More often than not, when I get home and set my paintings up to write up the blog notes, I will see something that bothers me about a painting I'm doing. It is not easy to try and talk and paint at the same time because it uses 2 different sides of the brain: When I drift off in the middle of a sentence, my right brain has kicked in and the speech (left) side of my head goes quiet and my train of thought gets derailed. When I'm focused on what I'm saying, my painting suffers. This is what happened the first week with the Koi. When I came home I realized that the white fish was straight up and down and that the nose was even with the orange fish and the tails of the 3 orange/red fish where all lined up. This is not good composition. So I made some changes.
I took my chalk and adjusted the line of my white fish and brought the nose down a bit and then I used my black gesso to paint out any of the white that fell outside those new lines. I also adjusted some of the lines on the orange and red fishes so there appeared to be more movement. Remember that fish are constantly moving and you need to suggest that in your painting. Don't be afraid to change something if it will help your painting, it is part of the learning process.
When I got in to class I filled in the white fish to get it back to the point it was with the new corrections before finishing the first layer of under painting.
Before I go on, I have noticed that several of you just don't believe me. If you look at the points where we stopped each week, you will notice that I painted right over where a fin overlaps another fish, yet when I look around the class, every one is carefully painting around those areas. The reason I am not worried about the fins right now is I need the color underneath the fin so it won't look like it has been cut and pasted on to the painting. Acrylic dry fast so you can paint over them with no problems unlike oils or watercolor though you can even do a similar thing in oils. You want/need that color under the fin so don't paint around it.
The red fish was painted using the crimson, napthol and cad red light with the occasional touch of blue in the shadows. This fish is much darker and it has spots. Just like the fins, I'm not worried about spots right now, it will be one of the last things I do on this painting, right now I' trying to establish a base color and shadows. Starting on the left side with crimson and a touch of blue, still using the same brush I started with, I painted the side. When I got near the top it was napthol and a touch of crimson. On the very top it was napthol and a touch of cad red. This fish will appear darker than the other fish and that's okay.
I also finished filling in the fancy fish on top using mostly cad red and a touch of orange on top and cad red with crimson in the shadows.
Now that everything is based in, I can start the brightening process.
Acrylics are somewhat transparent and when they dry, they will always dry darker. Just when you think that something is looking good, you will come back and it has gotten dull, it is just the nature of the beast. To counter this tendency, much like a watercolorist, we need to add layers to our painting to brighten the color, yet some of that under painting will show thru and help build depth in our painting. So the purpose of the layers isn't to totally cover the under painting but just enough to strengthen the values and intensity of the subject we are painting.
On the two orange fish, I used mostly the cad red and napthol on the sides and some orange and cad red on the top, making sure that I blended the areas of transition between the light top and the shadowed sides, you don't want a striped fish. On the white fish, still a bit on the grey side but this time I used white, a touch of blue and orange as my base adding more blue in the shadows and more white on the top. This fish has an orange tinge but still generally looks white so go easy on the orange. This layer should be at least a shade lighter than the under painting especially on the top of the fish. Follow a similar color combination for the orange areas of the fancy fish and basically white and blue with a touch of sienna in the white areas. Nothing is totally white at this point so be sure that you have grayed the color slightly. You must have dark to show light. Straight white is the final highlight.
The red fish is basically the same colors you used before just use a bit more napthol and cad red and less crimson and no blue. This fish will stay darker than all the others.
This is where I finished for the day. We may have one or two more sessions on this project so you need to start looking for something you want to paint, that way I can help you get started on it and you will have something to paint over the holiday break.
The first thing I did was to remove ALL of the masking I had on my painting. That includes the turtle and the rocks we should be able to do any adjusting around the turtle without the mask at this point.
The next thing I did was to start the process of establishing my shadows on the turtle. This step can be done later, I just like to start getting the feeling of a 3Dimentional subject. You will need to look at the reference photo and really study it to see where there are subtle shadows and where the darkest shadows are. The lighter shadows are called "form shadows", the darker ones are "cast shadows" both are important when you are wanting to create dimension in your painting.
For the shadows I used a mix of purple and a touch of blue, very dark right under the shell the back front leg and under the neck, lighter along the back and sides of the shell, underneath the shell and shadows on the head and neck. I will probably go over these again later as the painting progresses, this is just the under painting.
After my shadows had dried, I painted the entire turtle with a wash of cad yellow light. The markings on the turtle are mostly yellow, if we paint the whole turtle now it adds value and well as color to our turtle and we won't have to try and paint in the yellow after we have dark around it because the dark usually will bleed into your lighter yellow areas no matter how careful you are.
When the yellow has dried, look at the reference photos again and notice the yellow stripes on the turtle. There are some obvious ones on the legs and neck, but there are some stripes in the shell as well. If you are more comfortable drawing in these stripes before you paint, now is the time. The stripes are probably more important on the skin rather than the shell so if you don't want to do the shell, that's okay.
When you have your lines drawn in, it is now time to start bringing this little guy to life. I started on the shell plates using a mix of sap green, blue and purple to give me a grey green color. Using my ½" angle brush, I loaded color mostly on the tip then placed the tip on the outside edge of one of the plates. The whole brush is on the paper and as you pull the tip along the outside edge, you should get a graded stroke. A couple things to remember here: Each of the plates on the shell is slightly mounded which means that it is higher in the middle than at the edges, also, they aren't all that smooth. They have ridges from growth and dings from wear and tear, if your strokes are uneven that is even better, it will give the shell some texture. Do each plate individually leaving a little space between them, we will do that later, check your reference photo often and if you want stripes in the shell, remember to paint around them (negative painting).
Next time we will finish painting in the green parts of the turtle and under paint the rock. We should finish this up in the next couple weeks so you might want to start looking for your next project.