When you have an art block or just don’t know what to draw or paint, recreating an old piece might be a good idea. You already have a theme, so you can focus on the progress. You will see how much your art has improved since that old piece that will help you build confidence.
Comparing yourself to your old self is the only good kind of comparison.
I’ve chosen a drawing that I’ve created in December, 2015, using colored pencils. I’m very curious to see how much I’ve learned in the last two years. 🙂
This is not a step by step tutorial, I don’t show and explain every minute of the process, but I share the things I’ve learned about watercolors so far.
Materials I used:
- 4H graphite pencil for the initial sketch
I have a custom palette of watercolor paints. I’ve bought a basic color set of Van Gogh paints, and added my favourite colors of Schmincke.
I mostly use synthetic brushes, and I like them very much! I also have a Siberian squirrel mop brush (I only bought it because I thought that if it lasts longer than the synthetic ones, then maybe it’s a bit better for the environment), but honestly, we are not the best friends yet.
- watercolor pencils
For a long time I used my Faber Castell Polychromos pencils for the fine details, but last year my boyfriend bought me a set of Caran d’Ache Prismalo watercolor pencils, and I’ve been using those in my watercolor pieces since then. Polychromos is still wonderful, but Prismalos don’t contain oil (or wax), so they look the same on paper as watercolors. I sometimes add water to them, but for the small details I use them dry.
- watercolor paper
I use several brands, but my absolute favourite is 300g Arches hot pressed paper. Unfortunately, it’s not available in Hungary (I’ve bought it on Ebay), and it’s expensive, so I use cheaper paper for practicing, and for ‘not too important’ paintings. I love hot pressed paper because I like to work in a small scale, and most of the time I use pencils for the fine details. Rough paper is not suitable for this. I don’t use masking fluid, because I’ve had some not too good experiences with it in the past, but it might be helpful for you.
1. Planning and the sketch
Before I start sketching I spend a little time examining the old piece, and writing a small list of things I like and also those things I want to change. I don’t like to plan everything, because it ruins the fun, but I need a base to work with.
Then I lightly sketch my new black snow princess directly on the watercolor paper.
2. Watercolor layers
I’m not an experienced watercolor artist yet, so I like to work in light layers (glazes). What’s great about this is that it’s rather easy to correct mistakes, and I can change a lot of things (even main colors) during the process. Arches paper absorbs paint very well, and it’s hard to lighten or lift colors after they dry, so I have to be careful.
Before adding any color, I like to paint a layer of clear water on the sketch that fixes the graphite powder.
I use a limited palette of greens, turquoises, blues and Payne’s gray for the darkest parts (it’s called analogous color scheme). I like using limited colors in my works, especially cold colors, but I cannot explain exactly why. I guess it’s just part of my style. 🙂
First I add a light, flat layer of colors on the background, hair, clothing, and face to see if I like them, and let this layer dry. This layer is not very nice and even, but it’s not a problem, because it’s very light, and I can correct any imperfections later.
When I need an even wash, I wet the paper before adding the paint.
Then I start working on the background using the wet-in-wet technique. I want to have a nice texture, but a blurry, distant feeling, to create a 3D effect on my painting. I just have fun here, using light colors and allowing the paint to do whatever it wants to do. Wet-in-wet painting is very unpredictable, you don’t have much control, so it’s perfect to add interest to simple backgrounds.
When the background is dry, I add the first layers on the face. I have to decide where the light source is, and start adding the shadows. First I just use the bluish green face color, but after a few layers I also add some of the background blue to the darkest shadows. By doing this, I prevent the girl from looking like a ‘cut-out’. Shadows are never black, unless you’re working in black and white.
After a few layers on the face, I add a layer of bright turquoise blue paint on the hair, and then I work on the whole painting for a while.
I add the snowflakes, the crown, and the choker to see how it looks.
I darken the background here and there, add more shading to the face and eyes, and also start working on her clothing.
Often I add more than 20 layers of light glazes, and always let the latest layer dry before adding the next. It’s a slow process, but I don’t mind, because this way I let the painting lead my hand instead of my mind being the ‘boss’, which is very exciting. 🙂
3. Watercolor pencil layer
When I’m happy with the watercolor part, I switch to watercolor pencils.
I mostly work on the face adding more shading and the fine details. I want this part to be the focus.
I rarely paint or draw realistic hair. Instead, I like to use it to separate the background from the face, so I just add a bright flat color to it. I like the effect that it creates.
The hardest thing is to finish the painting. I always find mistakes to correct, areas to work more on, but I usually feel when I have to stop.
The last step is to sign my work and remove the tape.
I like the new version. She looks like an elder sister of the old princess. Does this mean that my art has started to ‘grow up’? 🙂
In the last two years I’ve learned a lot about my art supplies, techniques and colors, and I’m happy with my progress.
I hope you’ve found this post interesting, and maybe a bit useful too. If you decide to try this challenge, please, feel free to share your work with me (here in a comment, or via Instagram). I’d love to see it!
Next week I’ll have a similar post like this one, but jewelry-wise. I’ve already decided which piece I’ll recreate (a choker necklace), and I cannot wait to start working on it.