I started with a base I made by mixing titanium white, mars black, burnt umber, with a little bit of yellow and purple.
Now I want to say a few words about making a decision about what color to paint something. Looking at my reference photo, I wasn't sure what "color" exactly that I saw. It wasn't definitely brown, or definitely gray, for example. I mixed the colors that I did, despite being unsure. If the shade I came up with wasn't right, I would know after I put it on the canvas.
What I'm getting at here is that it's much easier to know if the mixture you come up with is "right" when you see the results with your eyes, as opposed to just thinking about it in your head. If something's off, I know if I need to add more of a particular color to my mixture or even if I need to glaze some of that color over the painting after it's dry.
Of course, you may find that one color is too strong in your mixture and in that case, you'll need to tone it down. That's where complementary colors come in. I talk about those here.
As always, I sketched out my design for the eye with a charcoal pencil over the now dry base.
For the main part of his eyeball, I painted it with burnt umber mixed with mars black and titanium white. This was still too brown, though so I glazed gray over it made by mixing transparent mixing white and ivory black. I mixed more mars black into my color for the iris so it would be darker so I could paint the rim around the eye.
For the white parts of the fur, I mixed my original shade for the base of the fur into some titanium white. This gives me a very light tone without it actually being stark white, which would've looked very flat. I was careful to make my strokes go in the right direction. This helps to create the curly texture that is characteristic of poodle fur.
I’ve added blue, along with both transparent mixing white and titanium white with a liner brush, to create shine on the eyeball.
The more I looked at the rim around the eyeball, the more I thought there wasn’t enough contrast between the two, so I glazed ivory black over the rim.
Using a liner brush and some darker colors, I created more texture in the whiter parts of his fur.
So that is how I would paint a poodle's eye in acrylics.
In this article, I'm telling you about my quest so far to learn how to avoid blooms while working in watercolor. Blooms happen in watercolor when part of the paint in an area dries before the rest of the paint dries in that area. They can be one of the most frustrating parts of working in watercolor.
My attempts to avoid blooms while working in watercolor involve working on painting fast enough so the part of the paint in an area doesn't have a chance to dry before the rest. It goes without saying that I need to cover as much of an area as I can in one sitting. I think it also helps to watch the amount of water on my brush. A waterlogged brush will deposit more water onto the paper, which probably results in that area drying more slowly than the surrounding areas, thus creating blooms.
So, that's what I've figured out so far about how to avoid blooms in watercolor. I'll continue to practice these principals in my watercolor work going foid
I started by applying a base made by mixing a little bit of burnt umber with titanium white, yellow, and a tiny amount of purple, just so the yellow wouldn't be too bright. Then I sketched the design for my eye with a charcoal pencil.
It was at this point that I my attention was drawn to what looked like some big white patches in the dog's fur.
,I didn't want to add patches of pure white, but the leaving the fur as it was didn't feel right either. I mixed
burnt umber with a little bit of titanium white to see how that would look,
and I was very pleased with the results. I used burnt sienna as a base for his eye and mixed that with burnt umber for my shadows.
In the reference photo, I think you can see there's a high gloss shine to the eye. I achieved this with a combination of titanium white and zinc white from the Amsterdam line. Unlike titanium white, which is opaque, zinc white is translucent. For the big highlight on his pupil, I used ultramarine and a touch of cyan blue in addition to the two different whites. I was also careful to keep my wrist loose so I could paint a smooth, continuous line, which was also essential to achieve this look.
I've used yellow mixed with a bit of burnt sienna for the highlights on his eye and glazed over his rim with some ultramarine blue. It was important to me that the gray underneath still show through.
I used titanium white to paint the fur lines above his eye, being careful to follow the direction of my reference photo. I went over these lines with my yellow and burnt sienna mixture. Having the titanium white underneath, meant that the lines would now show up over the black.
And that is how I would paint a labrador retriever's eye.
I'm going to be doing a series of articles on how to paint the eyes of specific dog breeds. I'm going to be the German shepherd, the poodle, the beagle, and the labrador retriever. For this first post, I'm starting with the beagle.
