Monday, January 19, 2015

Airborne - Step by Step


It all starts with a drawing.  When I begin I have only a vague idea of what I want and do my best to find it and get it down.  I am improvising as I go and curious to see where it will end up.  I am not thinking in colour when I am drawing but rather in misty monochromatic tones such as Arthur Rackham might have used - nondescript sepia and paynes grey.  The colour choices come later.

I now take this drawing and with the aid of a light box trace it onto, in this case, a sheet of 140lb cold pressed watercolour paper which I have taped to a piece of Masonite - watercolour palette close to hand and ready to go.  I have already begun to lay in a few tentative washes as a way of tip toeing into the picture.  Blue for sky and shadows and yellow for trees.

At this stage I am working in watercolour and just laying in the broad washes in order to get a general feel for the picture I want to make.  I am thinking the light will be coming from the right in a late afternoon warm sunset kind of atmosphere.  I am still being very careful - no bold or gutsy displays of artistic gusto.  Often when I get to this point in a picture I rather like it and think it looks fine just as it is and I should stop.  However I know I must soldier on.

I now have the picture more or less established in watercolour and it is time to switch to gouache which is a much more robust water media.  Both watercolour and gouache are from the Winsor Newton brand and are colour matched perfectly.  Now that I have a reasonably good idea of where I want to go, gouache is going to get me there faster.  I am not yet utilizing the opaque potential of the gouache, that will come later, at the end of the process.  For now I am just putting unmixed colour on the board.

This is where I commit to the painting and continue to add gouache and really get the picture established.  The colour scheme is presenting itself.  The feeling now is that the train has left the station and it is up to me to not run it into the ditch.

Here is where I start to use the gouache in it's opaque form and begin over painting the way you might if you were using oil or acrylic - light colour over dark.  We do this by mixing white into whichever colour you want to make opaque and lay one over another.  In this way I can bring things forward and have them stand out or push them back and let them recede into the background.

The final stage is one I really enjoy.  The painting is mostly finished and I now can go in and refine details and clean up edges.  This is where gouache really shines because I can make all the little corrections and adjustments that finish off an image.  I also like to get in there with colour pencils and make little scratch marks and blur any areas that seem to tight or dark.  I may yet go back in and fiddle with it some more, but for now I think this one is finished.

While I was working on this picture I had the "My Neighbour Totoro"  art book out and occasionally leafed through it for inspiration.  I did not want my picture to look like that movie but I was hoping to tap into a bit of that spirit.

I will be more than happy to field any questions you might have.

Thanks for stopping by.  More soon.