Painting the Sphinx
The Harmonious Work of Warwick Goble (1862-1943)
From Triumphs to Tarots
The Essence of Erotica
EMG News for July
Painting the SphinxBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
On to part two of our tutorial! Where we last left off, we had designed and drawn our sphinx, and had roughed out a value sketch for our painting. Just to refresh your memory, it looked like this:
Once I decided I was ready to paint, I got my watercolor paper ready. Since I was using 140lb cold-press, I stretched it, and then drew my composition onto it. You can do this in any number of ways, so use whichever works for you. In my case I firmly taped the wet paper to a piece of ľ inch masonite and weighed it down to dry. Then I left it for a day or two. Once thatís done, I sketched my drawing on, mostly freehand, judging angles when I needed to.
I used to have a set procedure of steps I went through when painting with watercolor. I donít anymore. I often wing the first wash, to see what I can come up with and try to work with that instead of forcing myself to do it a certain way. This can be tricky to do, so if youíre still struggling with watercolors, then do it the old-fashioned, logical way!
So anyway, I laid in my first washes, very loosely and very wet.
For the most part, I am not going to be very specific with what paints I used in this particular tutorial. This painting is going to be rather loose, and, if youíre following along, just try to approximate the values (both warm and cool and light and dark). These are more important than specific colors.
I laid in a warm, light neutral all along the base of the painting to show the sand, and used various mixes of browns and violets to block in the shadows, again very roughly. (Her wings are going to be similar to those of a bataleur eagle, which means they will be rufus along the leading edge and dark everywhere else.) Then I let it dry. Even at this early stage, there is a basic value pattern and eye movement.
This is what the painting looked like after another hour of work. I started to really push the darks, and adjusted the colorís temperature -- that is, making some shadows cooler to push them back, and making some warmer to bring them forward. I defined some of the feathers in the wing. I really worked with the lion part to define the anatomy, using shadows and painting negatively. You also may have noticed I hadnít touched the face. I decided to wait until much later to work with that. A small, complex area like the face is the last place I want to fooling around if Iím not completely sure what I want!
I decided this was a good time to take a step back and look at the painting. I was not really happy with the temperature of the shadows; they kind of looked all over the place and there wasn't any coherent relationship between them. I also wanted to push some of those darks even darker, and I wasn't happy with the skin tone either -- too purple. The sphinx is also not quite integrated in with the background; she looks a little cut out still.
The style of the painting is starting to emerge. It was not something I had intentionally planned, but I decided just to go with it. I continued, still pushing the darks and trying to harmonize the shadows. In particular, I added the cast shadow of her body against the steps, used some glazed color to adjust the temperature of the shadows, and added some cracks and such in the stone.
Here is the finished painting. The differences between this step and the last one are minor, but important. I adjusted her skin tone some more, and added a face. I darkened the shadows behind her so that her lighter face would draw more attention. I darkened a few shadows under and in her wing and on her feet.
I could take this a little further still, for example by giving her all of her jewelry and adding some fur texture to the lion parts, but I like it the way it is right now. And so this completes our walkthrough this month. I hope I gave you some ideas for working with watercolors!
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