Commissioned Original Watercolor Painting of Michael and Helen Dowdall
on their 25th
Wedding Anniversary celebrated August 14th-2007.....in the city of Love.. Paris,
Watercolor Painting Lesson completed on January 17th, 2008
The Photograph selection is the most important part
of your layout. In the case of this photo, it was submitted for a Commissioned
Piece. It is critical in working from someone else's photograph that I achieve almost
perfect positioning..but in studying the image, I need more blue sky which will enhance
the foreground images since they are mostly warm colors . Utilizing Photoshop,
I created a second image to allow my clients to see and approve what I am trying to
achieve. I then enlarge the image to 8" x 10" and tape it to my board.
Now I am ready to begin. I felt that to capture this image, I
would need to have my painting on the large size since I wanted to focus a lot of detail
on Mike and Helen's facial features. Although I had quoted a painting size of
18" wide by 14" high, I felt that the images would not stand out as I wanted to,
so I increased the overall painting size to 21-1/8" x 15-7/8".
I establish the centerline of the painting as shown
in the photo to the left. Although I love assymetrical portraiture as in my
paintings " Cold November Rain" and " Zebedee and the Serpent", I felt
that it was important that Michael and Helen be centered in this painting. With this
centerline, I removed a portion of the Cityscape from the far left of the photo as shown
in the cut away. The metal strap on the parapet wall is a nice feature and I cut it
out in the inset and will draw it in to the painting to break the horizontal lines of the
Drawing completed November 26th, 2007
|#1. The Setup and
At this point I have selected my
paper, 140lb Winsor & Newton Hot pressed Watercolor Paper (My personal favorite).
I have determined the size of my painting and I have all of my reference photos taped to
the board. Using a 2H Lead in my drafting pencil, I begin the positioning drawing. I
use a very light touch on my pencil ensuring that I do not break the surface of the paper
and just create an outline of the important areas of the image. I will do the
details with my paints and paintbrushes. Once I am convinced that the positioning of
Mike and Helen is correct, I add in darker lines to outline the edge of the image
area of the painting and this will help my gallery framing shop in matting the correct
image area. At the base of the painting, I use my parallel arm to draw light lines
for my Log. I am one of the few artists in the world that keeps a running log of the
dates and my time for each painting. This log will always remain intact with the
original painting. and has really helped me in determining how much I charge for my
paintings and for pricing out all of my Commissioned pieces.
At this point I feel confident that I have just the right amount of
Tips and Hints
you have adequate lighting in your studio area. I use both halogen and fluroscent
lighting above my desk.
Table: I have used the same drafting table that I used in College almost 30
years ago. The parallel ruler is important for drawing straight lines. I use an
Architectural Square for drawing my vertical lines.
Draw as lightly as possible with my Berol 2H
drawing lead....I will use a charcoal pencil to layout large shape areas...which
mixes well with the watercolor washes...Take care of white areas of the paper. Be
very careful when erasing to not break the surface of the paper at all.
Masking completed November 28th, 2007
Notice how far in the image area I paint in the masking
fluid. I am very generous with the amount that I apply. To the left of Mike's
moustache, I reapplied a good coating of masking where I had identfied a bubble after the
masking had dried.
This pic gives you a better idea of how little details that I draw
in prior to painting. This is my favourite time...the masking.....I always work my
painting from background to foreground...never in reverse....I begin to lay down my
masking fluid around the outline of the the sky area...the column on the left, the city
scape to the bottom and Mike's head and shoulders that protrude into the sky area.
At this point I do not worry about the background sky colors moving down past the masking
line into the cityscape. Where there is a danger of a brushstroke entering an
important area of the painting, such as flesh tones in Mike's face, I will paint the
masking fluid deeper into the image area as I have shown in the pic on the left.
I allow the masking at least an hour minimum to setup before I begin
my background washes..but the majority of the time I will not touch the painting until the
In applying the masking fluid, I work from one direction and
continue in that direction working wet to wet. If you have missed a spot, wait until
the masking is totally dry before applying new wet masking for touchups or else you will
find the experience humorous.
