What watercolor still life course would be complete without introducing Charles Reid? Many of you are probably already familiar with the work of this well-known, highly revered, and much imitated artist! If you have any books by Charles Reid, please bring them to share with the class!
Here is an example of one of Charles Reid's still lifes:
Black Coot with Paint Brushes and Tubes by Charles Reid
Although in the watercolor world, Charles Reid's paintings are probably known best for their loose and apparently spontaneous style, the fact is that many other things are at work to make this painting a success. In his book, Painting What You Want to See, Reid discusses extensively how he uses the local color of his objects to dominate the painting even more than their value. He actually uses local color to represent value. For example, the local color of the lemon above, is a light value by definition. Yellow is really never a dark value! Whereas blue can be a dark value, and red tends to be a medium value. He may even change a certain color in a painting in order to get a darker or lighter value in that area. The blue background in this picture (above) appears dark to us, even though it is a medium value of blue. If he had made the background yellow, it would have appeared too light, thus affecting the division of space.
Here is another example of this emphasis on local value rather than local color:
Charles Reid Half Moons watercolor 22x25"
Above is the final painting, where Reid altered the scene to reflect its real impression on him, and what he wanted to see, as opposed to the more realistic sketch below that emphasizes the tremendous value contrasts present in this back-lighted scene:
Now for the question of that loose, free, colorful style! I have heard Reid comment that his paintings are really not as spontaneous as they appear, and are painted more slowly than you might expect. Contour lines are first drawn in freely but accurately, in Reid's quirky, somewhat distorted, style. Local colors and values are painted in loosely, allowing color to blend on the paper and bleed outside of lines. A combination of hard and soft edges is used. The paint is allowed to puddle and dry in odd ways. Often drips and splashes are incorporated. Reid often paints watercolor on an easel and allows drips to run down the painting. He paints broad areas first, and doesn't focus on finicky little details. He doesn't really "refine" the painting except for making compositional alternations if needed. Color, shapes, and value are really his main subjects. If you look carefully at his paintings, they really embody the essence of "loose" painting!
Here are a few more examples, to whet your appetite for loose painting:
Maple Syrup and Spring Flowers
cover of book, Painting What You Want to See by Charles Reid
You can see all of the above pictures in a larger version just by clicking on one of them! So, we are going to try a loose painting style in class this week, using existing photos as a reference or a still life that you might set up at home. Make it a "casual" still life because that will lend itself much more readily to this loose, spontaneous style!