Saturday 9 April 2016

Dog Project Watercolour - Part 3 - Rebooting

Well, I'm going to confess, I had some issues and I've had to make some big changes - but first of all, what I did following last time. I should add a few words of explanation actually because a few people on Twitter have asked me. Dog belonged to B, who is a very dear friend of mine and who is extremely kind to me. B rescued Dog about 6-7 years ago and loved Dog very much - and to cut a long story short, Dog, at a ripe old age of like 14, had to be put to sleep in early January 2016. I made B a canvas transfer of the same photo of Dog that this painting was originally based on, back in Jan/Feb for his birthday - a simple transfer of a CMYK laser print using Mod Podge (Matte) on a box canvas, which I then decorated in a mix of acrylic paints (375 Sap Green, 367 Oxide Of Chromium Green and 634 Naples Yellow, mixed to make an opaque sage green) and some of Tim Holtz's products to distress it somewhat - I sprayed on Distress Spray Stain in "Picket Fence" through one of Tim's layering stencils. I noticed at the time that Dog had interesting angles and shadows and would make a good watercolour, hence Project Dog was born to produce a watercolour to give to B as a gift.

Following on from the last instalment, I made a wash using Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolours in 178 Cobalt Blue and 448 Opera Rose so that I got a nice sky with a warm purple sunset descending into pink along the horizon. I also applied a wash in 503 Permanent Sap Green for the grass, adding shading by mixing 178 Cobalt Blue into the green along the grass underneath Dog.

You can't really see it in the photo as it's just a snapshot, not a proper photo for the blog, but the purple-blue sky came out really well and had a nice soft edge. I did this using a 1" black goat mop to apply water to the paper and then a 1" white goal oval wash to apply the paint.

It looked really nice...and then it all went wrong! When removing masking fluid (which had been on for like 24h - the instructions and other users online seem to say you have about 3 days to remove it in before it sets fully), it removed the top layer of the Bockingford 425gsm rough watercolour paper right in the middle of Dog's back... This meant that when I then applied 319 Indian Yellow, it 'clogged' in the 'pealed' paper and left a huge area of really dark I had to abandon ship, which makes me sad as the washes are some of the softest and most beautiful I've ever done.

There was also a second issue - Dog's face in this photo is at a funny angle and thus hard to paint, so I went back to B and asked for some photos of him - the original photo was one that another friend, R, took at a party we had back in December. I managed to get 3 photos of Dog that I thought might work and I thought a lot about how to imagine them in watercolour. 

Then...yesterday morning I was lying in bed watching YouTube and I found some lovely gouache technique videos and, as I'd just the other day been saying how much I should actually use my gouaches, I decided to reboot and, as well as changing photos, to change medium too!

So, this is the new photo of Dog I'm working from - I've drawn all over it, but you get the idea. First I printed it out onto white A4 printer paper using my laser printer, at the side at which I'd like to paint it.
Next, I prepared to make a charcoal transfer. First thing I did was cover the back of the picture with charcoal, I use Daler and Rowney Simply Charcoal in Medium, which I got in a Simply Artists Sketching Set, which is about 6 quid and really good value - I think I got mine for about £3 in the January sales this year - I always buy "kits" etc if they mean a cheap way to get a couple of decent pencils and charcoals. This particular set has 2 sanguine sticks, 2 charcoal sticks, an eraser, a pencil sharpener a sandpaper block, 2 paper stumps, 4 sketching pencils (HB, 2B, 4B, 6B - and they're really nice to use too) - that's pretty good value I'd say, especially if like me, you seldom use charcoal or sanguine or even pencils so just need some basic supplies...however, I digress! Back to the project! I covered the back with charcoal - the weird stripe on it is just where there's painters tape on the surface underneath. 

I then "polished" it using kitchen paper to remove all of the dust. I then applied another coating of charcoal and then polished it again - this leaves a pretty good "transfer backing" as I call it - it's stable and doesn't stain every surface unless you press hard and, if you've done it right, doesn't leave any dust.

I took the transfer-backed picture and laid it into the middle of a sheet of The Langton Prestige 14" × 10" 100% Cotton cold-press watercolour paper, which is sold by Daler and Rowney. It's a nice paper in terms of texture and so on, but these blocks do buckle if you paint quite wet, but gouache doesn't uses washes, so that's ok, right?

I added some registration marks and taped the paper into place with blue painters tape (which is cheaper in hardware shops than in art shops!) and then traced over all the main lines in the photo using an HB pencil from the set I mentioned above.

The image transferred properly and pretty cleanly and kept nice pale lines - it's important to use a medium charcoal and not a soft one otherwise the lines can be very dark and you don't want lines showing in the finished painting. I touched a few bits up with a 6B pencil (soft and pale) just to make sure I had every line in place.

I then taped around the area I wanted to work in so that I would get a nice border when finished with straight edges - there's a lot of paper either side of the picture - this image covers about 1/3rd of the width. I removed that black thumbprint using a putty rubber, which works well with charcoal, of course. So, now I have an image to paint, what am I going to do...? Tune in next time for the next instalment of Dog Project and find out!

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