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December 2011

December 2011 -- Ships

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  • EMG News:
    News for December!
  • Behind the Art:
    Red Moon
  • Ask an Artist:
    Media, Sharpening Colored Pencils, and Sketchbooks

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  • Fiction: Growing Derelict
  • Fiction: Wile Away


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  • Red Moon
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    Another tutorial, and I'm taking you all through another multimedia painting (I just can't make myself stick to one medium at a time). Watercolor interacts well with almost all other mediums, so it's usually the first one (other than a pencil drawing) that I use first.

    I'm doing the first layer wet-in-wet. I spray the paper with water and spread it out with a brush, resulting in an even layer of wetness over the whole surface. Then I started brushing in heavy doses of color. I used a lot of viridian green, ultramarine blue, and ultramarine rose. These are all cool colors, but, more importantly, they are all pigments that naturally granulate. That means that even left on their own, the particles of pigment will spread around and settle in patterns with interesting texture. Before the paper loses its sheen of wetness, I spray a little water onto it. I find that once the paper loses its sheen, it's best just to leave it be and let it dry; adding more water or paint is undesirable.

    This is what we are left with once it is dry.



    I'm done with the watercolor for now. Now we'll move on to the acrylic. Acrylic is ideal for multimedia work, because you can use it over almost anything (excepting oil paint or pastels). It can also be very opaque, and contrasts interestingly against the transparent watercolor.

    I sketched in the shapes of the creature, the boat, and the passengers. I used limited colors -- titanium white, cobalt blue, pthylo green, yellow ochre, and raw umber. I sketched in the basic shapes and some indication of the light source, but mostly they are just very basic shapes. I'll work my way up from here.



    Using similar mixes to the initial layer, only brighter, I blocked in the shapes of the scales and bony ridges. I put in the initial layer of color in the eyes, and defined the shape of the water ripples a little more. I made the light source more clear, with definite lights and darks. It's looking a little dead at this point, but I still have a ways to go. Paintings often look like miserable failures in the their middle stages.



    I added in the darkest darks on the creature with a detail brush, and added the pupil and eye texture as well. I also added in some slight highlights on the scales, although they are quite faint.



    I went through a similar process on the boat and the passengers. I added in the darkest shadows on the passengers, and added in some red highlights on the lightest areas. The lights and darks on the boat were added in. When dealing with water, I always have to pay attention to reflected light, which is why the dark side of the boat is not as dark as it should be.



    Now is where things start getting interesting. When using very thin layers of acrylic, I usually use matte medium, rather than just water, to thin the paint down. It remains easier to control, and is more chemically stable when it dries. It is also useful when you need a light mix of red but really, really don't want to end up with pink.

    So, anyway. It takes very little paint -- a dab smaller than the eraser on the end of a pencil, in this case -- mixed with a squirt of matter medium about the size of a quarter. Once it is thoroughly mixed, I applied it to all the areas that would be receiving direct light from the unseen red moon.

    I could have done the entire process up until now with watercolors, but the end result might have looked muddy (especially since I was layering red over green). When I glaze with matte medium, it looks like a glaze, and retains the look of red light on a green surface much more.



    Alright, so I've made some good progress on the subjects, but it still lacks conviction, and the contrast between the opaque acrylic and the transparent watercolor is still too strong for my tastes. Time to switch back to watercolor!

    This time I will be applying the paint wet on dry; I don't soak the paper beforehand. I brush strong color -- warm colors this time -- onto the paper, moving the strokes in different directions to add energy to the composition. I let the colors blend and do their thing. Occasionally I take a dry flat brush and draw it through the wet paint to create pale lines. Again, I spray the paint with water before it dries.

    With the values of the watercolor now much darker, it doesn't contrast against the acrylic nearly so much. Now the opaque acrylic gives a solidness to the creature and the boat, and the give the water an appearance of etherealness, as if we might be seeing the reflection of the sky above. The circular swirl of the water and ripples helps move the eye around and draw it back to the creatures head.



    I can certainly achieve more refined results than this demonstration, but I tend to go back and forth so much when I am working on my own that it is very hard to follow my process. Experiment on your own and see what kind of results you can achieve!

    Melissa Acker
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