For Maglor slew Uldor the Accursed

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Watercolour on Bockingford cold-pressed paper, 36×26 cm.

I recently asked my Patrons for suggestions for Maglor scenes, and his slaying Uldor came up several times. It’s such an unusual moment for the gentlest son of Fëanor, to be showing that he, like this brothers, was also a warrior.

Prints available!

Here’s a video about the background texture.

Roast rabbit – and an art revelation

I had a clear “where have you been all my life” moment yesterday. After using gouache quite satisfactorily on Gil-galad, not just for highlights but also for some rendering, I decided it was time for another stab at gouache.

Gouache is often described as opaque watercolour (and indeed, many languages use no separate word for it), and can either be applied thickly and even paste-like, much like oils, or in thinner washes, much like watercolour. I’d often thought about trying around with the former, mainly because I’d been using only the most transparent of watercolours in recent years and felt that going opaque was just the opposite of what I wanted. One and a half years ago, roughly, I bought a book on painting animals in gouache, and faithfully copied the examples. It worked, but I didn’t like it. My gouache tubes went to the bottom of my art cupboard again.

I’d been thinking about the medium again and wanted to take another shot at it, when I looked at some paintings in my “inspiration” folder whose technique had always baffled me and it hit me: They weren’t watercolours. They were thinly glazed gouache paintings.

Gouache has a pastelly, fuzzy quality to it that I’d never really given much thought.

I immediately decided to try that. My mother had asked for a picture of Sam Gamgee roasting a rabbit, and it looked like just the thing to try in gouache.

I painted very much the way I always do, except that I mixed in white instead of relying on the white of the paper. The white gouache made for a fuzziness that just turned blending colours into an absolute dream. The greenery in the background also just fell onto the paper effortlessly. The only thing I’ll do differently next time is that, instead of a thin blue shadow map, I’ll do a bolder, more neutral shadow line the last time, and drop in the blues later, while it’s still wet.

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I recorded the painting process and uploaded it as a timelapse here.

The original painting is available in my Etsy shop!

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Tutorial: Painting with Acrylic Inks

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The latest huge new discovery of 2013 were acrylic inks (used to paint “Fog over Trasimene“). They’re quite similar to watercolours in many ways, but more versatile. They come in little bottles with eyedropper lids, just like the liquid watercolours I love to work with.

I’m working with three different brands here: FW Daler/Rowney Acrylic Artists Ink; Rohrer/Klingner Zeichentusche (drawing ink); and Liquitex Ink. The handling is almost identical to watercolours: I use them with my normal watercolour brushes, thinned down with water or undiluted. No changes there.

All the brands I use come in different opacity levels: from transparent like actual watercolours to opaque, and in this case, opaque is really opaque. I work with a selection of mainly transparent ones, to preserve my watercolour look, but have a few opaque ones, mainly light tones like white, for highlights. In order to keep them apart, I used small blue self-adhesive dots to paste on the opaque ones, so I don’t accidentally grab the wrong bottle. Like watercolours, different pigments have different lightfastness ratings. I’ve made sure only to buy lightfast paints. tut_acr1 The other huge difference is: when acrylic dries, it’s completely insoluble. When you add layers in watercolour, you will always slightly dissolve bottom layers. In acrylics, you can use completely transparent layers that leave all the detail work in place underneath. Whether you add dark shadows or light fog – I did both in the “Trasimene” pic linked above – it opens a world of opportunities.

With watercolour, you have to work from light to dark, for several reasons. You can’t paint light skin next to black hair; the black hair will run into your light skin. And you can’t add light colours atop dark ones. In acrylic, you have no limitations. You can put dark hair down and later add a light yellow across the whole image – nothing will run. You can add light highlights to dark areas – just use opaque paint.

The downside of that is: your palette. With watercolours, you can reuse, rewet, and clean palettes without problems. Liquid acrylics are pretty much there to stay. With tube acrylics, that’s bad enough; with liquid ones, you have the additional problem that you need a palette with small “pots”. My solution is a lucky one – in Germany, we have outrageously yummy sweets called “Toffifee”, which come in little blister packs. They’re perfect for liquid acrylic palettes. When I’ve completely mucked them up, I can just throw them away. So now I have a great excuse to keep buying Toffifees. Yay.

The picture is a commission for the wonderful Paul, for whom I’ve already done “A Sorrowful Meeting“. It’s his character Laerminuial, a Noldo jewel smith from Rivendell.

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I haven’t arrived at the definitive paper for acrylic inks yet. I’ve tried around with Canson Montval and Schoellershammer – Montval tends to cake ever so slightly, but Schoellershammer has some really unfortunate speckling qualities, so Montval it is. Generally, I’m still working with watercolour papers, as I still want the overall feel to be more watercolour than acrylic.

