Wednesday WIP: Little Pink Skull

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:

Study for painting 3" x 5" watercolor painting This study is for a drawing I'm working on. Six hours into the drawing and I feel like it's just starting to emerge from a mush of pencil scratchings. But I dreamed the colors, and couldn't wait to get them onto paper.
Study for painting
3″ x 5″ watercolor painting
This study is for a drawing I’m working on. Six hours into the drawing and I feel like it’s just starting to emerge from a mush of pencil scratchings. But I dreamed the colors, and couldn’t wait to get them onto paper.

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.

pencil drawing
Pencil drawing for watercolor painting

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.

pencil drawing
Close up of pencil drawing

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.

beginning painting
Light washes over pencil drawing

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.

Painting of Aztec dancer
Little Pink Skull (unfinished)
Watercolor on Arches 300# paper
© Margaret Sloan 2014

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!



4 thoughts on “Wednesday WIP: Little Pink Skull

  1. Wow. What a great picture, drawing and painting. I LOVE her face the way it is now. Not sure what other plans you’d have for it. Although she has all the garb on her face tells all the story. You should enter this in artistnetwork or something similiar. I think NWS is accepting til July 31st. Beautiful job Maggie!

    1. Thanks Juliana. I still have to figure out the feathers at the top of her head, and try to get the face to go a little deeper in value. Also, the jaw is not turning quite right. There’s always something, isn’t there?

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