art: a process

After my sister gifted the most amazing watercolors I’ve touched in my life, I’ve been mildly obsessed with them. Forget those pencil drawings I love; I’ve got watercoloring to do. Hence why Ron Weasley and JGL are still sticky-tacked to my desk half finished, whereas I’ve been cranking out the watercolors. Also because Ron is wearing plaid and JGL is in stripes and why do I always pick reference photos with complicated clothing patterns? In any case…. here’s how I do these watercolors.

First, here are the materials I’ll be using on this:

blending marker, white color pencil, graphic pencils, eraser, sharpener, watercolor pad, watercolors, brushes, sketch paper, water, paper towels, and reference image (on the computer)

clear blending marker (optional), white color pencil (for last little touches, but also optional), graphic pencils, eraser, sharpener, watercolor pad, watercolors (Dr. Ph. Martin’s), sable brushes (#2, #8, and 3/4 wash), sketch paper, water, paper towels, and reference image (on the computer)

1. I start with a reference photo I like, and then make a sketch of it on a piece of paper sized appropriately for the watercolor paper I’ll be using.┬áThen I’ll take a soft graphite pencil (like a 4B or 6B) and color all over the back of the piece of paper with the sketch.

basic sketch with just hints of shadows marked on.

Simple sketch with just hints of shadows marked on, and the back of another sketch that I’ve scribbled on.

2. I position the image where I want it on the watercolor block, and with another pencil (a normal HB works fine, but make sure it’s not super sharp) trace, with some pressure, the specific lines I need. Clean up the watercolor paper. The lines I need should be dark enough for me to work with, but light enough that they won’t be distracting.

basically I've made my own transfer paper so I have the sketch--lightly--on the watercolor pad.

Basically I’ve made my own transfer paper so that I can have the sketch–lightly–on the watercolor pad. Eraser is on hand.

3. At this point I decide what color I want to use, as this is part of a series of single-color paintings. I have a tiny bit of Indian Yellow and Scarlet sitting around that I’ve been waiting to use, and yellow is the perfect color for Molly. However, before I touch the watercolor paper, I need to do a color test to see how the color reacts to amounts of water and if this really is the color/color mixture I want.

I just use the initial sketch paper for a color test. Here I decided on a whim to add some red to the mix and liked what happened.

I just use the initial sketch paper for a color test. Here I decided on a whim to add some red to the mix and liked what happened.

4. I’ll start with my wash brush and wet the paper I want more in shadow, and then add a light wash of the yellow to start, trying to guide the color a little. The initial wash is really important because it sets up a lot of the faint shadows and such.

the first color wash will set up whether this is going to turn out good or bad. This wash says good because I got the color where and how I wanted it.

the first color wash will set up whether this is going to turn out good or bad. This wash says good because I got the color where and how I wanted it.

5. Duel-wielding brush time. I’ll have a fine-point in one hand and a wash brush in the other. The fine point has color, the wash has water, and this is how I slowly darken areas until it’s what I want. This is where I start doing the larger details, more shading, and such. The fine details, such as the mouth and eyes, I’ll leave until last.

Screwed up a little here by having too much red on my brush. A tiny bit of that red is potent, and so I decided I just had to go with it.

Screwed up a little here by having too much red on my brush. A tiny bit of that red is extraordinarily potent, and so I decided I just had to go with it. Part of art is learning how to roll with the punches.

6. Once I’ve gotten most things finished, it’s time to do the eyes and mouth. Louise Brealey, who plays Molly Hooper, has a slightly odd mouth shape here, and her teeth are showing, which is annoying at the least. Teeth are hard to do.

chose to make her teeth indistinct. I added in one other color to my fiery mix to have a darker tone for the deepest shadows.

chose to make her teeth indistinct. I added in one other color to my fiery mix to have a darker tone for the deepest shadows. Also, I really hate that the color balance in my room is so awful a computer can’t fix it.

7. Clean-up time. Sometimes it needs it, other times it doesn’t. Really depends on the painting. In this case her eyes need just a bit of love. I have a white color pencil I’ll bring in to do highlights or any cleaning I need, and then a signature and it’s done. Oh wait, except for the part where I blast it with fixative. Stuff smells terrible, but it helps seal the color in and prevent possibly future damage from water.

You were wrong; you do count. You've always counted and I've always trusted you. But you were right; I'm not okay.The final scan took out a lot of the yellow from the image, which I can't figure out how to get back without the reds becoming overpowering.

“You were wrong; you do count. You’ve always counted and I’ve always trusted you. But you were right; I’m not okay.”
The final scan took out a lot of the yellow from the image, which I can’t figure out how to get back without the reds becoming overpowering.

Sounds pretty easy, right?

Molly is such an amazing character, because even when John can’t see Sherlock, she does. She never stops seeing him.

So in light of that I’ll talk about my color choices for her. I wanted to do Molly in tones of yellows and golden browns, but a yellow-orange color ended up being the one that felt right to me. Here’s some production design babble on the significance of this: Orange is what’s generally known as the people’s color. The color of the ordinary person, but it is also, in color theory terms, a color of energy and life. Unlike orange’s counterparts–the powerful and aggressive yet passionate red and the energetic and obsessive yellow, orange bears none of the negative stigma. It is bright, hopeful, yearning without the pain. Lively. But also the color of a deceptively ordinary person. Molly is this. She is the ordinary person exemplified, but she is a thousand times more, special and anything but ordinary, and that’s why orange is right for her.

Orange is the color of the people’s hero, and that is who Molly Hooper is.

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