Sunday, January 8, 2012

Work in Progress: Plumeria II (Three Versions)

I've been working on some drawings for new paintings today, and looking through photos for some new painting ideas, but I still managed to work on the second plumeria paintings for a little bit more. Since I am not sure about which technique and surface would work best for it, I decided to develop three version of it on different supports: Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press paper, Arches #140 Cold Press paper, and Ampersand Aquaboard.

The first one is painted on the Fabriano Artistico #140 Cold Press paper, which I have just started to experiment with recently, and did the last plumeria painting on. It has a soft, delicate surface, great for lifting, not so easy for glazing. For this painting, I have underpainted the shadow areas with Winsor Violet (in areas which will be overpainted with yellow) and Cobalt Blue ( in areas which will be overpainted with pink and magenta), then with some triad grey to further darken parts that needs to be darkened. I am done with the underpainting, now trying to glaze over them with the local colors of each pedal.

Plumeria II,  Watercolor on Fabriano Artistico 140# Cold Press Paper , 5"h x 7"w, WIP 6

The second version is painted on Arches #140 Cold Press paper. Arches are famous for being touch and can really withstand an abuse, but unless you use transparent non-staining colors, lifting is really difficult on it. I decide to glaze from light to dark on this one, starting from the local colors -- all the pink hues near the edge of the pedals in this case. I will build up the glazes using Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue to develop the shadow areas, then glaze various yellow-orange hues near the center to complete the flower in the end. So far, I've been happy with this version -- it's also my most familiar surface to work on, and the method I've most comfortable working with. So my goal here is to use less layer of glazes and try to nail both the color and value in as few layers as possible to retain the freshness.

Plumeria II (Version 2),  Watercolor on Arches 140# Cold Press Paper , 5"h x 7"w, WIP 1

The last version is painted on Ampersand Aquaboard, a surface I am completely unfamiliar with. I've taken a two-hour workshop with artist Karen Vernon, who has painted exclusively on this surface for years, and have done some really beautiful work with it, so I thought I'd give it a try. The workshop was several years ago when I just started painting in watercolor, so I did not remember many things from it, except that you should wet the whole surface at least once thoroughly before start painting to release some air bubbles from the surface. It seems to dry really fast, but actually the surface stays cold and damp for much longer than ordinary #140 paper. However, when the sheen leaves surface after applying clear water (which is really fast!), the applied strokes of color stays pretty much where you put them, with the exception of some irregular, creeping edges developing, so doing soft, wet-into-wet painting are almost impossible  -- unless I am not doing it the right way. I did manage to get some soft passages by first wetting a local area, then add a stroke of color quickly, followed immediately by a stroke of clear water at the edge you want to lose. The timing is so critical it's almost acrobatic. But I like the how brilliant color stays on this surface after drying -- it does not sink in at all! And you can do some spectacular granulating effects on it due to the surface texture -- I really liked the purple passage in the background formed by dropping Cobalt Violet on shining wet surface! Also, you can glaze on it without lifting the underneath colors if you use a soft brush and apply the strokes lightly, and you can use a stiff brush to lift any painted area to a very light, off-white tint. 

I did the background on this painting first to get familiar with the handling quality of paints on the unfamiliar surface, then moved onto the flower using glazing. Since the surface does not stay wet for very long for soft color transition effect to develop in each area, I had to wet a small section each time, paint one or two strokes of color, and then move to the next area and wait for the painted ones to dry -- which actually takes quite some time, since the surfaces stays cold and damp for much longer than ordinary #140 paper, so it is going to be a very length process to complete this little painting... (I'm trying not to rush it and take it as a learning experience...)

Plumeria II (Version 3),  Watercolor on Ampersand Aquaboard, 5"h x 7"w, WIP 1


  1. Great posting, Arena! You are most clear in your descriptions of your WIP. I am interested in the Aquabord; I'd love to try it.

  2. Thanks Kathryn! I love reading your step-by-step too and I've always learned a lot looking at other artists' progress photos. The Aquaboard is a very interesting product, since paintings on it can be framed without a mat and glass. I know some really great artists like Steve Hanks started to use it in recent years to. It's very interesting to paint on, but quiet annoying at times too. *____*


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