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Process post: Cracking

by Theo on October 8th, 2012

A little while back, a friend asked me to show her my watercolor process. I sort of shrugged and ducked out of it, because I’m still figuring out watercolors and my process has traditionally been trial and error with a side of prayer. But her question got me thinking about how slapdash my approach is, and I started keeping my camera next to me while I painted to document what the hell I was doing.

Between then and now, something clicked, and suddenly I had a process that consistently worked – with photographic evidence, even! So here is that process on a big piece I did recently. This isn’t a tutorial, because I’m sure I’m still doing a lot of things wrong (art is, after all, a constant learning experience), but if you’re curious how one intermediate artist does things, here it is in pictures.

I inked this one before painting. I’ve flirted with painting first and inking second, but my inks never come out quite as expressive when I do that, and inking is my stronger suit.

I pick one color to do all the deepest shadows in and keep a lot of it on hand – something cool and dark, usually a purple or blue. In this case, it was a blue with a bit of brown mixed in, almost green.

Let’s start with the brick wall, because that was fun. I shaded the shadowed parts with the shading color and then dabbed it around for texture.

Next, I went over the bricks with a flat red, laying it down heaviest in the darker areas and leaving the lightest parts white.

I went over the parts I wanted to be really concentrated in a yellow ochre mixed with a bit of warm brown and let that dry.

And then one more layer with the yellow ochre, this time washing it over everything, including the light spots.

All that layering gave it some nice depth and texture, plus a color saturation I really dig.

Essentially: layer, let dry, layer, let dry, layer, repeat until it’s right. That might sound a lot of waiting for things to dry, but I was never bored during while painting this for two reasons: 1) while one area was drying, I could just work on a different area or experiment with color combinations on a separate sheet of watercolor paper; and 2) keeping my roommate’s cat out of the paint water required CONSTANT VIGILANCE.

Okay, let me show you one more bit of the painting: the right hand. First layer: shading color (used a little too sparingly) and a red. Second and third layers: flesh tones. Fourth layer: additional shading color around the knuckles and thumb to deepen the shadows and give it more of a sense of volume.

And here’s the finished piece.

Hey, that guy looks familiar.

Anyway, that’s the gist. I hope this was remotely interesting!

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One Comment
  1. 'Lista permalink

    SO cool! It makes me want to paint, but alas, I have more cats than that, and not enough vigilance.

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