Mermaid Within

As whole, creating this piece was an experiment for me. For one, I had never drawn a skeleton within something and two, I have not painted a portrait in a long time. When painting those other portraits I either used acrylic paint or oils. One that blends well and one that dries fast. Watercolor, on the other hand, was only ever used for painting shapes or things as a child. Never had I used it seriously before on a project.

The things I learned with watercolors were along the lines of: water, on even dry watercolor paint on the paper, can still reactivate it and that mistakes are hard to cover or get rid of. The transparency of the paint eliminates the usual fixes of just painting over. The first problem caused issues when especially working on the skin with an attempt to pull some of the color over the bones. I approached this in a way that instead of ‘painting’ on the bones I just dabbed small amounts of watered down colors. This seemed to, for the most part, stop the mistake of blending the colors too much. To solve the second issue of ‘fixing’ mistakes I tried to work with the watercolor instead of against it. By this, I mean, instead of attempting to paint over the mistake I either wetted it and dabbed most of the color off or took a wet paint brush and pushed the colors around as needed.

Aside from the difficulties watercolor paints presented, the issue of the photo itself came up. In no way did I expect the painting to turn out realistic. Instead of fighting against this I started off slow with the painting. I focused on one area at a time to create a stylized version of the image albeit it is not exactly accurate in its rendition. Instead of making me dislike or lose interest completely in the painting I kept working those areas individually. This allowed me to build layers or colors to see how they would interact in my attempts at creating textures, shadow and contrast. For example, the rocks to the right of the statue are far from perfect or realistic. What I did in attempt to at least mimic the movement of the rock’s texture was to use directional brush strokes at the diagonals of the rocks. The rocks had started off as three sections of lines and with the additions of darker colors and more details they developed more space and were not so flat.

The water, overall, was the most difficult of the areas to paint. Previously I had not painted water except on an oil painting three years ago. That had not turned out well and I had forgotten the difficulties it had presented. This painting was no different. Combining the lack of skill in watercolor and hardly ever having painted water it created an interesting problem to solve. I laid out the usual base layer and then, added some waves. The contrast had still been too low. In all honesty I had been afraid to apply dark colors in fear of truly messing up. I eventually just went at it because of said fear. What resulted was water that moved and had contrast. Even the base works with the waves further back the water goes.

Surprisingly the easiest and yet most detailed thing I painted had been the skeleton. I figured a yellow skeleton would contrast against the skin color better than a white skeleton and frankly the yellow was easy to add shadows without going too dark. Too dark a shadow, I feared, would push the skeleton to far up, meaning that it would not ‘sit’ within the skin. I attempted to use the light source indicated in the picture combined with looking at the classroom skeleton, “Slim”, to figure out how to light the bones. It was an interesting experience to try and add at least a little detail on all the bones.

The skin was tricky to lay down on top of the skeleton. I did not want to obscure the skeleton to the point of being unrecognizable. As previously mentioned, I layered the skin on top of the bone with dabs of paint. In some areas the colors did still blend but in a way that was not messy and enhanced the transparent skin over bone. Certain areas, like the breasts, were easier to place flesh over because of the extra “fleshiness” of that area. The places like the hands and tail where only small bones lay do not look as much like the bones sit within. The head, where the hair is and the hip bones I feel are two of the most convincing areas. There was simply more bone to work with. To touch up to skin I decided to use a pastel for the yellowish areas on the flesh and a colored pencil to indicate scales. I did not want the scales to stand out too much and compete for attention with the bones.

Overall, learning how to place a skeleton within a body was fun. I enjoyed figuring it out even though my mermaid seemed a bit elongated. The choice of a mermaid was, for the most part, to have experiment with the bone structure of a mythological creature. The skills of water color I gleaned from this are valuable to future paintings as well as understanding how paint blends. Overall I believe this project will help me understand digital painting at least a little.

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