Lacy portrait in progress 4 - A challenge on grey
I’ve finished the underpainting on Lacy’s portrait.
The Canson paper I chose for this artwork is called “Pearl”, a soft warm grey. My previous post explains why I chose that paper color.
I’m putting in a watercolor underpainting for the background scene. That “tints” the paper, giving me the base colors I want to work on with colored pencils. Putting that basic color down first, in the correct areas, saves me a lot of coloring. 😉
This portrait will be a sunset river scene, a favorite place where Betty and Lacy liked to hike. The outlines of Lacy and the scene have been drawn on the paper with grey pencil. In this picture I'm adding a wash of yellow, peach, and pink for the sunset clouds and their reflection in the river. On white paper a wash of yellow, orange, and red would make pastel colors, but that same wash will darken grey paper. They'd be muddy orange and greyish-mauve --- too dark. So I had to mix white with the colors to get the right value (lightness/darkness) on grey paper.
In this photo I’m adding the muted greens of the distant shore. On my monitor is the reference layout I created from Betty’s photos with Photoshop, with swatches of the colors I’m mixing up now for the underpainting. I believe I managed to capture those beautiful sunset colors.
Blue sky added. It was a bit tricky because transparent watercolor doesn’t want to cover grey with a lighter color. Had to do 3 coats. I want the sky to be very smooth and luminous.
About the masking:
Lacy’s full-body figure is covered with adhesive masking film, cut out with an x-acto knife, because I want to make sweeping brushstrokes with blue watercolor for the ripples around her, and I don’t want blue on Lacy’s body. I didn’t mask off Lacy’s head study, because I DO want the brushstrokes across that area. Her head will be “transparent” on the scene. Usually you see me mask off figures to preserve the paper color when I make an underpainting, but in this case, I want the underpainting showing through her face. I thinned the watercolor more where it goes across Lacy’s head to give the effect of it being transparent.
I've completed the underpainting.
This gives me my base colors to work on with colored pencil: the right underlying colors in the right places to make the colored pencil the most vibrant it can be.
And the sky is done….without needing to do a whole heck of a lot of colored pencil scribbling. (And it would never look this smooth). Early in my career, before I invented this technique, that’s how I had to do skies. I hated doing them, and I hated the results!
One more step....
This is how buckled the paper gets from all the watercolor. (This is the back side of the paper.) Canson paper is a pastel paper, it’s not made to take water. I have a proprietary method for flattening the paper. That’s the next step before I can continue working on it. It’s really hard to make smooth, crisp, clean pencil strokes on this bumpy paper.