Yesterday I began sharing with you the preliminary steps in coming up with the composition and overall drawing for the John & Abigail Adams illustration published this month in Clubhouse Magazine. Today I will share with you the next step in the process in which the traditional art supplies come out of the drawer to breathe some life into this piece.
Once the art director was pleased with the drawing, as was I, it was time to do the final art. I printed out my line-art drawing (without all the tones in it) onto a thin Layout Bond paper (I use the Strathmore brand). Then using homemade graphite paper under the print out, I traced the drawing onto thick watercolor paper.
I use the watercolor block paper that either Strathmore or Arches makes. Arches is better (I have more control over my paint on it), but it also is waaaaay more expensive. If you are a newbie, try the cheaper Strathmore first. The block paper is nice because it is a thick pad glued together on the edges like a block (thus the name). This means if you paint very wet, the paper can’t curl up and warp. When it is all dried, you peel the top sheet off the pad and you have a nice flat painting.
Using a watercolor technique, I painted the whole piece with black ink. Yep, black ink. I used a non-waterproof ink, and mixed four shades of black by taking little plastic condiment cups, putting a few drops of ink into each, and then adding various amounts of water. This process takes a bit of time to finesse because each cup needs to be slightly darker than the last one. I actually paint with 5 shades, but #5 is the black ink right out of the bottle. I use non-waterproof ink because it is malleable. You can still work it with water after it dries. I tend to not touch it after it dries completely, but even while it is still slightly wet, I can push it around, or add more to it and it blends in nicely together.
If you are not accustomed to working with watercolors, do note that this process is not as easy as it sounds. I’ve been doing this for years, and there’s a lot to be said about the experience of trial and error of manipulating paint that I couldn’t possibly put into words. You just have to practice.
When the painting process is done, I put some finishing touches on it with gray colored pencils, and maybe some white highlights with white gouache paint and white colored pencils. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this piece before the pencils were put on it, but trust me, it tightens up the piece a LOT when the pencils are added.
So, now you can see the finished traditional piece of art that physically is sitting in my studio right now. It is just a black ink washed painting with some colored pencil lines added for good measure. It doesn’t quite look like the final illustration I posted two days ago, does it?