In the photo below, the first light yellow wash is already in place.

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I had one huge “PANIC!” moment connected to liquid acrylics: They speckle when wet. Dramatically. Most dramatically: Rohrer/Klingner Antique Gold Green.

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When this happened for the first time – in the face, of all places – I did panic, and ripped up the whole thing. Later, after the ripped-up painting had sufficiently dried in the dustbin, I saw that the face was perfectly smooth again. And that even works with Rohrer/Klingner Antique Gold Green.

Lesson learned.

When the background wash had dried, I applied some basic wet-into-wet washes for the columns and shrubs, allowing the colours to mix on the paper. I did the skin in the same soft rosy wash.

This works pretty much like watercolour. Overall, the following steps all mimic my usual watercolour techniques.

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I then proceeded to put down the basic colours for the dress and hair. For the dress, I worked around the ornaments the way I usually do – I can always go darker later, or lighter, to pull everything together. Right now, I just wanted to have the basic colours down. And watercolourist that I am, I still feel that leaving something light looks better than painting it light. :D

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Now comes one of the wonders of ink.

In order to give a colour to the ornaments on her dress, I can just lay a wash over the whole thing. I can tint, I can darken – all in transparent ink; the paint underneath is left untouched and crisp. If I tried the same thing in watercolour, the layer underneath would blur.

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More detailing to the shrubs, skin, lamp, and dress.

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Below: More detailing (lamps, shrubs), deepening of shadows (background, columns, shrubs, dress) and tinting. Tinting is one of the greatest assets of acrylic ink. If a colour isn’t as you want it – add a wash of what you want. Acrylic ink, like watercolour, lightens as it dries, and also “deadens” a little. Overall, that’s like an inbuilt safety net, with unlimited correction possibilities, as you can always just add another layer as you find you need them. You can see I work in a sort of island hopping approach – deepening shadows in different areas of the painting as I feel necessary, to keep the overall thing coherent.

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Lastly, a bit of more detail work – the leaves, and some highlights on the figure.

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Crossing the Alps

Across the wild alps

Across the wild alps

This piece really gave me a hard time, but it’s probably very fitting that, in mid-October, I struggle with a piece depicting Hannibal struggling with the Alps in mid-October. My losses were in paper and pencils rather than mules and men, but it seems crossing the Alps isn’t meant to be easy.

The lineart stage alone took me a week and four pieces of paper as I redrew this bit and that and put the pieces back together again. The colour was even tougher. I don’t think I’ve ever painted anything as complex as this. I’d say I mostly succeeded. Another parallel there.

Before I started, I made myself a greyscale sketch in Photoshop, so I knew where to get how dark in the final piece.

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Then I mixed some Phtalo Blue, Indigo and Shadow Violet in one compartment of my palette, some Ochre in another, and then some reddish brown from leftovers I had in my palette (probably mainly Burnt Sienna, Piemontite Red, and Sepia).  I sprayed my entire canvas with water and added a very light blue wash, then going into all the bits that are exposed to the light with extremely thin Ochre.

Then, when this had dried, I painte a rather uniform pale blue sky. The picture is going to be busy enough; when everything else is done, I’ll decide how many clouds this piece can handle.

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Next, I started painting the mountains in the back of the image. I used a pale Blue, mainly Phtalo, and painted the “negative space” around the snow. I mixed in some green to suggest a few trees further away.

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Then I went about detailing the rock-faces closer to us, with mixes of different blues (more Pthalo here, more Indigo and Shadow Violet there), intermingled in the shadows and rockier parts with different, toned-down browns I mixed above.

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I make sure never to get too dark, but more and more detailed towards the front.

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More details and deeper shadows to the rocky bits.

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I painted a thin brownish/bluish wash across the army and the space below them, to tie them in with the surroundings. The group of three men, immediately behind Hannibal and the soldier he’s pulling to his feet, is overlaid with a muddy wash so they won’t distract from the two later on.

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I then decided the empty triangle of sky could well use another mountain, plus a few bluer shadows on the other mountains, which I painted in with Phtalo and Indigo.

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Next, I set out to paint the mountainside to the left. It’s completely in shadow, and I mixed some more reddish tones into the blue.

Down there, you can already see me detailing out the rocks with a brownish wash. The colour consists of everything I have on my palette at this point. 
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Finished detailing. Not too much – I want the detail to be almost lost in the rock face later on, enough to look finished and non-monotonous, but nothing to distract from the figures.

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Next, some skin, bronze and leather.