I'm starting with the beagle's eye.
I started with a sketch in charcoal. So far, I've mixed burnt umber with transparent middle red and titanium white for the brown part of his fur.
I painted the lines around his eyes in sections. My tendency is to stop and start when painting a line, but making one continuous motion will go miles in this case towards creating realism. The lines around his eyes are a dark grayish brown. I'll have to tint more brown when I go back to this.
This is the next day and I've remixed my color for around the eyes so there's more brown, like I said. The rim right next to his eyeball still wasn't dark enough, though, so I took my liner brush and added a ring of black to it. For his iris, I just mixed burnt umber with a bit of oxide black.
I conquered the challenge of figuring out what to paint his sclera. I chose to simply mix a bit of brown with yellow. LAter, I went over that with some gray made by mixing zinc white and ivory black, leaving a small window of the brownish yellow showing. I also gave him a pupil and started to fill in the missing colors in his fur. His pupil has some highlights, which so far I've done in light blue.
Here I've added that extra bit of black along the dog's eyeball that was needed. I've also filled in his snout a light blue, rather than leaving it white, and painted his nose.
I'll probably continue to adjust the shadows on the nose, but right now, the eye is pretty much finished.
I'm going to confess, I'm currently in a creative dry spell, at least by my standards. In times past, I've been so overwhelmed with ideas that I feel like I can't possibly get to all of them and lately, I feel like I have my current project to work on and after that, I'm a blank.
The thing is, it seems no matter what my mind is doing, whether it's in hyper creative mode or slow mode, I'm not happy. If it's coming up ideas left and right, I'm like, "Brain, I barely had time to start on that other idea. Can we slow down a bit." If it's slow coming with the creativity, I'm like, "Brain, can we step it up? Where are all the ideas you're supposed to be giving me? I need to know what I'm going to do after I finish this project".
It just occurred to me today, in fact, to shift my mindset to that of, whatever my mind is doing as far as creativity, it's okay.
Let's talk about the first scenario, where your creativity is chugging along like a choo choo train. You worry about not being able to bring all these ideas to life. So what? If you're a creative person, your mind will come up with more ideas than you make manifest in a lifetime. Literally. The greatest creatives went to their graves with some creativity still in them and that's a good thing. It means their creative well didn't dry out. Just work on the ideas that excite you the most now and don't worry about the rest.
Now scenario two, where you have only one or two creative ideas at a time. Well, as long as you have something you're still winning the creativity game. Why not enjoy the peacefulness of a mind that's not racing?
Even if you have zero ideas, a condition known as artist block, which is writer's block for artists, if being an artist is your identity, this is not an excuse not to create. I'll let Lisa Clough explain.
"Not every single piece that we create needs to be our best, biggest, greatest piece ever. We just need to constantly create"~Lisa Clough to artists
If there was nothing I was excited to paint or draw, I would do quick studies or sketches(which can be in any medium you like, not just pencil) that I could finish in a day or two, until I found something I was excited about. You could even get some canvas boards or "student" grade paper for this if you don't want to "waste" your good canvas or paper.
Also, remember that inspiration has to find us working. That's a paraphrase of a quote from Picasso, which is the topic of this video I did.
I've started with a wash of what's going to be the lightest shade all over the hair. With watercolor, you always want to work from light to dark because your lightest layers are your most watery layers and if you put a layer with a lot on top of a layer with very little water, the layer underneath can lift.
Before I painted the second and third layers, I took a needle and, using the thimble end of it, I put masking fluid where I wanted highlights to be. That's how I got that pattern that you see. I was almost painting with the masking fluid.
I find a needle to be very convenient for when I want to keep my masking fluid areas very small. Even the smallest brushes can be too big a lot of the time. It's also important to have a lot of masking fluid on the needle. That was the only way I was going to be able to make the strokes that I did.
Here's what it looks like when I add more of the darkest colored strands. I was careful to follow the direction and copy the appropriate shapes I saw in my reference photo. Making curly hair is not about drawing lots or loops or spirals.
