Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Getting a Little Serious About Painting a Portrait of Nikolaas

During my watercolor class in the summer of 2016, my teacher encouraged me to "work big."

He had seen my scribbling work in multiple sketchbooks and thought that, if nothing else, working in a larger format would inspire me to approach my art differently and learn some things.

He was right, as most teachers usually are, especially when they ask you to try something new!

Anyhow, one of the things this inspired in me was thinking, for the first time, about whether or not I might create a piece of visual art that I would hang on a wall.

Of course, that immediately caused me to panic about "wrecking" the painting or "wasting paper and paint" if I screw up.  So I told myself, no worries!  Just do a sketch on big paper and see what happens.

I've posted some of those results in earlier posts.

For this project, I approached much the same way, but with a slightly different intention:  I wanted to see if I could capture light and shadow in a watercolor sketch of my dog, Nikolaas, lying in the sun outside the house.  No worries about how it turned out.  It was an assignment for class and nothing more.

So I began by stretching the watercolor paper on a board.  But then I penciled in different margins for the painting, leaving white all around.

Using a photo reference, and some very scribbly pen sketches I had done from my hammock while watching Nik in the sun, I penciled in the basics of the scene.

Then I painted in the background, reserving the white for the dog.  I wanted to tackle those two things separately because I knew I wanted a wet in wet background, and I didn't want it bleeding into the dog's form.

Here is a photo of the work in progress at that stage:

After this was completely dry, I tackled the figure of the dog:

I let this dry and took it into my class, wondering if I should punch up some darks, or add different textures into the foreground.  But my teacher said, "Do NOT touch it!"

So I didn't.

Other than to take it home, frame it, and put it up above the mantel in my house.

The very first piece of visual art which I have created and hung!

Would I call this painting scribbling?  No.  I was intentional and careful and really working to create something specific.  I had a higher bar for the result than I ever do for my daily scribbling practice.

But this painting is the result of the thousands of scribbles I've done over the last few years.  I'm pleased with it, but the fun factor--at least for me--is definitely higher for the scribbles in my sketchbooks.

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