Saturday, January 31, 2009

Children's book Illustration in Watercolor

This is another watercolor illustration from the childrens book, Dusty's Beary Tales. While Mama and Papa Bear are hard at work making maple sugar, Grandpa Buzz and Granny Rose planned fun things for the bear cubs to do like looking for old treasures in the attic.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lesson #13 Tweaking and Refining Your Artwork

Last week we practiced perspective and shadows by painting overlapping pillows. This week we are going to review a few things.

When you spend many hours on your artwork you begin to see it in a way that isn’t reality. You need fresh eyes and a new perspective. There are several ways to do this. One is to put your work away, take a break, and look at it again later (maybe a week later!). Another way is to have someone else look at it to give their opinion. You can also stand way back across the room and view it from a distance. One of my favorites is to look at it through a hand-held mirror. Make sure you take it off your drawing table and display it in a vertical, upright position. Easels are good for this purpose. The point is to look at it from a fresh perspective.

I noticed something that could be changed in the first painting of these pillows. Can you see the difference in the second view? Notice the shadow under the white and blue pillow. The first picture indicates the pillows lying on a shiny reflective surface. The second, on a non-reflective surface.

How many times have you done a portrait, it looks beautiful, but it doesn’t look like your subject? Here is a way to get the features right using the grid method. Draw a smaller grid within the larger grid lines over the areas you want to work on (eyes, nose, mouth, jaw line, etc.). Make sure to draw your lines lightly so you can erase them easily later. (Review my lesson on the grid method if you missed it)

Shading is critical to any piece of art (except abstract art). Here is an exercise to see if you can see subtle differences in shading. Try to duplicate each square in the square below it. The first square is just shading, and the second is an example of how it is applied with drawing an eye.

Here is a tool I have used to establish value (lights and darks) in a drawing. Take a piece of paper (I used a card stock – just a little thicker than printer paper) and scribble on it with a pencil from light to dark.


Now smear it with a tissue, cotton ball, or your finger so it is smooth.

Trim the edges with a scissors and punch holes about 1” apart with a paper punch.

Make a black and white print of your reference photo and use your new shading tool by holding the holes over different areas of the photo to see actually how dark or light certain areas are by looking through the holes. You can then hold your tool near different areas of your drawing so that you sketch the values (lights and darks) accurately.

You can also make a color tool the same way. But that is for another lesson!

These few little suggestions will make a big difference in the outcome of your drawing.


Now take a minute to practice overlapping. White out the lines of items you want to be under other items. Click and drag my pictures right onto your desktop, and trace or print it from your printer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Children's Book Proposal Illustration in Watercolor

This is the proposal watercolor illustration I painted for the children’s book, Dusty’s Beary Tales, published by Harvest House. It measures 10¾” x 10¾”. The finished size in the book is 7¾” x 7¾”, approximately 1/3 smaller than the original painting.

This discouraged little bear arrives home from school after a frustrating day to find a surprise that just might cheer him up!

You can find more about my experience with this book in one of my previous posts.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pencil Portrait Drawing of a Little Dog, a Shih Tsu

This pencil drawing of my friend’s little dog, a Shih Tsu in three poses, was an absolute pleasure to do. It was done entirely in #2 pencil with just a slight touch of #5 pencil in the shadows directly under his feet.

This little guy was my friend’s pride and joy. When a group of us friends get together and take out our wallets to share pictures of our children, she whips out her pictures of Buddy. They dangle in a long string of clear, accordion-bellow-shaped pockets…at least a dozen or more, where he is featured in every conceivable costume and decoration! His Halloween and Christmas ensembles are most impressive!

Buddy is in heaven now, having a great time! So my friend has another Shih Tsu to love, named Natalie, with her own personality and showcase of pictures and ensembles – But nobody can replace Buddy!

Soon I’ll be doing a portrait of Natalie and I’ll post it for you all to see!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Lesson #12 Perspective and Shading in Watercolor

This week will apply what we learned last week about perspective and shading. These pillows overlap, showing perspective. And they have shadows.

