I love learning from video material. I will watch an instructional video over and over until I have accomplished the technique or at least have a good understanding of the initial concept. When I first watch a DVD, I make many notes in my sketchbook. I write down step by step techniques, procedures, and details that will help me to reproduce the lesson and thus, learn from the material.
Recently, I reviewed Frank Webb’s DVD, “Using Your Head, Heart, and Hand”. I took notes as usual, but I found myself writing down many of the quotes and key sentences that Frank used more than the actual process of the demonstration. I did, because they seemed to be teaching some valuable lessons. They seemed also to be words of wisdom and words to live by as an artist.
Frank Webb, A.W.S., D.F., N.W.S, is a world renowned watercolorist and has been painting for as long as or longer than I have been on earth. He has a wealth of knowledge in his teachings. He has been instructed by the early master teachers, one of which was Edgar Whitney. His mentors have passed their teachings on to Frank and he has customized his painting technique beyond what he has learned. Frank is a very unique painter and teacher himself.
Quoted from his website-
“Frank Webb has been self employed as an artist since 1958. The author of four books has taught hundreds of painting seminars worldwide and in 50 states. He is a Dolphin Fellow of the American Watercolor Society, a member of the National Watercolor Society and has Master Status in the Transparent Watercolor Society of America. He has won more than 110 major awards, has lectured to the National Watercolor Society, twice to the American Watercolor Society and has juried more than 100 national exhibitions.”
I look up to Frank, and not just because he is a very tall man, but also, as a wise and knowledgeable guide. Someone who has collected information and gained years of experience and now is passing it on to anyone who would want to learn. As I watched the DVD, I enjoyed the soft and persistent message that Frank was now passing on to me.
The Chapters below outlined what is included on the DVD. Lessons that seem to be common to watercolor painting, however, Frank gives new and unique insights to every chapter. This DVD is suited for all levels of experience, although, beginners will find a wealth of great information to help build a healthy foundation.
Wet Into Wet
As I began the first chapter on Design, I found myself making notes of familiar basic concepts that I have heard time and time again. But there seemed to be so much more that I was hearing. Below are some quotes from the DVD and what I found to be more important things to remember after watching.
My comments are just below the notes from the video.
CH 1- Design-
“Design is the gravity that holds your painting together.”
Gravity is what keeps us on the ground. Design keeps our paintings grounded in good principles.
“Nouns= Design Elements- Line, Shape, Value, Size, Direction, Color, Texture”
“Verbs= Design Principles- Unity, Contrast, Dominance, Alternations, Repetition, Balance, Gradation, Harmony”
Frank referred to the elements of design as nouns and the principles of design as verbs. This statement better explained the jobs of both. Elements are tools, and the principles are what we can do with the tools.
“Be a Shape Maker”
A shape maker, someone who makes shapes, not things. Not just a house or tree, but a shape that might include a cast shadow or that might represent two buildings that overlap one another. A shape, not a thing.
“A painting is a presentation of contrasts.”
Contrast is the difference between elements or the nouns of design. Light and Dark, Bright and Dull, Black and White, Big and Small, Rough and Smooth. A painting includes strategically placed contrasts that tell a story in a pleasing way.
“White gives a painting sparkle.”
Every painting needs a little bling or jewelry, these are the whites. They are usually preserved or avoided during painting.
“Begin with four values- white- lt mid- dk mid- dark”
This makes it easier to group values together and then use the information to create a painting. This is your “road map”.
As much as we (I) try to avoid making value studies, this is an essential part of painting. Try to make it fun and interesting and don’t paint unless you do this first!
Ch 2- Direct Painting-
“Simplify” the scene.
This technique is basic color washes in basic shapes. The most simple of techniques. Frank refers to it as “color book painting.”
Frank has developed some favorite items that he uses faithfully in his workshops and in his daily production of artwork.
Frank Webb Palette- This specially designed palette has slanted wells that are even with the mixing area to allow you to drag the paint from the wells. Frank demonstrates the usefulness of the three lid wells in the DVD as he makes large puddles for his lessons.
Webb Liners Set- The Webb liners are useful for Frank’s calligraphic style of painting. He shows how to get the most of this painting technique using his specialty brushes. These are extra long and square ended to allow you to pick up a sufficient amount of paint for the long calligraphic strokes.
Frank uses 2” or 1 ½” flats in most paintings-
This is genuinely what is called “big brush” painting. It is a great way to keep you loose as you can get great detail with big brushes. Frank stays with the biggest brush for as long as possible. Then moves on to the next biggest brush only if needed. He does most of the details with the Webb liners. This allows Frank to produce a large painting in a small amount of time!
“Observations made on location to make paintings in studio.”
Frank generally creates value sketches in the field, instead of trying to paint completely plein air. He notes that he can give more attention to the design elements and principles when he is back in the studio.
Ch 3 – Wet into Wet
“Blend shapes of same value.”
This is connecting and harmonizing the painting through like values. It keeps your painting from looking like a puzzle with pieces that seem pasted on.
