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'm working on another 11x14 acrylic on Belgian Linen,which I'm titling "Monkey Eating Leaf" for now. I started with an underpainting for my background.
At this point, I've been glazing gray blue made by mixing transparent mixing white and ivory black with ultramarine blue over the rocks on the right hand side. I then added quinacridone red to this mixture to make it purple and used it on the rock on the far left. Tonight, I mixed gray blue and white and titanium white and mars black with violet and, using a small round brush, painted little bits of these colors over the sheer blue and purple. After putting down my gray violet color, I realized it was too strong, so I mixed transparent mixing white and ivory black and glazed that over it to tone it down. I tried to use my gray blue straight out of the tube, but saw that it was way too dark for some areas and decided to mix titanium white into it
Tonight I mixed a transparent purple, similarly to how I described above and glazed it over the upside down triangle at the top. I mixed transparent grayish brown using transparent burnt umber and glazed that right under where the purple was. I glazed ivory black over that to make it even darker. I mixed transparent gray blue the same way I did last time and, using a small round brush, painted little bits of that over where I'd painted the purple. Using that same brush, I repainted the titanium white streaks that were lost when I glazed the purple.
I added more sheer grayish white and purple to different areas of the painting.
In the lower right hand corner, I used prussian blue to make a sheer grayish blue.
I'd previously used this color to make little blue marks in the dark brown at the top of the painting.
I mixed a transparent pink for the area around the white of the rock on the left hand side.
Finally, I put titanium white and transparent mixing white patches on the blue at the bottom.
I added more transparent blue and purple here and some transparent gray to the gray spot where the ground meets the rock.
Last night, in addition to adding yet more transparent blue and purple to the painting, I went over the lightest parts of the floor with titanium white. I rimmed the dark shadowy area on the far right with transparent pink, layered over with green made by mixing hansa yellow light and ultramarine blue, to tone it down. In the aforementioned dark patch, I've started to put bits of pale blue, made by mixing a touch of ultramarine blue into titanium white.
Here's my drawing of the monkey transferred onto my canvas.
Here's my underpainting for the monkey done.
Tonight, I started to add color to the monkey. I used grayish shades of blue and brown using a large filbert brush. Using a small round brush, I painted small lines of grayish blue made by mixing titanium white, ivory black and ultramarine blue in where I'd put the the transparent gray-blue.
To paint his left eye, I first painted pale gray from the lid to the first crease. Then I glazed hansa yellow light over this part accept for a liner part at the outer corner. Using a liner brush, I painted thin lines of quinacridone red along his pupil and along the first rim. I painted a dot of titanium white on his inner corner and went over most of that with the hansa yellow light. Finally, I filled in the space between his pupil and that dot with transparent burnt sienna. I think I'm going to bring the dark gray at the inner corner in a little further.
I've added a lot of titanium white and transparent mixing white strokes with a liner brush and I think it's made a big difference.
Tonight, I used the color I described in my last post to fill in the leaf, doing a glaze. I mixed some more of every color I'd used to mix it, except white, and painted the ridge in the middle.
Tonight, I went over the monkey's torso with Mars black to make the color more uniform and then glazed ultramarine blue mixed with ivory black over it to give it some depth.
Finished! To paint the leaves, I mixed equal parts ultramarine blue and hansa yellow to make a transparent green and glazed that all over most of the leaves. I adjusted this with either ivory black or transparent mixing white as needed. I also used touches of cadmium yellow, gray made by mixing titanium white and mars black, and grayish brown made by mixing burnt umber into those colors in various parts of the leaves and branches. For most of the branches, I glazed a mixture of transparent mixing white and transparent burnt umber over them, adding more burnt umber to darken the color for shading.
Painter of portraits and wildlife