Experimenting with different ways of drawing/painting the same thing…

I’ve been trying to keep track of what I have and haven’t written here, though given the length of my postings, that isn’t easy.  What did happen is that I did make it out to the art store and I did buy some paints and canvas (though these are canvas sheets in a pad, not stretched canvas or canvas board).  The canvas pad would seem to be good for studies, though the brand I used here (Blick) warps a bit when it gets heavily wet…explaining why canvas is usually stretched.  I haven’t tried Fredrix yet, which was the other brand I purchased.

The first thing that I should have done today that I didn’t do, would have been to gesso the canvas sheet with a background color or tone.  I think that I was thinking more in terms of watercolor, here, though:  hence the tracing that turned out to be near purposeless when covered by opaque acrylic paint.

Tomatillo-1 version 1 on the left; tracing on the right.

My plan was to trace the more important lines in the original study I’d made, then transfer the lines over to the canvas pad using Saral paper (basically, carbon transfer paper).  I did succeed in doing this:

line drawing:  transfer onto canvas

…however, it would have made much more sense to do this if I had been making a transparent watercolor painting of my original study.

I may still do that, just to enlighten myself as to the differences in working methods between drawing, watercolor, acrylic grisaille (working only in black and white) and acrylic in color.

What we would have done in Painting class would have been to make the original study/drawing, then gesso the substrate that the painting would lay on with a background color, then make a loose vine charcoal drawing of what we wanted to paint on top of that, then seal the vine charcoal with acrylic glazing medium, then wipe out the extra vine charcoal with a wet rag, then paint on top of that.

What I learned fairly quickly when trying to work over this tracing (talk about tightness) is that it’s so light and delicate that it gets covered with the first strokes of opaque paint.  (The first study was in Mars Black and Titanium White.)  Given that I’ve had trouble concealing all signs of my underdrawings in vine before, I doubt this would have been much of an issue if I’d used fine willow or vine charcoal (which is much blacker than graphite) to provide guidelines.

I’m not sure of it, though.  I’ll have to test it out.

I kind of wonder, too, if a charcoal or carbon pencil would have worked better…but they would not be as easily erasable as vine or willow, both of which have basically almost no adhesion to much of anything…except maybe cloth.

Tomatillo-1 version 2

In any case, what I ended up doing was basically an entirely different method than I would have been working with, had I used transparent watercolor.  It became evident fairly immediately that the most efficacious route might have been to block in a body color in the shape that I wanted, then hit the lowlights and shadows, and then the highlights.

Well, no:  first the background, then the body color, then the lowlights and shadows, then the highlights.  Then blending.  (This is just what I’m guessing might have been easier, in my case.  Yours may be different.)

This is different than what I would expect for transparent watercolor, in which the lightest areas would ideally be left without paint, and then everything else could be filled in block by block.  I really couldn’t do that, here.  Well — maybe I could, but there was no reason to do so.  In my head, at least, the fewer layers of color one works with in transparent watercolors, the better, as this increases luminosity (or the amount of light reflected back from the paper).  With acrylic — at least with opaque colors — that is not a burden.  You can paint and paint and overpaint and mess up and correct it, and it’s OK.

What I could have done instead of the tracing and transfer was just to block in a large shape in color (like I did in my original drawings) and then refine it from there.  There was really no purpose to the line drawing, except to help out with visualization a tiny bit, and make me initially feel better about diving in.  But it wasn’t necessary.  I might even have gotten a better result if I just tried to paint what I saw in my original study plus having the tomatillo for reference next to me, without having anything drawn in on my canvas.

Tomatillo-1 version 3

The above one in green…I did after I did the grisaille (black and white) version right above it.  I’m actually really glad I did the grisaille version first, because it had less variables to manage when I hit the point of realizing that my underdrawing might hinder me more than help me.

When I went to the art store, by the way; I didn’t end up getting the Green Gold.  I went in there expecting something around $11 and it was listed at more like $18 for 2 oz, which gave me a bit of sticker shock.  The Web Match prices which I qualify for aren’t listed; it’s just kind of a nice surprise at the register.  So while I did go in there ready to purchase $20-$30 of paint, I wasn’t about to spring for $20 for one tube.  Basically, a mix of one of the Greens I already had, plus Bronze Yellow, will give a hue like Green Gold — or so I was certain of by seeing the color swatches and knowing my strength in color mixing — it just may not be transparent (and transparency wasn’t something I desired).

The main colors used in the above are Chrome Oxide Green, Cadmium Yellow Hue (this is the Bismuth Orthovanadate that I mentioned before), Vivid Lime Green (a convenience mix), Titanium White, and a touch of some more earth-tone colors like Bronze Yellow (a mix of iron oxides) and Raw Umber, plus a tiny bit of Indian Yellow (Isoindolinone).  I did get out a couple of reds and a blue (as I realized I could lighten a color using Chrome Oxide as my deepest pigment, but not darken it), but I didn’t end up using them.  Well, no:  I used a Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) for some of the greens, but I can’t recall where.

In any case, the color version was the most fun to paint.  🙂  (And yes, I realize I didn’t put in a background.  :P)  Could I have gotten there first without doing all the prep work?  I’m not sure.  I don’t feel it was time wasted, though, because I have learned a lot.

And, I’m wanting to paint more in acrylic.  It kind of forces me to be looser, and that isn’t a bad thing!  I have a good amount left in the canvas pads, so hopefully that will lower the entry level into playing around with these paints…

Ah — I almost forgot to mention, too.  I lost two tubes of paint, today, because either the cap failed (on my Blick Titanium White) or the neck of the tube just peeled off (like my Raw Umber Liquitex Professional Heavy Body paint).  When I say the “cap failed,” I mean that the part of the cap that one holds, separated from the part of the cap which fit around the neck of the tube.  With the Raw Umber…I have no idea what was up with that, except maybe it had too much UV exposure, or something.  I went to open it and the entire neck twisted off.

Raw Umber is only a Series 1 color, so I can get a replacement for it for about $8.  Still, it’s like what the hey…gah.

And oh, right:  I need to use a less-watery brush with these paints, because it seems to turn out better when I don’t get pools of paint like I would with watercolor.  I…wasn’t after my color moving around on the page, though I guess I can stop that by drying my brush a little after cleaning it…


4 thoughts on “Experimenting with different ways of drawing/painting the same thing…

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