Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Process of "Basking in Egypt's Gold"

WARNING: Long Post is Long! D:

Hello everyone! A bit late this week with the blog update, but with reason. I was painting in turbo-mode to get this commission done. I took the time to photograph my progress frequently, since I hear people really love seeing an artist's process (and I for one, like seeing the process of others a lot myself). Feel free to ask questions. Chances are I'll forget to mention something. Anyhow, this is how I work, and is certainly not the only way. I just figured I'd share. This piece had a lot of VERY NEW things for me, that I never painted before so it was challenging. I learned a lot, and had fun :3

First thing's first!


For this painting I used 140LB Arches Satin Finish Watercolor Paper. 
Kraft Watercolor Tape.
Holbein Watercolors.
Winsor Newton Ox Gall Liquid.
Winsor Newton Colored Masking Fluid.
Winsor Newton Designers Gouache (BleedProof White).
Faber-Castell Polychromos colored Pencils.

A Bit About Supplies: (Feel free to move on if you already know this!)

I choose a hot press watercolor paper because it is not too textured. Not that texture is bad, but my technique is watercolor as a base, colored pencil on top to bring everything out. So if my paper was too textured, the image would look really grainy (personal preference,really. If you like grain go for it- but it sticks out like a sore thumb when scanned). 140 lb is great, because it can still take enough abuse(many layers of pigment), but at the same time you can still easily see through it when transfering your sketch with a light box. I transfer with polychromos faber-castell colored pencils, because they stay put when laying down washes.

The paper has been pre-stretched on a masonite board with kraft tape. This prevents buckling of the paper and keeps it flat. Its important to add some water to the masonite board with a sponge, and completely wet your paper (under cold water). Make sure your masonite board and sponge are clean, because you don't want any ugly acidy spots appearing on your paper later on.  Be sure to not soak the kraft tape, orelse it wont stick. Gently dab with a sponge. You have to wait until it is bone dry before continuing.


Approved sketch. The final product is indeed traditional, I just sometimes like sketching digitally to save time. Makes fixes for clients much more simple and fast too.

This is my main set up. I've got references for palm trees, and water here. Started the washes on the sky. Added a bit of oxgall fluid to my water to help the wash flow. The trick for the clouds is to twist up a piece of paper towel and press it against the paper before the wash dries. You will also notice I have my original sketch close by. As we add shading (especially on a dark colored character), there is a chance we will lose the main lines of the transfer: so the sketch is kept nearby as a reference.

The general idea is to start blocking in the shadows, so I use a payne's gray to indicate where I want them. Then I add the final color ontop. Example: the palm tree was initially shaded in payne's gray. Then I added ochre's and brown pigments ontop.  I like doing it first as often as I can remember to, because it maps out how I shade the color ontop. 

Same process. shading and adding color. I also get into more detail with the background. I always hear were "supposed" to start with the background first in illustrations. In  this case, I'm alternating between background and foreground while waiting for certain parts to dry. I think it really depends on the piece and the medium.

Background complete, and time to add shade to the character. I did a quick approximate mock up of how I wanted the shading.  Doing tree leaf shading was new to me.

More washes of color on the character and background. I discovered that the more pigment/work you do on the watercolor piece, the less grainy and the bolder it will look as an end result(with the colored pencils). The bottom pannel shows me starting to add colored pencil on that wing. I use a piece of paper to shield my hand as I work(orelse it will smudge, and you dont want your hand grease on your drawing).

I continue rendering in colored pencil. You may have noticed here that I do not go over the background in colored pencil. This is in order to help create more depth, since the background is less crisp. It will push it back by leaving it. I smoothen out the shading under the hammock by using ochre and naple colors. I go back to the date palm tree leaves to sharpen them a bit more.

Last but not least, I add highlights with designer's gouache (for the jewelry and water). I also have some very nifty iridescent gold watercolor paint. I added a thin film ontop of the jewelry and spear, so it has a golden sheen to it in real life.

Scanned, levels fixed, and were done :)

Thanks for reading my long post :P
I hope you enjoyed


  1. Fantastic work as always, im sure your commissioner will love it :D I Love seeing works in progress too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. In regards to your long post: by all means, it's a treat! It's well set up and descriptive, making it easy to see how you went about completing this piece. The final is beautiful; the atmospheric perspective works very well!