Sunday, February 21, 2016

WIP - Green Sea Turtle

WIP - body and shell segments painted
It's time for an update on my progress on the Green Sea Turtle painting (I introduced this WIP in an earlier post).  This part, painting in the body and shell segments, was super fun!

I started with the shell segments.  My first step for each segment was to paint a wash of Quinacridone Gold throughout the segment.  While the wash was wet, I dropped in some Ultramarine around the outer edges to create a wet-into-wet mixing of green.  I went in again with Indanthrone Blue for the very outer edge.  The wash was still damp by the time I introduced touches of Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Violet.

I approached the body segments very similarly, though I was shooting for more red-brown tones rather than green for the shell.  I started with a wash of Quinacridone Gold, then dropped in mixes of Burnt Sienna and Quinacridone Violet, mostly along the outer edges.  The final step for each body segment was some Indanthrone Blue along the outer edges.  I often did not bother to wash my brush before dipping into the Indanthrone Blue, so I was actually adding a more deep blue/purplish mixture for the outer edges.

In both cases of the shell and body segment painting, I allowed the paints to mingle together in wet-into-wet fashion, with almost no brush mixing on the paper.

I am happy with how my sea turtle is coming together!  My next step is to work more of the shadow areas, particularly on the body between the head and arm.  I also plan to paint the background as a variety of blues and blue-greens, with application of salt to help create more texture, and blossoms and edges too.  I envision the surrounding water to be almost cloud-like.  We'll see how it actually turns out!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Update On My Sketch Kits

My current kit for sketch outings and travel
Sketch kits tend to evolve over time, and mine is no exception.  You get new tools, realize certain preferences, and things change.

A little bit has changed since I last blogged about my kit.  While I do like having a series of 4x6" sketches of my travels, I really do like having everything bound in a sketchbook better.  My current sketchbook of choice is the Global Arts Handbook Drawing Book (Travelogue Series), in the large portrait size (5.5x8.5").  For relatively thin paper, it holds up to even the wettest watercolor washes quite well, and never bleeds through.  There is a tiny bit of wave to the paper, but the elastic closure helps flatten the pages out.  The book has lots of pages and this helps me feel comfortable in it, freeing me to play.  I stay away from books of actual 140lb watercolor paper for this reason.

My palette has been upgraded from the Altoids tin.  I purchased an empty Schmincke tin from Sarnoff's, but I think they can also be purchased online.  I like that some of my most-used colors are full pans, yet I can also fill the pallet with several half-pan colors too.  It's nice that it has the fold-out mixing area.

I've upgraded my brushes too.  My favorite is the Black Velvet Voyage brush by Silver Brush.  I love the blend of synthetic and squirrel hairs, I really love how it handles watercolor.  I have two brushes in my kit, size 8 and size 2.  My gripe with the all-synthetic brush I used to travel with (DaVinci Cosmotop) is that synthetic hairs tend to dump water too quickly onto the paper.  This has been my experience, anyway.  The Silver Black Velvet brush is my go-to brush at home, too.

My sketch outing and travel kit
I recently got a new Lamy Safari fountain pen in the Neon Lime color, with an F (fine) nib.  I figure with such a bright fun color there would be less chance of leaving the pen when I walk away.  I hope so, anyway!  I also bought a converter and keep the pen filled up with my favorite ink, Platinum Carbon Black.  I never have issues with the ink bleeding when I add watercolors after inking.

I include a pencil because I like to start a drawing by blocking out the basic shapes or angles when I am struggling with perspective or composition.  I also have a kneaded erasure in one well of a compact lens case.  (The other well contains white gouache for any highlights I need to add).

A mini-mister spray bottle is great for moistening my paints before using them, and keeping them moist.  I live and sketch in a dry climate and this is a necessity for me.

To always have water handy I have a 2 oz Nalgene wide-mouth cup & lid.  All of this fits into an XS Eagle Creek Pack-it Sac.

My purse kit is very minimal
I also have a mini-kit that is always in my purse.  It is the bare-bones minimum kit for sketching anywhere.  It contains a 3.5x5.5" version of the Global Arts Handbook I normally use.  My paint palette is a tiny Altoids Smalls tin, containing 5 paints:  1) Hansa Yellow Medium, 2) Quinacridone Rose, 3) Ultramarine, 4) Pthalo Green, and 5) Burnt Sienna.  With these 5 paints I can make a huge variety of colors.

I have a little water brush, a Pentel Aquash Compact.  A piece of paper towel to wipe the brush on, and a Sharpie Pen completes the kit.

I hope this helps!

