watercolor portrait – the shadows

the shadow nose.

okay, never mind the pun.  yesterday i did precisely one thing on this painting.   and that was put in the negative area.  oh, and i mixed up some burnt umber from dry pigment and gum arabic, and tested the color on my color card.  and then used a wash of burnt umber on the negative space, and add ultramarine blue to neutralize it and make it a gray.  it goes from the stairwell above the purple baby, all the way down the left side in the negative space, getting stronger as it goes down.

and that’s all i did yesterday.  and it took a lot out of me.  i also had to babysit my grandson, and all sorts of other interruptions.


omg my brushes!  jim found the brushes i had taken out of my stash to go to the beach with.  i knew i had more brushes than the paltry few that were in this jar the other day.  i just didn’t know where they were, but now they’re all in the same jar.  these are all my old-time yarka kolinsky sable watercolors (that jim didn’t ruin by using for egg tempera).  and, i’m about to buy out the last remaining supply of yarka brushes (that i can find after extensive searching), and after i’m thru getting one of each size from 0 to 8, i’ll tell you all where i got them and you can go buy the rest of them.


that afternoon, as the baby slept in his little playpen, i put in the far wall, using the same burnt umber and ultramarine blue.  i also erased the lines on the left side of the runway/wall, and made it the same gap as the negative space to the left.  this is because i miscalculated and only brought the left hand wall down to the block  you see, instead of continuing it down another row, which would have made more sense.  oh well.


this is the testing i did.  1 is burnt umber that i mixed from dry pigment and gum arabic.  2 is a splotch of burnt umber charged with ultramarine blue, that i then let dry, and came in with moonglow in two passes of the brush, which started to lift the brown/blue mixture.  the arrow is where i used clear water to see just how much would lift, which is a lot.  number 4, to the left of the arrow, was painted with clear water and then moonglow was charged into it, and number 5 was moonglow painted on directly in one thicker swipe of color.  then, below, 6 is a larger batch of burnt umber and ultramarine blue, made the approximate strength of the paint on the negative space of the painting.  the two lines across it correspond to 7, lunar black, and 8, moonglow, to the right of the blue/brown splotch.

the point of all this testing is to see if it’ll make mud.  which it doesn’t.  and it doesn’t come up too much, if i’m careful.  so i can proceed with the dark shadows (which mom never let us watch).


so.  because i didn’t want to put dark shadows down over white, i painted the wall on the left with very dilute burnt umber, and very very dilute ultramarine over that, while it was still wet.  after it dried, i put in much stronger burnt umber, much stronger blue, and then lunar black, very strong at the right side, and diluted progressively as i worked the brush into the already wet area.  i petered the black out in an arc reflecting the curve of teh girls’ path.  i have also come in with some lunar black (i think, else that or moonglow but i would want to keep it consistent so probably not), to shadow underneath the stairwell inside the negative space.  and then i would have decided that i’d overdone it, and wet it and blotted it until it has reached the state you see below.

i’ve also come in on the carpeted risers with quinacridone gold, and over the treads with probably burnt sienna but maybe burnt umber.  i’ve also made a pass at darkening the steps under the purple girl on the top.  it’s not working yet.

and the wooden steps, omg.  this is the middle stage of a painting where nothing’s working, and it’s so tempting to just do worse things to confirm that it’s a shitty painting and you should have taken up abstract splats.  or dots wtf.

on the wooden steps, i started with a bunch of stripes of quinacridone gold that were there for a couple of painting sessions.  now i’ve put in stripes of burnt sienna on the risers, and gone in with purple into the wet paint.  i’ve used burnt sienna either by itself or with gold or quinacridone burnt something in stripes across the treads.

it gets worse.


but first, i put some more shadow on the far wall, and shaded the stair coming down at the top right of the painting, to contrast with the shading on the wall, which is a trick escher used in his drawing that i’m ripping off.  i also took lots of moonglow to the creepy crawlies, coming right back in with clear water to soften each line.  i ran lots of burnt umber/ultramarine shadows along the folds in teh carpet.  the carpet running under the creepy crawlies to the back wall has been grayed out with a little ultramarine and a coat of burnt umber.  i finished the wooden steps off with thinner stripes of burnt umber, and burnt umber/ultramarine shadows under the overhanging treads.  i actually put down water and scrubbed up color at the edge of these overhands, to make them lighter, to make them read as projecting forms.  then a wash of burnt scarlet or burnt orange, whichever quinacridone color it is, on top of all the stairs, and wiped the overhands back out.

then i went in and gave each girl her topcoat, using a quinacridone pink on the top girl, a similar bluish red for the middle girl, and the clearest orange red over the bottom girl, going back in with a blotting tissue especially on the orange girl.

once having done this, i took my darkest black, which is lunar black, and went in at the back of each girl’s head, because these darks were now woefully understated.


at this point it’s signed, so it’s technically finished.  however, it’s only finished when i spray fix it and glue it down to its backing board.  so i’ve got a day to look at it.  and so after i took this picture, i went in and scrubbed the carpeted steps.  just the one in front of hte red girl’s foot, and the other edge of that step, in front of hte orange girl’s left knee.  and lo and behold, the brown/blue came up enough to go over at better angles tomorrow.

plus that, and the far stairs, the ones that come down at an impossible angle, are way too light, and i’m thinking a thin wash of handy-dandy burnt umber will do the trick.

and maybe i have to fix the faces, with some color, and the top one especially needs finishing.  it’s just that i’m scared.  maybe a well placed shadow will work.


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