Saturday, March 7, 2015

Three Little Fishies

I started out just calling this painting "Koi", but the longer I worked on it the personality of the three fish took over the painting so the title "Three Little Fishies" came to be.

Not to sound like a broken record, but, be sure to check your drawing and make sure the entire pattern is there.  A question I get quite a bit is where to start painting. I usually start on the right hand side, I'm right handed, so by beginning there I'm not dragging my hand and arm across the painting smearing paint or wiping off my drawing.  Left handed people would do well to start on the right side.

Because there were so many elements, (fish, leaves, flowers, water) I wanted to do a little bit of each to work out my color palette.

Start the leaves by covering the leaf with a coat of light Sap Green, lots of water little pigment. As it is drying add more Sap Green where you want dark, into the dark also add some Paynes Gray. In other areas drop in some Quin. Gold or Yellow Ocher, add in some Cad Red and cad yellow and in some leaves even put in come Cobalt Blue.  When I say "drop" in a color, I mean just that, don't use a brush stroke, just dab the color into a wet area and let the water blend the colors. Try to make the leaves different looking, some will have more of a color than another. If part of a leaf overlaps another leaf the top leaf will be be lighter where it overlaps and
the underneath leaf will be darker. If a leaf has a turn up that will be more of a brown to it is green and red with perhaps a touch of yellow. When a leaf is almost dry you can take a clean damp brush to wipe out some color for highlights.

While doing the leaves put the yellow centers in the flowers, using your darkest yellow.

Koi, like the fuchsia, come in many colors and combinations of colors. I chose to do all three in the same color, that way they are all equal and none stands out, they are part of the pattern. I used Cad. Red and Cad. Yellow to make a bright
orange. First the eyes are painted Paynes Gray and the inside of the mouth, when dry a coat of watered down orange over the whole fish, while still wet add more of the orange, less diluted. In the darker areas add pure Cad. Red, for the darker shaded areas use Paynes Gray. If you want some lighter area after you have all the paint on, use a damp clean brush to pull up some of the color. Some of the darkness on the fish that you see was put on when I painted in the water. If there is any question in your mind about putting down a color, don't. You can always add more shadows when the rest of the color on the painting is put in. It is surprising how the
addition of a new color can change a color that is already down.

When all the leaves are painted it's time to move on to the flowers. The dark yellow centers should be dry by now, using the same orange as the fish, put in some small strokes around  some of the stamens.  I used a very watered down Paynes Gray to put in the shadows on the petals of the flowers. Like the previous water lily, work on one petal at a time so you keep some white areas on each petal. When all the gray shadows are in place. I used a watered down Hansa Yellow on
some of the petals. You can do the inside of a
petal or the outside, try not to do both. On the two flowers in the upper left, I also added a bit of pink, Alizarin Crimson. 

For now leave the flowers and start on the water. I started on the left side by the two flowers. Here I used Cobalt Blue, Paynes Gray, and Antwerp Blue. First putting down a layer of Cobalt, then dropping in the gray close to the objects. Let the water move the pigment, the layering of the color will give you wonderful water movement. The very highest waterlily is the only flower that is actually sitting in the water. So while the
paint is still damp, pull out the reflection of the
white petals in the water. Move around the top of the painting coming down on the right side with the Cobalt Blue. Don't try to paint all the area and then go back to add the dark. Do a small bit of the cobalt and while still wet keep adding gray to get a darker blue. To give distance, the farther away the water the darker the water. As we come forward a lighter blue base with arcing strokes  give the appearance of ripples from the water being broken by the fish. Here again you want to get some dark shadows underneath the leaves. If you can, leave a hairline of white paper between dark water and leaf.
Okay now this is a bit scary. Take the lightest blue of the water and brush it over the fins of the the two front fish. Leave some bits of the original orange showing through.

At this point looking at three fish with their mouths open, I figured there should be some food  for them.  I made a dark brown and painted little pellets near the fish. While still damp I used a damp brush to take out a bit of a highlight out of each pellet, then when dry I used some Antwerp Blue at the base of each pellet for shadow.

I still wanted to put some grasses in along the bottom of the painting. There are several different ways of doing that. You can use your quarter inch flat and carefully pull out the paint where you want to put in the grass, time consuming and not always satisfactory. You could have used a resist before painting the rest of the painting. Leaves nice clean lines to fill in with new color. Or you could use gouche mixed with watercolor and paint over the watercolor already laid in. Gouche is opaque watercolor, it always reminds me of tempera paint in texture.
I used the last method, exchanging the white gouche for gesso.

Gesso is used to prime canvases for oil or acrylic paint, but I have also found that it works well for priming watercolor paper for certain projects AND for mixing with watercolor for an opaque color to use over other colors. The gesso dries very quickly so once the color has been mixed in quickly stoke the grasses in, overlapping and bending some leaves of grass. I mixed several different colors of green, adding either yellow or blue.

Now you want to look at the whole painting see if there is any place that needs a darker shadow or a highlight that needs pulling out. Sometimes it can take days to see if there are changes or additions that you want to make or you will see it right away. Looking at your painting upside down or in a mirror will also show you if anything else needs to be done.
Here is the piece, I'm not sure if this one is finished or not,  I see some areas that I might want to do some more work to, but for the most part I am happy with the results. I hope you are happy with your painting and ready to move on to your next challenge.