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Outfitting Hannibal’s Libyans with warm winter clothes. Quiet there in the back, I’ll get to you eventually. The elephants go first.

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More detailing of the figures in back. Simultaneously, I determined how dark my darkest spots would be in this image – Hannibal’s hair – to set off the rest against it, and to have something to check the column against, to keep myself from getting too dark in the background.

And well, after fiddling with hundreds of little figures for hours that don’t look like anything, I needed something rewarding to paint.

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In this painting, my approach is very un-classical. Instead of going strictly from light to dark, I made sure to lay done some guidelines, shapes through the painting, forcing myself to keep an overview rather than getting lost in the details.

Like the fact that Hannibal’s sword is four inches long. >_<

So this is where the mixed media part comes in, and I mixed some dark burgundy with gouache and fixed that sword thing. Next, I added some bright colours (not gouache this time, still sticking mainly to the colours I’ve previously used) for Hannibal’s clothes. They’re too bright as of now, but I plan to make generous use of dark shadows and liquid watercolours to tone them down and add that extra punch that liquid watercolours excel at.

The shields of the men in the back have also been detailed with a mix of ochre/Burnt Sienna/violet mixes already in use. No new colours have been introduced here.

I also painted over the entire army in the back again with a good brushful of dirty water. That got rid of the little white flashes of unpainted whites everywhere, and tied them together neatly. I’ll go in later to pick out some bronze helmet highlights.

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Liquid watercolours in action, picking out shadows.
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Some gouache too, for lighter highlights, which I rarely do, but which are needed here.

The colours look off in the photograph; the original looks much better.

As gouache palettes, I always keep the plastic lids of Chipsletten crisps (Pringles-like,but Chipsletten taste better). They’re the perfect size and quality for palettes on an overcrowded desk like mine.

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The epiphany of the week came with the realisation that a watercolour that looks off is ruined, and a gouache painting that looks of may just not be done yet. That’s a concept I never really grasped. The next step will be to understand how to go on. I manage well enough with gouache in metal and clothes, but skin is not very successful yet. A part of me refuses to paint skin with anything opaque, which seems to be my problem.

Last details of the Celt’s helmet…

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And the clothes of the men in front.

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Gandalf walkthrough

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My first step, as usual, is a pale wash over the entire canvas – here, a cool blue. I brush it off with a dry, clean brush over the mountaintops, the smoke, Gandalf’s beard and face where the light hits.

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Then I start painting the face. When everything around it is still so light, the reddish tones around eyes and nose often look totally overdone, but in the end, when everything else is painted as well, it’s hardly noticeable any more, so I often end up darkening it again after all.

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I paint the robe and hat with a mix of Prussian Blue and Shadow Violet, my favourite granulating colour, which results in nice, rough effects here.tut_gan03

Next, some subtle and well-placed darker shades on the mountains.tut_gan04

The blue scarf…. and look how pale that face suddenly seems again.tut_gan05

Let’s have some more red. He looks drunk? Not for long. In the end, it’ll be just right.

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Shading on the fine tips of hair and beard.

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Shading and texturing on the scarf and cloak. I’ve brought out the eyebrows with a bit of gouache.

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Texturing wood works best painting around the highlights of the wooden structure, and deepening the shades in and around the knotholes.

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A sorrowful meeting

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Sorrowful was their meeting in Tasarinan; for Finrod was lost and Angrod too, and never more would Aegnor walk beside Andreth Saelind beneath the green leaves of spring.  ~(Paul Leone, the commissioner of this piece)

You’ll remember this one of Finarfin being reunited with his daughter Galadriel around the War of Wrath. I redid it as a commission – as you know, the old version was coffee, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to hang it on a wall! :)

On my latest workshop, so many people were doing terrific things with masking fluid, so that I decided to give that another go as well. I used it for a layered look of negative space throughout; here you can see how:

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Workshop Aachen – we put the water in watercolour! (Mainly from above.)

And another weekend with great fun, fantastic creativity, and abysmal weather. Aachen really puts the water back in watercolour. Thanks to all who braved the rain and storm (and bad lighting!) to join us!

Kirsten was again so kind to film some painting demos; I’ll upload the vids when I have them! Until then, here’s a skin-and-hair-and-beard demo of Thorin Oakenshield, and a painting armour demo (hail damage insurance from Knights Weekly).

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And well, some Hannibal had to join us. As a matter of fact, we saw even more of them – two other participants drew Hannibals too, though one was the Lector subspecies. :D wp_age-chart_col

I’ll soon update my deivantArt journal with all the artwork created there!

First Workshop 2013

I’ve held my first of two workshop this weekend, and we’ve had two fantastic days with interesting people, heaps of creativity, loads of fun, and of course gorgeous art!  Take a look!

