If you liked the atmospheric effect created by dripping alcohol into watercolor wash in the earlier mermaid post, here’s a very similar drawing with a slightly different background texture. Sprinkling ordinary table salt into your freshly painted watercolor wash makes a rich, grainy texture that looks a little like crystals, a little like foliage. It’s a fun and slightly unpredictable way to make interesting backgrounds. I salted only the top and bottom of this small (4×6) rectangle, so that the middle would be smooth enough to add a fairy and her friend. They were painted in watercolor, with finishing details drawn in Prismacolor (the color is Terra Cotta).
Any type of salt will work. Using coarse salt, such as rock salt, results in a larger pattern. Sprinkle it directly into the wet watercolor layer, then allow it to dry completely. Overnight is ideal. Then the grains of salt can be brushed gently away to reveal the textures beneath.
This simple “profile view while holding something up” is a pose that works well if you are not yet comfortable drawing hands. While it offers plenty of possibilities — she could be holding up a small bird, a flower, a soap bubble, a friendly insect — it’s still rewarding to be able to choose whether or not you wish to paint realistic hands. Click here to see my tutorial on drawing them.
…and they’ve been keeping me very busy over the past few weeks, as my “Draw and Paint Fairies in Nature” online course rolls along. I’ll soon be turning my attention (and my pencil) back to other subjects. I’ll re-offer “Drawn & Decorated Watercolor Lettering” beginning April 28, and “Birds in Colored Pencil” beginning May 12. Yay!
What do you get when you combine figure drawing, plant/animal/insect sketches, basic watercolor techniques, drawing natural habitat — then season the mixture with fairy tale illustration? An interactive online course called Draw & Paint Fairies in Nature, which begins next week. There are still a few places left in this work-at-your-own-pace, personally guided drawing adventure. Here’s the sequence of our 10 lessons — the “Draw” segment of each is done in students’ sketchbooks, and the “Paint” segment is done in simple watercolor with a bit of colored pencil:
Lesson 1: Where do fairies come from? Draw: Val’s four-step sketch technique, infant proportions, simple facial features, sketch exercise. Paint: Using gouache, making skin tones, glazing and lifting color, baby fairy project.
Lesson 2: How do fairies fly? Draw: Toddler proportions, drawing different kinds of wings, sketch exercise. Paint: Very young fairy in flight.
Lesson 3: Why do fairies love flowers? Draw: Six-year-old proportions, drawing favorite flowers, sketch exercise. Paint: Garden fairy child.
Lesson 4: What do fairies wear? Draw: Older child proportions, creating clothing from nature, creating clothing for fairy royalty, drawing fabric, drawing fairy hats and caps, sketch exercise. Paint: Your own fairy finery.
Lesson 5: Where do fairies live? Draw: Teen proportions, sketching fairy habitats, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy at home.
Lesson 6: Why do birds allow fairies to ride on their backs? Draw: Adult female fairy proportions, drawing birds, drawing the seated figure, sketch exercise. Paint: Fairy riding a favorite bird.
Lesson 7: Who are the fairies’ other friends? Draw: Adult male fairy proportions, drawing small woodland creatures, sketch exercise. Paint: Fairy with a furry friend of your choice.
Lesson 8: Can fairies live in the water? Draw: Water sprites and naiads, drawing fins and scales, sketch exercise. Paint: Water sprite painted over a toned color wash, a trick for creating bubbles, creating very unusual skin tones.
Lesson 9: Are fairies always young? Draw: Older adult proportions and features, how to show age and wisdom, how to draw gray or white hair, sketch exercise. Paint: A fairy godmother.
Lesson 10: Are all fairies good? Draw: Expressive faces and actions – how to show a sly or mischievous nature, how to tell a story with your drawing, sketch exercise. Paint: A trickster fairy.
I’ve been having fun, creating examples for different watercolor techniques as I build up material for the Draw & Paint Fairies online course. This little naiad (water sprite) is balancing on a bubble that resulted from dripping alcohol into a layer of ultramarine blue gouache. Instant gratification — and a handy way to avoid trying to paint around all those round shapes! I photographed the process, step-by-step, and will weave it into a lesson on color wash backgrounds. I “borrowed” her spiny wing structure from an Asian flying fish.
I live on a hill, and the street that runs past my front door ends abruptly at the edge of the bay, four blocks down. It’s an easy walk, early in the morning, to watch pelicans dive for their breakfast and hear gulls laughing as they sail past overhead. And in the shallows, when the water is calm, the great blue heron stands motionless. I suppose he is waiting for the gleam of careless minnows in the water at his feet, but he might as well be posing for my sketchbook. A beautiful bird, bold enough to ignore a small woman nearby with a fistful of colored pencils, he makes a great model.
I’m honored to be the featured artist in the upcoming June issue of Colored Pencil Artists magazine — an issue that will focus on birds in colored pencil. I drew this heron, and his fisherman friend, with that event in mind.
The heron is drawn in Prismacolor Premiere, the soft-core colored pencils I like to use. After making a foundation drawing in Dark Umber — including all the major shadows and textures — I used just five other colors, layered on over the Umber, to finish the bird. His beak is Yellow Ochre, shaded gently with Terra Cotta (the same combination is used for his fierce eye). I don’t like to use pre-formulated grays, which seem a little flat, but prefer to blend a warm and vital gray by mixing Light Peach and Cloud Blue. All the gray areas on this fellow are created with those two colors. Then I used black, of course, for his dark mask and (very sparingly) to deepen the richest shadows.
The fisherman’s wings are based on the lovely (and enormous) polyphemus moth, a silkworm moth that is common where I live. The richly pigmented, slightly dusty feel of colored pencil is perfect for drawing lepidopterans, from monarch to cabbage moth.
‘Ruby Red’ Swiss chard, with its crinkled leaves and richly colored stems, is almost as much fun to draw as it is to eat. This year, instead of the traditional pot of New Year collards simmering on the stove, our first supper of 2012 was a chard and feta pie, incorporating ingredients from our winter garden. I love chard’s delicate spinach flavor and its prolific growing habit — plus, those lovely leaves are packed with Vitamins A, K, C and protein. And did I mention that fairies like it, as well?
This little drawing is colored pencil on acid-free vellum cardstock. Brilliant white with a smooth surface and a little more heft than drawing paper, premium cardstock makes a terrific sketching medium. Try it — you’ll be pleased.