“Original Value study is guide and shows everything for good design but color and texture.”
This is the value study he prepared on location when he is able.
“Look at subject, study it, then close your eyes and what you see then, paint that!”
This seems like an easy concept, however, you must remember what you see to be able to paint it. This takes time and attention to master.
Ch 4- Color Patching
“Dazzle the eye with color changes within shapes”
Where direct painting is basically filling the shapes in with a color, Color patching is switching up colors as you fill in the shapes. This creates exciting blends and textures within the shape.
“Paint what ought to be not what is.”
This is what being an artist is all about. Being a storyteller, a director in a play, using what you know to be good design. Artist license is the right to move things around, add elements or change what you see to what you want it to be. It is your painting and your interpretation of the subject that matters.
“I can hardly wait to see what I will do tomorrow”
This is the essence of an art passion. Being excited about what tomorrow will bring our way. What new places will we visit, what new things we will see. Wes Waugh, an artist friend, made a comment that I could totally identify with. He said he and his family were riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway and he suddenly stopped the car and parked on the side of the road. He got out with his camera and snapped several pictures of a view he just knew he had to paint. I have done this several times myself! I think it is just an “Artist Thing”!
Ch 5- Drizzling
First, drizzling is painting upright and allowing the wet paint to flow down the paper.
“Pool warm and cools together and allow to mingle”
This is basically the old saying, “opposites attract”. This creates excitement.
“Drizzle for luminosity”
The colors lie next to each other instead of mixing. This allows the white of the paper to glow underneath the wash.
“Fold in colors, do not mix, and they will stand alone as colors”
Avoid over brushing, but touch in the paint and allow it to flow from your fully charged brush.
“Water has a memory and will fill in when lifted.” Barbara Nechis
“The aim of drizzling is not to make a picture, but to be in such a state of heart and mind, that a picture will be a by-product of the state that you are in.”
Ch 6- Calligraphic Painting-
“Calligraphy is the art of beautiful graphic marks.”
“I paint only because I like to cut mats.” A quote from one of Frank’s artist friends
“I like brush strokes made visible.”
Ch 7- Layering
“See yourself as a “Shape Maker” and you will be a better painter.”
“Layering forces you to focus on shapes.”
“Mother Color wash” unifies the painting from underneath.
“Add “Lace” in the painting, like stair rails, or dock supports in more than one area of the painting.”
Ch 8- Darks First
“Opposite of norm of light to dark”
“For the best, kindest, purest blend, mix it on the paper, friend.” -O’Hara
Whistler story- To Mr. Whistler, “You’ve made my nose too big and purple, Mr. Whistler”
“Oh, you can fix that when you get it home!” Whistler said.
After watching all of the chapters, one of the things about this DVD that I really appreciated, was that Frank used the same design drawing for every lesson. This allowed me to understand how each technique could be applied to the same subject. It also shows that you can use different color combinations and paint the same scene quite differently every time. Thanks! Frank! Great lessons and wonderful teaching methods.
Ch 9- Wrap Up
“Art is a matter of the heart and of the mind and of the hand.”
“The Heart – is being moved by something enough to want to paint it.”
“Artists care about the things that we see. We want to communicate the delight we have to someone else, so we paint.”
“Art is a one way of sharing with others.”
“The Mind (Head) – Design is a matter of the mind. Use the mind to make design a habit, as habit is the fly wheel that keeps us running. Study design and improve composition, thus, improve your painting.”
“The Hand- Art is in the hand.”
To Matisse- “How do you know the good drawings from the bad?” Matisse- “One feels that in the hand.”
“Painting is a blue collar physical thing. You paint with your whole body, not just your eyes.”
This was by far my favorite chapter. I know it should just be a review, however, Frank simplifies what art is. He expresses his soul felt ideas about art. It is what all artists already know but might have never expressed ourselves. Art is who we are. What we are. What we do. How we think. Art moves from our heart, to our heads, and out through our hands for all to see. Art begins within.
Frank said, “The secret of great art is to rob the moment of its impermanence by giving it permanence by painting it.”
Rob the moment of its fleeting nature, and capture it, to share it, and allow others to see what you see in it. How true. Others could never see our art if we never create it. It is our job as artists to use our gift to bring glory to God and his creation. A flower blooms for just a few moments, but we can preserve that beauty on paper for all to enjoy.
Frank is currently scheduled to teach at Cheap Joe’s August 5-9, 2013. Spaces are limited but this is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn from one of the nation’s most talented and cherished watercolor artist. This workshop is open to all levels of experience. The information Frank has to offer is invaluable to anyone who wants to further their interests in watercolor.
I really enjoyed reviewing “Using Your Head, Heart, and Hand”. It was full of great information to inspire you to paint subjects close to your heart! This is only one of the many DVDs that Frank Webb has to offer. Other titles include:
You can find all of the DVDs at Cheap Joe’s and they are great! But don’t forget to sign up for Frank’s Workshop and learn from him first hand. There is really nothing better than the real thing!
Happy Painting! and Keep your brushes wet and your canvas colored!