I did a demonstration of skin and clothes again, and Hannibal acted as my new demonstration model.

It seems that the skin-shading there caught the only sunlight in the only ten minutes today that we had any sunshine. Otherwise I can’t explain where all the orange came from – I definitely didn’t make it so orange. The last shot reflects the actual colours (when the sky over Aachen was back to grey). Or possibly because the direction I took the final photo from was different (frontal instead of sideways) and that did something with  the light.

The final Hannibal piece:

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The Darkening of Valinor

This is a commission I took on last November (…!), for a wonderful guy and one of the greatest clients I’ve ever worked with. He wanted a painting of Fëanor holding his slain father, and the scene quickly evolved from there.

As usual, the fist sketches I made were digital, so I could shift around elements and try out what looked good where – digital thumbnailing. In the margin, quite a lot changed; the centre was pretty clear for me right from the start. Only Fëanor’s head went all over the pace during the sketching phase.

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At this stage, I took it to pencil and paper, lightly sketching out Fëanor and Finwë.

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In the end, I had everything where I wanted it (and had corrected Fëanor’s leg and Finwë’s head wound). For the centre image, I had been working in A4 format, which I find easiest to handle. (Especially on a desk otherwise overflowing with unmarked exams – school really kept me away from drawing for the better part of 2013. But you probably noticed that from the absence of pictures this year.)

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I then started on the background. For this, I printed out the centre piece on an A3 sheet of drawing board, in light orange, so I could filter it out digitally later and put the two different elements together but was in less danger of smudging anything. I wanted the centre piece there with me, because the entire piece was to have a unity (Fëanor was to be in direct eye contact with Morgoth across the different picture elements, and later, I continued certain flow lines across the borders- such as Fëanor’s clothing continued in Manwë’s clothing behind Nienna).

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Drawing Morgoth.
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Outlining the Valar. Ungoliant would be redrawn completely – she looks absolutely wonderfully terrifying, but I assembled her wrong – the legs are attached between the head and the main body of a spider, not on the main body. I can’t believe I studied spider anatomy for this image, and actually desensitised myself (huge arachnophobic here) enough to be able to google wolf spiders and draw them as terrifyingly as I could make it. Incidentally, the desensitising effect was enough for me to clean the basement floor for the first time since we moved into this house. If I’m feeling particularly daring, I might scrounge up the courage to pack up the spider-infested tent that has been lying around in the laundry room since last September.

Apart from arachnophobic concerns, another huge topic was how to portray the Valar. I’m really glad that the client gave me completely free reign with this. I had a hard time finding back to my view of some of them – I’ve seen entirely too many Morgoths, Mandoses and Manwës looking entirely too pretty. Many will disagree with me for Manwë, and feel free to, by all means – I know that “they took the forms of the children of Ilúvatar”. And yet, Tulkas has a beard, and when I first read the Silmarillion, I imagined the Valar like Greek or Norse Gods, with Manwë definitely in the tradition of Odin and Zeus.

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Fun fact: Nienna, for me, has always looked like the woman in the video of “Babe” from Take That. The song was in the charts in 1993, while I was reading the Silmarillion excessively during my last year at school, and the video featured a solder coming home from a war (?) in a wintry landscape, where a woman clothed head to toe in some sort of black gauze was walking through the ruins of a Russian palace covered in snow, usually with her head in her hands. I’d never been much of a Take That fan (my teenage tastes were rather unusual – Maedhros, Hannibal and football players instead of Mark Owen and Gary Barlow), but the video fascinated me visually. And gave me a clear vision of Nienna.

 

Next up: Watercolours!

Fingon and Aredhel – mixed media experiment

I doodled a very nice Fingon and Aredhel into my sketchbook yesterday – with coloured pencil, which yielded some really charming results. I decided to try watercolour on top of those – only to realise that my coloured pencils were water soluble.

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So I printed the sketches out on watercolour paper again, and got to work, spraying the entire paper with water and then laying down a Quinachridone Gold wash.

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A bit of flesh-tint with Burnt Sienna and Madder Red.

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Some Ultramarine for the shadows.

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More reddish and bluish tints. I really like this effect. Maybe next time I try this technique, I won’t do it on a character with dark hair.

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Painting the hair with Ultramarine, Madder, and rather a lot of Shadow Violet.

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Some final touches with paint, and later some more with Polychromos and white gel pen.

 

Finished:

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Welcome to my life, Quinacridone!

