Thursday, May 27, 2010


A kingfisher painted from a photograph taken in Australia -sadly these colourful birds are not common around Lake Geneva! I think I may have to accept my fate and give in to the fact that my precise style is going to take over with the watercolours too. This was intended to be a sketch and became much more realistic than I was aiming for!

I would have thought it easier to make things look realistic with pencils but doing this little watercolour sketch made me think twice about that. I'm not sure that I could have got those same dark values with pencil without a lot of layering. On the head I used Sennelier's Ivory Black which seemed to go on very dark in one layer - not wishy washy like some blacks can be. On the wings, I used Cobolt Blue, Indigo and Ivory Black and on the underside, a little Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Yellow Orange.

The main lesson I learned from this one was that I need to plan my painting more carefully and work out beforehand what effect I'm going for and how to achieve it to save time in the long run. Masking fluid was used for the eye and the lights on the feathers but a little more care on the latter would have saved me having to work on those to make them less obvious. On the positive side though, I have learned how much patience is needed and how important it is to wait between layers and leave things alone until absolutely dry. Even - and especially - when things go wrong!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Turnip in watercolour

I've taken a complete break from drawing in order to concentrate on improving my watercolours. It would have been easy to keep drawing and keep the blog updated but I've never been very good at doing two things at once and I knew if I didn't give 100% of my attention to watercolours it would go on the back burner, yet again, for a year or two.

Of course, it's going to take years to feel in any way comfortable with watercolours but my being able to post something here and feel reasonably OK about it is a pretty major improvement for me! It's a combination of drawing from life and using Billy Showell's DVD (Fruit & Vegetable Portraits)to follow which colours to mix and how to put them on. Her turnip was a lot darker, more purple than mine, which was more pink with a yellow tinge so I had to add some colours of my own too. Initially though, I followed her advice to use a mix of Winsor & Newton French Ultramarine and Quinacridone Magenta and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Pale for the main colour, and for the green shoots, a mix of Cadmium Yellow Pale and Winsor Blue Green Shade. After that I deviated as my turnip was a lot more yellow and used a very pale wash of Yellow Ochre and after that dried a little Neutral Tint as the shade underneath it had a 'dirty' grey look to it. I added a little red to the base of the shoots as a shadow and to make them blend in. I took the Yellow Ochre down the root and blended it in to Neutral Tint.

I stopped as I wasn't too sure how to improve it - not because it couldn't be improved but because I don't yet have the techniques or the finesse with the paintbrush! I can see it needs quite a bit of refining, although I'm not going to fuss over this particular painting but keep up the practice and hopefully that will come.