Monday, September 30, 2013

Dances with Watercolor

Here's a nice juicy post for you! I've completed my black and white portrait assignment for Illustration Techniques. Here's a little bit about how I got there:

I have a couple scribbles even before this stage where I made stick figures that imitated some key moves in Fröst's Hillborg Clarinet Concerto performance.   When I had a better idea of where I was going with this ridiculous pose, I made the thumbnails above to try and capture the essence of Fröst. The second thumbnail had the most interesting composition and the noodley hands appealed to me. The more developed drawing just underneath was my last step before drawing directly onto my watercolor paper. At this point I had taken my reference photos and wanted to see how adding an effervescent streamer of symbolism would work with the more developed pose.

The sketch. The clarinet is no longer pointing down and there is some breathing room between the mouthpiece and right hand.

I put down a wash in the background to see the edges of my figure a little more easily. The head is fairly developed at this point. At the wise suggestion of my teacher, I brought the mouth down a notch in expressiveness. A good call there.

Here is how I worked the flesh areas. I first wet the entire area hand, then dropped a really light wash that covers everything but the areas I want to preserve as white. I can always go back in later if the whites end up being too bright, which they do. The technique I use most is laying down a light layer of watercolor when the paper is completely dry. Removing most of the moisture and pigment from my brush, I drag out the edges of the layer as it dries to make a gradual diffusion of the edges. This gives you more control than working wet in wet, but you really have to work fast.

Upper left: I'm checking out what it looks like to make my background a little darker. I like what I see. Upper right: As far as I know, I'm finished with the flesh and folds. I go in with gouache for the background. Lower left: everything is "done" except for brushing in the linework for the hair and clarinet. Lower right: After a class critique, I go in and make some areas of the shirt darker. I also go back and try to develop the face a little more to match the detail of the hands. I rub the paper raw, so I actually end up using some 4b pencil and white charcoal to help with the modeling of the face.


  1. Girrrrrrl you've been busy. The hands are my fave, those are some good hands.