I’ve talked about color and contrast, and I’ve briefly mentioned that I love texture. Texture for me is a “puzzle to solve.”
Because I’ve illustrated a lot of fruit, solving their textures has become my specialty.
When I began illustrating, I was a transparent watercolorist. When I started using the dye medium I did not use any white paint or pencil. If I made an error, I would usually repaint the area in question. Then I would cut the new area out. I had to “sand” the paper to make it thinner; I would even paint the edges to make it show less!
I did that on some of those seashell paintings.
Creating a “peel” texture required me to use a liquid, masking fluid. I was able to create the pattern that I wanted; however, it was not subtle and very difficult to adjust once it became too dark. Sometimes, I lost the texture completely once I wet the area.
When I discovered adding colored pencil and acrylics to my technique, it was especially helpful for peel textures. The way that I added acrylics to my dye paintings was very much in a transparent fashion. The ones that I use were created for airbrushing and are very thin.
I use Badger Airbrush acrylics. It was very challenging for me to use acrylics at first. I didn’t like the shiny, opaque look.
I am not familiar with using any other kind of acrylic. I do not use traditional acrylics; I’ve only used these bottles.
Badger acrylics do not create smooth textures at all. As they dry and leave hard edges, a tissue cannot smooth it away. These acrylics can even be dissolved with an Ad-Marker “blender marker” if I need to fix a mistake.
The acrylics do not cover the watercolor. The dye stains the paint and makes it almost imperceptible as the washes begin. Because the buildup is very subtle, acrylics work perfectly in creating orange peels.
Using acrylics requires a lot of patience. It requires many, many washes and drying for the colors to build up. Working over colored pencil and markers with acrylics is much faster. That’s because the acrylics don’t have that staining problem resulting from painting over dyes.
There is no white at all until the dye is encased completely with opaque. Once that “bleeding” of color stops, the lightness can build quickly. Sometimes, I hasten this by using colored pencil first. However, sometimes even colored pencil can create a stain on the wet acrylic as the wash goes over it!
When creating a “peel” texture I begin with circles of highlights that connect and radiate outward. As those lighter circles move outward, they become “crescents” and fade away. Sometimes, there are darker “pits” in the middle of the circle of highlight. However, instead of making a lot of dark dots to indicate a pitted, peel texture, I rely more on the circular highlights.
With the acrylic, the transparent washes dry and are fairly light. The dye bleeds into the white and sometimes it takes several washes for it to significantly show. This process works perfectly when building a textural gradation. When I reach the circular, center highlights, I put many washes to make it almost white.
When I am finished, the area where the acrylic is painted has coolness to it. Opaque mediums always create a bluish tone. To counteract that, I wash a light, warm color of acrylic over the white area to bring it together. Sometimes, I’ll go back just to touch in the highlight – if it becomes too dark after this overlay. Another way to do this is by using a light-colored pencil over the area. Rubbing that with a tissue, smoothes out the pencil and has a similar effect of “staining” the bluish areas.
To solve the shininess that bothered me on the acrylic areas of my paintings, I add a matt medium to those shiny areas. It makes the shine less apparent on transparent, dye paintings. Matt medium is a clear glaze that goes over the shiny area. When it dries, the area becomes matt. Badger also sells it.
The acrylics are excellent in creating the hives on strawberries. They do not bleed at all, and I can paint the red, strawberry color right over them. Incompatibility is once again an excellent tool. I utilize incompatibility when creating strawberries using my marker technique. I’ll do the hives first with a water-based marker, and then go over it with the solvent markers. After I mount the marker paper, I utilize the same acrylic technique to finish the illustration as when working with dye.
I usually follow an angled, grid pattern for the hives. I first paint them in dark umber with acrylics. After that, I paint in the red dye right over those hives.
I go over each hive with a subsequently lighter and lighter umber color. The lightest hives are the ones in the highlight area.
To create the highlight shine on each berry, I follow circles around each hive to create the pattern I’m looking for. The strawberry highlight pattern is almost the same as the peel texture; it is just larger and more geometric.
I put darker red shadow on the side opposite the highlight. I always lighten the bottom edge to give the appearance of reflected light. I do that on the peel textures, too.
I hope all this information was appealing! I guess I’ve created “pulp” non-fiction!
A DROP OF INFORMATION
When I create a water droplet, I follow a specific formula. Here it is:
The droplet always has a slight, softened drop shadows underneath it – opposite the light source.
The top of the droplet is two times as dark as the bottom. With watercolors, I used to mask out the droplets. Now I just decide where I want them and draw a very thin outline with my brush. At the top I darken it.
On the underside, I lighten to half as light as the surrounding area. To do that, I can sometimes pull the paint out by wetting the area and dabbing it with a tissue. That is always a good way to start.
To further lighten it, I’ll add a little acrylic or colored pencil.
The best, most exciting part is adding the dot of highlight when I’m all finished!
To create the appearance of a moving droplet, I elongate the shape. I do not close off the top – but let it gradate away.
Too many highlights can look repetitious. They must be well placed and not repetitive. I always vary the sizes and shapes as much as possible. I’ve also create droplets that do not follow my pattern on certain occasions – especially when using a different light source.
I’ve also created droplets that stand on the outside edge of my object. I follow a similar pattern for that, and experiment often to get the effect I want.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to experiment. I would never have learned all that I have without intensive experimentation!
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