Chein Chung-Wei Watercolor School: “Venetian Night”

As I continue to learn in watercolor, I came across some of Chein’s teaching on FB.  His teaching reflects many of the great artist’s including Vladislav Yeliseyev and Zbuckvic to name a few.   The importance of composition and your own artistic vision.  It echos something Vlad taught me in my latest workshop:  Indicate and let your mind fill in the rest.  

I’m learning more about composition too and how to not be confined by what you see.  Especially in photos and in plein air painting.  I’m beginning to realize this is what art is all about.  The composition, how you arrange the players and come up with a vision.  How you want to tell a story with your vision and not get too literal.  Do it subtly.

I came across a nice teaching tool and step by step by Chien Chung-Wei.  I found it amongst his notes on Facebook.  Chien is one of the few artists I’ve come across that actually writes interesting notes on FB.  It’s a trove of information.

Unfortunately, many of Chien’s notes are in Taiwanese.  However, this one is in English!

Chien has done a number of night scenes, which I have yet to attempt.  I want to give myself at least 10-12 months of practice before I attempt it.  I feel like after Vlad’s workshop, I am just beginning to understand the concept of “light” in painting.  Some of Chien’s other night paintings include “The Rainy Night”, “Moscow Nocturne”, “Blue River Jazz”, “One Night in Girona” and many more.


Venetian Night Tutorial

In this tutorial, I have taken Chien’s outline and added some of my own in relation to my recent workshop with Vladislav Yeliseyev.  I found many similarities in his technique and teaching.

Concerning the Venetian Night Scene, you can read it in detail below and I have included a link, but I will hightlight a few areas in his notes.  First, composition is the ‘bones’ of the work.  Find a focal point, in this case the bridge and some of the boats.  It’s interesting that he also uses masking fluid for the street lamps and lamp reflections on the water.

Venetian Night Step 1 – The bones of the work. Composition and focal point.

The initial wash is a simple color of yellow and blue (warm and cool) to use as a foundation for the central focal point. He increases the intensity of the clouds and foreground water by creating a richer color foundation of cobalt blue, cerulean blue, Verditer and ultramarine.  These are similar colors that Vlad likes to also use in his initial wash in Stage 1.  You can see a full explanation of Vlad’s workshop and teaching in my post of his Sarasota, Florida Plein Air Workshop here. 

Venetian Night Step 2 – The initial wash uses cool and warm colors to accentuate a foundation.

In the second wash, Chien likes to concentrate on darker, smaller areas.  He actually likes to paint in ‘sections’ rather than tackling the entire painting after the initial wash.  In some cases, it’s warranted, but here he starts in small sections.  He starts in the center with the focal point and treats the boats, bridge and some of the buildings as one shape.  He uses Vandyke brown, Ultramarine and reds (Alizarin Crimson and Dioxazine Violet), almost exactly what Vlad uses in his second stage or what he calls the “shade areas”.  Now I know what he meant by ‘shade area’.  These are the darker areas in the focal point, etc.

Venetian Night Step 3- Very similar to Vlad’s workshop, the second wash includes ‘shading’ important areas of the painting using Burnt Umber and VanDyke Brown (for the yellows), Alizarin Crimson and Dioxzaine Violet (for the reds) and Ultramarine (for the blues)

He specifically uses this combination of colors in the second stage or step 3 and 4 to ‘gray out’ particular areas of the painting.  This will create beautiful ‘midtones’.  I find the midtones sometimes the hardest to create and master.  I particularly find it simple to do the first wash, but then often go too dark too early.  This will cause a disconnect to the painting.  Midtones are what separate the amateurs from the pros!

In step 4 some details are already being added, but it should be stressed that this is not detailing by any means.  It should be done in a midtone to give the windows and ledges (in this work) some indication, but not detailed.

Venetian Night Step 4 – some detailing is added, but in the midtone region. This is not the same detailing that is left for the end, but just some indication of windows and ledges, etc.

In the last stages of Step 5 and 6 in Chien’s painting, this is the time for shadows and detailed work.  In Vlad’s workshop, we used VanDyke brown+Sepia (yellows), Dixazine Violet (for the blues) and Ultramarine+Indigo (for the blues).

Chien likes to paint his works in sections many times.  In this way, he can control the flow of water to achieve a particular type of effect.  In step 5 and the final work (step 6), he adds the foreground poles (step 5) and brushes away the masking fluid to highlight the lamps and ripple reflections in the water.  He also darkens the closer walls along the building and water to bring out the boat.  This is an area Vlad discussed often in his workshop on how to ‘cut out’ shapes using dark tones.  In this case, the boat on the left is brought out by darkening the walls of the building.  While the paint is somewhat wet, you can use a pallet knife to ‘scratch out’ some highlights in the water and along the boat.  Zbukvic will use his finger and Pekel will use his senior card 🙂

Venetian Night Step 5 – here the foreground is placed and the masking fluid is removed to highlight the lamps and water. Many of these principles of painting can also be used in day scenes as well.

After the masking fluid is removed, Chien softens the light areas of the just removed masking fluid with a glaze of cadmium yellow to create the halos and soften the ripples.  Also, water can be used to ‘lift’ from darks from the bridge in order to place people highlights over the bridge.

In the final step 6, or what Zbukvic calls the “jewelry stage” , the figure in light on the right and the details such as people over the bridge and the building top highlights are added.

Venetian Night Step 6 – the final touches are added including a figure on the right (in lamp light), the figures on the bridge and the building highlights.

You can see Chein’s full notes on the Venetian Night tutorial here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: