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March 2012

March 2012 -- Centaurs



  • Ask an Artist:
    Cons, Illustrations, Audience-building, and More
  • Behind the Art:
    Playing with Line and Shape
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Lisa Cree
  • EMG News:
    EMG News for February


  • Appreciating Speculative Art Part 4: Composition and Shopping
  • The Centaur


  • Poem: the centaur's stance

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  • Playing with Line and Shape
    Behind the Art
    by Melissa Acker

    I have been playing a lot with negative shapes and disappearing edges lately. It's still something I'm working into my repertoire and combining with my other techniques. Here's a look at what how I worked through this piece.

    Remember how I promised myself I was going to work on value this year? Well this is part of how I do that. I start off with a value sketch. Note that I let the dark shapes disappear into one another, instead of clearly defining each individual shape. I might not stick completely with this value sketch, but it's something to guide me in the beginning.

    I draw some guiding lines onto my watercolor paper. I don't need to go into any detail at this point; these are just the strongest edges I need to worry about. The pencil lines are dark, but I will be working with enough layers that these will mostly disappear completely in time. One thing to keep in mind when you are working with pencil and watercolor is that once you wet the watercolor paper, the pencil lines are set and cannot be erased. So if you prefer not to have pencil lines showing, use a light hand and work with your initial sketch/drawing beside you.

    The initial wash for this piece is wet-in-wet; that is, I wet the paper completely, and apply very wet, strong color onto it. For the initial wash I prefer to let the colors mix themselves on the paper, but you can mix your colors on the palette if you like. You will get smoother transitions if you do it that way.

    The paint will also react differently to different brushes. I used a ¾ inch angled-flat to lay in sweeps of viridian green and burnt sienna. Both are granulating colors and will intermingle into each other. I laid in some nickel yellow with a round brush by the dragon's head, and in a few other places to help build harmony later.

    Using a very fine line brush, I drew in some branches with raw umber and a little ultramarine blue. Because of the brush, and the increasing dryness of the paper, the paint doesn't move very much.

    When I was done with all of that, I sprayed the paper with water to add some texture.

    Using stronger mixes of the same colors, I darkened the values. I outlined some branches using negative painting (painted the space around the branches instead of painting the branches themselves). I used a similar technique for the head. I also started using some garnet genuine instead of burnt sienna to add some warm areas.

    Some of the branches in the foreground were looking a little clunky, so I smoothed them out using some water and an old brush. The colors I have been using so far are low-staining, so this was not difficult. Using similar mixes to before, this time mostly viridian green and cobalt blue, I darken the values again, and add negatively paint in more branches. Now that the values of the branches are starting to have some variety, the painting is starting to have a sense of depth.

    On the neck, using the garnet genuine again, I negatively paint in some fur-like texture, and darken some of the values on the head.

    I darken the values some more, with the mixes leaning even more towards blue, and paint in more branches. I use more of the garnet genuine to build more layers of texture on the neck and wings.

    For this layer I mostly just refined details. I added a little more fur texture and darkened some of the values. I added in the eye and some shadows on the head and neck. I defined the forelimbs and the branch the dragon is holding.

    For the overall effect I was going for I didn't feel the piece needed any more detail than that. Even though the back edges of the wings are undefined, you have no trouble knowing that they are, indeed, wings. The pattern of lights (in the branches, wings, and head) keeps the eye moving around while the darks and the curving lines keep the eye from leaving the painting. The warm red tones contrast nicely against the cool green ones.

    That's all for this month. Don't be afraid of strong color and strong darks when you're painting, even with watercolor. Good luck!

    Melissa Acker

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