Here’s my painting, “Couple In Costume At Balboa Park Centennial”.
I want to direct your attention to the woman’s hair that’s peeking out from under her hat.
Working on this painting was the first time I had to paint a subject with red hair. I knew I couldn’t use red out of the tube. That wouldn’t look natural at all. I went out on a limb and decided to mix green into the red and it worked. That was pretty easy.
So, just as we mix purple into our yellow when painting blonde hair, since purple is the compliment to yellow, we mix green into red when painting red hair, since green is the complement to red. But, we have a problem. We can’t just use a red and green mixture for this woman’s hair
because her hair has a golden cast to it and just using red and green would look too dark and severe. Obviously we need another color in there, but which one?
The obvious choice is yellow. The only problem though, is that if you mix yellow with red, of course you just get orange and I don’t want plain orange here. I want a color you won’t see in a crayon box. What if I mix yellow ochre into it instead?
Okay, since writing that last paragraph, I've done some color mixing experimentation. Here are the results.
I feel the mixture that gets closest to what I'm looking for is a combination of red, green, yellow ochre, and yellow. Now that I think of it, maybe it would look even better if I mixed purple into the yellow also. In addition to the proposed green, red, and yellow ochre mixture, I also tried just mixing burnt sienna, a reddish brown, with yellow.
I started by laying down my shades using wet into wet. I didn't think the darker shade was red enough, so I mixed red into it while the paint was still wet and was careful to blend it so it would stay subtle. When I was done laying my shades in, while I thought what I had creator was pretty, I didn't think it looked like hair.
After, I layed those strands down, I thought they looked pretty purple, so I glazed yellow over them to tone that down and finally glazed red over them.
It started to come together, though, once I added my darker pieces in over the dry paint. Then the lighter parts started to take shape, too. It's kind of like making negative space work for you, even though this space wasn't exactly negative.
When I was working on this, I felt like my darker shade, which was a combination of burnt sienna and yellow, by the way, wasn't quite red enough, so I actually layered more red into it. I did this while the paint underneath was still wet, which allowed me to blend the colors on the paper. By having just a touch of the color on the edge of my brush and utilizing the water on the paper, I was able to make the red subtle enough not to overwhelm.
Watch me in action painting this in the video below.
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Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolors
Royal Talens Van Gogh watercolors
Fabriano Studio 140 pound cold press watercolor paper
Painter of portraits and wildlife