Lets start with a photograph of pillows! Cut one from a magazine or arrange a pile of your own pillows and sketch them right onto a piece of watercolor paper or…


With a soft-leaded pencil (#5 or 6) scribble on the back of your magazine photo and rub it smooth with a tissue. Position your photo and tape it onto your watercolor paper. Trace the image onto your watercolor paper with an ball point pen.


Gently remove your photo and see your picture transferred onto the watercolor paper! Tape a border around your picture with masking tape – like a frame. Apply clear water on the background of your painting (everywhere but the pillows). Apply a very pale, diluted paint/water mixture of blue to the wet area you just painted.


Wash the paint from your brush and gently squeeze out the excess water and “suck” up extra blue paint where it has pooled. Now apply clear water to the lower and right sections of the top pillow. Don’t wet the area that is going to be the fringe.


Mix a mixture of cool-grey paint (Cool grey has a blue cast) using blue, yellow, and red (more blue, less red, and even less yellow). Keep mixing until you like it. Don’t forget to use water…this is watercolor paint! Apply your grey to the area you just wet on the pillow. Soften edges by cleaning and blotting your brush with a paper towel and running it along the edge of where you want it to look soft and gradual.

Next, wet the bottom pillow with clear water and apply some grey paint mixture around the bottom edges and the area where the top pillow casts a shadow. Soften the edges. Now, let everything dry. Then, apply clear water to what will be the red pillow.


Add a little red paint to your grey mixture to make it a warm grey (warm grey has a red or yellow cast) using red, yellow, and blue (more red, less blue, and even less yellow). Again, mix with water and keep adjusting the amounts of colors until you get it so you like it.

Notice I have shown you these little splotches that look like Mickey Mouse ears. The grey on the left is a cool grey (bluish) and the grey on the right is a warm grey (reddish).

Now lets mix a brown using blue, yellow, and red. The only difference between brown and grey is that I use different amounts of particular colors. If you end up with a green add more red. If you end up with purple add more yellow. If you end up with orange add more blue. And always use water!

Now lets paint stripes on the pillow. We don’t need to wet it with clear water first. Let it dry completely. Then apply clear water on the bottom half of each stripe.

Mix a darker brown by adding more paint and less water to the brown mixture you already have and apply it to the bottom of each stripe as shown. Soften the edges.

Next mix a golden brown by adding yellow to your brown paint mixture. Also add water to make it lighter. Paint on the cross stripes.


Next, paint the middle pillow with clear water. Make a mixture of red paint (and water) by adding just a little yellow to make it brighter. Apply it to the wet pillow.

Now wet the dark area in front and under the pillows with clear water. Make a mixture of cool grey paint (you know how!) and apply it to the front shadow area. Turn your paper upside down so it pools right under the pillows to make it look darker there. Let it dry.


Soften the edges (you know how by now! Good practice, huh?). Wet the area around the other pillows on the right and add grey to that area for a shadow. Soften the edges as it dries.


Paint a little red on the white pillow right near the red pillow. Soften its edge.

Now let’s go back and apply more clear water to the bottom and right of the striped pillow (just “lay” it in without “scrubbing” back and forth so you don’t remove the paint that is already there) and add more cool grey to make it darker. Soften the edges. Add darker red paint (less water) to the red pillow as shown.


Now add even more dark grey under the bottom edge of the pillows and soften the edges. Add a little grey to the white pillow and soften the edges while it dries.

Add a little grey around the tassels and soften the edges. Add some grey to the end of the white pillow, not going all the way to the edge. Soften the top edge as it dries, and soften the bottom edge after it is dry with a wet brush and blot it with a paper towel. Now mix a very dark brown (less water) and paint around the edge of the top pillow, making dark fringe.

Now go back and add, remove, blot, soften, and tweak it until you get it just right!
And sign your painting! See the finished painting at the top of this post…Notice the dots on the white pillow. They are darker in the shadow and lighter where there is not shadow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pencil Drawing of a Beautiful Woman in a Sari


One mid-morning I took several photographs of my friend’s mother-n-law. She posed for me among the flowers in my friend’s back yard garden. Sitting on this little wooden bench with an ornate, Indian, copper bowl, she is holding a branch of flowers. She was so composed and gracious.

