Monday, August 16, 2010

Creating a Watercolor from a Photograph

Creating a Watercolor from a Photograph

Mother's Day...

I decided to try to paint a couple of pictures for my mother, and for my wife (she's not my mother, but she is a mother, and a great one!)

I've collected quite a few photographs, postcards, calendar scenes, magazine pages and newspaper clippings of scenes I'd like to consider painting. Most are way beyond my beginner-level skills, but I found a couple of flower images that I thought, just maybe, perhaps, I could translate into a watercolor painting.

I set out my tools, a cup of coffee, and found a comfortable, well-lit place to work. I add a few drops of clean water into each pan of paint and allow the paint to absorb the water, becoming liquid. For strong, bright colors, I'll dip my brush into the pan and paint directly on the paper. For lighter colors, or a wash, I'll swap my brush into the pan, and then wipe it into an empty, clean pan and add more water, or another color to create a different hue.

My first step was to lightly draw a pencil sketch of the main areas of color. I knew I'd not want to try to reproduce every detail, so I drew just the larger, more prominent areas. I often squinched my eyes, allowing just the brighter areas to show through my partially closed eyelids. This helped me to isolate the stronger focal areas, the parts that are in the foreground, the areas I want to emphasize.

This step helped me decide what colors and areas I'd be painting first. I decided that I'd paint the bright yellows and reds first, and then fill in the background greens, grays, and browns later.

Now I had my finished pencil sketch. I'd keep the photograph near so I could frequently refer to it for color and necessary detail.

My next step was to start painting. I started with the yellows.

The yellow seemed too bright, so I mixed up a reddish-orange blend of color in a separate pan. I painted this directly over one of the yellow flowers, but it was too orangish! I said to myself, "Oh, well!" and thinned the orange with more water and added some of it lightly to the remaining yellow petals.

The light greens were next, followed by darker green for the shadows and depth, and browns and purples. It seems to work best to paint the lighter colors before the darker ones...watercolors don't allow me to easily make a dark area lighter.

And here's the finished painting!

I followed the same process for a different picture:

For this one, I painted the light pink color over the blossoms, adding darker pink for shading and depth. Then I painted the light green, followed by dark green. Lastly, I painted the dark brown background, helping to define the shapes.

I like them!

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