Readying The Paint Trays

It’s that time again — to start a new paper sculpture. I need to wash out my paint tray and put some fresh new watercolors out.

I use Winsor & Newton watercolors and gouache paints, which comes in a tube. Typically I can keep the watercolor paints on my palette for several weeks. I used a large plastic 12″ x 15″ tray with individual cups around the outside with a large area inside the tray to mix your paints. It came with a lid, which was nice because it helped to prevent your paints from drying out so quickly.

If I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back to my painting for more than a few days, I would cover the plastic tray in plastic wrap and then put the lid overtop of the tray. This method gave me a couple of extra days, maybe a week or so, before my paints dried out completely. While it is true that all you have to do is add water to revive your dried up watercolor paints, it is better to keep the paints wet.

If the paint dries out completely and you go back to add water it will often times be gritty and is difficult and if not impossible to get rid of that graininess. When using grainy watercolors, that beautiful wash of blue you just laid down on your watercolor paper will have these tiny specks of dried paint here and there that can be very distracting, ruining your serene sky. (I have made this mistake in the past, only to have to redo the whole thing once again!)

A few years ago I started to use paint trays that come with individual cups with tight fitting lids. Even though the mixing area is smaller than my old tray, I’ve found this type of tray really suits my way of working. Ninety percent of my paintings are smaller than 9″ x 12″ so I don’t require huge areas to mix up my washes.

These paint trays solve my problem with the paints drying out too quickly. Since they have individual cups, even if one color dries out or your cadmium yellow accidentally got alizarin crimson mixed into it, you can easily and quickly change out one cup of color — wash it out, refill it and you are good to go!

Every now and then I still like to completely wash out all of my paint cups and paint trays. I especially like to do this before beginning a large project or series of projects — it is part of my ritual, a fresh start.

As I clean off my drawing table, organize pencils, brushes, papers, gather reference material, and sketches, I am also thinking about this new project. At this stage, the sketches are already completed and finalized so I am beginning to think, what will I work on first? What colors will I use? Should I do a color study first? How detailed will the picture be?

Once my desk is cleaned off and organized, my paint trays are washed out and cleaned, it is time to add the paints. I always putting the paints in the same place in the same order. Being consistent with the placement of the paints in the tray is very helpful. For example, when I want to mix up a yellowish green, I immediately know which container holds my new gamboge, cadmium yellow and spectrum yellow, creating an easy method of mixing the color I want to use.

Using good tools, organization, simplifying your process, and creating a consistent set up with your paints will help you be more efficient in your work.

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Save Your Old Sketch Books

Hold onto all those old sketch books. They are filled with lots of ideas and reference material. I can’t tell you have often I have gone back to look through my sketch books. There are lots of ideas of things I wanted to do, to create and sketches of things I want to transfer into paper sculpture. Even the sketch books from 10 and 20 years ago are helpful. It can spark new ideas. It reminds you of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. They contain ideas that can spark a new idea. Sometimes it is an idea I had twenty years ago but forgot about it, but now I can now grow upon that thought.

What hidden treasures do you have saved inside your old sketch books?

Gerbera Daisy Galore

Last week I mentioned that I was going to make a bunch of paper daisies in a variety of sizes. As I was working on the center of the daisies I remembered how pretty the Gerbera Daisy centers looked and thought they would also be fun to make.

I made a phone call to my local grocery stores’ flower shop, and found out they had some in their store. They had quite a few different colors and varieties of the Gerbera daisies, but I knew I couldn’t buy all of them and decided to narrow it down to two different colors of daisies. It was not an easy decision to only pick two colors out of the whole bunch. They all look so beautiful. But, if I bought more, I wouldn’t be able to make them in paper before they wilted. It is so nice to work form the live flowers instead of working from photographs.

Here are a couple of photos in progress. My favorite one is the photorealistic pink Gerbera Daisy. I liked working out the details of the center of the daisy and figuring out how to replicate it by just using paper and paint.

I also made a variety of different sizes of daisies — purple and yellow and white ones. The yellow daisy is the largest one I made. It was nice to work on something larger than I normally do for a change.

What’s up for next week schedule … three-dimensional paper letters.

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A Little Daisy Will Do

For my next paper sculpture, I am going to make a sign made from 3D paper letters. It is going to be …

… Uh oh, I just got distracted!

Someone brought me a beautiful bouquet of daisies — all vibrant colors! Yellows, greens, oranges, and magenta. They are so pretty.

Now I am inspired to make a couple of different paper sculpture daisies in different colors and different sizes. I want to take advantage of the opportunity to work from the live flowers while they last.

I have three different projects in mind that I can use these flowers for, so I am going to stop working on my other project, so I am clearing off my desk and switching it over to flower sculpting time. This will be fun!

Here are some of my daisy photos. (More info about my sign at a later date!)

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Sketching the Giraffe

I decided I wanted to make a paper sculpture of a giraffe. Before I start my sculptures, I like to draw a lot of sketches. Sketching is all part of my initial planning stage. It really helps me to work through a lot of different types of decisions I need to make before I can even begin the 3D elements of one of my paper sculptures.

How large will the finished paper sculpture be? Will it be photo realistic or more whimsical? Will the giraffe be facing forward or will it be a profile view? Am I going to make his whole entire body? What do I want to focus on and draw attention to? What will the composition of the piece look like?

I like their eyes and their long eyelashes, so that is something I wanted to highlight. I also wanted to show off his mane and his ossicones (horn-like antlers) on the top of his head. After lots of sketching, I decided I would make a 3D portrait of the giraffe instead of showing his whole entire body. And, I wanted to show his face as a profile view and have it look like he is coming out from behind the white mat of the framed picture.

Here are some of the preliminary sketches I drew of my giraffe.

Coming up in my next blog post: the finished giraffe!

Lots of Love for the Giraffe

The other day I was thinking about all the animals I have drawn during the course of my illustration career. Over the years I have drawn animals from all different types of environments such as elephants, frigate birds, peacocks, lizards, monkeys, cardinals, zebras, and lots more. Many of the illustrations were painted in watercolor and gouache or pen and ink line art for various children’s publications, activity pages, games, and greeting cards.

I would have to say that one of my favorite animals to draw is a giraffe. Of course, everyone knows they have that very long neck, but I also like them because they are so tall and I think those long eyelashes give their faces so much character.

Here’s a couple of my giraffe illustrations I’ve done over the years. And, in a few weeks, you will see my next paper sculpture. Yep, you guessed it — a giraffe!

Giraffes

Double The Fun: Finished Peonies

These peonies were fun to create. The white peony has a beautiful center of different shades of brilliant yellow with a tinge of orange on the tips. The dark colored peony are a combination of purples, alizarin crimson and magentas, which are some of my favorite colors. I framed both in small, black shadowbox frames with a white mat. I think they would be nice hung together on a wall — perhaps filling up that empty little nook.