Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cat WIP (Rikki - short for rick-o-shay)

Okay Vicki here we go. This is a work in progress of a watercolor painting. with the object of showing you how I paint fur. I'm using D'Arches 190 pound cold press rough paper. The rough texture really is a help when you are painting fur. It is, however, also my main paper choice. The branding painting was done on this paper, (300 lb) and the plaid in the shirts came out just as well. It is a matter of just the right amount of water in the brush to flow smoothly.

This is the original photograph I worked from, and this is Rikki. Doesn't she look pleased?

1.) As you can see, I have sketched in all the important parts. I have laid in black washes. The black areas fade to grey where there will be detail. Between her eyes are strokes of black, and I am leaving white paper there because there are some highlights. As a transparent watercolorist, I do not use white paint, but leave the paper clean for those places that need to be white. (Of course if the painting is nearly done and I Ooopst, I'll fix it with opaque paint when necessary. I'm an anal purist, but I am not altogether stupid!)

2.) As I move out from center, I am leaving more and more light spaces. Especially the whiskers. There is a very light wash on the right side of her face. I hope you can see that now there are more strokes than washes. I do try to get the eyes right early on so completed them. Later they were brightened and yellowed up some.

3.) Stroke stroke stroke. Building up from whites and greys to blacks. You cannot really see it here, but I am also adding a bit of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson here and there. They are both cool colors. (She's a cool cat remember!) Actually the Alizarin Crimson will mostly be around her eyes and in the black fur between and above her eyes. I'll use the Blue in the highlights. I'm doing gray strokes over and over to build up the depth of color to the right value. Each stroke is different because I pick up a bit of other color. It is subtle, but you know it is there because it gives the shape depth and not a flat black look. Important to note, I use a fairly dry brush. I don't want puddles but even strokes. Getting some roughness in the stroke from the paper helps achieve a realistic furry look. Also I use a fairly fine brush. I want the body of the brush to hold a fair amount of pigment so it flows out a very fine point. Doing so many strokes, I don't want to have to reload my brush after every one!

4.) Okay ... I think you can see more of the strokes in this one. Always follow the shape of the animal. Each stroke has to be put down just like you were tracing the brush on a the real animal in front of you. One stroke going the wrong direction, will show up. You might not know what the matter is, but that stroke would be it. Even when you can lay down a small wash, let the paint flow in the direction of the fur. In this one, you can see the Alizarin on her left side under her eye and along the side of her nose. There is a hint of Blue on the other side along her white spot.

5.) Notice here the left side of her face, your right, that the layers of fur moving out from her eye look like they are "moving." The illusion is created by first stroking the fur away from her eyes, the next layer is curled over and in and the last layer is curled out. Creating sort of a wave flowing from her eye out to the side of her head. This eludes to motion and shape. And on that side as you go down toward her chest, you can see the layers and layers of brush strokes.

Now I have to admit here that this is a very time consuming process. I have tried many short cuts but have never been satisfied with the results. I watch the photo carefully to be sure I am moving in the same order and direction as the animal presents itself.

6.) Ears, she has ears! And too much Alizarin over her eye which will be toned down later.

7.) I love blending the white into the black and visa versa. The same stroke technique still applies for the white area. With softer grays, and more bits of color build up the defining areas of tufts with more strokes than in the lighter areas. Actually these photos, especially the finished one at the end, don't pick up the tufts of white fur, like you can see them in the original photo. But I assure you, they are there. Oh, and if I mess up a whisker, I'll take an exacto knife and scratch it clean.

8.) More and more details as she takes form. Pretty soon I have to start on the carpet barrel she is in and I am afraid of that. It couldn't be done first, so now I have to risk the whole project on a mistake in the area that looks the simplest. HA! But I pulled it off. The hardest part is laying the fur over the carpet bits. As you can see in the final picture below, I cheated and lighted out the background enough to where all you can see is the shape of the barrel, and the fur can flow freeley without having to intersect with carpet.

The customer was satisfied and pleased. That is always reward enough. Almost! :-D

Please ask any questions you might have. I'm sure I either forgot something important, or didn't say "it" clear enough to be understood. Happy to help if I can.

All art, poetry and writings are copyright & cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission from Judith Angell Meyer


Vicki Greene said...

Oh my, I thought I was a patient person. This gives me something to strive toward although my paper of choice is hot press. Thank you so much for posting this.

Judith Angell Meyer said...

You are quite welcome Vicki. And the only difference between cold and hot press for you, and my technique, would be to use your brush a little drier than I use mine on the rough texture.

And you clearly know what you are doing as the hair on the dog was very well done.

After you doing that hammock I would never say that you were not a patient person.