"Here Be Dragons" detail, work in progress
watercolor 15 x 20
I'm going to have a series of posts that show all the steps from first wash to finished piece. This is one I've had sketched out and the paper has been stretched and it's been sitting ready for me to start. I just realized that I have one week to finish this, for the UWS spring show, so I plan to post on it every day to show where I'm at. I will be having a lot of late nights :) I got a call from a local art organization the other day asking if I would come to one of their meetings and demonstrate my process for creating a watercolor portrait, so this is kind of a practice run for that.
When I'm ready to start a new painting I look through my favorite photos I've set aside for the specific purpose of painting them one day. When I choose a photo to work from the first thing I consider is the lighting. I am drawn to strong dramatic lighting, preferably outdoors and this photo had that. I also look for an emotional connection. Which is usually either the expression of the subject, interaction with someone, or just engaged in an activity. Then I think of what I'm trying to get across, which usually involves coming up with a title. Here the boy is looking at a book about dragons. He's my first son and I thought of that saying "Here be dragons" they used to put on old maps to mark uncharted territory. And I thought that's how raising a child is for me, uncharted territory, somewhere you've never been before. But full of beauty and adventure. That's the message I'm trying to get across. Sometimes I like to have the message be not so straight forward. I want to give my viewers something to think about, other than a pretty picture to look at. Sometimes, not all the time.
So here are the steps for this painting so far:
- Find suitable reference material. Looking for an emotional connection, good lighting and interesting subject.
- Make an accurate drawing (this is crucial in portraiture, you can be expressive and abstract all you want but if you don't have a likeness, it's not going to be a successfull portrait.)
- Lay down the first washes, establishing the base of the skin tones and creating a map to follow so I know I have a likeness. I so far have 2 layers of color on this painting. I usually have at least 15 sometimes more.
That's how I start a painting. I don't always follow this process, but most of the time I do. And when I do I tend to be more successful. Right now, I'm happy with where this painting is. I think it's going to work out well. Forgive the dark photo, I can't seem to get that right lately.
And, later I will be handing out some blog awards I've gotten lately! Yay for all the bloggers out there! Comments as always are welcome, I love to hear them :)