Cover by Mitzi Sato-Wiuff

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February 2012

February 2012 -- Steampunk



  • Part Time Painter:
    Licensing, Glue for Collage, and Motivation
  • EMG News:
    EMG News for February
  • Behind the Art:
    Dragon Walkthrough


  • Appreciating Speculative Art Part 3 -- Lines and Colors


  • Fiction: The Wish Machine

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  • Dragon Walkthrough
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    In honor of the Chinese New Year, and seeing that this happens to be the year of the dragon, I thought a watercolor dragon would be appropriate.

    There are many different ways to use watercolors, especially once you become familiar with the properties of all of your paints. In this painting, I will be mostly laying down a series of thin, transparent layers, letting the colors mix optically rather than mixing them on the palette.

    I start with a line drawing at first. The lines can be darker in this case, since there will be so many layers most of the pencil will disappear eventually.

    I wet the entire paper with a spray bottle before I began to work. I laid in an entire layer of quinacridone gold. Before the paper lost its sheen, I used a small, natural-hair round brush to add in tiny spots of quinacridone magenta to add the furry mane of the dragon. The paint spreads out wonderfully on the wet paper. Again, before the paper lost its sheen, I added in a few drops of raw sienna back into the mane areas. Raw sienna is a color that granulates, so it pushes into other colors a little bit. The wet pigments physically blend. I then sprayed the paper with a little water to add some texture.

    Once that layer was dry, I laid in a loose layer of quinacridone burnt orange. I left some areas of the dragon bare, particularly in the foreground. I also some of the motif behind the dragon stark yellow.

    Up to this point, I have been using mostly quinacridones, which are staining colors. Some colors stain because the pigments in them are heavy and sink into the paper. Others, like the quinacridones, are dyes that will sink through layers. Sometimes, if you use too many layers of them, they will sink through the layers and the paint can turn muddy. So I tend to use them with care.

    For the next few layers, I will be using mixes of raw sienna and rose of ultramarine. Both are low-staining. More importantly, both are granulating colors, so the pigments will push into each other a little bit, adding texture in subtle ways. And since they are somewhat complimentary (raw sienna is sort of a neutral yellowish color, and rose of ultramarine is a violet) they mix together beautifully.

    I brushed in a basic shadow layer on the dragon in the foreground. After it dried, I laid in another light layer of the raw sienna/rose of ultramarine over the entire background (except for the motif). This pushes everything back from the foreground.

    In a few different layers, I laid in washes over and around the circles inside the motif. Progressive layers over them will keep pushing them back.

    Another layer, slightly more concentrated, of the raw sienna and rose of ultramarine mix.

    Two more layers in. One of cobalt blue, where I painted around the parts of the dragon in the foreground and the middle ground, as well as the motif. The other was just rose of ultramarine, and I painted around all of the dragon and the motif. I continued with the layers of color over the circles.

    This is the finished product. I added some detail on the face to help draw the eye to it, and some detail in the mane helps establish the parts of the dragon that are in the foreground; this contrasts against the softer texture of the mane in the middle ground and background. I stayed with mixes of raw sienna and rose of ultramarine for most of it. I added in some pure quinacridone magenta around the eye, and some paynes grey for some of the very darkest details. I also cleaned up a few of the edges.

    And that's it for this month. I hope you get into your studio and try something new!

    Melissa Acker

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