Welcome to step 3 of building my traditional watercolor painting of Yogi Bear & Co., The Pic-A-Nic on the Grass. Previous stages in the process that we covered were the drawing/research stage, then the underpainting stage. Today we begin to add color.
If the under painting is the foundation, then today’s application of color is the framework of our construction. The goal is to lay in thin layers of color for atmosphere and to fill in the divots of the paper with color that more detailed painting would not do later on. When you paint, you should always start from the back of the scene to the front. There are several reasons why, most of which have to do with helping you create depth in your work. It helps to build on top of what was done before to create a more lush look by the time the whole painting is completed.
Since this is a parody of a Manet painting, the color palette is somewhat predetermined. Manet figured out the color scheme, so this is just an interpretation of it. I’m not making a direct copy. If I was doing that, then I would be painting in oils and there wouldn’t be a bunch of cartoon bears in the composition. So, when mixing colors, I’m trying to get to the essence of the antique work that has come before.
This is primarily a woodsy scene, requiring lots of green. I mixed about three different shades of green for the trees. Also in the mix are two shades of yellow, and one shade of blue which, oddly enough, is for the sky.
By the way, the painting needs to lie completely flat on a horizontal surface. If you paint with watercolors on a tilted surface, the paint will follow the laws of gravity and streak down your paper. Since we are not creating a rainy day scene, use a flat surface.
I know that I want these colors to blend and mix right on the paper, so to do that, I start applying plain ol’ water with a large brush. I try to apply it mostly to just the white areas because if I get the purple underpainting too wet, that will start to smear. The empty dry patches will be filled in as I apply paint to the wet paper and all will smooth out without smudging the under painting too much.
So, with my large #12 brush, I started dabbing in paint onto the wet paper, and spreading it around to my satisfaction. You do need to keep an eye on it while it dries just so that you can control any pooling of paint where it was too wet. If a pool dries, you will get sharp edges of color in that spot that may be undesirable.
You can see in the image above how the purple underpainting shows through. It still has a purple-ish hue, but also takes on the colors of whatever is applied on top. Lots of young artists starting out immediately think that shadows should be painted in with black, but that is not true to life. Shadows are usually darker shades of the color they are shadowing. In art, it can be fun to make shadows a color like I did with purple. There are no blacks in this painting at all.
You can see in the close-up below how the colors blend in spots, and have edges in others. It will all come together later. You can also see some of my original pencil drawing under the paint. If you leave your pencil lines too dark, this will happen. In this case I knew that would happen, and even in the finished art you can still see some of my pencil lines. This was intentional. In this age of so much art being created digitally, I wanted this to completely have that handmade look.