Interview with Michael Cross
Watercolor with Pencil and Ink
News for July
Watercolor with Pencil and InkBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
When I started this piece, I had a very rough idea of what I wanted -- the basic composition, the colors, the subject -- but no idea what medium I wanted to use. I had recently seen some interesting sketch-like pieces done with several mediums together, so I thought I would try my hand at that. This is my first attempt.
I started with a loose watercolor wash, consisting of nickel yellow, hematite green and burnt tiger's eye. It was done wet-in-wet: very wet paint onto wet paper. All are granulating colors that will lift well if I need them to. The colors blended beautifully into each other. Already I have the rough basics of a composition. There are lights and darks, and shapes that move the eye around.
Next, going off of the shapes I had formed with the paint, I drew in the lines of the important shapes. There is very little detail -- just the barest details I need to keep me on track while I work.
For the next parts, I was working simultaneously with both watercolor and an HB graphite pencil. I would lay in a few brushstrokes of color -- often letting the colors run into each other -- and then draw into the wet color with the graphite. Sometimes I used contours (the flowers on the darker area above the monster) and sometimes I used shorter, more defining contours (the chest of the monster, or the ridges and roots on the hill in the foreground). Depending on how damp the paper is, the graphite might spread a bit, or become darker, or duller. It takes a bit of practice to begin to predict the effect. I also had to keep a careful hand on the pencil; press too hard on the damp paper, and I could have ripped right through it. Definitely not desirable.
I created shapes as I went, and made a conscious effort to use bold color. I tried for a combination of positive and negative painting, and left lots of strong edges and disappearing edges. I have a light source at work, and the composition is beginning to take shape.
I continued in the same way, moving all over the rest of the painting. It was almost like carving, strangely enough. My pencil strokes got looser and darker as my color got darker. You can see where I used negative painting in the area above the cave opening, as I painted the dark areas around the flower blossoms. You can also see where I've started to use ink to define the eyes of the monster. I've kept the general direction of the vines, roots, and dirt ridges all moving in a general circular direction.
More of the same. Most of the work in this stage was concentrated on the foreground hill, and beginning work on the leftmost dark area.
While you can see I have added some detail with ink, it's sparing. Only the forehead, some of the shoulder and the leg have any detail. I want the rest to begin to fade into the background. On a similar note, look how few lines it actually took for your eyes to register that there is a tree in the left-hand corner.
I softened a few colors, made some values darker, and added a few more necessary details. Overall, I am quite pleased with the result. The composition is almost perfectly divided in half, which is usually a bad thing, but I think the circular shapes keep the eye moving in this case. I love the interplay between lines and shapes, between soft edges and hard ones. I might try this again with water-soluble graphite, or even charcoal could be interesting. And I could always add opaque paint on top as a final layer. I'm not done experimenting for this, that's for certain. What interesting medium combinations have you come up? You can try almost anything, as long as you keep oils on top. Have fun!
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