I plan on doing a watercolor painting of this because the sari is so brilliant with all its colors against her beautiful skin.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Watercolor Painting of Holland Girls

This watercolor painting of Holland Girls was done from reference photos and sketches of actual buildings I saw in Holland, Michigan. I rearranged the scene to suit my imagination. I wanted to get all 7 elements into this composition (the trellis, the house, the fence, the bench, the girls, the ducks, and the windmill!) and they weren’t anywhere near each other in reality. The windmill is an actual 18th century working windmill, “De Zwaan”. The girls are from digital reference pictures I took of my 16-year-old brunette daughter in our backyard (Yes, both girls are from one girl posing). The ducks are from the lake near our house. Taking the liberty of changing something to fit an artist's preference is called Artistic License! Yet in my painting I have kept the elements authentic and their integrity intact.

21” x 28” original (contact artist for price quote)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lesson # 11 Teaching Linear Perspective in Drawing & Watercolor

In lesson #10 we made shadows in watercolor by choosing one color and adding its compliment to make it darker. And then we softened edges (see that lesson for review). Our subject was a figure from my imagination. Above is a little chart to show you basic body proportions of the human figure at different ages of maturity. Notice that a baby’s head is ¼ the size of it’s body. And a full-grown adult male’s head is 1/8 the size of his body. Notice where their waists and elbows are. Of course, some people have larger or smaller heads, longer or shorter legs or arms etc. but these are approximate averages. It helps to know this when you draw.

Have you heard of the word perspective? It’s a word that describes seeing things in distance. First of all we know that things look large when they are close and small when they are far away. These circles might all be the same size… like a car you see coming way down the road that looks bigger the closer it gets!

Or they may each be smaller than the one before it!

I have drawn some circles with lines that overlap each other. Then I have erased some of the lines to make the small circle appear far away and the big circle to appear closer. But…the small circle may be just as big as the large one but you can’t tell because it is far away…like a car coming closer.

And here I have erased different lines to make the small circle close and the large circle far away.

Now it’s your turn to have fun drawing some circles like this. Erase some lines to make some circles close and some behind. Make the smallest be in back all the way to the largest in front. Then make the largest in back all the way to the smallest in front.

An lastly, here are some pictures to practice drawing from a grid (see my previous post on drawing from a grid).

Next week we will combine what we learned today about perspective with what we learned last week about shading in watercolor.

You’re getting good!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Watercolor Illustration of Holland Posthouse

This watercolor illustration of Holland Posthouse depicts a charming Dutch community not far from Grand Rapids, Michigan called Holland. This colorful, friendly area features a 7-day tulip festival in early May. All year long you can visit a re-creation of a 100 year-old Dutch town. With my camera I visited Windmill Island, a 36 acre park of tulip gardens, dikes, canals, shops, the Posthouse, and "De Zwaan" the 18th century working windmill that still grinds grain into flour. Just north of town is a tulip farm, a wooden shoe factory, and the only factory in the U.S. that makes authentic Delft pottery. Springtime in this place inspired me to paint a series of three paintings: Holland Posthouse, Holland Girls, and Holland Bridge (still in progress).

28" x 21 original (contact artist for price quote)

Friday, January 9, 2009

Plein Air watercolor painting of a Vineyard

This is a Plein Air watercolor painting of a vineyard in Southern California in early summer. Painting on lacation is usually very challenging. It looks easier than it is. Many times I have thought about quiting painting altogether after outings on location. Many times, after packing my gear in the car, with nothing but kindergarten-looking results after 4+ hours of "work" I have shed frustrating tears of failure, vowing never to get out my French easle and umbrella again! But I learn something each time I go. And so I try again...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Art Instruction

I have found two helpful websites for those of you who want to learn more about painting. Each offers wonderful additional free instruction for drawing, watercolor, oil, acrylics, pastel, links to other artist's demonstrations, and more. Watercolorpainting.com and Artinstructionblog.com. I have included these sites under My Favorite Links in the sidebar.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lesson #10 How to Paint Darks and Shadows in Watercolor

Painting darks and shadows in watercolor is really easy. It just takes practice.

