Tag Archives: #figurepainting

Testing Materials (6) – Black Watercolor Paper

In the last post about materials, I mentioned that Stonehenge has a line a black watercolor paper. The official name is Legion Stonehenge Aqua Cold Press Black. It’s 140lb, and 100% cotton.

I ordered a pad and tried a couple of paintings:

Nikki, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12, September, 2020
Astrid in Design, gouache on paper, 9 x 10, September 2020

Here’s what I find out so far:

  • It behaves like a good quality 140lb watercolor paper. So in theory, you can use water.
  • However, as one can imagine, transparent color doesn’t fire well on black paper. You need a lot of pigment for a color to show, and the colors still dry lighter. So you can’t really use a lot of water.
  • Like any type of black paper, how you deal with value on it is quite counterintuitive.
  • In the first painting I used mostly watercolor and mixed in some gouache white in the highlight area. The second painting is gouache. I personally like the the gouache one better.
  • I feel like I am very lack of imagination with this paper. For the second painting, I believe I could achieve similar effect with ink resist method. While using black paper makes it easier in certain ways, ink resist could have some unexpected result. In other words, it is not particularly empowering.
  • It could be just I don’t know how to make the most out of it.

Testing Materials (5) – Black Drawing Paper

I have a Strathmore black drawing paper pad that I bought for colored pencil drawings. Unfortunately after a few attempts, I came to the conclusion that colored pencil is too testing for my patience and on black paper, that’s even more so. A drawing like the following, to reach the desired effect (smoother skin, brighter color etc.), would need probably another 20 to 50 layers of coloring (or skills I don’t have to begin with):

Lily, colored pencil, 9 x 12 in, 2020

So what to do with the rest of the paper? Gouache came to mind because the colors come thick and don’t need much water (or at least you can use it that way).

Jazmine, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 in, 2020

I very much like the effect, but as you can see there are wrinkles on paper caused by accidental water drops.

Here’s another one:

Monique, gouache on paper, 9 x 12 in, 2020

After I did these paintings, I found out that Stonehenge actually has a line of black watercolor paper. Order placed already, and stay tuned!

Experimenting with Materials (3) – Caran d’Ache

Caran d’Ache is a brand not a specific product, but I only know that now! The product is Caran d’Ache Classic Neocolor II Water-Soluble Pastels. My former watercolor teacher introduced it to me many years ago, and called it Caran d’Ache. Even though I bought a 40 colors pack, all these years, I never bothered to read the words on the package, and thus I never knew it was pastel!

I didn’t like Caran d’Ache back then. It’s waxy and leaves a mark like that of a crayon. It also won’t completely dissolve in water. I didn’t appreciate texture very much at that time, and was afraid of any mark that I couldn’t get rid of or hide. I only recently started to pay attention to marks making and textures, and how they enrich composition and set free expression. That why I decided to give the product more chances.

Here are some of ways I tried. First I just used it to sketch, and them apply water and watercolor on top of it. Toward the end, I used them to add more accents.

Catherine, draft.
Catherine, watercolor, 7.5 x 10 in, 2020

I also tried to wet the paper first, with some color, and then applied the Caran d’Ache before the paper dried. Some color bleeds more than others. In the red color figure, I went back and force a bit with the pastel and a wet brush to achieve a desirable result. In the greenish one, the paper dried quickly, and I was only able to do a drawing.

Female figure, 5 x 10 in, 2020
Female figure, 9 x 12 in, 2020

Here a lot of the design in the painting came as an after thought, and Caran d’Ache is a very convenient tool to draw out ideas. While it won’t completely dissolve, it’s easy to hide it with gouache, and it’s also effective in adding textures:

Tigger, watercolor and gouache on paper, 18 x 24in.

A few notes about Caran d’Ache:

  • It’s versatile but overall, works better in expressive drawing – where you don’t care to hide your marks.
  • It’s useful in finalizing or amending a painting,
  • I am not entirely satisfied with the way I am using it, still too careful and too timid.
  • I feel like if I am more competent with or have more confidence in my drawing skill, I could make better use of this tool.
  • I’ll keep playing with it. I have a hunch that it will set me free some day. 🙂

100 Day Art Challenge (4) – Day 76 – Day 100

For the first 75 days, see 

Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger image:

100 Day Art Challenge (3) – Day 51 – Day 75

For the first 50 days, see 100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25, and 100 Day Art Challenge (2) – Day 26 to Day 50.

Click on the thumbnails to see a bigger image:

100 Day Art Challenge (2) – Day 26 – Day 50

For the first 25 days, see 100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25

Click on the thumbnails to see bigger images:

100 Day Art Challenge (1) – Day 1 to Day 25

I’ve been doing the 100 Day Art Challenge at New Masters Academy for a while. I chose to focus on the figures and portraits for this challenge. Here are the first 25 days of the paintings and drawings I’ve done.

Take a look (click on the thumbnail to see a bigger image) :

Pairs (IV), Ink Resist Revisited and Reuse Old Paintings

The first one is sumi ink, and the second one is ink resist with gouache. Both are on watercolor paper and they are separately composed.

