Saturday, 9 May 2009

Firebirds - a one hour masterpiece

I've been adding several Step By Step features to my website this week, which can be seen by clicking here.
This painting is a demonstration of a very quick watercolour, done in about an hour, It gives a good idea of what can easily be achieved with watercolour with just a little practice and forethought.


I'm using a 140lb strong watercolour paper, taped down securely with masking tape on all edges to my drawing board. A very light pencil outline is drawn of the birds and, very rarely for me, masking fluid is applied to some of the feather tips. I don't usually like using masking fluid but in this piece I wanted some small, sharp, bright glints of white to help the final composition.

using my largest flat brush, I apply the washes of Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange and Windsor Yellow. I nearly always allow the paint to mix on the paper rather than add water on my palette. ie. I squeeze neat paint straight from the tube onto the palette, then dip my wet brush into it and apply to the wet paper starting at the top with my board on a slight slope. Then I go at it rather like pasting a piece of wallpaper, using horizontal strokes the entire length of the paper.


Adding more paint or more water as necessary, once I have the depth of colour I want with the red I do the orange, overlapping so there is a graduation between the colours, then do the yellow. This is the most important part of this painting. Get this graduated wash right and you've cracked it! I allow to dry thoroughly before removing the masking fluid. (leaving the fluid on too long can damage the paper, the reason I rarely use it)

Now I paint in the birds using what paint is on my palette but adding a touch of Ultramarine Blue in places to give them a bit more form. I also blend the white of some of the feathers with clean water which helps to give a little sense of movement.


To finish I add a suggestion of a few reeds and with a clean wet brush and tissue, lift out a little suggestion of water. Job done! Resist the temptation to fiddle as I think any more would spoil the effect.
To see more step by step demonstrations go to the Mighty Fine Art website





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