I’ll start today with drawing a figure of a woman from my imagination (Don’t worry about this part because I’ll teach the basics of drawing people in another lesson).

You will need watercolor paint, paint brushes, paper plate (or watercolor palette), big mouth containers of water, paper towels or rags, #2 pencil, a soft pencil (#4, 5, or 6), eraser, Hair blower (optional), and the color wheel you made from my previous lesson.

Start by making a drawing of a stick figure on scratch paper. Add the contours of underlying muscle covered with skin, and crisscross marks on the head for placement of facial features. Draw indications of clothing. Then erase the stick lines of your figure.

Refine the lines of the clothing. When you are finished turn your paper over and scribble, covering the area under your drawing with a soft lead pencil (#4B, 5B, or 6B). Then take a wadded up tissue and smear it all over by rubbing it. Now you have a carbon transfer sheet.

I like to do all my preliminary drawings on a separate sheet of paper before transferring it to watercolor paper because I do a lot of adjusting, erasing, changing, etc. and all that business would ruin the surface of the watercolor paper.

Turn your carbon/drawing right side up and place it on top of a piece of watercolor paper or illustration board. Tape it down at the top. Now trace the lines of your drawing onto the watercolor paper with a ballpoint pen or hard pencil (#HB). Remove your drawing and you are ready to start painting! If some of your pencil lines are too dark take a kneaded eraser to lighten some of them up with a gentle blotting motion. Now, choose only one color to paint with. I have chosen yellow-orange (see my previous post on how to mix this color from the basic primary colors yellow and red). But you may choose any color you like!

Squirt a little paint on your plate and mix with a little water to make your desired color – not too thick or too thin. Wash out your brush. Set your paint mixture aside for a moment.


Now paint just the hat and dress with clear water on your drawing. Add more water if any part dries up. Gently squeeze out the water from your brush with a paper towel without scrunching or pulling the bristles and “suck” up any excess water with the dry bristles. I am doing this near the bottom of the dress here.

Now load your brush with some of your pre-mixed paint and begin applying it to the wet areas of your drawing. Just watch what it does…this is really fun!!

Let it dry completely (You may use a hair blower on low to speed things up a bit).

Now look at your color wheel and find your color. Now find the color straight across from it. Hurray! That is called its complimentary color (If you chose green its compliment would be red. If you chose purple its compliment would be yellow).

Now, on my paper plate, I’m going to mix just a little bit of bluish-purple to my mixture of yellow-orange (because that is it’s compliment) to make it darker. And I’m painting a little sample on a scrap piece of watercolor paper to see what it looks like.


Do you see where I’ve added a little sun up in the right-hand corner of my picture? I’m imagining the shadows from that light as I paint a little of my darker mixture on the under- side on her hat. Now, quickly clean your brush in clear water, dab it off a little on a paper towel and run the brush along the sharp edge you painted to soften it. Paint dark paint in other places where you imagine the sun casts a shadow. Rinse your brush, dab, and soften the paint edges with your damp brush. Turn your paper if you need too!




Right about now I’ll bet you notice that your painting is a bit rough and messy! There are streaks of paint that are too dark and streaks that are too light. That’s actually a very nice style! But if you want it smooth you can blot away the dark streaks.

Wet your brush with clean water, shake off the excess or touch the brush on a paper towel to remove the excess water, and "clear water" paint onto a dark area you want to make lighter. Take your paper towel and blot that spot. Notice that it’s removed some of the paint! Continue until you have it as smooth as you like. Add more paint if it becomes too light – back and forth.

Now pencil in and shade the woman’s features (or paint it if you’d like)!

Just keep practicing and you will get better. I'll give you other lessons to practice, some easier, some more challenging. It's nice to look at a photo also, so you can actually see how the sun shines down on the subject you are painting.