Monday, 14 April 2008

Two watercolours

I have been very busy with - well, work. My job, and especially the commute, is such that in the evenings I don't get round to doing any art. That pleasure is now restricted to the weekends. So I spent most of last weekend playing around with my watercolours. Ever since Cecilia came over during the Easter weekend and gave me a few sorely needed watercolour tips, I have been curious to try them out. Here's a try or two :-).

This picture of Ambiorix (click for a better view) was started when Cecilia was here. She taught me about adding separate washes, in one colour, to all the separate surfaces in the drawing. When she left again, Ambiorix looked like a Martian - I had painted the whole picture in Sap Green. It remained like that for a few weeks, until I had gathered enough courage to test whether I would be able to carry out the tips I had received.

Now, this picture is not exactly a work of art. Cecilia told me to draw something quickly, just to chuck some paint over it and see what kinds of effects could be got. The drawing was no good; even I can see that the arm and hand are too large and the shoulders too narrow, and let's just not mention my expertise at landscape drawing ^_^;... But hey, I don't think that in terms of painting it is quite so bad. Cecilia is probably wincing now, but seeing where I come from... I mean, if things look wonky, it is not the paint that does so, which is a huge improvement for me! It probably looks a lot of other things, things that unfortunately don't include 'brilliant', 'sparkling' and 'amazing', but nevertheless I like to think I have made some progress, no matter how small :-).

This picture I did after the one above. I started it as a commission from a friend, who asked me to design the card that is to announce the birth of her first baby. She did not want any babies, cribs or other classics in sight, and sent me pictures by Dulac and Rackham by way of guides. The paper choice was risky: it is lighter than watercolour paper, and the pale yellow was bound to have an influence on the colours. I did not dare to add layers, and the colours indeed all turned out different from what they would have been on white paper. They all look very pale, the reds and blues turning out pastel. I am not unhappy with it, though. It is difficult for me to pin down my own feelings about the picture because I haven't done - or really felt the urge to do - something like this since I was a teen. I like stronger effects than those of my old books of fairy tales. This is too much sugar - but the fact that it was supposed to announce a baby did not exactly invite sharpness. For too much sugar I am pretty happy with it; but as I said, it is something I have sort of moved beyond mentally.


Cecilia said...

Please, don't flatter me as if i was the great master of watercolours! I just showed you some techniques that I didn't invent and that were taught me by my illustration teacher (btw, his site - with his working partner - is here )
My first watercolours following the "drop technique" (he called it like that) were pretty unsuccesful, and I preferred not scanning them. The second row was a bit more accomplished, but while I still quite like my Cinderella's watercolour (, I think that my Sleeping Beauty lacks any body ('addor%20grande.htm). As you may see, from the start I tended not to ink my watercolours, even if when I did (as in my Snowwhite here the result was clearer.
All the watercolours I showed you above are dated 2001. This means that I have been practicing the "drop technique" for seven years now... and the research for a good result isn't yet finished.
You may see, for example, one of my first try in leaving white lines between colours... (

I think that your watercolour's drawing up is much more even now, and I like the reading lady a lot (it isn't sweetey at all for me ^^). Please remember that it's almost impossible to obtain a 100% even watercolour drawing up, and that the secret is in utilizing the normal watercolours blots and pools at your own vantage, to make the illustration more interesting.
Look at Anke Eissmann's magical watercolours ( and how much watercolours blots rend the thing more interesting.

Ah, if you want, this is the romantic story with English translation I told you:

ampersand said...

ARGH! ARGH! So many examples to live up to XD!

Yes, I know the trick is to make blots work to your advantage... Sometimes I succeed in getting some that don't annoy me at all - rather the opposite (like the grass-green at the bottom of the Lady picture). But more often the paint happens to dry up in a way that I don't like, and when it does, it's mostly because of something I did wrong :P.

I didn't mean to flatter you just because *g*. I like your work, and your approach to paint. It's true that the things you told me about watercolour are not of your own invention, but they really did help me a lot, and they have made it much more fun for me to experiment. Last weekend I did six little character portraits in watercolour - it was great, even if some things went wrong :D. Before you helped me out, I was getting very discouraged and nervous about taking out my brushes. Now I am trying things out, and that is the only road to improvement...

I'm in a hurry agin :(. I really want to go through your things at my ease - and look for more Asanor!

TDEC said...

Hm. I've been reading your LiveJournal for some time and just finally made it here, and have been really enjoying seeing your characters develop here. I especially like this picture, which reminds me a little of Sulamith Wufling, albeit less...esoteric. Which is a good thing. Anyway, this has been a nice discovery.

ampersand said...

Thank you for coming over! I really appreciate it :-).

I had to look up the artist you mention; I hadn't heard of her, though I am now thinking I may have seen some of her work. She gets that lovely, transparent effect I keep striving for (but never attain), and she has the same amount of control that I also see in the work of Rackham, Dulac and other great watercolour illustrators. Yum. Must check her out; thanks for the tip!