A few weeks ago, I blogged about finding my arty sea legs. I mentioned my plan to focus on two particular techniques and a colour palette I’ve come to adore. In this tutorial, I’ll introduce you to both.
The first technique I adopted after reading about it on the blog of Natasha Newton when she very generously shared her particular style of dry-brushing. The other, I developed in response to my problem of not owning any PanPastels in dark shades and having difficulty creating shadows. Previously, I would only use Rangers Walnut Distress Ink to create shadows when using PanPastels but this was very time-consuming so I added another step using a Burnt Umber wash.
Materials for creating the background
- 300 gsm (140 lb) watercolour paper
- Zinc or Titanium White, Burnt Umber, Raw Sienna and Mars Black heavy-bodied acrylics
- Stiff bristled filbert paintbrush
- Watercolour mop paintbrush
- Low tack or tacked-off masking tape
- Sponge or spray bottle
Materials for creating the foreground
- Pan Pastels
- Walnut Distress Ink (Ranger)
- Burnt Umber acrylic
- Fixative for pastel
- Kneadable eraser
- Round Watercolour brush
- Liner brush
Step 1… Stretch the paper
To prevent the paper warping too much while you are working you can stretch the paper. Tape the paper securely to a strong board. Spray or wipe the entire surface with water and let it dry.
Step 2… Paint black base layer
Paint the entire surface using a black acrylic wash with a watercolour mop brush. Let the first coat dry, then paint the entire background with a second coat. Continue applying coats until you have eliminated any streaking.
Step 3… Create sepia vignetted background
To create the vignetted background, we’re going to layer sepia tones of heavy-bodied acrylic paint from dark to light, allowing each successive layer to show through to create a blended surface. Start by blending Burnt Umber and a smidgeon of Mars black. Create several shades of this mixture by blending Zinc White if you have it, or Titanium White if you don’t, in ever increasing proportions. If you’re using Titanium White, you may find you need to add a little Raw Sienna the more white you add, in order to keep it relatively sepia-esque.
Apply a coat of the darkest shade using a dry brush technique with a stiff bristled filbert brush. Let it dry, or give it a quick blast with a heat gun. Apply the successively lighter shades in turn, allowing the layers beneath to show through.
Beware of the “tacky phase” when dry-brushing. I’ve noticed when using this technique that it can be difficulty to notice when the paint is in the danger zone between the wet stage and the “dry to the touch” stage. Be vigilant of the tacky phase and stop painting in that area until it’s dry.
Step 4… Sketch Subject
Use a pencil to sketch your subject on the painted surface of your work.
Step 5… Layer Burnt Umber wash in areas of shadow
Apply a Burnt Umber wash to areas where the shadows might rest with a round watercolour brush.
Step 6… Add white PanPastel to highlight areas of light
Apply some white PanPastel thickly to areas where the light might rest.
Step 7… Colour subject with PanPastels
Colour subject with PanPastels. Apply the colour, beginning at the edge where the shadows might rest and work your way to the lighter areas. When using this technique, I always blend directly on the substrate, rather than mixing the colours first.
Step 8… Add finishing touches to subject
I added Ranger’s Walnut Distress Ink with a slightly damp liner brush to the shadows, used white PanPastel to re-define highlights and added the cloud to give the piece a bit more balance and contrast. Finally, slowly peel off the masking tape and seal your work with fixative.