Good things come to those who wait.
Would you believe I started on this painting around two years ago? I suppose it took me that long to build up the courage to complete it. At that time she had only started out as a very light sketch on my Arches Aquarelle watercolor block.
At the time, other inspiration hit and I found myself needing to peel her off the block to allow myself access to a fresh page. I tucked her away on a flat surface and then forgot about her. On occasion I would think about her in moments of recollection, or when I found myself digging around in the same drawer she was stored in, but I would still decide not to proceed.
She sat in the dark for far too long until at last I started feeling inspired enough – or perhaps capable enough – to tackle her and let her shine in full daylight.
Part of what lit a fire under me to get her completed was being lectured by many acquaintances – new and old – to start selling my art. I would groan that I couldn’t because the vast majority of my art is tucked safely away in sketchbooks. Selling an original from a sketchbook would mean I’d have to destroy the book plus lose what art was on the back of the intended sale.
Let this be a warning to those of you who do most of your art in sketchbooks. If you feel like you’d like to sell it at some point, it’s going to cause some difficulties.
While I addressed some of the issues of my art residing in sketchbooks by scanning and selling prints, it still did not resolve the issue of my not having any originals available for sale. One new acquaintance told me flatly in his own way “go big, or go home.” Meaning, tiny art isn’t exactly what art buyers are looking for. They want something sizable for their spaces.
“But what about printing copies of my art on large canvases?”
“No. They want originals.”
Okay, I’m listening. I get it. I understand.
So the girl tucked away in a dark space came back to the front of my mind. Part of why I shied away from working on her was that she resides on a 12″x16″ piece of paper. Twice or even four times larger than what I’ve grown accustomed to working on. But that’s a nice “starting” size for me for larger artwork.
Side note: I do admit I did do something even larger than this painting. It’s a 30″x40″ canvas of gorgeous fall leaves hanging above my bed. I felt daunted by how long it took me to complete it, but I certainly enjoyed the final result. And with the new inspiration I’ve had around selling my art, I’ve even come to a place of being willing to part with it. But I’ll give that piece it’s own attention in another post.
Let’s get back to this pretty girl.
Decision finally made to complete her, I brought her out into the light and attached her to my orbital desktop easel. If that doesn’t say “I’m going to finish this” then I’m not sure what does, because the easel takes up space and isn’t exactly convenient to move out of the way when I need my desk space for other things. (PS – despite what sounded like complaints, I love my easel. It’s extremely easy to tilt and rotate as needed and was the perfect tool and size for this painting.)
I proceeded to finish up the pencil outline first. Easy enough. But then came the moment of panic. What colors should I use? What colors should her eyes be? Her hair? The flowers? This is where art for me comes down to faith and trusting my current preferences. Lately I’ve been drawn to the combination of blue and red. The two colors compliment each other nicely. Red was an easy choice, as well, for the roses in her hair.
Choosing the paint brand was easy. I decided I wanted to play some more with my QoR watercolors. I love their personality and the way they jump across the page in wet on wet techniques. I’m a big fan of their vibrancy, as well, and how they don’t shift quite as much as other brands do when they dry.
I opted to go with a limited palette to keep the decision-making with colors far less stressful, as well. I chose to work with Cerulean Blue Chromium, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Paynes Gray, and a touch of Cadmium Yellow Primrose to help create the green leaves and to add some depth to the antlers. While it’s not technically watercolor, I also used QoR’s Titanium White (which is more a gouache) for some of the highlights in her hair. This was an important addition else her hair would have lacked depth and interest. My final additional special touch to the piece was to use Finetec watercolors in silver for the chains draped across the antlers and the special highlights in her face paint. I used Prismacolor Premier colored pencils to fine-tune some of the details in her eyes.
Decisions made, it was time to get to work. And really there’s not much for me to say about the process. She was a typical watercolor painting, building up layers over layers until she finally looked complete. I started off with an underpainting of the blue and went from there… the first layers looking rather alien (especially when doing a portrait), but each additional layer saying “Hey – you could stop here if you want… but… just think if you added a couple more layers! How cool that would look!”
I admit I had fun texting progress photos to a couple of friends who would “ooh” and “aah” over them and ask if I was finished yet, to which I’d answer “Not by far!”
I really enjoyed working on the roses – or how they turned out at least. At times I was feeling like they were looking “off”. But part of that, again, was just the simple fact that they needed just one more layer of red over the top to really make them amazing, or just a little more contrast to give them proper depth.
I pride myself in not being afraid of contrast. I think that’s a pitfall many new artists find themselves in. They put down light layers of color and feel happy with what they’ve got so far, yet know if they really want their piece to pop they have to add some extreme contrasts – and I fully admit that’s scary stuff. You think if you get too heavy-handed with the contrast you’ll ruin all that pre-existing work you’ve done. Be brave, my friends. Embrace the darkness (at least in your watercolor paintings)! You’ll be glad you did.
I would estimate a good 10 accumulative hours were spent on this painting, not including waiting for layers to dry (although at times I helped the drying along with my handy heat tool.)
It was so, so satisfying when I finally peeled off the painter’s tape that had been holding her to the easel’s board. Seeing the clean edges just gave her such a beautiful, finished look.
My favorite part of the finishing process was taking some photographs for my Instagram feed. While the art is beautiful in person, there’s something aesthetically pleasing to how the camera pulls everything together. Especially when you add a few props for whimsy and context.
Would you like to have her in your home? Well you can have her several ways. Prints are available at my Redbubble shop.
However, if you’d like to give the original a loving home, she is available for sale right here for $592.00. Contact me to arrange for purchase. (Price excludes shipping and handling.)
Out of Darkness
Day of the Dead-inspired watercolor painting
12″ wide x 16″ tall
QoR watercolors on Arches Aquarelle cold press watercolor paper
$592.00 +shipping and handling
Contact to inquire about purchase
Thank you again for your support and patronage and following my continued artistic journey. I hope to have more originals available in the future.
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