In other words, it's not this.
Also, because I wanted the hair to have some lift, I made sure my marks near the top of her head were slightly curved. I also needed to make sure the paint underneath was dry before I added more layers on top. This was so that I could get hard edges and therefore make each stroke look like an individual hair piece. If I'd painted wet on wet, the each stroke would've looked like different shade of the same mass. That would be fine if I was painting straight or maybe even wavy hair, but curly hair is usually more textured than that.
You can hear even more details in this video I'm posting.
These are swatches I made of my General's Kimberly Watercolor Pencils and my watercolor pencils from Caran 'Dache . The first pic shows the swatches dry and the second one shows them with water added.
I was expecting to like the Caran d'ache pencils way more than the Kimberly ones, but aside from the colors of Caran d'ache being more vibrant, there's not a lot of difference that I could see in quality. By that I mean, I think the Kimberly watercolor pencils are still great to work with.
That's just what I learned from swatching, though. To get a real idea of how well both sets of pencils worked, I needed to do two full projects with them, so I decided to paint this frog from Pixabay in twice, using the General's Pencils for one and the Caran 'Dache pencils for the other.
Below is day one of the General's version.
Maybe i just didn't use enough water or enough pencil, but I found it kind of difficult to build the green up to the intensity that I wanted it. What you see there is probably about three or four layers and I'm still not quite happy with it. As I'm writing this, I'm considering painting some red on the sides for shadows. In layering yellow with purple for the flesh around his eyeball and red with orange for his feet, I found that these pencils make it easy to blend and mix colors.
For the ridges in the leaf, I used the tip of my light green pencil and blended with my smallest watercolor filbert brush in a vertical motion. I moved my brush slowly in a continuous motion down the pencil line.
I added a red shadow to the side of the frog's body. The idea behind this is that since red and green are compliments, the presence of the red should make the green of the frog's body look brighter. I'm not sure how well that worked out, though. Then again, maybe I just need more layers on the frog.
I combined my light green and my regular green pencils for the mountains, since it looked like no single pencil was going to cut it.
That's pretty much it for the General's version of this painting. Now for the Caran 'Dache pencils.
I quickly found that the Caran 'Dache pencils blended out way more easily than the General's. My blending frustration might also be due to the paper that I'm using, though. I'm working on rough paper, so the pencil has a lot of nooks and crannies to get caught in. Cold press or even hot press be a better choice for working in watercolor in pencil form.
When it came to his left eye, I decided I would paint a ring of red around it, leaving some of the orange showing in the middle. Then I took a what looked to me like a bluish green pencil and draw a thin shadow, right along the outer edge. When I blended this all out with water, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the shadow blended into the rest of the eye.
I took advantage of the extra colors in this set to paint some dark spots on the frog's back.
I started filling in the mountains in the background with a dark green pencil. Then I decided it needed to be more yellow, so, I layered a yellow pencil with it.
I was thinking the mountains and the leaf looked too similar in color, so I set to work adding more yellow to the mountains. I also used purple, just so the yellow wouldn't be too bright. It took several layers of yellow and purple to get the mountains where they are now and I pressed pretty hard with the yellow.
The harder you press with a watercolor pencil, the more of that pigment you'll get. So if you want, for example, a yellowish green, press really hard with your yellow and press lightly with your blue. That's how I painted the ridges flanking the strip on the edge of the leaf.
In the second photo, I've started to color in the sky and I've also shaded the ridges in the leaf a darker shade, leaving a strip of the original shade showing on the edge for a highlight.
This Monday, I bought a Blue Label Ultrasmooth canvas from Fredrix. I'd heard one of my favorite artists on the internet, Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Art rave about it many times, so when I saw that one of my go-to art stores, Artist & Craftsman was starting to stock them, I had to get myself one and try it out.
I'm going to paint a girl lying down in a grassy field.
