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Old 05-24-2010, 05:27 PM
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prismalos prismalos is offline
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Smile Watercolor Fantasy

Hi! So, after our revisiting of watercolor through Winsor & Newton's Cotman set (which spawned some new colors ), I've decided to start a couple of journals using only watercolors.

So, this is my humble set. I know some artists would prefer high-end stuff such as artist grade brands, but not everyone can afford that. Maybe when I get better, but for now, Cotman is more than adequate.


For the sketchpads, I'm using Postcard-sized Daler-Rowney and Clairefontane watercolor pads for smaller formats that I'd probably give away. I also use Daler-Rowney 10"x7" watercolor pad. All of them are 300gsm NOT.

The journey begins with a dragon. I've practically just squiggled everywhere here. This will probably be revisited for improvement.


Next one is a tree typically found on fantasy-themed forests. I actually wanted to practice out on trees and I thought it was also a good way to creep in my love for fantasy in a typical landscape setting.


Probably the color I will use the most would be ultramarine and burnt umber for that nice grey that it produces. I'd probably get Paynes Grey and mix from that instead of mixing them all the time from two colors.

Still getting a load of videos and guides at the moment. I really like watercolor now, it's was just such a bad experience when I was a kid. Another reason I like it is that it's also very compatible with colored pencils!

Here's our play area, coffee included. On the upper left are my wife's (Sandra/purpalia) tin box with Cotman along with her bijou box (which we got for such a bargain!). My augmented Cotman set is on the lower right.


Thanks for stopping by! Any tips much appreciated! Especially on color secrets
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Last edited by prismalos : 05-24-2010 at 05:32 PM.
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Old 05-24-2010, 10:01 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Oh my! Her Bijou Box really is tiny! That's incredible. She really lucked on that.

Your red dragon's great. Nice musculature and bright strong color. These Cotmans are good for getting strong color. They're among the best student grade brands and I learned using them -- and kept coming back to them long after buying other sets because they were so good. Postcard pads and postcard sized pads are a great idea. The more different paintings you do, the faster you progress.

I can also see a nice swatch card with a color wheel on it, looks handmade, over by your setup. Glad you got some extra colours too, is that a turquoise or is that cerulean blue, the light blue there? It looks a little greenish and may be a very useful colour.

Great going on the carnivorous fantasy tree. It does look like it's laughing at the traveler, or giggling over having cast a curse or planned an ambush. Wild jack-o-lantern face to it, well done! Classic.

Tips on colour secrets... any greys created by mixing complements come out a bit more vibrant than greys from a pan. However, Payne's Grey is a tremendously useful colour as a mixer. By itself it's a convenience colour for simple shadows and thunderclouds. Beyond that, it's a cool darkener just the way Burnt Umber is a great warm darkener. When you want a dark green to retain its intensity, still seem very, very green, a touch of Payne's Grey or a deep greenish blue like Prussian Blue can keep it bright.

When you want to mute it a little and make it look more natural, darken green with Alizarin Crimson the way I did in the sponge painting demo. Complements mute down colours, but in a jazzy way. A little of one will create a wonderfully rich hue.

After a painting's completely dry, look for accent darks, places where with a pen line or glazing in a strong dark colour you could make the middle values and light highlights pop. If you leave white highlights and paint around them, anything will look glossy and shiny. If you wanted your dragon to have very shiny scales, then leaving white or very pale orangy-pink highlights on him that are broken up by crosshatching with a fine brush at the edges would give an impression of a scale texture glittering in the sun. Glaze a little yellow over that for sunlight and he'd sparkle.

You can add accent highlights by scraping them in with a razor blade. Lots of books recommend that. I haven't actually tried it yet, but like the sponge painting, I'm pretty sure it'll work. It's not something you can paint over again afterward or it'd become a dark spot.

Scrape highlights while the paint is wet and it can look really cool. I just got this book by Terry Harrison that goes into a lot of these techniques.

Ah. Landscape and pushing the values. I got this tip in the Pastels Forum, it's from Carlson's Landscape Guide which got recommended to me by several professionals there. If you break up landscapes by how vertical the area is, you get the very lightest values in the sky -- that's where the light comes from except at night when it's from torchlight, bonfires, street lamps etc.