My purse kit

Monday, February 15, 2016

WIP - Green Sea Turtle

Second Layer of watercolor paint
I would like to share with you my process for a big (for me!) painting project I am undertaking.  It is a half sheet (15x22") watercolor painting of a green sea turtle, destined to hang in my studio.

I see green sea turtles as such a serene sea creature, and I love the warm tropical oceans that are their native habitat.  We've had the privilege of encountering them during our snorkeling and diving in the Hawaiian islands, Bahamas, and Caribbean.

My first step is to find photo references for painting.  I have a few photos of green sea turtles, but I've already made paintings from them so I went looking for something new.  Fortunately Steve Jurvetson offered a wonderful still from a movie he took in the Kona seas, and offered it under the Creative Commons license (CC by 2.0).  Thank you Steve!  One thing I really like about this photo is the playful and engaging pose of the sea turtle.

Final drawing using grid system
I needed to make a drawing on a separate sheet of paper that I could trace onto the watercolor paper.  I used the grid system to help me, drawing a 4x5 grid on two 11x14" pieces of sketch paper taped together to make it about 14x22" in size (the size of watercolor paper I will be working on).  I have an app on my Nexus 7 tablet to display photos with a grid overlaid on it.  I drew first in pencil, then inked in the final drawing.  This photo show the final drawing.

I used a light table to transfer the drawing onto a half sheet of Arches 140lb cold press watercolor paper, penciling lightly.

I had to buy another Gator board because I didn't have one large enough to accommodate a half sheet of watercolor paper.  The new one will also accommodate a full sheet should I ever feel so inclined.  I used the staple method to stretch the watercolor paper:  1) wet the paper thoroughly under a facet, 2) lay onto Gator board and use a staple gun (with 1/4" staples) to staple the painting onto the board.  I placed painter's blue tape over the staples, making sure that the paint area is larger the the inner window of my mat.

Once the paper dried it was stretched nice and taunt for painting.  My first layer was a basic under-painting, applied wet-into-wet, of a warm yellow and rose.  My aim it to let warm and rose tones eventually show through the successive layers of paint.

My second layer (photo at top) is meant to begin to map the shadow areas with ultramarine and rose, and to give the shell a green undertone through the layers I will be painting later.  The eyes are generally very dark, but I added Quinacridone Gold to the center of them to hopefully help them give them glow layer.  The gold is darkened by mixes of Violet and Quinacridone Violet.

Now that I have the two layers of under-painting, I plan to begin working on the local color!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Jackrabbit Step-by-Step

I've had a request to provide a step-by-step of how I've been drawing and painting my animal portraits (you can view some of them here on Flickr), so here we go!

The first step is finding a good photograph.  I enjoy really studying the animal's face, particularly if I like the animals expression, so I need a photograph that will show the face clearly. It's a bonus if there are some interesting light and shadows on the animal.  I have been able to take some nice photographs of animals at our local zoo, but for the purposes of this tutorial I shall use a photo that anyone can access.  One marvelous source of copyright-free photographs is the National Image Library of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Many of their images are in the public domain so they are free to use as artist reference.  The gateway to their collection is here, but note also at the top of the page links to various Flickr pages.

4x6" crop of the USFWS photograph
For my tutorial I chose a photograph of a Blacktail Jackrabbit taken by Scott Rheam of the USFWS.  I've checked in the description and it is indeed an image that is in the Public Domain.  Yay!  I love jackrabbits!  I like the expression on this ones face.  However, I feel compelled to change the composition of the photograph to really focus on the face, so I crop the image using Photoshop Elements.  I know the final sketch in my sketchbook will be 8x12", which is a 2:3 aspect ratio.  I set up the crop parameters to 4" wide by 6" tall in Photoshop so it will end up cropped to my desired
aspect ratio.

Draw a grid on your sketch page in pencil
So now I have a photograph to work from, let's begin!  Though many times I draw totally free-hand, I find I do a better job drawing if I use the grid method of drawing, and since I like my animal faces to look representative, at least structurally, I go ahead and do that.  I draw my grid lines on the paper lightly with pencil.  My sketchbook is 9x12" in size (Strathmore Mixed Media Visual Journal), so I first draw a line using a t-square about 1/4" or so from the holes made for the spiral binding.  I then measure and draw a line 8" from that.  Now I make little tick marks at 2", 4", and 6" along the short (8") side, and at 3", 6", and 9" along the long (12") side.  Then using my t-square I draw the lines at the tick marks.  This divides my sketching area into a 4x4 grid.

