Saturday, January 8, 2011

Lessons Learned #1 - Watercolor

Christmas Unicorn - Watercolor
Arches cold press 140lb 12x16

So here is my attempt at watercolor of the Christmas Unicorn I did earlier.  Some things I did like and  a lot of things I didn't like.

 Pros:  I like how the colors turned out. The camera I used didn't do it justice. If anyone has suggestions on good cameras and photographing art let me know.

Another pro and probably the biggest one is actually finishing a piece from start to finish. most of my work usually start off strong in the development stage (thumbnails, reference gathering, to even a value study) but usually it stops there. I usually get hooked on another idea I have to paint and push my current one to the side. Even though this piece is not as good as I would have liked it to be I think it's a huge accomplishment on my part to follow through with it.  There still could be a lot of work that could be put into it but I'm going to leave it as is and take what I've learned to apply it to the next piece.

As for the cons.  Honestly I like how my Christmas card turned out better than this one. It has more detail and the values are way better.  With that being said the colors were done digitally and for this piece and pieces going forward I'm trying to get into more traditional art. Watercolor is very tough to master (at least for me) and I think maybe I'll try to combine it with colored pencil or ink since I will be able to get more detail in.  

   Here's a little bit on the process I took.  To start out I practiced drawing horses for a good while to understand the construction. I referred to my trusted Weatherly Guide To Drawing Animals by Joe Weatherly (best animal drawing book out there). 
And also did some gesture drawings from images off the web.  An awesome gesture online drawing tool can be found here

 So after I gained a little confidence in my horse drawing abilities I went to Michaels and bought a toy horse and wrapped it up in wrapping paper. And drew it out a couple of times.  One thing I should of done here was to practice drawing it in the living room with natural lighting vs in the basement at night. I'll be sure to get better lighting conditions for my next piece.

So the drawing was all done and it was time to move on to the watercolor phase.  I've only messed with watercolor a few times to so I took some time to pratice a little before attempting to paint it out on the final paper.  Below you will see a study I did of Petar Meseldzija's The Legend of Steel Bashaw.  It came out pretty good and boosted my moral a lot.  I found that by mixing your colors before hand and laying them all out painting is a lot easier. That is easier said than done of course. But for the unicorn piece I didn't do that and found myself creating colors on the fly often resulting in muddied or unwanted results. I think in the future I will be investing more time into color studies.

After this, I took my value study scanned it in the computer and blew it up to match my proportions of my watercolor paper. Printed it out and used transfer paper to put it on the final paper. It took a couple tries to get it right as this was my first time transferring a drawing like this.

Then it was time to paint. It took about 3 to 4 hours. Most of it was me being hesitant to make a mark on the page. I think the hardest part for me was matching the values that I had established in my study. And some of the pencil lines didn't transfer properly to the paper so I was making some stuff up as I went (Def know better next time) I think I just need more patience in trying to match a color note. And if you don't know what I mean by note check out the Munsell Color System. So that's it; my process for my first watercolor only painting. It came out better than what I expected but not as good as I would have liked.

Here for bonus is the thumbnail that started it all. Drew it on my commute to work.

As always I welcome your comments and critiques. Thanks for reading!

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