Friday, March 13, 2009

Anatomy of a watercolour portrait

Edited 3.15.09: This is a daylight photo of the portrait which gives a truer representation of the colours at this stage of the piece.

I have been lucky enough to be able to provide Cath Sheard with a portrait of her mother, so I thought I would show the process of the creation of a watercolour portrait to date. I'll apologize up front for the quality of the images as they're taken under artificial light so are darker than they should.

I start out with a simple line drawing, mapping out major areas of values.

From there I put down a base of colour to the face and portions of the hair in shadow. These will be refined in detail later.

I start adding more layers to the shadows of the face and hair, introducing other colours as I go to add interest and give depth. I also start putting in some background colour, keeping it all fairly loose and letting the paint and water flow in a controlled sort of way. :)

I keep adding layers of colour, some of them put down on damp paper, but I usually let one layer dry before I start the next so not to muddy the tones. I keep refining shapes and detail til I get to the point where it lets me know I can't go further. I will then add additional detail with wc pencil to bring out areas that I want to highlight.

This is going into its final stage of development and I hope to finish this piece during the weekend then it can be set free on its way to New Zealand.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Winter and injuries

Tripod in the snow

Hot little paws and three legs make tracking Tripod in some dry snow an easy task. I loved this little set of footprints and how crisp they were. It could be an interesting drawing or painting in the future.

It must be the season or something in the water, as I've done some kind of injury to my shoulder, I don't even quite know how, and its beyond painful, making even sleeping uncomfortable. As a lot of my job involves computer work, being in that position doesn't help it a lot either. It feels like a trapped nerve so I'm taking it easy for awhile and hope that it resolves itself soon.

Still no laptop back, but I should have the other scanner hooked up and ready to add some images in the next day or two. My posts may be short and sweet for a few days due to incapacity and technical difficulties.

Also shadows on snow, taken a few weeks ago were amazingly blue and long in the afternoon. The snow is pretty much all gone now and with it the light that it brings too.

My final thing to amuse you all with tonight, a big red fox that paid a visit around suppertime the other week. The image isn't clear as the light was fading and I was rushing to grab a shot before he took off. You never know who'll turn up at the farm. Foxes have been a problem in the past and they are quite opportunistic, grabbing chickens, ducks and even killing geese.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Barbed wire study

I'm still awaiting the fate of my laptop so I'm rather in limbo when it comes to reproducing images unless I could lug everything to work, scan it there then put it on a usb stick and bring it home again. Desperation may take over if the laptop's not back soon!

As usual, I have several things happening at once. I played a little with one of the koi in the greenhouse when I got home from work today. It was still fairly frozen so I didn't get good prints and will let the fish thaw completely before trying again. The one decent print I got is quite promising as the scale pattern is prominent, almost reminiscent of a pinecone. I also discovered that koi have very sharp spines in their dorsal fin...

I spent tonight fighting with the initial drawing of Cath Sheard's mother whose portrait I am doing. Cath, if you remember, won my birthday portrait. I've decided to complete it in watercolour and have laid down the first washes. Watercolour always leaves me holding my breath til it does what I want it to do. Cross your fingers, so far, so good.

Not having new work to show you, I've dug out a barbed wire study that was the start of a piece still to come into being. I don't often share rough studies as I figure not many want to see the dirty side of work. I want this drawing to be a large piece, a full sheet perhaps to provide impact and perhaps in charcoal. Drawing something fairly mundane in a close view turns it into something entirely different. The curves and shadows around the sharp edged wire create art, not barriers. It always amazes me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ocean life

oils 16 x 20

I've been meandering for the last couple of days, caught between portraits and prints, oils and watercolours, without anything very concrete to show for it. Especially with my laptop down and my favourite programs not available.

I've started this oil painting using mostly sea for interest. I want a wide expanse of water with just some movement on the surface. I've put down some base colour and added lighter sections that I will blend in to reflect light on the water. I'm not quite sure where exactly this one is going yet, but it will get there.

Its funny how word spreads about 'the artist' and her gyotaku interests. Some friends locally have a pond stocked with a variety of koi carp. Recent cold weather and deep ice killed a number of these fish and tonight I was presented with a bag full of bodies. They may not all be suitable and they may be a bit 'ripe' even if half frozen, but I'll try a few prints with some of the smaller fish. They have great definition in larger scales, so it should provide some good prints.

I still have more based prints to enhance and am delighted that they are being well received so far. I have plans for some of them to be printed as notecards. Adding colour turns them into something so different and the scans or photos don't do them justice in terms of shading and colour. This is one of the original fish print cards that's for sale on Etsy.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Portrait announcement

My laptop is at the shop because of a disturbing graphics problem which randomly posterizes images which I hope they can fix, so I'm using my old laptop which has none of the bells and whistles and speed that I became accustomed to with the new model. It also means that I haven't got the regular programs on it either such as camera or scanner, so unless I go dig out the installation cds and put them on this laptop, I will be suffering a little. However, hopefully the problem will be shortlived.

Now for the news that everyone has been waiting for............drum roll.........the name of the person who will receive a portrait. I gathered all the names of those who had commented (even the late ones) and wished me happy birthday and put them all in a bag. I asked Tripod to draw a name, but he's been terribly cranky lately and refused because there wasn't tuna in the deal, so I had to ask an alternate - T.O.O (the other one) - to draw a name. And its Cath Sheard! Once I've received Cath's portrait request, I'll get to work on it.

The image here is a pen and ink sketch of a couple that I did on the exotic sketchbook I bought awhile back. The pages are stained with acrylic inks and its interesting to add to them as they become almost backgrounds for the drawings.