Caroline, ink on paper, 9 x 12in, June 2020
Thoughts, ink and gouache on paper, 10 x 14 in, June 2020

A few notes:

  • The ink I use is from a Japanese dollar store called Daiso, and it’s really cheap.
  • You can manipulate the ink to some extent while it’s wet but when it’s dry, you can’t lift it as watercolor.
  • For ink resist with gouache, please see my previous post “Try New Things (1).”
  • The second painting is done on the back of an old painting (of a broccoli). When I soak the gouache painting in ink, I got some unintended texture. It’s probably because of the unevenness of the paper. I might have done some lifting or scrubbing for the old painting. I decided it didn’t hurt.
  • In general it’s fun to think about how many ways you can deal with a subject.

Now a few more words about old paintings. Good watercolor papers are expensive, so I never throw away old paintings, no matter how ugly they are. There are always ways to reuse them:

  • The obvious one is to paint on the back. If the paper is not flat, you can soak it in water, then lay it flat and add some weight on it (or re-stretch it). Sometimes the texture of the paper on the back is different. It’s still workable.
  • Another way is to examine the old painting and see if there are some elements can be used. The flames in the second painting was modeled after the leaves of the broccoli on the other side. Look at it upside down, side ways, hold it up against strong light, you may discover something different.
  • You can also directly use it. Tear it apart and make it into a new collage.
  • Take a picture of it and manipulate it into a new digital art with Photoshop, Procreate, etc.
  • These methods are not exclusive, and that one piece of paper can generate many artworks!

Color Studies (3) – Analogous Colors

In order to push myself to work more, I participated a “100 Day Art Challenge” by New Masters Academy, of which I became a member last year upon a Black Friday sale. I committed myself to figure or portrait drawings or paintings for 100 days. We’ll see how it turns out.

Since it’s not a small commitment (for me at least), I think it would be a good idea to shoot a couple of more birds in the meantime, such as incorporating some color studies into the challenge.

This week I did a couple of small paintings using analogous colors. Analogous colors are a group of 3 to 5 colors next to each other on a color wheel. From a design point of view, complimentary colors are for contrast, and analogous ones are for harmony.

I tried to limit my choices to 3. With tint and shade of each color and various intensity, there should be enough to work with. In theory.

For the first painting, I planned to use red-orange, orange, and yellow-orange. In practice, the darkest I could get is a deep shade of red-orange. As it seemed not dark enough, I kept adding black to it, and in some places, I just used black directly. The black also contributed to the greenish color in the background. Meanwhile, since I mixed my yellow-orange with yellow and orange, some of that yellow also got in. Looking back, I blamed my disastrous control of color on a lack of design. The reference I chose has strong contrast, and darker colored clothing. If I want to use colors in a limited way, I need to go beyond a literal reading of the reference, and have a better strategy for value:

Portrait of a Young Woman, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12in, April 2020

For the second painting, I chose yellow-green, green, and blue-green. I think I still got the value wrong in some places, but at least I stayed within my color choices:

Female Figure, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 in, April 2020

The last one I used blue, blue-violet, and violet. I started this painting with Tombow water-soluble markers. Tombow has a hard and a brush tip, allowing more diverse lines. However, they are not as water-soluble as Crayola. There are lines I couldn’t disappear with water, and a big part of the painting process was to resolve the problems caused by those lines.

Portrait of a Woman, watercolor on paper, 9 x 12 in, April 2020

In the end, I am very glad I did this experiment. Even with the painting I cheated, I can still see how analogous colors help bringing things together. It’s not that each painting has to follow a color formula, but these are tools to help us to achieve harmony. Because of that unifying power, using analogous colors is also a great way to create a mood in paintings.

Life Drawing Gone Crazy in a Crazy Time

I’ve been taking a life drawing class at a community college this year. My professor is great at teaching and extremely knowledgeable about anatomy. This is her last year at the school and she planned a happy ending to her teaching career and a smooth transition back to a full time artist. Now she has to move her class online through Zoom, and for someone who’s not particularly tech savvy, this is not easy. It’s been a couple of weeks now, but our class is still not on track. Meanwhile, she has found some really good materials for us to practice on our own. Here’s a list of stuffs she recommended and/or I’ve been using:

  • Proko – by Stan Prokopenko. It contains some of the best instruction videos on figure drawing. Enough free stuffs, but if you pay, more structured lessons and practice materials. I personally have been using this site for a while, and am a big fan of their Draftsmen Podcast.
  • Love Life Drawing – Great advice for beginners or artist seeking improvement.
  • New Masters Academy – They have a subscription plan that allows access to tons of good art classes or master classes. The free stuffs including many timed life drawing videos featuring photos of clothed or nude models.
  • Croquis Cafe – Videos and photos of models for life drawing. This is probably the closest you can get online to a real life drawing experience. Great models and so many to choose from. My only problem with it is that after they moved to Vimeo, the streaming is less smooth.

This is not just a time for staying in, but also coping, adapting and discovering!

Here’s a quick drawing I did:

Shanon, Charcoal on paper, 18 x 24 in.

Obviously, it asked for more. Hence:

Shanon, Gouache on paper, 18 x 24 in.