A few people recommended Daniel Smith watercolours to me when I posted my last blog post. I got curious and found a place to order them online in Germany. I got myself Shadow Violet, Quinacridone Deep Gold and Indian Red (which I’d run out of anyway). The owner of the shop very kindly also included a couple of “dot cards”, watercolour paper with dried paint dots on it, which you can try out for yourself. And wow – am I hooked! Especially the Quinacridone hues are amazing – completely transparent, light-fast and wonderfully vibrant and alive.

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In the corner, I tried some Shadow Violet (with masking technique). The hues you see there are for real. Just wow.

I also got myself some Fabriano paper, as I was running out of Montval. Fabriano, for me, is a real discovery – as grainy and cottony as Arches, but without the latter’s setbacks (I could never get dark colours on Arches). Together with a new watercolour technique book by Roland Roycraft, I suddenly found myself wanting to try it all out at once – new technique with masking fluid, my new Daniel Smith colours, my new Fabriano paper, and leave out lineart and paint loosely, while we’re at it.

With all those novelties, it was clear who’d be my guinea pig.

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I still managed to totally warp the proportions (no lineart! Heeeelp!), so thanks for the miracles of Photoshop’ liquefy tool. :D

The colours are 100% original. Let’s just pretend the face looks like this too.

Which watercolours?

An overview over all the different watercolour types and brands I’ve worked with, their advantages and setbacks.

Some general notes in advance. If you’re well-versed with the different features of watercolours, just skip this bit.

Quality: Watercolours come in two general distinctions: Artists’ quality (Fine Art/Künstler) or students’ quality (Akademie). All the paints I’ll be talking about here are artists’ colour quality. They’re generally more light-fast (unless noted below), and more highly pigmented. A pan of student’s quality watercolour lasts me two months. The same size pan with artists’ quality lasts me six. If you’re unsure whether you want to experiment with watercolour, by all means buy students quality. Once you’re sure you want to do more with them, and want your final products to be light-fast, go for artists’ quality.

Light-fastness: A colour that is light-fast doesn’t fade if exposed to sunlight. Some natural pigments like Crimson are less light-fast than others; they’ll fade over time. Some manufacturers of watercolours use traditional, natural pigments as well as synthetic ones that have been made for more light-fastness. If you’re going to paint just for fun, or colour comics, or any other type of illustration that is going to be reproduced, light-fastness won’t be a huge concern of yours. If your paintings are going to end up on a wall, better make sure your pigments are light-fast. More detail on each type of paint below.

Opacity: Most watercolours are more or less transparent. This means that if you paint them over an already dried glaze, or over lineart, you’ll still see what’s below. Many earth pigments are more opaque. There’s nothing good or bad about opacity or transparency. Opaquer colours result in a more solid look close to gouache or even acrylics; more transparent colours will look lighter, more feathery, and probably more watercolour-y. If you have a tendency to produce very muddy paintings, make sure you pick transparent pigments. Darker colours will look deeper in transparent paint – because they shine more, even when they’re dark. More detail on each type of paint below.

Every good watercolour pan, tube, or bottle always has information – usually in the form of little icons – on light-fastness, opacity, and sometimes staining qualities.

Different brands: For full, comprehensive and excellent information on many international paints, refer to this section of handprint.com.

1. Pans (Schmincke)

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Type: Pretty much what most people know as watercolours. Little cakes of dry paint that you wet with a brush and then paint with.

Where to get them: Artists supplies online or offline. Other good brands include but are not limited to Daniel Smith, Lukas, Daler-Rowney, Winsor&Newton, Van Gogh. My American friends recommend M Graham, but I’ve never tried those.

Result: Varies. With transparency or opacity (see below), many different looks from light to more substantial can be achieved.

Light-fastness: Varies. On the package when you buy them, there are symbols that tell you how light-fast they are. For Schmincke, it’s a number of stars (see below, too). In my experience, Schmincke paints are very light-fast (even if the number of stars says they aren’t). For example, I stared conducting a light-fastness test in the summer of 2010, and not even the Alizarin Crimson or Indigo, which are supposed to be very fugitive, have faded after being exposed to sunlight for years.

Opacity: Varies. There’s another symbol that tells you how transparent or opaque any given pigments are. For Schmincke, a black square means very opaque; a white square means very transparent. Transparent vs opaque paint can result in very difficult final paintings. On average, most Schmincke paints are more transparent than not.

Useful for: Working in small formats, especially in the open. You can take a watercolour box anywhere and have all the paints handy without unscrewing lids.

Not useful for: Painting very large areas, mixing a lot of paint.

2. Tubes (Schmincke)

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Type: Semi-liquid paste that you squeeze on a palette to paint with. Dried paint is infinitely reusable, just re-wet it.

