Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Glimpse of Sky

At times the binds of the world are too strong. They pull and cut and hold your wings to the earth. But just as you feel ready to surrender to those biting vines, a sliver of blue pierces through the tangle above. And you find just a little strength left to pull and reach, and try to find the freedom you were certain you would never have.

Here is the finished painting, 8 X 10 inches on hot-press Fabriano. I ended up using a bit of colored pencil at the end, to really push the contrast. Since watercolor dries matte, it's difficult to get a truly dark black. Colored pencil leaves a bit of a sheen, and ends up allowing you to push your darks darker.

I took a new direction with this piece in terms of contrast and color. Looking at my previous paintings, I always used a lot of saturated colors, and very rarely actual black. I've always had it in my head that black is never to be used in watercolor, and that's simply not an accurate 'rule' to follow! Black dulls and deadens color when used in watercolor, but sometimes that's exactly what you want to achieve. Here, there's a lot of grayed color, which lends to the dark and helpless feeling. This piece would not have worked with my regular saturated palette.

In terms of contrast, I think I'm starting to get a bit more comfortable and confident with pushing values. Using the 'desaturation test,' I found the piece reads well in graytones as well as color. This is not usually the case with my work, as it often turns to a midtone mess when desaturated. I suppose what I learned with this piece is - don't be afraid to use black!


  1. The contrast is amazing!! I never thought to use colored pencil after watercolor...I shall try it! And desaturating is a good tip!

    Those feathers look so soft and delicate, so realistic! :)

  2. Thank you! This piece was about 95% finished when I used the colored pencil. I used it mainly as a 'finishing' medium, by really pushing the values and also clean up my edges. One of the difficulties with watercolor is getting truly crisp edges, but the opacity of colored pencil helps achieve that.

  3. I know! Most of my time spent with watercolor is honing in on certain areas to get that crisp look. I think this tip of yours will really prevent future frustration when I paint! :D

  4. I love this painting so much!!! It touches my heart!!! Wish you all the best!