Sketch to Final Image
Painting on wood panels is a fairly new venture for me. It’s a testing ground; a place for me to try new things. This piece, a portrait of my niece Scarlett, was inspired by a photograph of her in a silly fur hat. Scarlett sees the world through dreamy eyes with an appreciation for the absurd and I wanted to capture that. When I work in my signature style of watercolor and ink on paper I have a pretty good idea of how the finished piece will look. Since painting on wood is still experimental for me, I’m not as certain of the final outcome – which is part of the fun. Here is how it evolved.
Initial sketch on tracing paper.
Prepped wood panel on left; sketch superimposed over photograph of the fur hat on the right. To prep the wood panel (8.25″w x 9.25″h) I sanded it down and painted back and front with a primer color. Next I painted the front with thinned glue and applied a piece of tissue paper that I had tie-dyed years ago. Yes, tie-dyed tissue paper. That seemed a good choice for Scarlett. The tissue paper wrinkles, of course, creating some texture.
When the tissue paper dried, I painted over it with a coat of pale green and white mixed with matte medium and then scrubbed part of it off with a damp rag. Next I covered the back of the sketch with purple pastel so I could trace the image onto the board. I kind of wanted to stop right there!
Next was the underpainting which was mostly gray and toned-down blues. This is a step where I have to keep the faith.
Next I begin to lighten and layer. I restricted my palette to blues, greens and grays. I use acrylic, watercolor and gouache paint and matte and blending mediums.
And here she is again, completed. When I am finished with a work on wood, I apply several coats of a spray varnish to protect and give it a glossy finish. Scarlett looks a little other-worldy here – mission accomplished.
I save all my sketches when I am working on something new. I like looking at how an idea evolves from start to finish. The image I created for the header on this site was done in a quick frenzy one evening. I wanted something simple, representative of my love of line drawings and of me, of course. I started with a full body sketch that was originally done for this painting and focused just on the head.
Subsequent sketches became more stylized. I wanted to play with words and incorporate lines from one of my favorite poems, To the Woman I Will Be Fifty Years Hence, by Virginia Moore but wasn’t satisfied with any of the results (although I still like the idea and will probably revisit it).
In the end I went with a very simple line drawing, done with India ink and brush on layout paper. I did two original versions, one left leaning and one right, instead of cheating and simply flipping the image horizontally in Photoshop. I did do a little Photoshop magic by erasing the white background and layering the image over a yellow watercolor background I had scanned for a previous project.
Start to finish about four hours. It was only after I uploaded the image that I realized I hadn’t signed either piece, which is a bummer, but I’m far too lazy to go back and do it all over again. Maybe tomorrow.