Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Watercolour tutorial - Dachshund portrait

 Watercolour portrait of Standard Longhaired Dachshund
Ch & Aust Ch Tekalhaus Masterpiece

In this brief tutorial I will aim to show you my watercolour painting process resulting in a portrait such as the one above.

I'm afraid that I don't have any WIP photos of the head being painted, but as the procedure is the same as the body I don't think this is a problem. You can see here that the basic colours and tones are being laid in and no paint is applied where the highlights will be eventually. I put the blue background in before I start painting the dog and don't worry unduly if it overlaps the outline of the dog a little. Blue - it's French Ultramarine - is reasonably easy to scrub out - not completely of course, but sufficient for my needs. If it were green that would be another matter! The paint at this stage is of a watery consistency.

In the painting above, you can see I have started to add the fine detail of the hair. If you look, you will also see where I have added more colour to the side near the front of the dog and also scrubbed out some colour. I have an old brush which I keep purely for scrubbing out - a horrible looking old thing but which does the job just right. I tend to keep it in water for days on end - poor old brush! When I paint the hairs, I splay out a round sable and use the paint reasonably dry but not too dry which would cause drag marks. I don't paint individual hairs as I prefer the more natural look obtained when several hairs are painted at the same time. 

In this painting, the final outcome is becoming very clear. You will see that not only do I reserve white or pale paper for the highlights but I also use white watercolour. Now many of you will know that using white or black paint in watercolour is very frowned upon and for many years I used neither. I don't know exactly why but one day I became irritated at following 'the rules' and decided to go my own way. Now I use both white and black watercolours. However, I use them very, very carefully. If you want to deaden a painting there is hardly a quicker way than using white and black indiscriminately. I never mix white with any other colour as I loathe the chalky, lifeless quality it gives. As you can see above, I have used white on the hightlights of the dog - however, as the paper was already much lighter in these areas, only a small amount was needed and laid in very lightly. I will sometimes use a colour over white paint but very, very carefully so as to not disturb the white underneath as I don't want it to mix with the colour above. If it does, then I remove the lot with my faithful scrubbing brush. When I use black I sometimes use it neat but often mix a little blue or brown into it. Perhaps I should also mention the grass. This is painted starting with the lightest colours gradually working in the darks with very little scrubbing out as greens don't like it! 

I always paint on Saunders Waterford NOT as I like the level of absorbency this paper has. It is also good natured and will allow judicious scrubbing out although all watercolour paper needs respectful handling. I only use sable round brushes except for the sky where I use a 1" flat which is a mixture of sable and man-made. My faithful scrubbing brush is also a mixture of sable and man-made.

The colours used in this painting were: French Ultramarine, Lamp Black, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre (very little as it tends to be chalky-looking), Lemon Yellow (this together with Lamp Black give a rather nice olive green), Sap Green. To the best of my recollection these were the only colours with possibly the addition of a green which I've had in my box for so many years, I don't know what colour it is - I only use a tiny bit.

I do hope this little 'tuition' has been helpful to any aspiring artists out there. 

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