Watercolor painting will teach you great patience, but the results
will be worth every minute of extra time.
Tips and Hints
The masking fluid that I use
is Winsor and Newton's Colourless Art Masking Fluid for Watercolour. I use
several old paintbrushes to apply the masking fluid. Once you use a paintbrush to
apply the masking, you should never use it to paint in watercolors again.
Hair Dryer...absolutely a necessity in watercolor
painting...I use the Vidal Sassoon 1875Watt Professional model. I can control the
heat and speed settings with this baby.
Picture of the Watercolor Masking Fluid
and a #0 Korea brush that I use for putting down the masking.
Take your time and pay attention here...Make sure
you have no bubbles because this will leave holes in the dried masking and your watercolor
paint will penetrate.
.Never remove the masking from the painting until
the painting is completely dry. If there is any dampness in the paper, it will tear off
the surface of the paper when you remove the backing. This will be a challenge for
you to correct. Trust me on this....If in doubt...keep a hair dryer by your desk.
November 29th, 2007 5:00pm
Client sitting to view the completed drawing.
# 3 - 1st
Viewing by Client
For Commissioned pieces, I request close interaction between myself
and my client. Close communication is vital for my work and it affords me the luxury
of offering up changes that I would like to make to the painting and allow my client to
have their input to my suggestions. The client now has an opportunity to see the
full image size. Although my quoted price was for a 14" x 18" original, the
completed image size turned out to be almost 16" x 22". There is no
upcharge by me to the client for these decisions that I make during the course of the
I made a strong suggestion to change the sky from the photograph
since it only had a hint of blue and felt more light gray with no strength. It was
my recommendation that I prepare miniature studies of the sky formation.
The completed graphite/charcoal drawing completion is the point
where I request the first client sitting.
It is critical to the integrity of the artist to honor quoted prices
regardless of upward size changes by the artist. Never go below the quoted size.
#4 The Sky
In completing an original, sometimes it requires to move away from
the painting, and by using small sheets of watercolor paper, I do a quick sketch of the
area of the painting that I really want to analyze. In this case, I did three small
studies of the sky. I have placed them over top of the original so you could see how
tiny these studies are. In selecting the sky that would best enhance the painting,
I chose the upper left study and I will be using actual cloud formations as opposed to the
soft washes in the other two. This will allow significant texture to the overall
Tips and Hints
|In working closely with the client,
ensure that any changes are agreed upon before moving forward with the original
painting. I will have the client sign off on the studies as I have shown in the
lower right picture with Mike's signature on his preferred selection.. I will file
this study with the client information and contract.
After selecting which study I will be using...I go back to the original
painting and I lightly drawing in the cloud formations shapes. I will review the sky
studies with the client tomorrow for his final input, but I am confident he will agree
with this artistic strategy. If they agree, I will mask out some of the clouds
before I begin painting.
||#5 The Background
The background wash is one of the most
critical and requires extensive planning before beginning. You will take into memory
the position of clouds, trees, branches, light areas of the sky. So memorize what
you envision or want to copy for your background.
I use Pthalo Blue for my skies....a very thin wash...
Begin by saturating your entire background evenly with water with at
least a 1" paint brush..I buy 6 of these at a time at the Dollar store...they work
great for water washes Ensure the paper absorbs the water and it does not run. Have
a paper towel ready at all times. You will have less than 5 minutes to add your
Pthalo blue wash before the paper dries to the point where the colors will not
disperse.......Take your #6 brush and dab the pthalo blue and let it run on its own...dab
out the paint where you do not want it to enter a cloud or white area...
Notice my first level Pthalo blue washes as to how transparent I
apply it. I will use the blue areas as my template to build the clouds and sky
Tips and Hints
|When you have all your Pthalo blue
down,,,take your hair dryer and dry out the paper quickly. This will flatten your
paper from the waving action after you have added water to it. 140lb. Winsor and
Newton paper is exceptional for its laying back down quality. Get really familiar
with your paper, no matter what brand you use. There are only two brands that I
will use, Winsor and Newton...and Arches....I love the responsiveness and workablity of
both these brands.
