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Topic: "Alive," final piece in Sentient Machinery collection- lots of process pics!!  (Read 16568 times)
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« on: March 07, 2012 08:58:09 PM »

Yay, this is my fave piece of my "I, Human" collection!! I love Daft Punk, as much for their beats as for their enigmatic, machine-longing-to-be-human personas. This is a larger piece, 15x22", and really saturated and vibrant.


I've been getting a lot of questions about this technique and requests for process pics (it seems that a lot of people associate watercolors with sheer, pastel washes of tint, depicting pastoral scenes or animals). I thought I would include process pics showing what I do, with a little explanation on each of how to do it. Would that make this a mini-tute? I'm not sure, but if anyone decides to experiment, I really want to see the result!! Caution: this is a long post, LOL. OK, on with business....

OK, I always use gel watercolors in the tube. They are so much less work, because you don't have to sit there and scrub a pan of dried cakes to rehydrate them, only to come up with a pale wash and a ruined brush. With the tube paints, you can use them completely undiluted if you want, and really get that vibrancy. I also use soft, thick, squirrel hair brushes that hold a lot of water and paint, because using a lot of both is the secret to really saturated color.

Also remember that there's no such thing as a mistake! As Bob Ross says, "there's no mistakes, just happy accidents." Smiley One of the best things about water color is that it's so forgiving. Put too much or too dark a color on? Just rinse your brush, dab it on a paper towel, and use it to sop up the excess. Rinse again, and use it to spread and blend whats left. Went out of the lines or dripped in the middle of your lovely ocean vista? Here's the best part- if you take a stiff-bristled paintbrush with clean water, you can scrub at an area (dabbing with a paper towel), until you erase the offending area. If the paper pills, let it dry, and smooth it out with some fine-grit sandpaper.

One more thing for this technique- think HIGH contrasts! The darks should be super dark, the lights equally light. Think more like black and white, and less like dark grey and light grey. The contrast is what gives these paintings such an eye-catching quality- no hazy, pastel washes here! OK, now really on to business...

Mini-Tute! (Lots of hints and tips throughout)

So first, I always sketch out what I'm going to do; I never just start slapping paint down. The technique for watercolor is really different than with oil or acrylic. With them, you paint the darkest stuff first, and add the highlights last; you create the object first, then add the dimension. With watercolor, you paint the lightest parts first, then the darkest; in other words, you paint the dimension first, then create the object around it. You have to know which areas will be the lightest, because those might not have any paint at all.

I sketch very lightly (I increased the contrast here so you can see), and sometimes I do the bulk of the sketching on typing paper, then do a rubbing onto the watercolor paper, if I haven't drawn the subject before and expect to do a lot of erasing. I've also been known to do a pencil rubbing of an image from a magazine or google image search, when trying to learn how to draw certain proportions. No sense in ruining the good paper!

Since I have to decide where my highlights are first, I decided that the "sun" is shining from the upper left of the page, meaning that the lower right will be in shadow. I don't use brushstrokes, but instead use a soft squirrel hair brush that holds a lot of water, and sort of dab it all over. I purposely don't blend the colors smooth, but leave it "chunky," so that later I have definite contrasts in shade or color that I can outline.

I do a lot of layering with the watercolor, using a lot of paint and a lot of water, to get the deep, rich colors. Here I'm continuing to layer the color, being sure to keep the lightest parts in the upper left free from paint for now (or with just a very sheer layer).

Here's the fun part, adding the lights! Here's a little tip for painting light: never paint the light itself, only what's around it. Ever see Star Wars? Notice the light sabres- they're not actually red and blue, they're white! The color is just a halo around them. So when painting light, leave the actual light white, and paint a haze of color around the light, with the most color saturation concentrated right against the white. Even if it's a white light- the white halo will wash out the background, creating that glare. There, I've spilled Thomas Kinkaide's secret. Go forth and make millions. Smiley

More lights! I like how the LED strip around Tomas' (silver) ear came out (I added more contrast in later pics). All the colors on Guy's (gold) helmet are flashing lights. His is my favorite, and it's kind of funny that his helmet is so vibrant, since he's the quiet, shy, introverted one.