The darkest daytime values are the sides of trees. They are completely vertical. So they should be the darkest elements in a landscape, especially if they're in the near ground.

The sides of hills and mountains are slanted, also rooftops, so the values will be middle dark, closer to the vertical trees than to the land. The land usually being flat, except where there's shadows it will be medium light -- darker than the sky but lighter than the hills.

Then... everything gets lighter and bluer as it recedes into the distance. Distant mountains are usually sort of blue-violet, hardly any yellow tones. Pinks and reds return before yellows do in the foreground. Start doing this as glazes on snow scenes and it's spectacular.

Oh yeah, when there's snow the ground can be lighter than the sky -- but only in its highlights.

So I hope that helps. Sketching the scene first in monochrome to establish the values and get it to look good without colour, before doing the colour version, is a good way to get the values right. You have strong colour now, but I noticed in the dragon painting that there weren't any real deep-darks, nor any reserved white areas. Not even small patches or details. If you broaden the value range and keep the colours natural, it'll look very lifelike.

If he were my dragon I might go in with pure Alizarin Crimson as strong as I could get it, to strengthen the modeling shadows and make the dragon more rounded. Also that'd make his bright areas look even redder and brighter. If you wait till it's completely dry and paint on another layer without disturbing the first (don't scrub the brush around a lot), that's glazing. It's how I built up a lot of my better paintings -- adding layer after layer to darken them.

You can test glazing on a scrap too, say Ultramarine. Mix some wet. Do a long patch, let it dry. Then do about 3/4 of it again painting over the first bit. Then do about half the area with a third when the second pass is dry. Then go over it again with a fourth... you'll start to see how strong watercolors can get with multiple successive glazes. It's also cool to shift colours that way.

I sometimes use a thin blue glaze into shadows or a violet one, and a thin yellow or golden glaze over all the highlights. Especially if there's dawn or late afternoon light, that makes the light look golden if I do it systematically over the whole painting.

Hope these tips help! These two are great and I can't wait to see more!
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Old 05-24-2010, 11:11 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Good start, Raymond. Very colourful dragon and a very recognizable tree. You captured an eerie look. Don't worry about using Cotman paints. I am using them as well for my journal. I have W & N artist tube paints, but I am saving them for watercolour paintings. The Cotman paints will suit us fine for our journals.

Keep at it.


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Old 05-24-2010, 11:11 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

I got a picture in my head of the dragon and the tree sharing "lunch". Sorry, the imagination goes. Great paintings.
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Old 05-25-2010, 10:34 AM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Thanks for the tips, Robert! I was expecting that from Paynes Grey, I think that a mixture will always be more vibrant than a stand alone pigment, but like you said, a mixer for convenience, that's what I'm looking for.

You were right about that swatch card. I made this with the basic color wheel to re-orient myself yet again and also colors that I either discover or learn with tutorials like that of Bob Davies' and tips like the ones you and others here have given all along, that tutorial video of yours was helpful too, thanks!

I have seen those glazes, particularly with Lemon Yellow, it totally changes the scene! It's amazing! As though the scene was sunlit naturally! I'm gonna try with blues and violets for nights.

Thanks Doug! My sentiments exactly. At this point, lightfastness isn't much of a concern as I am not selling my works nor is painting my full-time job. In a sketchpad, they're always protected anyway, and they beat the crap out of scholastic grade products!

Thanks, Debby! Ah, imagination goes wild! Oh, no problem, I think there will be even more of that when I start filling them up some more!
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Old 05-25-2010, 04:19 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Raymond, your swatch test and color wheel rocks. Another exercise I did on a much earlier watercolor pad scribble book, sort of a precursor of the Goof Off Book but most of the pages were given away as paintings. I used my W&N Field Kit and I did long mixing swatches. Each pair of colors, pure at each end, and then mixtures that started 50-50 in the middle and gradually had more of the color on that side till I reached pure color. Like, half again more of the one on that side, half again, and so on till it was only one step off pure.

