top of page
  • Writer's pictureKevin Roeckl

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.

Putting watercolor wash on grey paper for a Doberman portrait, in Kevin's studio


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.

Putting watercolor wash on grey paper for a Doberman portrait, in Kevin's studio


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.

Putting watercolor wash on grey paper for a Doberman portrait, in progress


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!

Completed underpainting on grey paper for a Doberman portrait, in progress


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.

Canson Mi-Teintes paper, badly buckled from using water on it.


From the Studio Blog logo
bottom of page