Now I've added the face covers. Since I wanted more of a flat finish here, I went ahead and used brushstrokes, but still left light areas in the upper left. Black takes a few layers to really look saturated, as you'll see in upcoming pics. With watercolor, you'll want to let the paint dry totally before adding another layer, or you risk your paper pilling or warping, creating potentially undesirable puddles.

I've added the leather jackets (they look grey because this is just the first layer). With clothing, I'm not usually too detailed. The subject is the face, and generally I'll just do a skeleton outline of the clothing, and the viewer's mind fills in the details. Smiley As long as you get the basic shape, you get the dimension. Another tip- I always add a hint of shoulder when I do a portrait, because otherwise it's just a weird random head floating in space. It anchors the face, and provides greater depth to a painting, since the viewer can imagine the rest of the body just out of sight.

Now I'm adding the color! Again, I use a LOT of paint and a LOT of water and a BIG soft brush, always dabbing, never stroking. Let the colors blend, blob, and flow how they want, leaving areas of light and dark, and some with no paint at all (this will give a lot of dimension). I always butt the color up to the subject, but never closer than about 1/4 inch. That little slice of white really makes the subject pop, and ensures that it doesn't all become a muddy mess. I also make the part next to the subject the darkest, so that it pops even more (you'll see in the next pic). The splatters are from blowing through a straw, or just leaning over and blowing on the page (although I've dipped my boobs in the paint a few to many times to keep doing that).

First layer of black, while it's still wet.

I've gone through and deepened the contrast on the helmets more (meaning, I've made the shadows darker), as well as in the black cloud around them. Now I've started the white outlining. You can do this with a liner brush and white paint mixed to about the consistency of ink, or do what I do, and get an ordinary white gel pen from the office store. Mine is a Pentel, but Bic sells them, too. For this, I outline around anywhere there is a sharp contrast in color or shade. I try to make each line closed, or have it end either against another line or off into the white page. It just looks odd with too many random white lines floating all over the place, but a closed line looks intentional.

Even though you can't really tell in the pic, there are color variances within the black, where the colors underneath are peeking through. Those are the areas in black that I'm outlining. I'm also outlining in the colored areas.

I suppose I should've done this with one of the darker colors, but it was getting late, lol. Here is the yellow before I had done much outlining, so you can see the variations in the color...

...and now you can see where I've outlined those variations.

Here's a closeup and full shot of the final products!! I added some little twinkles to the LED's in Guy's helmet (full disclosure- I want one of my own. I would totes go grocery shopping in that thing). To make twinkles, just do a little 4 or 5 pointed star in white over the color haze around any light.

« Last Edit: March 07, 2012 09:00:27 PM by Phantome » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2012 09:07:14 PM »

That, along with the other pieces in that collection, are all amazing! You are incredibly talented & do beautiful work. Smiley

And thank you so much for the tutorial! Cheesy

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« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2012 09:30:42 PM »

The bright colors drew me to the thumbnail.  Though I don't know much about the subject matter, I think this is amazing.  I need to go look up the rest of your work.  I work with watercolors, but not often on a large scale, and to read about your process was very interesting to me.  And it has convinced me to go get gel watercolors, in the tube.  I'm happy with the ones I use now, but I can't get over the color saturation in this.  Beautiful work.

« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2012 09:31:28 PM »

Omg!! I love, love, LOVE this!! (I def get the Daft Punk vibe in it too!) All your pieces are amazing, I wish I had some in my home! Great tute too Cheesy

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« Reply #4 on: March 08, 2012 01:14:32 AM »

Amazing! I love all your work, and the tutorial is so good and helpful. I'm really enjoying the contrast of the robotic themes and the comparative softness of the watercolours.

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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2012 05:43:46 PM »

This is amazing! Your technique is so interesting. You can really see the layers of work you put into this. Thank you for all the great info!

« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2012 04:32:28 PM »

This is incredibly stunning! Literally takes my breath away. The colours, the detail... Great job, I hit this rocks.