This is what she's going to look like. Right now I'm getting in my values and blocking in my shapes. I've decided to paint right over her irises and I'll redraw them later to make things easier for me. I'm really happy with the way I made the shape of her eyes. That comes from me taking a liner brush and painting thin, dark lines around her eyeballs and lids, varying thickness as necessary.
This is days three and four. I've gotten to what's probably one of my favorite parts of a portrait and that's painting the irises, you know that colored part of the eye. I don't feel like a face is really alive until I paint the irises. For this particular subject, I was determined to get enough contrast between the main part of the iris and the rim around it to depict the brightness and intensity I saw in my reference photo. Adding white highlights in the right place also helped.
If you've read my blog before or watched my youtube videos, you might have heard me say that the white of eye is not really white. Well, I'm going to repeat myself here. You'll see that on the inner corner of her left eye and the outer corner of her right eye, I've actually painted a pretty dark shade that sharply contrasts with the rest of the corneas.
I've painted highlights in her upper and lower lids and every time I add a light shade next to a dark one, I feel like it brings out that feature that much more.
Painting the texture of her sweater was something I wasn't looking forward to doing, because I knew it would be very repetitive and boring, but it's something I think the painting really benefited from after I was done. The way I did was to make tiny dots using the tip of my liner brush. I made these dots very close to each other in rows that were likewise, making sure to vary how light and dark they were while also making some of the dots go go in different directions other than straight across. This is all to add more realism to the piece.
I added some individual hairs to her eyebrows using the tip of my liner brush. Her sweater needed some highlights. I'd painted it light gray rather than white to start with, specifically so I could use white for my highlights.
I started on the color today. I first used a simple mixture of transparent mixing white and transparent raw sienna for her skin, which I wanted to be very pale. The first layer went on too light, so I knew I would have to go over it. I had other stuff I had to do before continuing, though, so I put my paint in a jar and went on with things.
When I got back to painting, though, and scooped it out, it had mixed with some green that was in the jar. Long story short, my attempts to return the color to a neutral tone resulted in a color that was way too yellow. I exacerbated the issue by absentmindedly putting even more yellow on top. I finally got back on track and layered purple, mixed with yellow so it wouldn't be too strong, over her face. This gave me the neutral color I needed but now her face was way too dark. That problem was solved with a couple of layers of transparent mixing white.
While I was still trying to figure out her skin, I decided to tackle her eyes for a bit. Now a major advantage to using a reference photo on a phone, rather than one that's printed, is you can enlarge the picture and zoom in on particular parts. That's what I did to figure out how to paint this woman's irises. I decided to paint them with a wash of light blue to start with. I later went through with touches of yellowish brown and muted green in the inner half of the left iris.
I painted her hair and eyebrows with a wash of grayish brown.
Her lips were a bit of a challenge. I thought I needed to add green into the pink but this made the mouth blend in too much with the rest of her face. It didn't stand out until I glazed over it with pure red that was thinned out of course.
For the last part of today's painting session, I took the same red that I'd painted her lips with, added some green and white to it, and used that to paint her cheeks.
I finally got some color on the background! I used a pale pink for my lightest shade, a slightly lightened ultramarine blue for my midtone and a dark purple for my darkest shade.
I also saw that her sweater had a peachy tone to it, which I got by mixing transparent mixing white with yellow and a tiny bit of red. I'm only putting one layer on because I like the gray showing through this time and, I don't want to risk covering up all those dots, ie, texture, that I spent so much time on.
Today's painting session started with the need to neutralize the shadows around her nose. The yellowness of them had been bothering me, so I glazed purple over them. After that I looked at her gray creases and wondered if I should add some color to those. It turned out, when I looked at my reference photo, I saw that they were indeed a violet color. I painted that with my liner brush. I also extended her right eyebrow, glazed some grayish brown over the wing on that eye, and gave her some eyelashes using my liner brush and some mars black. Lastly, I saw that her bottom lip needing a highlight. After a few failed attempts to create this highlight by glazing transparent mixing white over the lip, I decided to add an opaque layer by mixing transparent middle red with titanium white. I finished by glazing transparent middle red over that to darken it a bit and blend it more with the rest of her mouth.