Friday, March 6, 2015


Years ago when I first moved here from the Midwest, I started a series of flowers. There were to be six in all and all of them were to be pink. The first was a peony, then a rose, a stargazer lily, parrot tulip, a hyacinth and last but not least a fuchsia. Well I finished the first four and got half way through the fifth and the sixth never made it, until now. I pulled the drawing up for this class to show another type of painting. This is a very "stylistic" type painting. It's all about design, the way the branches cross over, the perfect angle of the flowers and lastly the box around the flowers with the leaf at the top and the branch at the bottom breaking the box and no background. Just another way of putting a painting together.
I can't really stress enough that you must be sure that your drawing is correct and all there before you put one brush stroke down on your painting. Watercolor paper can be easily damaged by too much erasing or pencil work, making your paint difficult to manage and can even cause the color to darken in areas you don't want it to.

I do all my drawing on tracing paper, sometimes going through 10 or 12 sheets to refine my composition to exactly where I want it so there will be no changes once it is on the watercolor paper.

Okay once you have your drawing on the paper its time to start painting! I started this painting on the lowest open flower on the left. I chose to do my flower in two tones of pink, probably a carry back in my mind to finishing the series I started many years ago. But I gave you the option of using
any color combination you wanted. Fuchsia come in so many
color combinations and they are all quite lovely.

Here you can see what the flower started out like, I was using Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue for the top part of the flower and a mixture of Permanent Rose, Hansa Yellow, and Quin. Gold for the bell petals. Where I wanted to get darker shadows I very lightly used Paynes Gray. I didn't wet the area of the petals before I put my color down, but used a very light coat of color then as the area was drying I kept adding more and more color, allowing the water to blend the paint. If you get dark lines of color where pigment has floated to the edge of an area, use a clean brush, wet it, wipe it almost dry on a paper towel, then slowly run the tip of the brush along the line. Wipe the brush every little bit so the extra pigment is taken off the painting surface.

The stamens on this particular flower are the same color as the top of the flower, as is the stem of the flower. You can do
them as you do each flower or wait and do them all at one time when the body of the flowers are all done.

Following the flowers from bottom up I did the next flower, then skipped up to the unopened bud at the top. I did that one next because it is behind the other two flowers making it easier to make the petals of the front flower appear closer. It is a good rule of thumb when painting to consider the location of your items. Closer items will have sharper edges, items further back or behind will have softer edges. The further back an item is the softer, or blurryer (I'm not sure that is a real word, but you get the idea) an item will be. When I say item it can mean furniture in a room or the petals of one flower.  By making close up items sharp and in focus and farther away items softer you create depth to your painting.

After finishing the flowers on the right I went back and did the last two buds on the left side.  Why I saved them for the 
last I have no idea, it just turned out that way. And here is where I ran into a problem with color. The buds are the same color as the top of the open flowers, the left petal of the open flower ran over the right bud and got totally lost. Normally I would just use my quarter inch flat and pull some color out and put a shadow under the petal to make it stand out. In this case I couldn't because I was using Permanent Rose, and when they say Permanent they mean Permanent. So instead of going lighter I went darker, adding some Paynes Gray to the tip of the petal. Now because I did it on that petal I used the same mixture in the shadows of the other three petals on this flower and very sparingly on the other flowers and buds as well.

The stems of the flowers are the same color at the darker color of the flowers, as the stem goes up towards the branch I added just a touch of sap green while the pink was still wet.
 Before moving on to the leaves I want to point out an error I made it this painting that I didn't see until looking at the photos as I put them on this blog. The flower on the farthest right has a petal painted the paler color rather than the darker color. Do you see it? We all get tunnel vision when working on a painting, including me. This is an easy fix, all I have to do is go in with the darker color and  do a little reworking of the petal next to it and it will be okay. If it had been the opposite and a light petal had been painted dark, it might have required a bit more work but would still be possible. Because this particular flower comes in so many color combinations I would have changed the lighter colors on all the flowers to a dark purple and saved the painting. Never get so frustrated with a painting that you give up on it without going over all your options. If is beyond help, it is still a learning experience and after all it is only one piece of paper. Start again or move on to another subject.

Okay the leaves are all Sap Green, to lighten add Hansa Yellow, to darken add Cobalt Blue, to really darken add Paynes Gray, For these leaves I work one side at a time, quickly brush on a coat of Sap Green watered down, leaving the little stem white. While still wet I drop in the other colors. No two sides of the leaf is the same color, usually the side that is farthest away is darker, closer is lighter either by adding some yellow or watering down the pigment. The stem that goes down the center of the leaf and connects to the branch is a mixture of Sap Green, Paynes Gray and a touch of Permanent Pink. The stem will look better if you don't make it a solid color from tip to end. Vary the strength of the color by the amount of water you add to the pigment. If your color gets too dark you can use a damp brush to pick up some of the color, one of the reasons I love sap green is because it is pretty easy to pick up. the branches are next to last to do and are a mixture of Cobalt Blue, Hansa Yellow and whatever red you used in your flowers. You should end up with a greenish brown color. As you are painting the branch in some places add a little extra of the red to make a reddish brown. Again, try to vary the color as you move along the branch, your branch will look more dimensional if you do. The border around the edge is just straight Sap Green.

Here is the finished piece, or almost finished piece, I do have to go in and change that one petal!! Now that I see it I can't take my eyes off of it. Hope you enjoyed doing this painting.