Watercolor: Betty Carr's Basic Principles for Painting

In the fall 2006 issue of Workshop magazine, verteran artist Betty Carr taught the fundamentals of light and color in the cool spring of France's Loire Valley and in a Scottsdale, Arizona studio. We offer an excerpt from the article explaining her basic painting principles.

by John A. Parks

  1. Format. Before beginning to paint a subject, decide on the proportion and size that will make the best composition.
  2. Overall color temperature. Is the overall color of the subject warm or cool? Does it have a distinctive color cast?
  3. Decide on an eye level. If you are looking straight out at a landscape this will be the horizon. If you are looking up or down, the eye level will have to be defined and remain constant while the painting is in progress.
  4. Light direction. Have a clear sense of the direction of the light. Maintain it consistently throughout the work.
  5. Masses. Find the major masses of light and dark in the subject matter. Begin by painting them, if possible simplifying areas into bold shapes.
  6. Temperature change. Look for changes in color temperature within shadows and across illuminated areas.
  7. Posture. Work standing up and get into the habit of holding your body in the best possible way for the kind of brushstroke you want to make.
  8. Edges. Pay close attention to the softness and hardness of edges.
  9. Perspective. In landscapes be aware that there may be a hidden or concealed perspective at play.

To read the feature article on this artist, check out the fall 2006 issue of Workshop magazine.

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