Practice, Practice, Practice!

I am continuing the varied steps from Birgit O’Connor’s excellent video.  Upon her recommendations for brushes, I ordered the DaVinci Cosmotop Mix B in size 30, and the Cosmotop Spin Mix F in 20 and 14.  The brushes I have been using have been either pure synthetics or pure Kolinsky sable, neither of which seems especially suited for the painting methods she demonstrates.  I also bought the Pebeo drawing gum, which is thinner and more manipulable than the Winsor Newton masking fluid.

Shapes, Pebeo, and Color Splatters

Above is the very first step in the current practice piece.  I laid out my masks, then used Winsor Newton’s masking fluid and a toothbrush and splattered resist all over.  This fluid is thick and drops in blobs, big and small.  Some will become pebbles and ocean glass by the end of the painting.  Then, using the toothbrush, splatters of color, to make the sand, were used.  My colors were combos of burnt sienna, ultramarine, umber, and yellow ochre.

Splattered Shapes

After letting everything dry, I removed the masks, splatters and all, and set them aside on a piece of typing paper.  (Maybe I will use them again!)  You can see what a mess there is!

No Shadows

The next step was quite long.  The shells, stones, pebbles, glass, and what is supposed to be seaweed, were painted.  O’Connor demonstrates some really cool techniques in her video, and the new brushes made all the difference in the world.  I am also getting some control, at last, in the shadings of the shells and stones.  In particular, I like the stone in the upper left corner, and the seaweed.

Shadows #1

As you can see, adding shadows to the painting give the illusion of depth.  If you look closely, though, you can see that the shadow in the upper left hand corner is very over worked, and the shadows vary in lightness and darkness.  This is because of a number of things.  I did not mix up enough watercolor wash for all the shadows.  This is very important to create a consistent hue.  Another thing is that these shadows are far more challenging that you might think – a single stroke is best.  The one in the upper left I revisited two or three times.  I think it might have been best done with a layer of water laid down first, as it is so large, and then working the shadow is as a wash, being careful to tilt and shift the paper so the shadow color is evenly distributed.

Shadows & Sand Ripples

The final step was adding the ripples in the sand.  These are fun to do, and remarkably easy.  And, they can really add to the overall composition of the picture, helping to move the eye in and out of the shapes.  Part of me thinks that I need one or two small ones moving from upper left to lower right between the upper left rock and the tip of the mussel shell, but I am not sure.  Below is the final painting, cropped to remove all the distractions of the in-progress pictures.

Final Impression

To sum it up, this has been a wonderful learning experience, and has renewed my confidence.  Yes, I am doing exercises, but exercises are necessary for mastery.  I will do a lot more because there is a lot to learn in these seemingly simple studies.  Again, O’Connor’s video is definitely a worthwhile purchase.

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