I think I started them in the middle with the 50-50 mix and then just split that into two patches on the palette and kept doing the new mixes. It was fun and it revealed some gorgeous mixes. I had the complementary pairs in one grouping and I had the non-complementary combinations in another, testing each of the reds against each of the greens and so on.

I also found out which combinations were so close that I could use either version in a painting, depending on what was down first. Then I did something like that again with the swatches grid in the Goof Off Book, just using the ten colors of the Color Map series from Daniel Smith. That had some surprises too, including just how useful Quinacridone Gold is as a super yellow and yellow darkener.
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Old 05-26-2010, 12:12 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Ah, finally got something! Thanks for the mixing tips, Robert. I may want to try that. I was reading your octopus underpainting article you wrote back then, do you think the theory can be applied if only watercolors are to be used? That's an awesome tutorial, by the way!

I'll probably start out the few pages with small excerces, still leaning on fantasy themes. I used Daler-Rowney 300gsm Watercolour Pad for this one (10"x7"). I browsed the art supply shop this afternoon and I've found those Canson XL watercolour pads that were microperforated. Why show up now!?






Really had fun doing this while watching a téléfilm. I just wanted to lay down theories that I've gathered from various sources and experience from other media. Basic mixes, so far ultramarine and burnt umber are the most used. I love them

Thanks for stopping by.
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Old 05-26-2010, 12:25 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Love your mix notes and your illustrations of what to do with them. Really good information.
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Old 05-27-2010, 12:17 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Thanks, Debby! Yup, I also want this to be reference for future projects.

Now, I've done something I've been longing to paint from one of my favorite artists, Mark Tedin. Juzam Djinn! (10"x7")
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Old 05-27-2010, 12:35 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Cool Djinn! He looks ready for some major mischief.
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Old 05-27-2010, 12:59 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Magnificent Djinn! He looks mean! Love the slightly down-turned horn, though that might be from the original character. That expression's wonderful.

There is an artist on HubPages and YouTube. Waynet on Hubpages, Wayne Tully on YouTube. He does tons of fun video tutorials on drawing fantasy and comics subjects mostly -- demons, vampires (his are the really ugly nosferatu kind, fun!) carnivorous trees, the occasional wizard and brawny hero. Most show his sketching process beginning to end. Sometimes he does tutorials that are written too.

Your djinn reminded me of his style of demon drawing. I think he may have even done the same character, but his demons are fun. Check out his tutorials, you might get some fun ideas. Also he does the muscled bulky body and clawed hands really well. Your classic Hulk build with scales sort of thing.

Your mixing tests are wonderful. Love the iron tests! That looks like rusted iron, it just jumps out at me!

Within a cave, the interior will only be lighter than the outside if there's a source of light inside. It'll be someone's torch or it'll be volcanic fire deep in there or something.

Try doing it again this way. Paint the cool Greyskull cave exterior the same way with the same tints -- just as you did. Sketch the gorgeous layered interior you did, same lines. Then use warm yellow (not lemon yellow) and start mixing it toward orange and red in each successive band till at the outside you're using Alizarin Crimson mixed with Payne's Grey to make just a red-tinted layer about as dark as the outside.

Do it again and make each layer going in one step darker by glazing, till the distance is just solid black. That's a cave where the torch has gone out. It's tricky getting that many darker values if the outside is as dark as you've got it, but your cave stone is a beautiful mid-dark and you could probably do it. Do them separately though to compare to your first one, which does look good.

I just noticed that the note specifically reversed the lighting inside and outside caves, so needed to explain that and suggest a couple more cave studies. Great exterior! Looks like it's carved by orcs. "This is our front door. Come in and be lunch. Our tribe's big, see, we got that many orcs out carving rocks to make this big scary cave mouth sculpture, so your tribe's toast."

Your trees are not overdone. Your trees are your best yet! I love the volume in the foliage masses. I love the trunks that slant and slope and have that slightly irregular shape tree trunks always do, the natural shape of the branches and foliage clumps. I love the directional lighting that makes them look solid and real.

