More Figure with Pen and Watercolour

Spring term began at my studio yesterday. Our theme for the day was the figure in pen and watercolour. Last fall, we worked mostly from figures taken from old master paintings such as a gleaner by Millet. It was an interesting exercise as the master had already sorted out important elements like simplification and light and shadow.

Yesterday, we used photographic reference with a Mexican flavour; images from our recent trip. Photographs are not always ideal reference. They may be a bit out of focus. The dark areas may obscure important information. The lighting may not be clear. I discussed ways to analyze a photo to best understand the gesture and action of the figure. We also considered how light would fall on the basic forms of our figures and I even changed the lighting from that of the photo to something different.

This woman may be familiar from a watercolour demonstration I posted while in Mexico. This demo is fairly small, maybe 6 x 8″, and is on Hot Press w/c paper. Before I started it, I presented ideas on an 18 x 24″ pad at my easel. We discussed proportions of the head and figure, simplification of hands and feet and used a stick person/skeleton to understand how the clothing fits on the frame of the figure. She was backlit in the photo but I lit her a bit more from the front and used the cool wash to establish that relationship.

The drawing and painting process is very similar to the approach I took with the gleaner in the fall. Step One (above left) is the pencil drawing and it is a real search for understanding and not just an outline. Step Two is the cool wash. I used Cobalt Blue and Raw Sienna. Step Three involved glazing thin washes of colour into local areas.

The final step (left) is the pen. I hatched with parallel strokes and changed direction in places to suggest plane changes. I also used heavier lines, more line weight, to stress overlaps and shaded areas. Of course, I could have done more with the pen but I didn’t want to overwork it and it was time to move on to our second exercise of the day.

Our young sweeper at the flower market was our next subject. I think I might have shortened his right arm a little too much but he seems to be managing. This study was done on Cold Press w/c paper. The second step was treated differently here. Some ‘soft edge’ was created with the watercolour washes and two values were suggested in that manner. It might be most visible in the hair and the pants. His shirt is also slightly lighter on our left. Some of the group were horrified when I drew strokes of the pen through his face but he is turned away from the light.

Many of the group enjoyed the concept of the last exercise. I used yellow and some paper white for light and blue for shadow. I showed them a few examples of Post-impressionist watercolours by Signac and Cross that employ cool and warm colours for much the same reason. The pen went in quickly and boldly.

It was a long day and everyone worked very hard. Now, I’m preparing for Tuesday and the start of the ten-week classes.

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2 Responses to “More Figure with Pen and Watercolour”

  1. lindahalcombfineart Says:

    Thank you! Your explanations are very helpful.

  2. Diana Ellis Says:

    What a great blog Barry. I love the tutorials. I’m going to experiment with figures … have some photos I want to use as reference and the sketch of the old lady from start to finish will be helpful. Thanks!

    Diana

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