The bird I’m painting has a lot of colors in him. Trying to paint them all can be overwhelming. I’m starting simple by only focusing on green and purple for now. I’ll build up layers of these colors until I reach the darkness I desire. At this point, I'm not concerned with whether it's good or bad.
This bird will have many layers and probably multiple colors on him by the time I’m done. By limiting my focus to two colors at these beginning stages, though, I keep myself from being too paralyzed by indecision to start. Don’t think about making a masterpiece when you start. Just think about starting.
My goal is always for my subject to stand out from my background. I usually try to achieve this by making the background darker so the subject appears lighter and making the background cooler and the subject warmer, which I usually do by adding layers of blues over the background and yellows and oranges over the subject.
I thought I’d try something different with my current painting, though. Since my subject is a bird with blue feathers, I knew painting yellow over him was out. That would just turn him green. Painting orange wasn’t much better because that would dull him and send him further into the background, exactly what I don't want.
I remembered what I’d learned from Alicia Farris’s watercolor workshop and that's that layering analogous colors, or colors that are near each other on the color wheel, makes shades more vibrant. I could certainly use some more vibrancy in my subject. That would probably be a more effective way if getting him to stand out than trying to "warm" him. I chose cyan blue to layer over him. I could've chosen any blue, as well as purple or green. With just one layer of the cyan, he started to come forward more. On the other hand, his neck is more of a warm brown, so I've been painted red over it to get it to stand out more.
I've added more layers of blue to my bird since I started writing this post. I'm looking at the painting now and he's standing out nicely from the background. What I think I need to do now, though, is create more separation between his feathers.
I went to the Art room on Thursday and when I got into my painting, I realized I didn’t have my spray bottle or pencil. I used my brush to load water from the cup on my table and borrowed a pencil from the supply closet to do a sketch of some white ibises from a photo that I'd taken on the way to the clubhouse. My tendency is to curse myself whenever I forget something, but I’m determined not to let missing a few supplies ruin my time in that room. I thought of the quote "Do what you can with what you have right now."
I started a new painting that day. I painted his neck by mixing yellow ochre with cobalt blue, and then mixed more cobalt blue with that to make a gray shade.
In Other News
Last Tuesday I recorded intros and outros for my blue heron and my anhinga video, along with my video on making art a habit. I’ve been working on editing them throughout this week. I still need to record b-roll for my art habits video. I’ve gotten as far as taking out the long silent bits on that one. I hope to have the blue heron video on my youtube channel, Sara Makes Art, soon.
I started by putting my sketch on my paper using tracing and transfer paper.
I wanted her skin to have a slight pinkish tone to it. I thought I'd just mix red and green for that, but I ended up having to mix some yellow in to. The red and green I was mixing ended up getting too purple. Anyway, I painted the skin and hair, which is a combination of yellow and purple, using wet on wet for the first layers.
Here I've added some darker tones to her hair. I was careful to place them in the right spots because that's what's eventually going to give her hair the texture I want it to have. I also used some of my flesh mixture, with just a little less water in it and made some shadows along her arms.
I mixed some burnt sienna into my color for her hair and painted some more shapes for texture.
I've taken a break from painting the woman herself, to work on the background here. I started with a wash of light yellow green and went over that with some shapes using the same color, but with less water in it.
Here I've added some darker shades to the background and painted the blue in the woman's eyes.
I decided I wanted her top to be an ivory color. I went about this by mixing some yellow into the color I'd mixed for her hair and, using wet on wet, I painted this all over her top, then dabbed it with a tissue so it would be as light as possible. I achieved the folds in the top with a combination of masking fluid to keep certain areas light, a medium shade over the entire top and a dark shade painted in thin lines under the lightest shade.
That's it for part one of this post. In part two, I'll be focusing on the bed itself and the flowers on it.
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'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.
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.
Painter of portraits and wildlife