Me and My Paper Towels

Still trying to get over the keepsake box. I've been undoubtedly restless, instead of being a rested bum. I've started a few projects, and one very ambitious First Communion dress, but more on that later. I'm really tired but can't seem to go to bed early no matter what I do and I can't seem to focus my energy on any particular thing. I know I want to paint, and I want to paint on a grand scale, I just don't know what. As I kick a few vague ideas around my head, and try to get a clearer vision, I figure it's best to get a little practice for whatever comes next.
Tonight I did a watercolor painting that I've been meaning to do since the Burritt Heritage Festival last October. One of the dancers there was a Lakota Souix/Cherokee (I think that's what she said but don't quote me on it) woman who did a dance I'm pretty sure I've seen on Reading Rainbow. That said, I really like the way the late afternoon sun was hitting her and since the dance was slow, I was able to do a quick sketch (think stick figure in action pose) and then whip out my camera and take a pic for color reference. I knew I wanted to make a painting later on. And now is that time! The picture may be a little disjointed since I took out the rails that were in the way of my camera and also much of the audience.

This is the first painting in many years that I haven't done any planning on - I just completely threw myself into it without thinking. And it looks nothing in these pictures like it does in real life.  I started out with some masking on the areas that I wanted to leave white, then painted the whole thing in a warm yellow to give it a golden cast. Then I started blocking in the basic colors of her dress, the shadows on the ground,  and the trees. This picture doesn't show it, but they had a lovely ethereal, haunting quality that I really loved and hated to cover up with foliage. Looking back now, with her form so flat, they totally lose the appeal that I remember.
 Then it was time to darken the colors! I usually only use cool red, burnt sienna, cool blue, warm yellow and a warm blue and call it good, but since this painting has so much more color to it, I also used indigo blue, cool yellow, and burnt umber.
 It was around this point that I found and watched the video I had taken of her dancing (I forgot I even took it) and realized that on the left side she doesn't have a really long sleeve, she's actually got a blanket of sorts tucked and folded over her arm. So I took some stripes out, while painting the rest of them in. Then I decided to paint in the audience after all. Originally I wanted this painting to be mostly about the dancer herself, so I was just going to suggest a background, nothing detailed.
 My favorite colors to darken shadows in watercolor are a cool red and cool blue. It has so much more life to it than black or grey. For the trees I mixed some different types of green and then also added some red in to the shadows.

I punched up the color of her skin since she seemed really pale; and I noticed in the picture that what I had originally read as being a highlight on her neck on the left side was actually a white necklace! So I fixed that too. Then gave her suggestion of an audience some more color so that it looked more like the photo but still kept the focus on my dancer. I also lightened up some areas in the background by wetting them with water and then lifting the pigment with a paper towel. And because I could wait no longer, I took the masking off to reveal many tiny shells, some of which I deepened the golden-brown color of, and some of which I added a hint of warm blue to. 

And last but not least, I realized I had completely forgotten to finish those feathers in her hand and on her head. I lightened up some areas a little more, took some of that awful red-brown out of the trees since it seemed so over-powering in photos (not as much in real life, but still).
And that's the end. It may be a little over-worked in some areas, but on the whole I kind of like it. It seems like more than just a sketch in my watercolor sketchbook. Which must mean that I'm progressing in some way, shape or form. A few months ago I would never even have considered something like this, let alone believed I could do it.
An after note: I realized the other day that I never even thought to check the dancer's proportions. They don't look that off to me, which is even more amazing.


  1. It's absolutely beautiful. I love the subject, and you did a fabulous job on it!

    1. Thanks! It looks more cohesive in person. I have no idea where the ability to pump this out in one night came from all of a sudden. Ten years ago, maybe, but not now!


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