Friday, July 31, 2009

Diamond Cutting

Progressing along to smaller tiles. Ultimately this process should go from light to dark, but I often go back and add medium values to some of the lights. I'm often a bit conservative about darkening things too quickly. With watercolors you can always go darker but you cannot go lighter.

I also find that as my tiles get smaller I tend to make them more visible, or give them harder edges. I'm thinking of edges turning at different angles like facets on a diamond, and I tried to change the color and value of those facets depending on their relationship to the light source.

Paint, Don't Tickle

My approach to watercolors is to trust my drawing, then lay down progressively smaller blocks or blushes of color. I try not to blend colors, but rather give them the opportunity to blend themselves. I'll work quickly and wet in wet if I want soft edges, or sometimes I'll veil an area in a thin sheet of water before applying paint. In contrast, I'll work very dry or with a heavy pigment load in the brush if I want harder edges. Watercolor is all about controlling the appearance of edges with varying degrees of water, pigment and evaporation.

I believe this tiled approach to paint application allows for much greater expression and spontaneity. It also creates much more color richness and depth. As each color tile stands on its own and never completely blends with the color beneath it. I can lay down a tile of violet and later cover that with a tile of yellow, and both colors remain visible. But, a mixture of the two is just muddy. I also believe this method creates more of a collaboration with the viewer. You're asking them to participate in the completion of a painting, and allow them to inject a little of their own personality into the work.

It always kills me when I see watercolor artists handling a brush as if they are sweeping the floor. That mindless rendering is the death of both color and creativity.


I agonized over the choice of colors on this piece more than anything I've done over the last year. It was a choice made more difficult by factors that had nothing to do with the painting itself. First of all, Elizabeth spent most of her life as beautiful, and that's a large span of time and styles. She was glamorous, she was a beatnik, and she could manage 70s kitsch. All of the school for different palettes. Plus, there's the fact that she was at her hottest during the black-and-white episodes of Bewitched. My first thought was softly rendered black-and-white, but that soon gave way to thoughts of a limited color or a monochrome palette with hints of pure color perhaps on the eyes or lips.

In the end it was story that won out over style. I thought I could do a much better job of capturing the complexity of her emotions if I had a more natural palette on her face. Although it did cause me pain to walk away from the monochrome blue color composition. I'm going to have to revisit that at some point.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sam’s smile

Here's where the drawing ended up. This part is always fun for me. It allows me to set up my color patterns and give everything a foundation. I think watercolors should always have a bit of the feel of a colored drawing. You can see I've already laid a tint of lavender and pink over the whites of the eyes. This really allows the irises to pop with color later when they're not competing with the whites.

I'm really happy with her smile at this stage. It has the subtlety I was hoping for. I'm giving her eyebrows just a bit of frown to suggest she's been caught in the nude, but the smile belies her indignation.

The good witch

So I’m asked if I would do a portrait of Elizabeth Montgomery. First, you have to understand I love all those TV Land shows, and I’m a particular fan of the ones featuring mystical girls. Surprisingly, there were a lot of them. Bewitched was an important part of this addiction. They switched Darren's and I don't think I even noticed because I was way too busy staring at Sam. That woman was gorgeous.

I went on a search for reference and manage to collect a pretty decent cash of shots. When I do a painting of a classic Hollywood figure, I don't want to just reproduce a stock shot. On most occasions I just do quick sketches from the available reference and just let things flow and see what happens. Elizabeth strikes me as someone who is modest but accidentally sexy. The bare shouldered sketch seem to strike the right balance, but I thought I'd have her turned a little more away from the viewer.

Fiona Burns

Still watching, still enjoying, and man she is dangerously hot.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Arts and Kraft

A long time ago, shortly after the dinosaurs went extinct, but before these days of high-speed Internets and broadbanded ftp access, illustrators would physically ship original paintings to companies. I believe that paleontologists refer to this time as the Slowassic period, and I assure you… it was horrifying.

Back in those days, if I finished an illustration before pickup time, I would often take my still wet paints and do a quick study on the outside of the shipping box. I thought the shipping guys would take special care with the package if they saw an original piece of art on it. Well, it seemed better than writing fragile anyway. Most of them made it to the editors, but I have gotten a thank you from a couple of guys who worked in the mail room. I will not mention any names.

I always enjoyed working on that Kraft cardboard surface. It's a perfect color for rendering flesh tones, and that gritty paper structure was always brush friendly. For old times sake, I thought I'd pick up a pad of Kraft paper and see if it would get along with pastels as well. Borden and Riley makes a really nice one, 18 x 24 #840 Kraft pad. I found Nupastels didn't get really good adhesion and opacity in the lighter values, so I complemented them with Gallery semi hard pastels and select colors of Schmincke soft pastels. The combination of these three really allowed me to pile the pigment up on the paper. Especially the Schmincke, that stuff is like drawing with a stick of baby powder.