Saturday, November 28, 2009

How to paint a Yellow Lab in the grass in watercolor

I haven't done a painting demo in a while, so I took 2 work-in-progress photos for this 5x7 watercolor painting of a yellow lab lying in the grass. Here we go:

Starting with a pencil sketch, erase all the unnecessary details so you are left with only the most important features outlined lightly. Use masking fluid to paint out the tiny white whiskers, the whites of the eyes, and a few highlights in the fur (anywhere you want to stay crisp white).

I like to start with the eyes and nose. Using any dark brown mix you like (I used French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber) paint the outline with a strong mix of color and very little water. Clean your brush. Dip it in clear water and paint around the outline as far down as the shadows go - then work your way up to the paint you just added to the outline. It will mingle with the water and give a lovely soft shadow. Allowing that to dry, we'll go to the nose.

Using the same technique, paint the outline of the nose with a brown/blue mix, then add clear water to the inside of the nose, allowing it to blend and mingle. Drop in a bit of warm red or brown to the watery wash. Allow to dry.

Going back to the eyes, paint a wash of yellow and brown and allow to dry.

Mix a pale wash of Yellow Ochre and Violet Lake - very watery at this point. Let the colors mingle a bit on your palette so that you can get a few variations in tone. Using a large brush that holds a lot of paint (I used a #10 Yarka round) paint in the basic shadows. While the paint is still shiny-wet, lay in some Manganese Blue for the foreground shadows (paw, near side of face) and a touch of French Ultramarine Blue for the far shadows at the neck and back of head.

For the background, we're using Sap Green cooled down with French Ultramarine Blue in the background, and warmed up with Cobalt Yellow in the foreground. All you want to do at this point is lay in the color, outlining the dog, so that you can judge the values a bit more accurately. If you don't do the background first, then you might be tempted to use too much color on the dog - a bad move for a yellow lab, as most of them have very little color at all, except in the ears. By choosing a darker value color for the background, you will be able to keep the dog's color more delicate.

Walk away and allow all of this to dry COMPLETELY!

Okay, you've had your break - back to work. This is where we start refining things.

Using a very dark mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber, paint the darkest shadows under the ears, and under the dog's muzzle. Or mouth. Or whatever you want to call that part. Now see where it gets lighter under the nose? There is more distance between the nose and the paw, so the shadow is lighter! I used watery Manganese Blue for that section.

Continue using the Violet/Ochre mix, with a little less water, to define the facial shape and structure.

Go back to the eyes and use a small brush for the details. Pay close attention to which direction the dog's fur grows in, and gently encourage the paint to follow the fur pattern. Darken the details on the nose, painting around the nostrils.

In the final stages, you want to add more Yellow Ochre to your mix and warm up the yellow on the ears, around the face a bit and on the paw, under the ear. When that is dry, go back with a light wash of Manganese Blue to punch up the color a little bit. Not too much, just enough to add interest and excitement. Paint the collar - I used the same Manganese Blue for continuity, because I didn't want it to be a focal point. But you could use any color you like - just be aware that if you paint it bright red, it will draw the eye up there and off the page.

Grass. This conjures up all kinds of dread in some artists, and a feeling of euphoria in others. It all depends upon your high school experiences and whether or not you excelled in Gym.

I didn't.

It's taken me years to get to the point where I am comfortable painting grass and not having it look like swamp water barfed all over the paper. Here's my technique:

Using a small, round (pointy) brush, take a dark green mix and paint it DOWN into the warm yellow mix (that is already dry on your paper). Then use clean water, or a watery mix of the dark green, to pull the dark green up into the background.

I'll do a demo on grass one day. Maybe I can have my teenage son help with the finer details.

~ enjoy!
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Kathleen said...

Very fun demo! I love the way you added the blue to punch it up a bit =) It came out very nice!

Pam of Always Artistic said...

Beautiful, I enjoy reading how you do things!

TJ Lubrano said...

I love it! And the tips you gave and are very very useful! Thanks so much! Ciao

Manon Doyle said...

Thank you for sharing Christy but you do know that I'm a lost cause as a watercolorist. When you said *masking fluid* I started to shudder....yikes.

This painting is exceptionally beautiful. The Lab is gorgeous and his coat is stunning.

Hey..... thanks for the tips on the grass.... I can probably use that!
Here's to you no longer barfing on your paper!! Cheers!

Anonymous said...

This is a marvelous demo Christy! I have a yellow lab so now I'm anxious to use your techniques here to try one of my own!

Chuck Dilmore said...

stunning, Christy!

yes, from someone
who can't draw a lick... but
also from someone who knows what he loves.

beautiful work and teachin'!

roderikmayne said...

Excellent demo. One of the most important things that you said, was go away and let it dry. One of the biggest mistakes we can make as watercolourists is to try to "fix" whatever we think is bad or wrong, usually with worse results!
I also really love the cupcake painting. What colours!

Anonymous said...

wonderful painting and post. i loved reading this process and your choices in colours as i was continually comparing what you said with the painting.

Christy DeKoning said...

wow - I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to all the comments left on my blog while I was crazily (is that even a word?) finishing up commissions before Christmas.

I'll try to squeeze in more tutorials in 2010.


lin said...