Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How I Choose What to Paint

"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:

  1. Find suitable reference material. Looking for an emotional connection, good lighting and interesting subject.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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 :)


  1. Even as you explain the process, I still don't know how you do it. You are so amazingly talented, Crystal.

  2. Wow! Crystal your watercolour work is stunning! So glad you nudged me Im looking forward to following your blog. I have had a little (not very good) go at writing, I started that after my littleuns arrived too Motherhood must bring out creativity!!

  3. Roxy, you are just the best, you know that? Thanks so much for stopping by, and you my friend are talented, I keep thinking about that scene you wrote on your blog yesterday, I can't wait to read more! Seriously, thanks your compliments mean a lot to me :)

    Stephanie, Welcome! Did you like that not so subtle nudge to come here? I'm so glad you did :) I agree with you about Motherhood bringing out creativity. I think it's because you learn how capable you are, you gain a little more belief in yourself. And thanks for the compliments you two made me smile :)

  4. I don't think you have quite grasped what an amazing artist and teacher you truly are. I some times get so down on myself and lack of confidence I need to be more positive. For this I look to you. Yes YOU!!! You are awesome and have succeeded in everything you set out to do. I wish I was more like you. Love you

  5. Jenny Lee thanks so much, that really means so much to me. But I just don't see it. I get down on myself SO, SO, SO much. Maybe it's genetic ya think? But I am so glad that I help you, in a small way. Most of these posts are like little self motivational talks for me. Saying things I need to hear. You are awesome and you succeed too! I believe in you, Love you lots and lots:)

  6. I love seeing an artist's work in progress. Thank you for sharing, looks wonderful!


Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment they really do mean so much to me! Because not all bloggers have their email enabled so I can reply directly through email I will try to reply here in the comments. If I don't please forgive me, life must have been hectic that day! :)) Huzzah!!

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