Here’s a little tutorial.
There is a little school near our house where they often have events, complete with performances for the kids. One day they had dancers in full feathered Aztec regalia rattling their cowrie-shelled legs and swirling burning incense over the playground.
So dramatic! And I caught a beautiful image of a woman dancer that I really wanted to paint.
You might remember this was one of my initial color studies:
This was the finished detailed drawing. How many hours in this drawing? I’m not sure I could tell you. Time folds when I’m concentrating.
I paint on Arches 300# paper, a stiff, cardboard like stock, so I don’t have to stretch it. I use push pins to hold it to a board. Sometimes it curls while painting, but I can flatten it after I’m done.
As I draw, I’m not only trying to find the likeness, but I’m also thinking about the painting. Watercolor (the way I paint) takes planning, and the underdrawing is my page of notes. Where will I use lost edges? Hard edges? And those difficult in-between edges that can often describe form so beautifully? How will I apply the paint? What brush strokes will I use?
When I finally believe I’m happy with the drawing (I always reach that point too soon. I’ve got to learn to keep working even after I think I’m finished.), I start adding light washes.
The first light washes establish the color temperature of my painting as well as the values. I like a lot of pigment on my paper, so I know that I’m going to cover much of these beginning strokes with more paint. But these light washes are the foundation onto which I build ever-deepening color. After this, it’s all about layering.
I’m sorry that I got caught up in painting and didn’t make more process photos. This is unfinished; I am still working out the feathers in the head dress, and feel like I need to go a little deeper in value on parts of her face. Plus all the fiddly bits of the costume need to be fiddled with.
As careful as I was to get my drawing right, I still ended up glossing over complicated passages like the feathers in her headdress. Small drawing mistakes and fuzzy thinking magnify when you add paint, and I’ve had to scrub out those darn feathers a couple times to get the values and shapes to fall where I want them. I’m still messing with them.
When I’m finished, I’ll have a little dance of my own!