Wednesday, we were very fortunate to have Ohio artist and teacher, Yuki Hall, give a demonstration to the Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society. Yuki paints landscapes and cityscapes. She says she struggled with trees in her landscapes so moved into painting cityscapes with buildings, cars and people because "it was easier" for her. We were very pleased to see how she paints one of her half sheet paintings (which win awards in the Ohio Watercolor Society shows and the Cincinnati Art Club Viewpoint shows), from starting value sketches and plans to finished painting.
Yuki was born in Tokyo, Japan and spent the first 2 decades of her life in Japan. Her approach to watercolor reflects her eastern influences (she took calligraphy and brush painting in school and hated it at the time but now sees that the foundation that was built then helps her with her calligraphic marks now in her watercolors).
Her intention with painting a scene is to paint the impression she had of the scene or the atmosphere of the scene, not the literal scene she saw or photographed.
She does this in a very organized manner, starting with working on the shapes, from large to small; and then working with a solid tonal value pattern.
She says her art got better when she began creating value sketches (just small ones in a small sketchbook) before going right into painting. She often paints a small (fourth sheet or less) monotone painting of the scene before she does it in color, too. This is another way of working out her shapes and values and these monotones are beautiful enough to mat and frame on their own.
When she starts to paint, Yuki has her drawing on the watercolor paper, her paper tilted a bit so the paint and water run down, and then she begins with a large, pale wash of color over the painting, moving from warms to cools, and maintaining the whites she wants to leave pure white in the painting.
She mixes large puddles of "greys" which are made from a variety of colors, often Cobalt Blue, Yellow Ochre or Raw Sienna, and Brown Madder or a bit of a dull red.
She contines to work from these large puddles when she puts in her first wash, and again when she puts in her stronger mid-values. (She always paints on dry paper so the first wash has to dry before she begins her mid-tones.)
Yuki says that tonal value is the most powerful tool for her in creating depth on 2-dimensional paper. This is why doing a value study is such a crucial part of her painting and planning processes.
After the mid-tones are drying, Yuki goes back in with her darks, using darks as a way to tie her shapes together in the painting. She doesn't think, "I'm painting a car now," but thinks, "That big shape there can tie in with that big shape there and go across the bottom of the painting." (See how she uses a scrap of paper as a test piece before putting a color down on her paper? I like that idea and wish I would incorporate it into my work. She did this especially when moving to a new color mixture and when going into the painting with her darks so she had a dark enough mix on her brush.)
Yuki did a beautiful job and shared many paintings and value sketches with us. We are all pleased to have this very talented artist share her work with us!. And if she left me with only one thing, it was that you need to see and think shapes and tie those shapes together, rather than do coloring-book filling the object type of painting. Tying those shapes together with darks or with a certain color, works wonders for a painting.
And, as Yuki says,
"The true quality of watercolor will be most evident when it is allowed to take its own course. As with poetry, less is more."
Thank you, Yuki, for driving down to Mt. Adams and sharing your work and her technique with us!