You’ve, no doubt, heard the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” This age old saying is a valuable piece of advice when visiting the other cultures of the world. Well, the same can also be said about learning something new, perhaps, in an art workshop. “When in class, do as the instructors do.” The majority of new students who attend the art workshops of a particular instructor, do so because they admire the instructor and desire to paint like them. So, in the workshop, you are advised to do as the instructor does. This allows you the best chance to succeed in the style that attracted you to take the workshop in the first place. You bring the required supplies, watch the demos, go back to your desk and perform the exercises just as you have seen them. But, how many of us actually continue these practices when you get home? Probably, not many. I know it was true for me. It’s kind of like being in school and then, leaving for summer vacation. By the time we go back in the fall, we tend to lose a lot of the information that we obtained throughout the year before. That is because we do not continue to practice while we are home. I’m as guilty as anyone, but just recently have resolved to “do as the Romans do”.
One of the most important lessons I learned in a workshop, was to practice the art of value studies. Value studies, no matter what you think of them, are important. When we hear the phrase, it seems to go in one ear and out the other and before we know it we are slinging paint on a large piece of watercolor paper without preparing our strategy. Then, when the painting does not “look” like we imagined, we wonder what went wrong. If you’ve studied with the best of instructors, they certainly, at some point, taught you about value studies. Value studies provide a wealth of information. They are the treasure map of sorts. The treasure is a successful painting, no matter the medium. It has been said that value does all the work and color gets all the glory. This is completely true. If the value is correct, no matter what colors you choose, the painting will be strong. It takes time to develop a value study, but the time you spend will be worth the time and frustration you save in the long run. It’s not as easy as you think and you may fail. But, if you are serious about “learning to paint” or learning any other new technique, you must “Do as the Romans, (the instructors) do”.
FORMING A HABIT
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle
Aristotle made a really good point there, but if you are like me, in order to form a habit and “do the deed”, it must be presented quick, easy, and be completely doable. If it’s not easy, I won’t be compelled to find time to do it.
They say it takes a minimum of 21 days to form a habit. That is just a minimum, it can take over 2 months to retrain your brain to automatically perform the act. Well, again, as I explained earlier, in order for me to form a habit, it will have to be fast and easy.
Well, I might have just found the perfect technique for making value studies that will encourage me to form a habit for them, after all. Ken Hosmer is a well known artist and has broken down this mundane task to its most simple form. After discovering Ken’s Famous Ink Sketch technique, I was very intrigued at the simplicity of the process and also the fact that he chose not to call it a “value study”.
Ken has narrowed the typical value scale to just three values. Darks, Mid Value, and Lights (which are normally the white of the paper). Pretty simple, huh? Then, Ken uses a water soluble marker to add the Darks only where they are needed in the sketch. With this type of marker, you can re-wet the ink with a wet brush and distribute it to areas of the sketch creating the Mid Values.
After searching for a suitable water soluble marker (most are waterproof and permanent for sketching), I found the Letraset AquaMarker in Lamp Black to be the closest solution to my needs. This marker has two tips, broad and fine, and the ink dissolves when water is applied. However, purely by accident, I picked up a common black dry erase marker by mistake and discovered it was actually perfect . A dry erase marker is used to write on whiteboards and erases easily with little moisture. They are relatively inexpensive and actually work great for this project!
The materials Ken uses consist of a sketchbook with smooth paper. I chose the American Journey Sketchbook with 140 lb. hot press watercolor paper. The spiral bound pad is the perfect surface for creating value studies. Also needed, is a Cheap Joe’s 4H sketching pencil, a black water soluble dry erase marker, Lamp black Letraset AquaMarker (or American Journey Lamp Black watercolor), small and large round Golden Fleece brushes, and container of clean water.
ATTEMPT No. 1-
After applying the Darks using the marker, use the wet brush to dissolve the water soluble ink and create the Mid Values. If you need to apply more ink, rather than “borrowing” from a dark area, mark the ink on palette paper and pick it up with a damp brush and apply to the mid value areas, as needed.
I was not completely satisfied with this first attempt at the process. I felt I did not leave enough whites and the front of the house, although in shadow, was too dark. I really like the process and feel it is simple, easy and fast!
ATTEMPT No. 2
To make this task a habit, it seems, I still have many more value studies to create. However, I feel Ken’s process is so easy and convenient that I should gain experience in no time! And like they say, “Practice makes perfect and repetition is key.”
There are other necessary evils that are essential to good painting, like color charts, color value charts, preliminary sketches, thumbnails, and color sketches. All of these tasks prepare you for a successful painting. The things we do before we paint, are as important as, the things we do when we paint. All in all, we eventually reap the benefits of good art habits!
For more information about Ken Hosmer and his Famous Ink Sketch technique, visit his website at www.kenhosmer.com. Also, if you are interested in live instruction with Ken, there are still spaces available for his upcoming workshop at Cheap Joe’s!
Ken Hosmer Art Workshop:
Developing Color Energy
October 13-17, 2014
Explore color through a unique approach! In this powerful workshop, Ken passionately reveals ‘color secrets’ and design ideas each day. He offers guidelines which encourage you to creatively interpret painting subjects in your own style. Demonstrations emphasize free flowing watercolor and cover a variety of subjects, including landscape, flowers, human figures or animals. Ken has a special gift for teaching. He clearly explains his artistic method as he paints, and organizes complex ideas into simple terms. In his positive and gentle manner, he pinpoints and verbalizes exactly what your painting needs for improvement. This makes the class ideal for beginning and advanced students. A typical day includes new ideas and a morning demonstration with class work time and individual help in the afternoon. The class ends with an uplifting and informative critique session. Level 2 and up.
Ken also has many instructional DVDs like “Secrets to Flower Painting” which focuses on portraying flowers in watercolor the easy way! In this 108 minute DVD, Ken will show you how to vastly improve your floral painting with some techniques that are so simple.. but that may not have even occurred to you before. He can break down his painting style and show you how to make your paintings more dynamic. Learn to soften your shapes, create lost and found edges, repetition of color in two complete painting demonstrations-one of roses, one of pansies. If you feel like maybe flowers haven’t exactly been your strongest subject, find new enthusiasm and creativity with Ken as your guide!
And when in Rome… visit the Romans, and don’t forget your toga!