|Sea Turtle (15 x 22" Ink & Watercolor on Arches 140lb CP)|
It was a good experience to paint something of a larger scale than I'm used to. I had to use larger brushes, especially in the background (including my big goat hair mop brush, my 1" flat and my 3/4" oval). It takes courage to work larger when small feels so safe!
So I think it would be a great time to recap the progress to show the steps of the painting's development.
|Sea Turtle photo by Steve Jurvetson, CC by 2.0, cropped for composition|
|Using grid method to create drawing|
|Painting after two layers|
After the paper dried to a nice tight flat surface, I did a first layer of painting, which was an under-layer of New Gamboge and Quinacridone Rose, both to add a little glow to the sea turtle, which will mostly be green and brown, and some reds to the background for variety in a planned sea of blue.
The second layer was the underpainting for the shell and the body (including the legs and arms), to set the baseline local color for those regions. I also painted an underlayer for the eyes to create a glow using Quinacridone Gold (darkened with violet towards the outer edges).
|Shell and leg/arm segments painted|
I then worked on the shell and body segments. The paints and process were described in an earlier blog post.
|Deepen shadows on body, first background layer|
I took a rather long hiatus from this painting while I focused on other things, but when I came back to it the first thing I did was deepen the form shadows on the body under the shell as well as the cast shadows on the legs and arms, using mixes of Burnt Sienna, Quinacridone Rose, French Ultramarine and Indanthrone Blue.
Then I took out my big goat hair mop brush and wet the background. I squeezed out onto a white tray little globs of four of my blue paints: Cobalt Teal Blue, Manganese Blue Nova, Phthalo Blue GS, and French Ultramarine. I just started working fast on making washes in the background, using my blues primarily. I did it in regions naturally divided by the sea turtle into the frame. While each region of wash was damp I sprinkled in some grains of coarse salt. In the upper right region I dropped in some Quinacridone Rose. In the bottom region below the sea turtle I dropped in some rose as well as some Burnt Sienna.
Doing backgrounds like this is always a bit intense for me, made more so because of the sheer area my brushes had to cover this time. I do not require an even flat background (if I did, I would have masked the turtle and did the background first), but I still would rather not have hard edges in odd places.
When it was dry I like the varied colors and mottled effect due to salt and variations of the pigment-to-water ratios as well as the different blue pigments themselves. But the background in no way felt finished. To me, the sea turtle looked cut out and pasted onto a background that was mostly uniform in value. I felt I should have regions in the background that are at least almost as dark in value as those in the turtle itself so that I could have more cohesion between the subject and background. I also thought the background here is too psychedelic and needed a glaze of blue to tone it down and unify it more.
Again, because I like the texture, I sprinkled a bit of my coarse salt onto the wet background washes.
I was much happier with the background after that layer. After removing the salt, I added touches of washes here and there that seemed to need it, both with the Indanthrone blue and Cobalt Teal Blue. A bit more salt too.
The final step was the ink lines. I used a 0.3 Rapidograph pen to draw ink lines around all the major shapes and the body and shell segments. And I signed the painting.
I photographed all these using my Canon SL1 digital SLR, using either my 50mm f/1.8 lens or my 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. I propped my gatorboard outside in the shade of my porch, sat my butt down on the ground and propped my elbows onto my bent legs for stabilization. I found that "Shade" white balance was very nice, though for some of these I did a custom white balance using the white backside of the gatorboard as a reference. I tried to fill the frame as much as possible with the painting, making sure I was squared up on the painting (to avoid distortion such as keystoning). Set aperture to f/8, and chose an ISO (often 400) to allow a fast enough shutter speed. I'd take a few photos and pick the most representative.
I hope this recap of my process is informative for you!