A. I LOVE COLOR!
1. Color is your friend. Some colors are very staining. For example, violet is a dangerous color!
2. Utilize complementary colors to “tame” the brightness of dye colors. Dull colors are definitely more realistic. Brilliant colors stand out when surrounded by dull ones.
3. Cool vs. warm effects are very beautiful. Utilizing blue and violet colored pencil in the shadows can be interesting.
B. I LOVE CONTRAST!
1. I remember one of my teachers explaining how in the “real world” there is a huge dimension of light and dark. When compressing that into a two-dimensional painting, realism is about creating a vast range of extreme darks to lights. With watercolor, the brightest white is the paper itself.
2. In order to achieve the richest darks and the subtlest of variations, I always mix colors – I rarely use black dye. Black pigment is not nearly as dark and rich and mixing sepia and ultramarine, for example. The absolute, darkest black I’ve achieved is with black gouache, another medium. I’ve only done this occasionally.
C. QUALITIES OF WATER-BASED MEDIUMS:
There are many differences between watercolors and dyes. When I switched to using dyes, there was a distinct change in the smoothness and the colors. Dye colors are very transient and many of my original paintings have faded. Fortunately, I had transparencies of those images for my portfolios. I was able to scan the film and recreate my images.
1. Watercolor – grainy washes, puddles with dark/outlined edges, wet into wet “blooming” effects. Great for clouds!
2. Dye – brilliant, smooth, and transient colors
3. Badger Air Opaque acrylics – excellent for certain textures. Works best when an area is lightened and then other colors are “glazed” over it. Instead of painting opaquely with white added to paint, it is best to lighten the area first with white, and let it dry. Then add the colors in layers over it. This effect is far superior to mixing a color with white and painting.
4. Colored Pencil in combination with water-based mediums – a simple rule that is obvious; make sure the paper is dry first! Trust me, I’ve rushed it and torn a hole in the paper because an area was still wet. Sometimes, the waxy areas of colored pencil develop something known as a “bloom.” It is a hazy effect, such as a cloud of oil over the color. Wiping it down usually helps.
1. Qualities of mediums affect texture. Sometimes, utilizing color pencil is a very controlled method of creating the perfect texture. The main element of creating a nice texture is achieved through experimentation!
2. One of my favorite experiences was creating the texture of sand by splattering with a toothbrush. It worked!
3. Sometimes I’ve erased the paper away and worked over it again. Of course, that is tricky and can lead to an overworked mess!
1. Since I work realistically, I usually incorporate “reflected light” on many of my objects such as fruit. All that really means, is that usually on the bottom of the shape, I allow for a slight lightness. That would mean the light is reflected back onto the object if it were resting on a table, for example.
2. I always keep in mind the light source of what I’m illustrating. I try to keep all the shadows and highlights consistent with the light source.
1. Very important! The quality of the materials directly affects the results. Always use 100% cotton rag, watercolor paper. I use an excellent, sable watercolor brush. I can get the tiniest details, because it can get the sharpest point imaginable.
2. I’ve listed suggested materials, which I used to recommend to my college students on Post #16.
3. Always “stretch” watercolor paper. I use a hollow, plywood board, which should be available at an art supply store. I wet the back of the paper (keeps the front pristine). Then I lay the paper onto the plywood board and tape around it with moistened brown, packing tape. After that, I staple the edges of the paper. Once it dries, it is tight as a drum and ready to be worked on. You can’t have watercolor paper “buckling” when it’s wet. The final painting is cut away from the board with an exacto knife. My boards look like they’ve been sliced up!
There was a huge amount of pressure creating these illustrations, because the deadline was outrageous. They were completed within three days!
Solving the textural puzzle for graham crackers was fun. Colored pencil allowed for the “roughness,” and light toothbrush spatter was also part of it. I sometimes used an eraser to lighten and “roughen” up the texture, as well.
I searched all over to find a lunchbox as my reference. It was interesting to recreate the look of crayon lettering on a note that was part of the illustration. The lettering on the Honeymaid box (with a cute bee on top) was created using “rubdown” letters. I brought my reference photo to a special lab, which made them for me.
Mastery of the technique to create the “perfect” s’more was essential! I used a microwave (a flame that would cause blackening). The chocolate would be put separately on ½ a graham cracker in a toaster, and the marshmallow put on the other ½ in the microwave for approximately ten seconds. My kids always howled with delight to see that marshmallow puff up to huge dimensions!
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