Where to get them: Artists supplies online or offline. Other good brands include but are not limited to Lukas, Windsor&Newton, Van Gogh. I now use mainly Daniel Smith, Mijello, Sennelier, and Maimeri Blu.

Result: See above. Paints from tubes and pans from the same brand are otherwise identical if they have the same names.

Light-fastness: See above.

Opacity: See above.

Useful for: Working in large formats, to mix large amounts of paint at the same time. When I started to work in formats larger to A4, I switched to tubes permanently.

Not useful for: Travelling. You can still make a travelling kit with these – just squeeze some drops of paint onto a palette or into any tin or plastic box, let them dry, and you can take them anywhere.

3. Watercolour pencils (Dürer, Koh-I-Noor)

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Type: Coloured pencils with “pan” watercolour instead of leads. They handle a lot like normal coloured pencils, but you need less pressure; they tend to be very bright. After drawing, you go over selected areas with a wet brush to soften edges and brighten colours.

Where to get them: Artists supplies online or offline.

Result: If little water is used, similar to a coloured pencil image. If much water is used, very bright colours.

Light-fastness: Depends on the pigments used; it can be difficult to find out which exactly were used, as watercolour pencils rarely name the pigments, as opposed to good quality pan or tube manufacturers.

Opacity: More opaque than regular watercolours, and always more irregular surfaces. You can get very dark, bright colours much more easily than with tube or pan paints.

Useful for: People who prefer a drawing approach to actual painting, people who like a look of single strokes.

Not useful for: Me. ;) They’re not my cup of tea.

4. Rohrer & Klingner liquid watercolour

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Type: Rather thick liquid in a glass bottle, with a very practical eye-dropper in the lid. Insanely highly pigmented. One drop fills an entire background. I usually place one drop onto a palette and then thin it down. These are also reusable when they’ve dried.

Where to get them: In Germany: big (!) artists stores like Boesner, or online at Gerstaecker or Boesner. I don’t know about outside Germany.

Result: Very bright colours.

Light-fastness: Varies (they’ve got these little stars too).

Opacity: Extremely opaque if used undiluted. If used with more water, almost as transparent as pan or tube watercolour (but not quite). If applied very thickly, the paint (even blue and red etc) acquires a thick and oily bronze sheen.

Useful for: Filling large areas very economically.

Not useful for: Households with cats if you forget to screw the lid back on. If one of these beauties spills over, say good-bye to anything on your workbench that is not a wipeable surface.

5. Talens Ecoline liquid watercolours

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Type: Rather thin liquid in a glass bottle; no eyedropper lid, which is a severe setback. You see that I’ve filled my Ecolines into pharmacy bottles. Reusable when dried, but as opposed to the tubes and Rohrer& Klingner above, they get noticeably thinner if re-wetted.

Where to get them: I’ve only ever found these online; they seem to be pretty internationally available.

Result: Very bright, very transparent colours.

Light-fastness: Not light-fast. Don’t use if you want to put a finished painting on a wall. Fine for reproduction.

Opacity: Very transparent, incredibly bright colours. (The white up there is opaque, of course, though not as opaque as gouache.)

Useful for: Brightly coloured, transparent paintings that are done for reproduction and don’t need to be light-fast.

Not useful for: I think I addressed the light-fastness thing…

6. Dr. Ph. Martin’s HYDRUS watercolours

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Type: Liquid in a glass bottle (or in a plastic bottle); with eyedropper lid. If you buy them, go for the glass bottles (they’re the larger ones). I’ve had some bad luck with he plastic ones – paint drying up, flaking, or evaporating. And whereas tube or pan watercolour can be re-wet and re-worked ad infinitum, once Hydrus has flaked, that was it. I haven’t had this problem with the larger glass bottles at all. They can be re-wet like any other watercolour.

Where to get them: Not in Germany. =( They’re available in the US, for example online with Dick Blick. That’s where I get mine. EDIT: They’re now available at Easy Aquarell!

Result: Very bright colours that allow darker shading than most watercolours. If applied in many layers and undiluted, becomes rather opaque.

Light-fastness: Light-fast. Says the lid. I’ve been working with them for a year and so far, I agree.

Opacity: Transparent when diluted, though ever so slightly less so than pan or tube colours. Rather opaque when used in many layers and/or undiluted. Can be used to great effect in combination with pan or tube paints.

Useful for: Anything! Easy to administer, bright colours, dark colours, you name it, they got it.

Not useful for: Like all bottled paints, travelling with them is a nuisance if you don’t have a table to work on.

The harp no longer sings

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This is a concept that has occupied me for years, resulting in several pieces already. It’s symbolic rather than illustrative of any given passage in the text – Maglor, a remnant of the Elves in Middle-earth but excluded from his people, caught in a world of his own where music no longer brings consolation, surrounded by the ruins of the former greatness of the Noldor, whose downfall he had a part in.