#1 Three layers of Pthalo blue and one water wash.
#2 Addition of Payne's Gray layer
|#6 Sky building
I have added two more layers of the Pthalo blue to the level of intensity
that I am wanting to achieve remembering that I want the blue to be slightly darker than
the final layer. I will explain this further on.
I have located the cloud positiions. Once you cover a white
area of the paper with paint, you will never be able to recover the pure white of the
paper, so use your masking fluid liberally. It is better to cover an area with
masking larger than you require, since it is easier to cut back a white area than try to
blot out paint that has been applied. I use two white Winsor and Newton
paints...Chinese White and Titanium White....no matter how skilled you are...these whites
will not be able to help you return a section of your paper to look white....so use the
white of your paper to your best strategy.
In building my sky, I am wanting to achieve movement with the
clouds, but keeping the clouds a light gray rather than a white. I will use
accenting splotches of white for a subtle effect as can be seen in areas of the sky that I
have masked out.
In Image #2 - I add two layers of Payne's Gray to begin defining the
cloud shapes..Remember the first layer of any color you add begins with wetting the area
with water first, then adding the color of your choice as transparently as possible.
Then add as many layers as required to bring it to the the intensity that you desire.
# 3 - The Chinese White wash blending layer.
# 4 - The Opera Rose accenting layer.
|In Image #3 - I call this the
blending layer...It is the most critical because it is the point of no return.
Squeeze a generous quantity of Chinese White onto your palette and dilute it with
water. Take your #6 flat brush and totally saturate the background with this wash
moving the paint in straight lines horizontally across the paper. Don't be
afraid.....it will look awful until it dries and your cloud shapes come back through. Use
your blow drier to quickly dry the paper to reduce the waving effect of the paper after it
Why I do this is that it provides me with such a
beautiful softness to the background shapes and also the carrier in the paint allows me to
blend in the next layers of color.
In Image #4 - I begin adding colors to the
clouds. First color is Opera Rose....It is nice and pinky...Be specific in locating
where you dab...I am using my 15/0 brush to apply the Opera Rose. I spot locate the
paint and then in a circular motion with the brush, I massage the color in.
# 5 - The addition of Mauve...
# 6 - The final blues to the sky - Cerulean and Pthalo blue layers..
#6 A - Sky
#5 - The cloud defining layer - Add Mauve
to define the actual cloud shapes...the Winsor and Newton Mauve is a beautiful deep
purple, so thin it out before applying and use the same technigque to apply it as the
Opera Rose layer as described above.
Now I repeat step #3 and do another Chinese White Wash
on the entire background to blend the colors together.
#6 - I now add a layer of Cerulean Blue to
the sky area and then one more layer of Pthalo blue. These layers coupled with the
Chinese White carrier layers will blend so easily and gives me the effect of high level
Now I totally blow dry the background for several minutes...high
heat and then I walk away from the painting for at least a good hour to ensure that the
paper is 100% dry before I remove the masking.
# 7 - Remove all the masking from the painting...
|#7 - Remove the masking with
an eraser. You can use your finger to rub it off also, but the enzymes on your skin
could affect the paper in a negative way, so limit this process to an absolute
minimum. I prefer a white drafting eraser...it is almost a plastic texture and does
not generate a lot of heat during the rubbing action.....I rub off the masking in one
direction instead of a back and forth motion. The watercolor paper will tend to
appear a slight yellowish when the masking is removed...not to worry here..we will get it
to disappear later.......and now to the final stage of the sky...the blending of the white
masked areas of the clouds to take off the sharp edge after the masking has been
# 8 - The completed Sky
I am pleased with the effects of the sky....creating movement but
without distracting from the subjects in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the
background. As I move into the cityscape, I will do some fine touchups to the sky
when I blend the two of them together...and again when I move into final details when the
painting is just about completed.
The next page is the City Scape.....