lighter by the horizon...you can get
away with the white crayon, and still paint a bluer wash at the top of the
paper.

Also, there is no "shame" for children to not be purests in watercolor. You
could have them paint and block in the shapes with watercolor, then when
dry...use acrylic white ( a dab of blue as well if you like), or white
tempera...and then paint/poke some sky thru. It will give them a new
perspective in looking at trees, and demystify the difficulty when they see
that it is the sky poking thru that defines the character of a tree.

Larry Seiler
http://www.artsmentor.org

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