Reference photo on Android tablet
Now I turn to the wonders of today's technology.  My husband got me a Nexus 7 tablet for my birthday a couple years ago and I love it!  It's a wonderful way to look at reference photographs without using any printer ink!  And there are Andoid apps available that are helpful to artists.  Here I am using the free app called Grid Drawing Assistant, which allows me to overlay a grid (of my specification) onto any photograph.

Pencil rough sketch
I could at this point go right in with ink, but I instead cautiously block out the basic shapes in pencil, always noticing where the lines, features, and shapes in the photograph are relative to the grid lines in the app and on my paper.  I am using my Ohto Comforcil 2.0mm lead holder, with 2B lead in it, which is easily erasable with a kneaded erasure.

Inking with a Kuretake Brush Pen
When I am satisfied with the rough sketch, I start drawing in ink.  For many years I've been content with fine ink lines provided by my Lamy Safari EF fountain pen (filled with Platinum Carbon Black ink, which is waterproof), or other fine-tipped technical or fountain pens.  But lately I've been exploring the brush pen and I am really enjoying the expressive lines you can achieve with those.  You can get a range of line widths, from super fine to very bold, depending on how you handle the pen.  The pen I am using is a recently-acquired Kuretake No. 13 Fountain Brush Pen.  It comes with ink that is NOT waterproof, so I filled a Platinum Converter I had with Platinum Carbon Black ink instead.  When I am finished and it has had time to dry, I used my kneaded erasure to erase the rough pencil sketch and the interior grid lines, keeping the two vertical side lines (though I think this photo was taken before I did the erasing!):
Inking with Brush Pen Complete
Yellow and Rose Underpainting
There is a highlight in the eye of the rabbit, so for convenience I put a dab of masking fluid where the hightlight should go.

Now starts the next phase, watercolor painting!  Since I am working in my studio (rather than on site) and I have plenty of time, I go ahead and do an underpainting first.  I learned this technique from artist Jonathan Frank and I have really been enjoying the results.  Basically, I use a warm yellow (Daniel Smith New Gamboge was my favorite until they discontinued pigment PY153 so I am turning to Da Vinci Hansa Yellow Deep PY65) and a rose (Quinacridone Rose PV19).  I "map" the two colors according to areas of light and shadow as dictated by the values in the photograph, letting them mingle as they will.  I do this no matter what the final local colors will be.

While this is drying I need to figure out what my palette will be for this guy.  What will be the pigments I use?  Here is where I feel the most out of my comfort zone, because I like to experiment and try new things and I usually don't feel like I know what I'm doing.  My vision for my art is to make things colorful and interesting, and harmonious.  I study other people's art that I really like and try to figure out what palette they are using for that particular piece of art.  One of my favorite animal portrait artists is Amy Ringholz, and I've been studying her works to try to look at options for my color palette (she is an oil painter, but I think it can translate to watercolor okay).  On one wolf painting of hers I was inspired to try out what I discerned to be a similar color palette in my color journal:

Color palette inspired by Amy Ringholz

So the paints in this palette are:  New Gamboge (or Hansa Yellow Deep), Quinacridone Rose, Quinacridone Violet, DS Monte Amiata Sienna, Phthalo Blue Red Shade, and Cobalt Teal Blue.  I explore some mixtures, but for this rabbit I decide to go for general warm tones of siennas and neutralized greens.  And of course purples using Phthalo Blue and Rose or Violet.

I use those purples to further map the shadows on the face, stroking in color and softening them with a separate damp brush.  I am using a couple of size 12 brushes:

Purples to map the shadows
I used a greenish yellow for the iris of the eye.  When that dried, it was time to finally suck it up and work on the local color using the siennas and greens I was telling you about.  It's kind of hard to do because I have to imagine them, as they are not easily seen in the photograph itself.  But I take a deep breath and dive in, with a flurry of intuitive strokes, mixing, and softening the strokes with a clean brush.  I also paint the pupil of the eye, cheating to get a nice black by using Payne's gray mixed with Quinacridone Violet.  This is the result of putting in the local color:

Local color painted

Whew, that wasn't so bad!  So I take another relaxing calming breath now that that's over and think about the background.  My rabbit is generally light, and I tend to love dark backgrounds, so I decided on a dark blue-toned background.  I  try to keep within the color palette that I'm already using.  Phthalo blue is a powerful pigment and a good base for a background here.  I neutralize it by mixing in the Quinacridone Violet, Quinacridone Rose, and Hansa Yellow Deep.  While the wash is still damp I spritz it with rubbing alcohol to get some texture.

First layer of background

I think I'm almost done!  I decide the background needs more intensity, so after it dries I glaze a layer of Phthalo Blue onto the background.  I remove the masking fluid from the eye highlight, date the sketch, and I am done!  The final sketch is at the top of this tutorial.

