Cliff Notes for Zbukvic's "Mastering Atmosphere and Mood in Watercolor", pt. 3

This is the third post in a series of three posts on Zbukvic's (sadly) out of print book.  First things first, how about some more samples of Zbukvic's work?  :)



Elements of creating Mood and Atmosphere-

3 major moods-

1) Soft and Hazy- low value contrast, soft edges, muted, analogous colors

2) Medium Mellow- mid range for the set

3) Sharp Staccato- high value contrast, hard edges, high chroma, complimentary colors


Tonal Value-

-all about relative values… How much darker is THIS than THAT?

-bold value contrast= bright light (building in direct sun, beaches, scenes at mid day, etc)

-bold value contrasts attract the eye

-bright light only occurs because of tonal contrast in the painting (a darker than usual background, darker shadows, etc)—if these are removed or blocked, the experience of bright light will diminish.  The experience of light occurs because of tonal contrast—it’s a relative experience.

-mellow value range= low light (scenes at beginning or end of day, shaded areas, etc)

*TIP- the sky is often paler and of lesser value than you think, even if you have clouds in it… otherwise the ground won’t read as ground.  If the sky or the clouds ARE the actual focus of the composition, then that changes things some.


Edges- 4 types-

a variety of edges help create depth just as much tone and color

*TIP- turn the paper upside down and do a gentle wash over the sky line after you’ve painted it and let it dry, to soften the distance and blur the edges vary your edges, don’t have them be all the same

-the type of edge you get is dictated __directly__ by the relationship of pigment and water on your brush compared to the amount of water on the paper this is where the watercolor clock is really really important

1) Hard Edge

- Can only be done on DRY paper.  Can help create a harsh, bright light.

2) Lost and Found Edge

- Can only be done on nearly DRY or DAMP paper.  Good for creating varied mass within a single wash or shape.  Difficult to control.  Requires that you have an equal or lesser amount of water on your brush compared to the paper, or you’ll get blossoming as the water from your brush expands on the canvas.

3)  Soft controlled Edge

- Done when the paper is MOIST.  Good for interlocking shapes.  Good for connecting the sky to the horizon, instead of using a harsh, hard line.

 4) Soft Uncontrolled Edge

- Done when the paper is WET.  Easy to accomplish, but hard to get it to “read” as anything specific.  Beautiful but sometimes overused.  Works wonderfully when combined with sharp hard edges.


Color- the “Mother Color”-

He always tries to tie an image together with a Mother Color, so things don’t get too disparate.  Rarely it’s a set of twins, but never more.  The goal is to create harmony through color.  He either swings cool or warm, in a general gist, on the color of the painting.  As a way to guide the color choices and composition.  Then he brings in the complementary temperature as an accent.

In this video of Alvaro Castagnet painting (also from an episode of Color In Your Life) you can see him put into effect a number of things that Zbukvic is talking about-- comparative values, varied kinds of edges, picking a mother color of sorts (for Alvaro, but of course, a red!).  What's interesting to me is how two painters who are really pretty different all in all, are still using some of the same basic elements of composition and technique.


The Jewlery

--can determine the setting of a scene- is it a late afternoon festival with flags, a busy morning commute, or a deserted weekend morning?  The scenes can be painted with similar light.

-These can be easily overdone.  If you’re looking for a place to put a piece of jewelry and aren’t quite sure where it should go, you’re probably done.  You should only include what’s necessary to tell the story you want to tell—not more.  Fewer brush strokes = greater elegance of expression.

*TIP- if the painting is too dark, add gouache highlights; if its too pale, add good, bold darks


Here are links to the other two "Cliff Notes" posts-

Cliff Notes, pt. 1

Cliff Notes, pt. 2