I’ve never really done much with the “ruins” part of the scenario; half-hearted attempts at best, probably because I really struggle with architecture of any kind. Now, though, I’ve decided to give it another go.

This is a more refined version of the first sketch.

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Here’s the lineart:

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When I print the lineart, I tint the ruins in the background more greenish and very light, so that it will mostly disappear in the finished painting, and reduce the ruins to faint structures that could just as well be from a dream.

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This picture is a great excuse to make excessive use of my new Cobalt Turquoise from Schmincke. For the first background wash, I mix it with Chrome Oxide Green and a touch of Ultramarine and Cadmium Yellow, and apply it very thinly with a soft brush, lighter at the top and darker at the bottom.

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I then re-wet everything, and paint darker streaks, that will look like sunlight filtering through tress – or through water. I want the whole lighting here very ambiguous.

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After this has dried, I use the same colours – more green here, more blue there – very thinly to paint the detail in the ruins.

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To make it less monochromatic, I go in with a bluer tone, and paint the shadows in the areas between the streaks of sunlight. This is the point where my camera decides “This is all just green. Yeah, whatever.” I hope my scanner is more sensitive later…

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In all the following, excuse the turquoise colour mash, please.

Next, I add some Ochre to everything in the foreground – first the structures, to suggest sandstone or a similar stone.

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It gets a greenish-blue layer for shadows, to make it stand out less. I then decide Ochre will make a great foundation for the figure too. This looks very yellow now, but will mostly vanish under the greens and blues of Maglor’s clothing later, only serve as a “grounding” in the light situation around him.

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Some detailing in the ground – mainly with Ultramarine and duller Indigo, but with the brush dipped into Chromoxide Green, Cobalt Turquoise, and Ochre here and there for colour variation.

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Detailing on the leaves, again with the whole range of greens and blues used above.

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The skin is done with Burnt Sienna, as usual, but thinned down beyond recognition with my dirty water, which is now a nice green-blue concoction, rather thick too, as it’s dried overnight. Comes in extremely useful for making any colour fit the mood of my painting.

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I use the same principle with the hair tone, which is Sepia with a lot of dirty green water. The shadows are done with a touch of Indigo, too.

(Give my camera a kick here, please. Thanks.)

On the image on the right below, I’ve re-drawn the eyes and brows slightly with a Sepia marker, as the lineart was starting to dull under the paint.

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Below left: Next, I put in the base tones, very light, of Maglor’s clothes. I choose a mix of Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine, and Chromoxide Green for his tunic, and a more Indigo-heavy tone for the cloak. The hose is just my dirty water at this point. ;)

Below right: First layer of rendering. I build the shadows up slowly, mostly with Indigo, to avoid getting too dark too soon, and adding another layer here and there to add depth.

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Below: detailing on the arm guards. (I love doing Maglor’s arm guards.)

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After darkening and shading, and detailing, we arrive at this.

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Final touches include painting the falling petals with white gouache.

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The Oath has been awakened – painting

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In painting this one, I was facing the challenge to have a lot of reds, even in the sky, and horses – which sometimes leads to dangerously girly-calendary motifs.

So far, I seem to have succeeded in not falling over on that side of the fence. I know that because my daughter, a great fan of horses and pink, keeps looking at the picture on my desk and walking away without saying a word. That’s her way of saying, “Really, mum, such lovely horseys, and such ugly colours. I’d tell you so but I’m afraid of hurting your feelings.”

Yay!

Note: The colours on the photographs deviate really far from the actual ones at times. When I used the flash, they’re too yellow; when I didn’t, my daylight lamp resulted in too bluish tones. The entire pic is too large to be properly photographed with the means I have.

The lineart is, again, pencil, scanned, tinted and photocopied onto watercolour paper. See here if you have any questions.

My daughter would have loved the first stage. I overlaid the whole pic with a warm light red wash composed of Madder red and Ochre, dabbing some paint off the horses and figures, particularly the upper parts, allowing all those twenty-eight horse legs to blend into the rest.

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Then, I added streaks of more red into the sky, and blotches of Chromoxide Green, Madder red mixed with Ultramarine, and Burnt Sienna into the ground, for the colours of heather.

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Next, some Ochre, Sepia, but my violet mix from above for the stones. Later, they’ll be lighter than the rest.

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Next, I proceed to paint more heather. I mix more Madder Red with Ultramarine, and paint the upper edges of patches of heather…

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While the paint is still wet, I rinse my brush in the orange-y dirty water in my water container, and drag the paint down with it. The jagged top edge remains unaffected, the rest…

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… is blurred and diluted.