I hope this step-by-step tutorial was helpful to you!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Wax Resist on Yupo Paper

I want to share with you a really fun technique for watercolor painting on Yupo paper using a wax resist.  See those wonderful white lines in this painting of a ukulele?  That is from wax!  How did I get them?  It's really very easy!  Here is what you need:

  • Yupo paper
  • wax paper for baking
  • fine ball-point pen
  • a drawing or printed copy of a photograph that you want to paint, at the size you want your painting to be.
The process is simple:

  1. Lay down your drawing (or printed copy of a photograph) on top of your Yupo paper.
  2. Tape the drawing to the Yupo paper, hinge-style, on the top or one side.  You don't want the drawing to slip!
  3. Slip in a piece of the wax paper (wax side down, if one-sided) between the drawing and the Yupo paper.
  4. Use the fine point ballpoint pen to draw over the lines of your drawing, thereby transferring wax onto the Yupo paper.
  5. Remove the drawing and the wax paper and paint!
It might be difficult to see your drawing, except for the dents the pressure of your ballpoint pen put into the Yupo paper, but part of the fun of this method is to see the drawing revealed as you brush on your paint.  Try it, it's fun!

Oh, and how did I get that texture in the washes?  That is easy too!  Just fill a little spray bottle with rubbing alcohol and lightly spritz onto your wash while it is still wet.  It creates such cool textures!

[Edited 1.23.2015 to add:]

That red ukulele painting was so fun to do, I did a series of them!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Colorful Greens

Birds of Paradise, 8x10" ink and watercolor on Fabriano HP
As I prepared to paint these birds of paradise, I realized that I should try to make the greens more colorful than I usually do.  I had been reading Penny Soto's book Painting Glowing Colors in Watercolor in which she demonstrates a technique for underpainting then overpainting your subjects.  While I am familiar with underpainting, I am just now realizing how fun it is to make them really colorful!

Colorful underpainting complete
After drawing in the shapes of the leaves and flowers, I had some fun with underpainting the leaves.  I actually did two layers of underpainting.  The first layer was a very light wash of greenish yellow (New Gamboge + Manganese Blue Nova), with touches of Organic Vermillion, Quinacridone Rose, and Phthalo Blue RS mixed in to my wet washes.  This first layer was meant to show through for the light stems and veins of the leaves.  The second layer of underpainting was really fun, where I deepened the colors on the parts of the leaves between the veins.  Here I used a base of Winsor Violet and added Phthalo Blue for the deeper areas and Quinacridone Rose for the lighter areas (blending into clear water).

The photo shown with the underpainting complete also includes a dark background mix of all above colors.

Once the underpainting was complete, I worked on the colors in the flowers (mostly New Gamboge with some Organic Vermilllion), then the overpainting on the leaves.  For the leaf overpainting I mixed up a green from New Gamboge and Phthalo blue and lightly washed that over the leaf shapes.  The lighter areas got either mostly water or mostly New Gamboge, where the deeper areas got a higher concentration of the blue.

Once I was satisfied with the painting, I used my rapidograph pen to make the ink lines.

Photo credit for the birds of paradise goes to Nicke Reeves Payne.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fun with my new Chacos

I'm a big fan of Chacos, I have been wearing them for 10 years. But I'm not the kind of fan that has to have 20 pairs of my favorite shoe--no just one pair is fine with me.

Well my favorite pair recently died on me, after nursing them along for 10 years with one resole and one re-webbing.  So I recently got new ones, and wanted to "commemorate" them with a painting.

I'm not that big into Still Life as an artist, but for Chacos I will make an exception.

 I set up some DIY lighting using a tripod, metal clamp-on light, and a plastic white table.
After drawing the outlines of the Chacos onto an 8x10" sheet of Arches 140lb cold press watercolor paper with pencil, I started painting.  It seems to me that getting strong light on your subject and capturing the value range is pretty important.  So I started by doing a purple under-painting (using Quinacridone Rose and Ultramarine) for the values.  I started exploring the blacks here also by adding New Gamboge to my mix.

When the under-painting and first blacks were dry, including a wet-into-wet of the three colors for the gray of the sole, I worked on the straps.  For them I used mixes of Manganese Blue Nova, Phthalo Green Blue Shade, and Ultramarine.

For the final touch I mixed up some wet puddles of the teal and the purple to load a brush with and create some splats.  Blowing through a straw at the resulting splat puddles created the radial lines.  A fun little commemoration for my beloved new Chacos.  May they last me another 10 years!