30-in-30: Drapery in watercolor, with orange

Watercolor painting of dishcloth and orange
Dishcloth with orange
Watercolor on #140 Arches cold press

I really want to title this, “It’s a dishcloth, fella. Orange you glad you asked?” But I thought I’d be kind.

Here are the thoughts I had about painting drapery in the aftermath of a frustrating morning:

  • Take time setting up the subject. You want an interesting composition, with large shapes that are easy to see.
  • Plan the color scheme carefully. Remember what Jeanne Dobie says about “mouse power.” Those rodent-grays will make the saturated color glow.
  • Before you start slopping paint around, plan the highlight patterns. They will lead the eye and give shape to the drapery.
  • Draw the shapes of  the darkest shadows, and figure out how you can simplify them and connect them. This helps keep the painting from looking splotchy.
  • Then figure out your large shapes. Think of them as zones. Which zone will you use as the focal part of the painting? That should have the most contrast, the brightest colors. Which zone is closest to the light? Furthest? Paint accordingly.
  • Don’t get too dark too fast. It doesn’t give you any room to play.
  • Think more about the edges. For instance, figure out which side of a fold has soft edges (and maybe both sides of the fold have soft edges).
  • When painting the soft edges, don’t get all blendy. It looks mushy. If you look closely, there are some hard and soft edges in the rounded folds. They might be low contrast, but they are there.
  • Think more about reflected light.
  • Remember what Ted Nuttall says about shapes. Each shape should be it’s own tiny abstract painting.

It’s important to learn how to paint draped cloth for many reasons (like if you want to put clothing on your live model!). But as I was painting this, I realized how similar the folds in cloth are to the folds of hills and valleys in the landscape.

Drapery. More interesting but not as hard as eggs.




One thought on “30-in-30: Drapery in watercolor, with orange

Comments are closed.