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Watercolor Magazine-Reardon

Watercolor Magazine-Reardon

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Published by Michael Reardon

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Published by: Michael Reardon on Aug 07, 2011
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08/07/2011

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www.ArtistDaily.com
Spring 2011 63
A
side from water,there is no moredefining trait inwatercolor paintingthan the white paperthe pigment sits upon. Its light toneilluminates the transparent paintfrom beneath. Its texture shapes theoverall feel of the piece. Its morefragile nature (compared to canvas)suggests transience, delicacy, tradi-tion, and handcraft. Michael Reardon,of Oakland, California, loves paintingshades of white in watercolor. Thedecision is partly pragmatic—it’seasier to tint the white of the paperthan try to build up paint to the rightcolor in a darker value—but it’s alsoan issue of subtlety and beauty. One of Reardon’s greatest pleasures is paint-ing while traveling, and when he findsan inspiring scene he is quick to notewhere he can use the pure white of un-painted paper to draw the viewer’s eye.“The thoughtful use of white paper isa fundamental element of any water-color composition,” says the artist. “Itmay seem counter-intuitive, but therange of subtle shades of white makesthe pure white of the paper seem evenwhiter. Putting your darkest valuenext to the white creates the greatestcontrast, which very effectively drawsthe eye to that part of a painting. Butputting number-two values next to thenumber-one value of the paper makesthe white seem even whiter.”“The beauty of painting shades of white goes to the heart of my approachto painting in watercolor, captur-ing the fleeting qualities of light,”Reardon continues. “Light bounc-ing off a white object is the clearestexample. Keen observation discernsthe subtle tints of blue reflected fromthe sky, warm tones from the ground,greens from adjacent vegetation, or themyriad other colors that reflect fromthe object and affect its ‘whiteness.’”Other artists are starting to noticeReardon’s ability to depict shadesof white using transparent water-color washes. His painting
LamayuruChorten, Ladakh,
which presentsa white sunlit monastery in India,recently won Best of Show at the 2010Statewide Watercolor Competition andExhibition at the Triton Museum of Art, in Santa Clara, California.When it comes to capturing suchsubtle effects, Reardon’s approach isone of controlled experimentation. Hemakes his living as an architecturalillustrator, which requires a precise anddecisive hand. In his fine art, he takesthis method and stirs things up. Rear-don is a dedicated plein air painter, andas any artist will tell you, anything canhappen when one is painting outdoors,and something usually does. Reardontakes it in stride. His success in this,perhaps, lies mostly in his powers of 
California artist Michael Reardon finds that he can best capture the effects of light byapplying white paint over the brilliant white of watercolor paper.
|
 
by Bob Bahr
“I try to keep the skyrestful, not busy. Myskies are generallya place for the eye torest, and for setting a mood.”
Rendering 
Shadesof White
in Watercolor
LamayuruChorten,Ladakh
2010, watercolor,22 x 11.All artwork thisarticle collectionthe artist.
62 Watercolor
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Spring 2011 65
concentration. “When I’m paintingen plein air, I concentrate so hard thatI don’t even notice what is going onbehind me,” he notes. “One time inTurkey I turned around and there wereabout 30 men watching me paint, and Ihad no idea they were there.”The demonstration painting shownhere was not painted plein air—in fact,it was the first painting Reardon haddone from a reference photograph inyears—but it was a necessary ex-periment. The artist sought to create apainting using only two colors, cobaltblue and permanent orange. “I wasplaying a little bit of a game, usingmostly just those two colors—myworkhorse colors,” Reardon explains. “Iadded just a few other colors near thebase, but mostly it was pure color.” Hechooses cobalt because it’s a relativelyneutral blue and “it doesn’t granulatethe way ultramarine does.” He opts forpermanent orange because it’s very yel-low and much warmer than any of hisreds—and also very transparent. Theartists says he can emulate ultramarineblue by adding some quinacridone roseto the cobalt. He can strengthen thepermanent orange by mixing in a bit of quinacridone burnt scarlet.When he works in his studio, Reardontilts the paper to a 45-degree angle. Inthe field, he holds his watercolor padin one hand, tilting and rotating it asneeded to move the water and pigmentaround the surface. Whether he’soutdoors or in his studio, a paintingsession usually lasts between 90 min-utes and two hours. “For the most partI know what’s going to happen, but Ialso know there will be accidents,” hesays. “I don’t go back in and changethem. I work with them. Often, I willput a painting away for a few days,and when I come back to look at it,I will decide that it works.” Reardonuses two wells for water, one for warm
Pont Nôtre-Dame, Paris
2010, watercolor,18 x 11.
left
Hemis Monastery,Ladakh
2006, watercolor,10 x 5.
 above
Mountain ViewMonument
2008, watercolor,9 x 6.
64 Watercolor
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Spring 2011 67
Reardon’s Palette
The artist uses DanielSmith watercolors in thefollowing colors:
l
 
cobalt blue
l
 
ultramarine blue
 
l
 
cerulean blue
 
l
 
phthalo blue
 
l
 
carmine
 
l
 
quinacridone rose
 
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cadmium red 
 
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permanent orange
 
l
 
perinone orange
 
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new gamboge
 
l
 
phthalo green yellow shade
 
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viridian
 
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amazonite genuine
 
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quinacridone burnt scarlet 
 
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quinacridone burnt orange
 
l
 
quinacridone gold 
 
Brushes
 
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Raphael sable rounds,sizes 7–12
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Daniel Smith syntheticround, size 42
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Arches sable round, size 6
pigments and one for cool, and hechanges the water often to keep itreasonably clean. Given his unofficialtime restraint, Reardon works fast.“It takes a lot of adrenaline—I thinkmany watercolorists are adrenalinejunkies,” he observes.Reardon painted
Blue Mosque Is-tanbul 
for two reasons. First, the pho-tograph was taken from the middle of the street, a vantage point that wouldhave been impossible—and ille-gal—to paint from. Second, Reardonfound himself in his studio with therare problem of not having an ideaof what to paint. He came across thereference photograph and decided itwould be a fun exercise—especiallybecause it required him to create theforeground from his imagination.(An unattractive billboard domi-nated that actual scene.) In general,Reardon opposes the idea of workingfrom photos. “You can usually tellwhen people work from a photographbecause too much detail is included,”he says. “When I used this photo,I printed a small black-and-whitecopy, traced the major elements, thenput the photo away and did graphitesketches to work out the composition.After two or three iterations, I found
Reardon’s Tipsfor Getting theMost out ofYour Painting Sessions
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Don’t try to paint everything infront of you. Keep it simple.
l
 
Look for light areas or whiteareas in your scene. This will takeadvantage of the white of yourpaper and make your task easier.
l
 
Keep your water clean.
l
 
Watercolor can be a challengingmedium, and whenever youthink you have it mastered, itwill surprise you. Learn to livewith your surprises.
l
 
Play with the paint, and have fun.
left
Leh Palace,Ladakh
2010, watercolor,22 x 11.
 above
San Marco, Venice
2007, watercolor,6
1
 ⁄ 
2
x 4
1
 ⁄ 
2
.
66 Watercolor
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North Anchorage,Golden Gate Bridge
2010, watercolor, 22 x 11.

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