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Patches of heather:

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I proceed to muddy the sky (and frustrate my daughter), and add a dirty wash of Burnt Sienna and Ochre to the top margin of the painting, drawing it down with more dirty water.

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The ground now gets a second wash of my violet mix with Burnt Sienna, darkening it and softening the edges of heather.

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I allow it to bleed into the horses’ legs, to merge them with the ground. A while ago, I used to cleanly separate every element of the image, and sometimes, that would result in cut-and-paste looking picture elements.

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This is a sort of middle stage, from which I can start to add layers. It’s also the sort of stage that’s already starting to look good, and which I can safely leave on my desk without cringing whenever I walk past it…

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After a good night’s sleep, I decide that the ground is too light, and add another darker layer, effectively killing my detailed heather. Which isn’t so bad. It’s still there in a blurry way, and will look very organic when I’m done.

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Now, for the sky. I rewet the upper portion of the picture, mix some dramatic dark violet (with Madder Red, Ultramarine, Indigo, Sepia, and Burnt Sienna) and paint streaks into the wet areas, allowing them to run.

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The ground is dry at this point, and I start to paint the orange shrubbery around the stones. For this, I use gouache – watercolour wouldn’t have been visible. I also redo my heather in the same way I did above.

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I then add some highlights, again with gouache, to the shrubs and stones, and paint a few stray patches of wild wheat.

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Then I go as daring as I get and use green to paint the sallow thorn and the far hills, adding a few berries into the branches.

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Now, finally, the figures. I start with some reds and ochres to see how it looks. Yup – looks good!

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I paint the figures and horses with a fair deal of island hopping, working on whatever spot begs my attention (and is dry), mostly sticking to one colour at a time, more or less.

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More detailing.

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Just to show you how small some of the bits and pieces here are… The entire piece is 65 x 32 cm. … That’s one cent, btw.

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Some final touches with white gouache to spearpoints, hair, fur.

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Finished piece and detail shots: https://goldseven.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/the-oath-has-been-awakened/

Eärendil the Mariner

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“Hail Eärendil brightest of angels,

over Middle-earth sent unto Men!”

 

Eärendil was arguably the first figure in Tolkien’s legendarium that he ever devised and gave a story to. In the designs, I went for rather archaic Germanic and Anglo-Saxon elements, some found in an edition of the Edda I own, which is over a hundred years old and belonged to my grandparents. I like to think Tolkien knew it.

Germanic lore, with its brisk heroism, has always fascinated me. Tolkien wrote once in a letter that something he hated Hitler for was for taking those old Germanic myths, sagas and lore and twisting them into his sick ideology, and even sixty years after Tolkien wrote those words, they’re even more painfully true. I own several beautifully illustrated Eddas, and the pictorial “language” in all of them just says “Nazi” to most people, which is so, so sad.

So this is something else to love Tolkien for: For rescuing those old Germanic myths and sagas in a different incarnation.

Media used: Schmincke tube watercolours for the first transparent layers; liquid watercolours from Rohrer&Klingner for the dark ones, and some white Ecoline Talens ink for some of the highlights and the clouds, all on Canson Montval paper.

Not many progress shots for this one; just a couple of ones documenting the “underpainting” and lighting. I built this up of considerably more layers than I often do, and used wet into wet, which I do even less often.

This one was a first layer of blotchy bright yellow with darker purple splashed into it while still wet.

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A next layer has some of the backlighting and darkening of some areas, and some purplish blue for the sea.

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Fun with textures – brought to you by Tancred of Hauteville

This one was a commission that allowed me to go wild with all sorts of newly-found textures. It shows Tancred of Hauteville, an 11th century crusader.

Before I used them on paper, I tried them out on a separate sheet. The three things I used were: white spirit, effect spray, and granulation medium. The latter are specifically for watercolour and are available in art supply stores or online. The white spirit was a leftover from my hubby painting the garage door. ;)

The granulation medium – top left – is a rather soft way for textures. For sharper edges, white spirit was a nice one (bottom row, left and right). But if you’ve ever worked with white spirit (Terpentinersatz), you know it stinks.
I’d had this effect spray from Schmincke for years, but never really used it as you have to spray it across the whole image.  You can see what it does in the bottom row in the middle. It’s a rather nice “starry sky” effect.

Now, as I had all sorts of little bottles with eyedropper lids, I thought: Why not bottle that stuff for more exact use?

So I found myself patiently spraying effect spray into an eyedropper bottle. XD The result was great – see it at the top right. Little starry, hard-edged blotches, more random than white spirit, but smells far nicer.