In this post, I'm going to explain how I did this watercolor painting of a doe in the bushes.
An important tidbit I've learned about watercolor painting and layering is to paint your lightest colors first. Not only is it pretty much impossible to paint a lighter color over a darker one in watercolor and have it show up, but if you put a layer of paint on top of one that has less water in it, the water in the upper layer can cause the layer underneath to lift, even if the layer underneath was dry.
This is day two. I started by putting masking fluid down on parts of the deer's face and body that I wanted to stay white. I thought his body should be painted a taupe brown color with a grayish purple shadow. My plan to accomplish the taupe brown base was to mix my burnt umber with paynes gray. After wetting down my paper, so the color wouldn't go on too dark, I painted on my first layer. It didn't turn out grayish enough for me, though, so I layered black over it, but the black was watered down so it looked gray.
Before I painted the purple shadow, I wetted that area of the paper again so the edges would be soft. Then I mixed some of the black that I already had in my palette into the purple I had. I actually liked the look of it better after I dabbed the color with a tissue, lightening it.
For my background, I put down masking fluid in placing that were going to be white spots. This photo was taken early in the morning, so that probably had something to do with why everything was so bright. I wetted the paper again, and using my flat brush, I painted a blue-green that I'd mixed from emerald green and ultramarine blue.
Here's day three. I knew I would have to go over the brown marks on her forehead and that's the first thing I did in this section, starting with watered down black, and when that was dry, purple. I painted the edges of her ears with black and brown paint, being careful to leave a rim of white showing. I had very little water in my brush while I was doing this so that I could have maximum control to make the shapes I wanted.
I turned my attention to the background. First I put some dots masking fluid down in the space above the doe's head. While letting that dry, I went back to the same color, the blue-green that I had used to paint the background near the doe's back, without wetting the paper this time, and with relatively little water in my brush, painted texture in this area.
Once my dots of masking fluid were dry, I painted some of the blue green over that space with my flat brush, but with the paper dry this time because I wanted value color to be darker this time.
While I'm on the topic of the background, I came across an example today of why you need to always look closely at your reference photo and never assume anything. I was prepared to paint the whole background the same blue-green, but, on closer inspection, I saw that the brush on the doe's left was more of a yellowish green. You might even say it's more olivy. I tried mixing that shade by mixing my emerald green into some dried yellow that I already had on my palette. I ended up with a very bright yellow green. I needed to darken and dull it and I tried to do that by mixing black from another part of my palette into the paint. I still had yellow-green in my brush when I went to scoop up the black, though, so I ended up accidentally mixing the colors in that compartment. Even though mixing the colors in this way was an accident, though, when I saw the results, I knew they were what I had been aiming for, so that was going to be the color I would use. This part of the painting would have to wait, though.
The next thing on my agenda was figuring out what to paint the ground underneath the doe's hooves. I decided on a pinkish brown. I wanted this to be very light because I was going to paint sticks on top of it. I wanted to get the ground painted first, so I wouldn't absentmindedly paint that area with my yellowish green.
I wanted to have highlights on the branches, so I put down more masking fluid. Then, having mixed black into the same brown that I'd used to paint the doe's body so it was even more grayish, I painted the branches with my smallest round brush. Now it was finally time to use that grayish yellow green that I'd mixed earlier. Using my medium sized round brush, I painted my the yellow green, carefully, around the branches I'd painted.
Days four and five. On day four, I was down to the last twenty minutes before I was due to "close shop" for the day. I thought I wouldn't have time for something as involved as painting. I set up my stuff, without dallying, and painted the brown in the bushes that you see above the doe's back. You can see that I went right through some of the green and the white. That's exactly what I wanted. I wanted the brown to be fairly dense, to I painted little clusters here and there and painted some vertical lines going off the horizontal lines. I also painted more on the branches on that day, going almost to the edge, but being careful to still leave some white showing. I was so anxious I would accidentally lose that white!
