To save ruining a surprise, I had to wait to post about my latest commission until the birthday passed. It was really hard. Taking the tape off the edges, seeing the final painting with crisp, white borders… it was very hard not to post it instantly. Now that the painting is out of my hands, the excitement died down… kind of like a break-up. One sad aspect of commissioned work is I don’t really get to spend much time with the image afterwards, and I would argue one of the most important things an artist can do is reflect on their work after completing it. Definitely interested in doing more work like this in the future! This is exactly what I want to be doing.
It’s also been ages since I’ve painted a large watercolour – 18″x24″ or 45cm by 60cm – so I was even more excited about that. I’m not really sure why I’ve stopped painting large since there is nothing preventing me from doing it, and maybe I will just start tackling larger paintings. I’ve been under the impression people are only in a place to buy small works of art for the time being, I suppose. Larger paintings have always been my stronger suit too, as I’m not one for finessing lines and I prefer the natural grittiness, scratches, paint blots, and bleeding that happens when using something as unruly as ink and watercolour.
So here it is! Have a gander. Below, I will discuss the process and there is a 4K ultra HD time lapse video for those of you who own the right apparatus to play such files. If not, it’s still HD and I filmed it with out actual camera this time…not my smartphone, so it is very nice to watch.
One day, I will get a better photo of this painting, but here is a in a frame shortly after being unwrapped. How would you feel to receive a surprise painting for your birthday? They loved it, and it’s been a few months and we’re all still talking about it. I imagine it will keep coming up in conversation in the future too. As I keep saying, this is really what makes me happy to be an artist. The exhibitions, the fairs and features, that’s all good for my CV… but this is what it’s about.
As the gift recipient creates dive-welding suits, my job was to create an exciting image incorporating that as the subject matter. I created several composition sketches, choosing the one that felt most architectural and dynamic. It was a challenge to create a sense of space and depth in an image that is eternal murky water, as well to design a composition which allowed for a variety of shape, size, and detail. It couldn’t feel flat.
I intentionally leave out detail in my sketches to only focus on the overall composition. On the side, I researched and sketched various marine life and the natural workplace of a diver-welder. Once I transfer the composition to the watercolour paper, these sketches are used to fill in the necessary detail. Then, the painting begins. In this case, I choose not to do a colour study beforehand, as I was going to stick to the natural colours of the creatures. I feel there is a decent contrast between grays and blues and the saturated, warm yellows, oranges, and reds of the fish. The basic colour scheme underlying this painting is blue/red/yellow.
It’s not all flying colours… What I didn’t realize was that Arches paper doesn’t really grab much of anything, so when I applied masking fluid to pencil while I worked the water, it lifted most of it off when I removed it. I love using masking fluid, but it’s got its problems. It’s annoying having to redraw your entire painting, but things like that happen. Arches paper also doesn’t soak up pigment quite to the degree I prefer, as I paint fast, so that is why you will see me going over a colour multiple times in the video to get it to where I want. I would say it’s a paper for watercolourists who prefer to work slowly in layers, which is not me… I maybe use 3 layers to build up a form and that’s it. Final touches on this painting are clean up of the edges, printing and signing a certificate, and then packaging (which is not shown in the video). If you enjoy the video, please share it. It helps me plenty, as the Internet hates self-promoting by artists and is ever more-so a needle in a haystack environment. I hope you enjoyed it!