View Full Version : Rock in stages

Old Tex
06-14-2007, 12:54 AM
I'm not sure how educational this will be, but here are some progress photos taken along the way as I did the first rock study. Keep in mind, this was only intended as an exercise, to try to get boulders to look like boulders, something I had not done before. There's nothing magic here, just a novice feeling his way along slowly and tentatively. If you had told me three months ago that I'd be posting something like this, I would have laughed.

This was done on an 8x10 piece of Crescent 300 cold press illustration board, which is about all I work on. As I recall, the palette consisted of ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, sap green and permanent white. I left the time stamps on the photos, and you can see that I don't particularly work real fast, although I did stop often, go downstairs for more coffee, etc.

I'm trying to work toward just jumping right in with the paint, but since I still don't have that kind of confidence, I still start off with a light wash layout and build up the painting as I go. A more experienced painter would, I'm sure take a much more direct and confident approach right from the start.

The reference photo (this is a crop from a photo found in the Image Library):

I laid out the picture using a light yellow ochre wash. No preliminary drawing. Just jumped into it.

Then laid in the dark areas using ultramarine & burnt sienna. Washed an indication of the water in with vertical & horizontal strokes, using primarily ultramarine & yellow ochre & permanent white.

Didn't intend to do a complete painting, but my eye needed to see the boulders in some kind of context, so I smeared some background greenery in using sap green and burnt sienna, variously working wet and thicker paint in random strokes. Just kept it loose and abstract.

Then I started bringing in some color on the rocks. The palette was limited to the colors I've mentioned so far.

Threw a little more color into the shadow areas & on the boulders in general. I think my wife yelled "food!" somewhere along here, thus the time lag.

At this point, I just took my time and played. Finished off the shoreline in the background, touched in some greenery on the left, and then just played with color on the boulders themselves, in the shadow areas, and in the water. Pulled the two pieces of tape off, and touched those spots up.
I would normally tape all four sides, and since I only taped a couple of small spots on the sides, the illustration board did curl slightly, but it wasn't bad. I'll spray this with Krylon Kamar Varnish and stick it in a 3" wide frame. I've already tried it in the frame, and I have to admit I'm pretty pleased with the way it's going to look. Next time, I'll play with color even more. This has more of a watercolor look than most of my work, but that's because I was more concerned with the form of the stone than with the paint itself, so I kept the paint pretty thin. As I get more comfortable, I'll paint this kind of thing more opaquely and probably work the details more.

I don't know if this is of any value to anyone, but since I did have the photos, I thought I'd share the process with you.

06-14-2007, 07:56 AM
Hi Ralph,

Your demo is very helpful for me.
You know, as a beginner I need ANY useful information like this.

Thank you again


Liliana - Italy

06-14-2007, 04:36 PM
Thanks Ralph. I love seeing the progression of the piece. I've been starting with a pencil drawing on watercolor paper, and then the loose washes like you do. Then I tried to erase the pencil and it wouldn't come up through the paint. Maybe I'll have to try your method and just skip the pencil (gasp).


Old Tex
06-14-2007, 06:14 PM
Liliana, if it was helpful, then I'm happy. I am just a beginner in this, so there's no "expert" status attached to this little demo. It's just how I did this one, and if it helps anybody, then I'm satisfied.

Selene, I can't tell you how many times I did the pencil thing, only to find it was there forever. When I started painting like I am now, I have tried very hard to just start laying them out with light washes, and then build on that.

06-15-2007, 07:42 AM

Thanks for the awesome WIP! It's very helpful to me, too. I think the lack of pencil helps artistically - you're freer to explore, plus you don't have those lines visible. Some subjects really need underdrawings (since reworking details with gouache is tough) but you're making me want to try loose landscapes.


Old Tex
06-15-2007, 09:21 AM
Glad it's helpful, Meg. You're right, sometimes a really complicated piece requires a good preliminary drawing, and it can't be helped. But if you're using washes and transparent layers, the lightest of lines are almost impossible to eliminate. Sometimes, the drawing showing through can add a nice touch, but that's never worked for me on anything I've ever done. I did so many tightly rendered drawings over the years that I'm really enjoying the freedom of what I'm doing these days.