On day five, I painted even more brown, this time, going right up to the edge of the doe's back and leaving just bits of white. I'm leaving more white than is in the reference photo, just because I'm nervous about accidentally covering up too much of the white and I'd rather have too much white showing than lose it all. You can see I've finally given her some pupils too. There were some parts of her face that needed touching up, so there wasn't an abnormal amount of white showing.
On the topic of white, I did something that is unorthodox in watercolor painting and that's to take some titanium white acrylic paint and use that to mark out areas that I want to be lighter than the color underneath them, and that I forgot to paint around. After fighting with the color a bit, I used some plain burnt umber and dabbed it with a tissue.
I couldn't forget the rest of the ground under the doe's hooves, so I used the same light pinkish brown I'd used before. I painted very slowly around this part, so I wouldn't accidentally paint over the grass here.
I want to start off by saying that I think looking at your reference photo for a good while before starting to paint or draw is smart. I talked about this in my post about how to improve as an artist. But if you get into the mindset that you have to know exactly what to do before hitting the canvas, this can hinder your productivity and cause unnecessary anxiety. Eventually, you need to be okay with going forward with a piece without being one hundred percent sure.
I struggle with this myself. That's why I'm writing about it. I can't help thinking I've wasted time because I was afraid to paint the wrong thing, when I could have moved forward with the piece by putting something, anything, on the canvas.
Why do you think we try on clothes and look in the mirror instead of mentally figuring out what looks good on us? We're not afraid to try something on for fear that it won't flatter us. I know I'm not, at least. If the item doesn't suit us, we just don't buy it.
I don't always know what colors to mix to get a shade that I see in my reference photo. It can be a debate between mixing yellow and brown or brown and white? The only way to settle this conflict with myself is to get out the paints that I think will make the color I want and start mixing. The more colors you mix, the more this sense of indecision will subside.
You won't be a hundred percent sure if you like something or not until you see it on your canvas or paper. I'm thinking of what Lisa Clough has said in her live streams, which is to adopt the attitude of "Let's see what happens when I do this.
let's look at how this is manifesting in my current piece. I really want to paint a sheer green over these reeds. Because this area is so small, though, I need to be super careful to thin my paint down enough so that it doesn't go on too thick. I don't have a lot of area to spread the paint out after all, so even a tiny bit is going to look very thick if I'm not careful. That makes me hesitate.
Here's how the reeds came out. Not exactly what I was envisioning, but I'm pretty happy with it.
There's an obvious highlight on the side of this palm leaf I'd like to paint. It doesn't look green to me. If anything, it looks like a light tan color. I'm nervous about painting it because I've tried and failed to paint this highlight before.
I tried using my unbleached titanium white. I was happy with my shade choice from my first brush stroke. Your eye will always know better whether something is right or wrong visually than your mind will. All I had to do now was make sure I followed the shape I saw in my reference photo. I brought the unbleached titanium white down to the bottom of the leaf in a pointed shape. Then I cleaned and dried my brush and blended out my edges.
For my second attempt at painting the little tan highlights on the palm leaf, I used a my liner brush. I was much happier this time. I noticed there were also some thin stripy highlights too, so I painted those.
I saw some colors, like yellow, brown, and purple, in the leaf closest to the river that I'd missed before. I didn't want to use straight yellow for it, so I mixed it with violet, because I thought it looked a bit reddish. I noticed there were some highlights on the side the same shade as the ones I'd painted on the palm leaf, so I painted those.
If you're working in a medium that's not easy to cover up, like watercolor or colored pencil, you might want to keep a piece of scratch paper(that's the same type of paper your project is on)to test colors before using them on your project.
Assuming it's not a commissioned piece, though, even if you do put the wrong shade down, at the end of the day, it's not the end of the world. You'll probably be the only one who notices the "mistake" anyway. Do you really think if you have a great foundation drawing, a fantastic balance of lights and darks, and phenomenal perspective,(okay, I'm getting a little ambitious here, but just go with me), if you're piece has all that, do you think the people you show it to are really going to notice if you used the "wrong" shade of blue somewhere. No, they're not.
Painter of portraits and wildlife