Friday, July 27, 2012

Process Shots

Normally, I don't photograph works in progress.  Often it's because I'm not happy with what I've done by the time I'm done for the day up until the day I'm putting on the last strokes.  Other times it's to keep subjects from getting self-conscious, or clients from getting worried...not because I'm bad, but because not everyone gets the process.  Or, I might nail some spot that I love, but because the rest is underdeveloped, it doesn't feel right to document it.

But this time, I've got a commission, and it's requiring me to try something new...well, not entirely new since most people have played with watercolors as kids.  But over the years, working in acrylic and gouache, I've gotten used to direct painting, and watercolor is a whole other thing.  So I've been hitting up the web blogs and tutorials to get a grasp on how to achieve what I want, but let's face it, as with most creative endeavors, trial and error is the best way to learn.

Now what I'm shooting for is a sort of classic style in the school of Arthur Rackham or Edmund Dulac, two of the Victorian era's greatest illustrators.  Their works were typified by pen and ink drawings colored with washes of watercolor.  Dulac tended to be richer in color where Arthur had more of a washed out sepia look. I sort of plan to split the difference.  So, I made my drawing from an old photograph, and started by staining the paper (I chose 185 lb paper...which actually turned out to be too thin for all the washing I was doing, that was Lesson 1).  Then, I had to let it dry.  Now, I could get a hair dryer, but some feel it changes the tone of the paint and fortunately I had another small project to work on between glazes.

I wanted it dark, with a lot of contrast between the figure and the background.  I didn't bother with masking fluid and later just lifted the spillage with a brush and water. Also, a little color seeping helps to keep the the figure and background looking unified.  But I have to admit, I get bored and frustrated working this way.  I usually end up causing a lot of the bleeding myself because I keep wanting to jump into working other areas, but you can't add more of a water media next to a wet area and not expect to see the tendrils of color worming their way over.

And the thing about watercolor and washes is that you have to do tests or swatches because what it looks like fresh and wet isn't always what it looks like once it dries.  Some colors stay bright or seem brighter, others wash out really easily.  The one that seems most obvious, but is somehow easily forgotten, is that it's not likely to have much of that gloss (without mediums) that you may or may not like.  And so on.

Once I had the background down, I went back in to work the figure, but I still didn't directly paint any of the tones.  I'd wet an area, drop in the tone then give it some mild working with either a brush or small make-up sponge, or both.  The buckling of the paper caused some pooling that made for some matte effects in the thicker paint that I wasn't crazy about, but over all, she turned out ok.  However, my final pieces are going to be a helluva lot more might be another couple of tests until I can jump in.

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