These are great. The left-side tree could get some mid-values dabbed into foliage clumps, above the deep shadow but not covering all of the light areas, always on the underside. Looks like noon light on that one and light from the left on the greener one. Both look good. Be sure to use both in the same landscape, if you slightly vary the hue of individual trees it looks very natural.

All three, I should say. The bare tree to the far left looks great too, it has wonderful form. Very natural. Branches always taper smaller toward the tip, often bend and angle in different ways at "elbows" and may bulge slightly like an arthritic knuckle when another branch comes off them. I should do a spooky branch tutorial with notes too, had fun with the Sponge Tree one.

Great light red skin tone on the bulky arm with clawed hand. A little reddish but that works for some humans too. Adjust with Burnt Umber, Yellow Ochre and Payne's Grey, adjust how light and dark by how much water, and you've got anyone's skin tone with that. Light Red is quite redder than Burnt Sienna, so it may usually need just a touch of Payne's Grey to come back to "skin tone" rather than "sunburned skin tone or extremely ruddy complexion."

Something cool -- my daughter is passing on to me a Cotman set of 24 so I may be able to do some tutorials with exactly the same watercolors. That'll be fun. You and Sandra and lots of people have Cotmans, they're easy to get anywhere in the world and very good, so I should really do some with those.
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Old 05-27-2010, 01:39 PM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

I love that tree with the face I often think of trees in such a way, also their branches being fingers or arms reaching up or something. The exercise pages are looking great too! The Djinn looks like he's plotting something
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Old 05-27-2010, 02:02 PM
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Thumbs up Re: Watercolor Fantasy

I love your studies! That is what so attracts me to art notebooks--the little notations and experiments. The tree looks like something in a nightmare, or a children's book--very fanciful and scary! I also like the pix of your materials. I love materials pix--so fun to see what other people use and how the set things up.
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Old 05-30-2010, 06:10 AM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

Anne-Marie, thank you! I love seeing other people's stuff too and I'm a pack rat when it comes to these things as I keep everything and want to collect everything.

Aiylah, thanks! I really love that djinn. It's so 1997 and it brings back a lot of good memories back then when I was playing MTG. I'm generally a "character" guy, I love drawing figures and single characters and I've never done foliage for as long as I can remember and this horror trees gives me a perfect excuse to practice nature

Robert, thanks for the tips, man! Oh, I'll try this cave effect! Great idea for the skin tone too as I am still a bit lost in how to blend the right skin tones, how much water and correct timing. From what I've seen on some tutorials is that the trick is more water. I just haven't experimented much yet on how to blend them together.

I also liked the second tree (on the right) better. I tried the one on your journal, mixing viridian and lemon yellow, it's one of the brightest greens I've ever mixed and I love it!

In my reference picture, the horns were cropped of the portrait and upon checking, I think the horns should both go upward, but since it was cropped, I had thought that one should be twisted downward. It makes for a good accident, so I am happy about it too

It didn't look right until I placed the shadows. At first I had thought that I ruined my sketch and just splattered on some green pigment on paper. I was so scared that it would look nothing like my reference picture. I could have made more details with pen, but I didn't want the stark lines.

My hands are still a bit clumsy in this medium but practicing makes it really easier on things that I didn't have a clue how to do before. It's such a rejuvenating experience. purpalia says hello too!

We've recently placed an order for waterbrushes but it takes forever to get to the store and on top of that, we'll have to pick them up. That's why we got Sakura Koi Field Box Set (18) instead!

Testing them out, I don't find them much different than the W&N Cotman we have and it feels good recklessly testing out colors and shades I could do without a real sense of fear screwing up as it's pretty affordable and easy to get. The waterbrush is AMAZING! I'm not really surprised as it came from Japan! I don't know what they smoke there too to make such crazy ideas into marvelous products.

This foliage isn't really normal!

Thanks for looking again!
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Last edited by prismalos : 05-30-2010 at 06:13 AM.
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Old 05-30-2010, 06:11 AM
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Re: Watercolor Fantasy

sorry for the double post, a hiccup on my connection
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Last edited by prismalos : 05-30-2010 at 06:54 AM.
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