I am using my most recently finished painting "And Then The Sky Fell" to demonstrate how I use watercolours on a main human figure. The methods I adopt may seem unusual as they seem to defy the nature of this medium, therefore it is best to view this not as a tutorial, but rather, as clearly shown in the title, a walkthrough. It is a long process, and captured in as much detail as possible without seeming repetitious, which is why this is divided in two parts. Thank you, and enjoy.
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The first step is to create a clean draft. I like to use a 2H lead for just the right amount of precision and minimal smudging.
This piece here is 18x24” on Arches hot press watercolour paper, and the drafting process took me about one week. It is very important for me to get everything right at this point, and attention to the smallest details definitely pay off in the end.
A photo reference of myself is used for the figure.
To begin the colouring process, I always add a few drops of Windsor & Newton Ox Gall Liquid to my water, as I find it improves flow, and also slows drying time by just a little. This gives me a bit more freedom, especially when it comes to correcting mistakes.
It is easier for me to pour the Ox Gall in the bottle cap and then add the drops to my water, rather than pouring directly from the bottle, as it tends to go everywhere and make quite a mess.
Also shown here is a porcelain container where I have prepared the colour I will be using, which is Indigo, from Windor & Newton’s Artists’ Watercolours.
Here is how I usually set up my workstation. I have my tilted drafting board, water and colour on the left, a folded double-sheet kitchen towel for dabbing under my left hand, and a folded single sheet kitchen towel for blotting under my right.
At this point I have already worked on the figure’s face.
A closeup of the brushes I tend to favour. From bottom to top -
• Robert Simmons Sapphire series slanted brush, 1/4
• Windsor & Newton Series 7 pointed round, 000
• Windsor & Newton Series 7 pointed round, 00
The first two brushes are the ones I use the most.
To begin the shading process, I take the 1/4 slanted, wet it just a little, and dip it in pigment...
I then dilute the colour slightly by dipping the tip of the brush in water...
The brush tip is then dabbed gently, once, on the double-sheet kitchen towel, to get rid of excess pigment...
And then the brush is finally brought to paper, in quick, deliberate strokes.
The single sheet kitchen towel now comes in handy, as it is used to blot away excess saturation and makes it easier for me to attain a smooth gradient later on.
Now I have switched to the 000 pointed round, to begin with the stippling process.
Very carefully, I go over the areas that I had just painted with the slanted brush, filling in tiny little gaps, and also intensifying saturation where necessary.
And this is what the little 000 can achieve.
It is indeed an arduous venture, but one that I have to embark because of my infatuation with getting everything as smooth as possible. In effect, this is really a simulation of airbrushing.
Her right shoulder (left in the painting), that bit of neck, and the one collar bone, all in all took about 5 hours.
And so this goes, one segment at a time, often revisiting previous areas for touch-ups.
Finally, the first layer of colour for the figure is complete.
Her eyes are composed of Windsor Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Umber, and Ivory Black, and a bit of Copic Multiliner 0.05 was used on her lashes.
The hair is Dioxazine Purple, all rendered with a 003 round. Her eyebrows and lips are tinted with the same colour.
[ To see how subsequent layers of colour are added, please proceed to Part II... ]