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Have I got a treat for you today! Jean Haines is back with another guest blog post in which she shares a watercolor painting demonstration of a sea turtle. View her complete video workshops at ArtistsNetworkTV, and read on to see why Jean thinks that sometimes painting is akin to singing a song. Enjoy! ~Cherie
A Turtle Song by Jean Haines
I often think that painting is just like singing. At times we can sing the most beautiful of melodies but at others we may hit the wrong key, putting us off so that we have to start again from the very first note. When I teach, I give my students small one-on-one demonstrations, using whatever subject the artist has asked of me to show them. Often I will share the starting point for them to follow and explain how the painting can be built up around it. I find this form of teaching really successful; however, when the workshop ends I often have a collection of half-finished paintings that were used as personal demonstrations and left uncompleted. To me, they’re like songs that have been interrupted. The flow of the “music” has been halted and it can be difficult to pick up the right “note” at a later time. But by doing just that, I also find that I improve my technique. I learn from completing a painting at a later date. I can show you how by using this watercolor painting demonstration of a sea turtle.
I started with the eye of my subject and then discussed selecting glowing color to bring the creature to life. I chose cobalt turquoise, cadmium yellow and a touch of quinacridone gold. I kept my colors soft for my demonstration so that the artist following my brushwork could have the opportunity to darken the color if needed once he was sure he had made the correct decisions for his initial brush marks. I never use a preliminary sketch, so my first few brush marks are really important. Once I showed the artist how to start the watercolor painting, I guided him in his own style, so my demonstration was then put to the side.
After the workshop I looked at this watercolor painting again and wanted to complete it. I didn’t have the original photograph to work from so I used my imagination to complete the piece. I felt I could strengthen the color and add more detail, like the flipper in the foreground, to tell more of the story. If you’re going to pick up a “song” of a half-finished painting this way, make a note of the colors you’ve used so that you can add to the composition at a later stage with the confidence of knowing what the original colors were.
Once I started to strengthen the color, the painting almost begged me to add the flipper in the foreground. because I wasn’t working from a photograph, my instincts to make this part of the turtle stronger and warmer in color helped me create the glowing result seen below in Step 3.
At this stage, I took time to stop and look at what was happening to my creation. I find we often race when painting and by doing so we can overlook what a painting needs sometimes. I wasn’t happy with the upper section of the sea turtle, so I added more color to connect it with the newly painted areas. At this stage I felt the song was complete, so rather than risk “singing off key,” I stopped painting and put my brush down.
The value in going back to a painting at a later time is that you can learn so much from your previous brushwork, color choices and half-finished composition. By completing a painting at a later stage, you’re looking at it with fresh eyes. I’m not suggesting you deliberately stop painting halfway through every creative process, but life has an annoying habit of forcing that to happen anyway. Have you ever been so totally engrossed in a painting and the phone has rung or your free time has vanished, and you have to regretfully leave what you are doing? It can be really frustrating, but it can also be a blessing in disguise.
Had I finished this piece in my workshop, I would have raced it to show the artist on my course how to finish the piece. It may have looked fabulous, but with 20 other one-on-one subjects to paint, it would have been rushed. By waiting, I enjoyed completing the beautifully colorful turtle. Now I can paint a new piece from the beginning with new ideas under my belt. I can add the sea, paint the turtle from a different angle or perhaps create a whole new composition with the turtle at the top or lower section of the paper. I can add directional brushwork to hint at which way the turtle is headed or coming from. I have a million ideas for a new watercolor painting. Like notes in a new song, when I put them all together, they could be even more beautiful.
So the next time your ” song” is interrupted, see it as a good experience that you can learn from. Most importantly, find time to paint and keep singing beautiful notes in color! ~Jean
Above: A preview of Watercolor Flowers from Jean Haines