As you may have noticed, I paint a lot of greyhounds! So, I thought it might be interesting to challenge myself to paint a cat for a change. This was based on a friend’s photo of her cat – not being a ‘cat’ person, i don’t have many photos of them.
This picture raised two main challenges – firstly, the cat is black, always a difficult colour in watercolours, and secondly, its very fluffy! The soft fur required a different approach to the sleekness of a greyhound.
I started with an underwash that was the colour i wanted as the final tone of the palest fur, avoiding the collar, bell and eyes.
After this had dried, I began to darken around the palest areas, so I used negative painting to highlight the palest sections, and lifing out some colour to soften the edges.
I repeated this step until I had reached the levels of contrast I wanted. I was pleased with the overall effect, although I am not sure I did by model justice! This painting is now available as a greetings card in the Farmyard section of my Love from the Artist page – click here to take a look.
This gorgeous boy was my 4th greyhound. It was love at first sight and I was quite nervous about painting him as a result. I used earth colours so the granulation would add texture as I began to build up the light and dark areas.
I worked in layers to deepen the colours and began to work on his eyes. He was very fluffy for a greyhound and i softened the edges as I wanted to give this impression.
I completed the eyes last and of course they make the painting come alive.
When painting my friend’s greyhound Shadow, I wanted to incorporate his name into the design. To do this I decided to paint him as paler than the background on the left and darker than it on the right, so he seemed to disappear into the shadow.
I started with a background wash, which I textured with cling film, and painted his nose to get an idea of the darks.
From here I started working on face, making his right-hand ear darker to stand out from the background. I then darkened around his jaw on the left, so it was darker than his face.
The initial planning was very important here, especially as in watercolours you work from light to dark. That’s what makes it fun!
I planted some honesty seeds in my garden last year, hoping for some of the pretty ‘silver penny’ seed heads to paint. I hadn’t really thought about the flowers that would preceed the seed pods and was pleased to see the clusters of delicate white flowers brightening up the spring.
It was when I saw the deep red of these tulips that I knew I just had to paint them, and the honesty flowers would provide the perfect counterfoil in the background. I started with some greens, for the background and the honesty flowers in shadow.
Next I started on the deep red tulips. It took several layers to get the strength of colour I wanted.
The advantage of working in this way is that you can move back and forth between the main flowers and the background, leaving each bit to dry in turn.
Much is said of the rules of watercolour. You must paint light to dark, it must be transparent, you mustn’t use white…or, heavens forbid, black, you must sketch first, you need a limited palette, the list goes on. The rules of watercolour seem to cause such an outpouring of emotion by those who feel confined by their existence, that there is now quite a rebellion at hand, to break down the rules of watercolour and find a new way. Quite often this new way leads to an exploration of mixed media, which is of course a whole new topic in itself!
Having immersed myself in watercolours relatively recently, I have met this flood of changing perspectives head on. I have always been book lover and my natural reaction on learning something new is to buy a book on the subject.
After some initial attempts at throwing caution of the rules to the wind, I sought solace in some older books aimed at beginners. Here I learned the dreaded rules that are at the foundation of many heated arguments on the subject. I actually found it quite reassuring and by following these rules I made considerable improvements. This came because I began to understand how the paper, pigment and water worked together to create the painting.
It makes me wonder how many of these rules are actually quite sage advice, that helps beginners to understand the medium and learn to work with it. Once we have this understanding we can begin to explore further and try new things. That underpinning knowledge will help us to be successful in our attempts and to understand what may have gone wrong in our failures.
If I cannot draw a flower accurately I am unlikely to be able to create a convincing abstract interpretation. And if I don’t understand my pigment choices I am more likely to create the dreaded ‘mud’. By questioning and assessing for myself, I can learn the rules that work for me and the ones I want to deliberately break. I begin to know what restricts me and what supports my development.
Both yoga and Buddhism teach us to question and find our own answers. As is so often the case, a mindful approach to the matter at hand leads to greater progress in our journey.