African Watercolor, Part 2
Interview with Laura Pelick
News for December
African Watercolor, Part 2Behind the Art
by Melissa Acker
Alright, last month we went through the first steps of a painting: getting the sketch done and the paper stretched. This month, we're going to paint!
As usual, I started with a very pale wash of permanent rose. Notice you can still see the pencil lines through the wash; this wash is just to cover up the white of the paper, and will automatically start giving the piece some unity.
Once the wash was completely dry, I went back in -- again with the permanent rose -- and filled in the stripes on the unicorn. Just doing that automatically gives it form and mass, and we haven't even started adding shadows yet! I did my best to keep this layer of rose absolutely flat and even; I tried to keep the value the same for all of the stripes.
Once the last layer dried, I painted in a darker, soft area behind the unicorn and to the left of it; this defines the shape of the legs and also adds some abstract background. This step was also done with permanent rose.
Now we need to add some foreground. Again using the permanent rose, I painted in shapes that suggest grass. The value is the darkest I've used so far. In places where it touches some of the dark stripes on the unicorn, I tried to match the values as best I could.
Up until now, we've been using only permanent rose (and look how much we got done!). Now we're going to start adding shadows, and really adding the illusion of form.
Using a mix of ultramarine violet and winsor blue, two very vibrant and cool colors, I lightly painted in the shadows of the creature. For the most part I didn't make the stripes any darker in the shadow than in the light -- that is for a future step. The shadows farther away (such as the rear legs) have more blue in them than violet.
The reason for this, of course, is color theory. Violet has red in it, so the shadows with more red in them will appear warmer and therefore closer to the viewer; even though the distance between the front and rear legs isn't much, the blue shadows still push them back.
Time to work on the foreground again! Now, in addition to our ultramarine violet and winsor blue, we'll also be adding winsor green and cadmium yellow. I've found all of the winsor colors work very well together, and this is particularly true for the green and blue. Cadmium yellow is very bright, but it also a very ‘heavy' color that will hold its own against darker greens.
I moved from right to left, starting with the yellow and adding progressively more greens, blues and finally violets as I moved left. I continually moved my brush very quickly to make the ‘grass blade' shapes, and sometimes dabbed pure, unmixed color right from my palette into a wet area (this works especially well with the cadmium yellow). The end result is a glowing, abstract patch of grass.
Now all we have to do is bring the piece together. Looking at it right now, the foreground is a little overpowering, so we have to fix that.
Using my detail brush, I used dark mixes of the colors I've already used to darken the stripes in the shadows, as well as add shadow and detail to the mane and horn. There is a lot of green in the mix, which, combined with the red in the underlying layers of shadows, will create a very eye-catching, dark area. After a few, thin layers I'm satisfied with my shadows. Then I took some burnt scarlet (you could also use burnt sienna, but burnt scarlet is warmer) and just touched up the shadows in the light a tad; just enough to make one think the sun is hitting them.
And just like that, we're done! In this entire painting we've only used six colors, and one of those very sparingly: permanent rose, ultramarine violet, winsor blue, winsor green, cadmium yellow, and burnt scarlet. We worked from background to foreground, going from large brushes to small, worrying about detail last. Follow those simple rules, and you can paint just about anything.
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