Cover by Christine Griffin

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Printed Anthologies
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May 2009

May 2009 -- Fire



  • Part Time Painter:
    What Should You Do When You Need To Take a Break?
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Losing Ideas
  • Behind the Art:
    Paradise Griffin
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with a Vampire Queen: Cris Griffin
  • EMG News:
    May News


  • An Introduction to Oekaki
  • How to Make Stained Glass Art: A Reviewed Tutorial


  • Tomb of the King: Flames of Rebellion, Part 1

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  • Paradise Griffin
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    I was flipping through some old issues of my National Geographic magazines, looking for pictures of hummingbirds, and instead I found one featuring birds of paradise. The shape of one of them was very appealing and I thought it might make an interesting design, so I started drawing right away, and soon realized I’d found a perfect little image to do in watercolors.

    This painting was done on my little Arches block, 7 by 10 inches, 140 cold press. The original drawing has more detail and texture in it, but all I needed for the painting was a rough outline for composition and placement needs.

    The background was the first step. I wet the whole area with water, and then started adding color into it, letting them mix on their own. I used mostly winsor green, quinacridrone gold and some winsor blue. I let it dry for a few hours before starting the initial layer on the griffin. Again using quinacridrone gold, I covered the whole creature, making it a little stronger in areas that are going to be darker, using wet paint on dry paper. And then I had to wait for paint to dry again before using a quick layer of burnt sienna on the branch the griffin is sitting on.

    Making sure everything was dry, I started building deeper color and values on the griffin. All of the winsor pigments are very bright, transparent colors, so they’re perfect for building layers. I used winsor red for the next layer on the griffin, again leaving the color stronger in areas that I know are going to be dark. I left the beak and rear claws exposed, and also left some textured areas on the head and wings with some gold showing.

    Now I started adding value. Cadmium red is a very opaque pigment, and is great for building dark values. I used mixes of cadmium red and winsor green to start blocking in the shadows. I planned on making the wings and tail a blackish color, so I made sure the mix was very dark on those areas. At the same time, I kept the brush strokes varied to build texture where I could, going for a feathery look. A flat, dark circle begins to form the eye.

    Brightening color again, the next layer is mixes of winsor red and alizarin crimson, applied over the whole creature to start tying it together and to keep the shadows from looking so out of place. I applied alizarin crimson more heavily over the shadows, as it is a cooler red. The wings were built out of dark mixes of winsor blue and cadmium orange. It took a few layers to build up the dark values I needed.

    Building value again, I used various dark and opaque mixes to really darken the deep shadows. I started building the scales on the feet, and added feathering texture to several places. A dark but transparent mix of winsor blue and quinacridrone orange, mostly blue, was applied over the wings and tail to add some color. I also used the same mix on the beak to start to darken it, trying to leave some highlights exposed.

    The final step mostly involved tightening things up and adding little details. I worked on the beak, wings and tail with the same mix, mostly adding texture. I also whipped up a strong reddish-brown mix to darken the area on the left foreleg and shoulder, and used another dark brown mix to add texture to the branch, keeping the detail darker in the shadows. A tiny dot of titanium white adds a final touch to the head.

    Melissa Acker

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