Welcome, Good Sirs!

Welcome Good Sirs illustration

Welcome Good Sirs illustration

This is a practice illustration piece I just completed, working with mixed media techniques. I’m still working out a number of things, not least of which is what the heck I want to do when I grow up. Illustration and so-called “fine art” (boy, do we ever have to come up with a different term for that one) both appeal to me in different ways, and I admire many artists from both of those fields. For now, I’m pursuing both, in oil colors, in pastels, and in these mixed media experiments for some of the illustration work.

In this case, and following the ideas I’ve been building on for several pieces now, the media being mixed are: ink, watercolor, gouache and oil paints. Why all these different media? Well, the idea is kind of to capitalize on the different strengths of each one. Ink is great for making a drawing and getting in details; watercolor is great for quick-drying initial washes; gouache is great for building up quick-drying highlights; and oils are great for adding color depth and vibrancy, and modeling deep shadows.

An earlier stage

An earlier stage

So, for “Welcome, good sirs!” I made an intial ink drawing, then laid in flat watercolors, then built up the modeling of the skin tones and clothing with gouache; then, after laying down an isolating layer of thinned gum arabic and allowing that to dry, I brought up the piece using oil paints. (Using gum arabic for the isolating layer is working so far, but it’s problematic in various ways; I’m planning to try some other natural possibilities, including casein varnish and shellac varnish.) So that’s how the illustration was built up. I think there are numerous problems with the colors – but this is an experiment, and in any case the mixed-media techniques themselves are working all right. I just need more practice.

One of the aspects of illustration that attracts me is this: when archivability is not a concern (as is often the case with illustrations intended for reproduction), then I can use whatever pigments I want, without worrying a stitch about lightfastness. Most of the colors used in this illustration are natural colors, but not quite all of them. The ink is an ordinary Calli brand India ink, probably with an acrylic binder. The watercolors are various earth colors from Winsor & Newton and Da Vinci, plus W&N’s rose madder genuine, and natural indigo. The indigo is a watercolor I made. In the gouache layer I used all the same colors mixed with titanium white gouache (I’m all out of eggshell white at the moment, have to make some more), plus dragon’s blood, indigo lake and weld made by me – the weld is from my own garden (yay!). The final oil paints were burnt umber (Winton), rose madder genuine (Winsor & Newton), and weld.

Madder glaze

Madder glaze

The fiery red of the background is achieved by glazing the rose madder oil paint over an ordinary earth color watercolor, Da Vinci burnt sienna I think. It’s amazing the colors you can get this way, and I definitely want to try it out in a straight oil painting – glazing rose madder over earth colors – and see just how bright of a middle red I can get without using any cadmiums or pyrroles.

(p.s. I have no idea at this point where I got the photo reference for this exercise, I’ve had it sitting around for years. If the original photographer or model contacts me and wishes me to remove the illustration from this blog, I’ll be happy to do so. But it’s just a practice image, and not for sale or anything.)

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