A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Watercolor Demonstration--Part B

Okay this is kind of backwards, but I'm hoping that you'll piece it together and figure it out. Below, in Part A, I show the photograph I'm working from. It's a reference photograph I got online. I do not know this girl, but I love her face and expression. The next photograph is of the drawing I made of her face. The following photograph shows me beginning the painting. Basically, you get a flesh tone by mixing the three primary colors: blue, red and yellow. This will give you a brownish color which you dilute with water. You have to experiment to find the right color and tone. I'm just a relative beginner at this, so I approximated and put down a wash of the color over all of the subject's face except for part of the whites of her eyes. In my opinion I didn't do a great job of this because the wash is kind of blotchy, but it will serve my purpose for now. In the next image I deepen the shadows with more of the brown mixture as well as creating some hair color. (I don't have the images in front of me, so I'm doing this from memory. Hopefully I'll get it right.) In the last image of Part A I begin to add color to the eyes and mouth and skin.

In Part B I continue the process, gradually deepening the darks and the color of her eyes and mouth. The process is called going "light to dark". I often have the temptation to darken the eyes and lips with color too soon, sometimes even before I've put on the base color. Not a good idea. Painting is about relationships, as you can see in this demonstration. The face changes dramatically during the process of adding color a bit at a time. If you jump in and paint the eyes and lips first, they will probably wind up too dark and without the subtlety of various layers of colors. All this I'm still trying to learn and during the process I often removed or lightened the colors by dabbing the paper with a paper towel. If you've made a mistake as long as you remove the color quickly, there is no harm done and sometimes you can create some good effects by playing around with the process. My weakness is, I think, that I don't estimate the skin tones properly and don't lay the base color down dark enough, so the final image tends to look a bit washed out, not colorful enough. Not sure if this painting really works. In my braver moments I'm more experimental with color, but I couldn't do that for this demonstration.

Watercolor is transparent and that's why you go from light to dark. Acrylics and oils and gouache are opaque which is why you go from dark to light. So every time I go from one medium to another, I switch my process. Opaque paint is technically easier because you can just paint over mistakes you make and try again. Watercolor is pretty challenging because you can't always just go over mistakes. Different artists use different techniques for correcting mistakes in watercolor. Some use blotting paper as I did, some wait till their mistake is dry, take a small wet brush and lift off color gradually, some use special illustration board to paint on and actually scrub paint off and still others even use a razor blade to get rid of mistakes. But the best mistakes are the ones that redirect your painting and teach you new things. And, of course, there are mistakes that are just mistakes and can't be gotten rid of, in which case you should soak your imperfect painting in water to get rid of the colors, dry it and try again or at least use the paper for color testing while working on another painting.
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