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« Reply #7 on: March 17, 2012 08:39:26 AM »

This is AWESOME!!!  I am a Daft Punk lover and I say, this is the SHIZNIT!!!
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« Reply #8 on: March 17, 2012 09:24:29 AM »

Beautiful work!! Thank you so much for the mini-tutorial... very inspiring!  I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to draw well, but after looking at your pics, I'm much more willing to try.  Wink

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« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2012 09:40:27 AM »

Holy crap this is amazing! This is something I could defiantly see myself spending money on so I could have it as wall art. I am seriously in awe of this.
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« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2012 10:12:03 AM »

Fabulous piece, I love the colour vibrancy you've achieved!  It is really cool to see your process too and is inspiring me to bust out the watercolour again Grin

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« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2012 09:34:02 PM »

this is amazing!!! i have never seen watercolors so bright before you really have a knack for this Smiley keep up the good work
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012 06:50:01 PM »

Love seeing your process. Great work!

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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2012 07:23:04 AM »

What fabulous work! and thank you so much for taking progress pics with explanations of what is happening in your process, it makes it seem possible for people like me to give it a try. Cheesy  (I love to paint, it just never ever looks like this LOL

« Reply #14 on: March 22, 2012 07:53:04 AM »

I loooooooove this! This is amazing. And I also love Daft Punk, so it's definitely a win-win!

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« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2012 09:29:15 AM »

This totally rocks!  I'm not a fan of sci-fi or your subject matter but thank you so much for posting your opinions and step by step photos/instructions.  I am teaching myself to paint with watercolors and you've helped me a great deal. 

Your painting is awesome!
« Reply #16 on: March 25, 2012 10:36:59 PM »

Stunning colours !
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« Reply #17 on: March 26, 2012 01:50:52 PM »

Seriously, I thought it was digitally done in the first pic! Until I saw the process! Wow!!!

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« Reply #18 on: March 26, 2012 07:34:45 PM »

I just want to say thank you so much, everyone!! Cheesy My "I, Human" collection will be on display at Final Friday this week, and I'm hoping I have some buyers! I think I'll do a video of my next painting and speed it up (The Amazing 2 Minute Painting!), some of the ones I've seen on youtube have been really nifty. Thanks again, I'll post some more soon!

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« Reply #19 on: March 30, 2012 05:29:40 PM »

I love the painting.  It's so vibrant and the robots are excellent.  Thank you for the watercolor tutorial. 

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« Reply #20 on: April 19, 2012 07:07:31 AM »

Seriously, I thought it was digitally done in the first pic! Until I saw the process! Wow!!!

Same here! Love the technique and obviously the final result is incredible.... I really want to give this a go.. Very inspiring.
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« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2012 09:17:03 AM »

This is simply put, amazing. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I know I definitely want to try the outlining technique!

Thanks again!

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« Reply #22 on: July 29, 2012 08:38:59 AM »

This is amazing! You're *very* talented.
And now I'm all curious about Daft Punk. Cheesy

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« Reply #23 on: July 30, 2012 08:01:02 AM »

Oh this is lovely! So nice to see the process as well! Very cool!

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« Reply #24 on: January 14, 2013 09:15:37 AM »


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« Reply #25 on: January 14, 2013 12:12:40 PM »

Congratulations Grin

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« Reply #26 on: January 14, 2013 03:28:57 PM »

Yay, thank you!

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« Reply #27 on: January 20, 2013 09:43:57 AM »

Daft Punk are my absolute FAVORITE music artists, and this looks exactly like them!  I adore your use of color and the tutorial as well.  Really really excellent!! <3

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« Reply #28 on: January 25, 2013 08:07:43 AM »

Thanks so much for all the process pics & info.  I adore this entire series but this one's my fave, your work is amazing Smiley

« Reply #29 on: January 25, 2013 09:15:44 AM »

This is just so gorgeous!  I am in awe of the vibrancy of all the colors. 

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« Reply #30 on: February 21, 2013 02:07:48 PM »

This really is an incredible piece! And thanks so much for sharing your process pics and tips! I never thought of using gel watercolors straight out of the tube!
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« Reply #31 on: February 22, 2013 10:25:04 AM »

This is so beautiful and epic!
« Reply #32 on: February 23, 2013 03:48:54 PM »

This is gorgeous! I envy your skill.
« Reply #33 on: July 22, 2015 06:22:29 PM »

Ok, I know this post is around 3 years old but I was looking through tutorials and found this and it's one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!
« Reply #34 on: March 09, 2016 04:15:59 AM »

Crazy good talent you have there Cheesy
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