Making of a Monster – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the steps in creating my monster movie painting for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles’ Illustration West 59 poster.

So, yesterday we left things with liquid frisket. Today we begin painting the background! There will be several techniques used in getting the background just the way I want it.

First of all, you must have your paper lying flat on a desk, NOT on an angle. Watercolor paint will certainly streak due to gravity if you don’t do this first.

That being said, watercolor still can have a mind of its own, and I want it to apply as smoothly as possible. To just start applying the paint, it dries so quickly that it might leave weird edges in the middle of the piece that aren’t desired as I try to cover as much space as is needed on this large 18×24″ paper. So, before applying a drop of paint, the technique here is to brush on copious amounts of water to soak the paper first. This will allow the paint to go on more smoothly.

While the paper is still wet, THEN a big ol’ brush comes out to slather on the base color. I made sure I mixed a LOT of this color, because if I run out, it’s a pain in the neck to try to quickly mix more that matches. Easier to throw excess paint out than to have the hassle of trying to match it later before the paint dries. Notice how the paint just kind of beads up on top of that frisket. I did tend to throw on swashes of darker orange in places while everything was wet, which you’ll see in the last image of this post.



You are also probably noticing some rippling in the paper causing pools of wet paint to gather. I use watercolor block paper because it helps minimize this problem. The block paper is bound on all four sides to keep the paper stretched so it can’t curl up when the water is applied. However, it still ripples a bit, causing those pools. If you just let those pools dry where they lie, then you get weird clumps of color on your painting. You can’t just watch the paint dry. You must be actively involved. So, what I do is while the paint is drying, I tilt the paper to allow the paint to move around preventing it from pooling. Later, after the paint completely dries, the paper will lie flat.



There is a special effect I wanted to do on the canvas while the paint was still wet. Before it dried completely, I sprinkled a little salt in some areas of the background. Salt repells the paint, creating little light areas that can be cool. Here’s a later image after the paint dried where you can see the salt effect in the upper right corner of the art.



By the way, the crowd running away from the wanton destruction was NOT frisketed off. Why? Because I didn’t mind allowing that orange color to seep through whatever paint was going to be applied later. But you can see how that ink line shows through nicely.



A second painting technique I wanted to do on the background was airbrushing. A subtle lighter glow was desired in a few areas, so some gouache paint was mixed, and then carefully sprayed on as you can see here. Remember, earlier I mentioned that gouache is an opaque medium. It covers. You can see here how it covers the liquid frisket, and it is beginning to cover the ink lines on the paper, too.



A third painting technique employed on the background is a dry brush technique using gouache. This is definitely a characteristic of 1950’s illustration, particularly of pulp covers. So, dabbing a larger brush in gouache, I painted on layers of colors from more subtle shades first, building up to lighter. They will look like energetic light beams emanating from behind the monster later on. Right now it all looks a bit chaotic.



Here’s the whole image as it sits after all of this. Looks like I may have airbrushed some lighter color on the burst behind the alien, too, and there is more of that salt stippling in the lower regions of the painting. You can also see patches of darker orange that was applied when the background was still wet. It’s just something to create some energy in the piece – some visual interest.



Okay. Overwhelmed yet? More details in the process are yet to come tomorrow!