Grisaille Underpainting of a Chameleon

I decided with this Chameleon picture to use a grisaille underpainting technique.  This basically means I paint the shadows on first in whatever my chosen shadow colour is.  Since my chameleon is going to be green with yellow and cyan I thought a dark greenish/blue /grey would be good.  I also underpainted the branch she is sitting on but since this will be painted in warmer browns and used a dark brown underpaint colour for this bit.


It was really fun to use the gouache paint like this.  When I use it thin enough it behaves exactly like a watercolour which gives lots of nice effects.  Sadly I’ll lose most of those when I paint the main colour on top but it’s nice to see them and experience them as I can use the same technique again another time on another painting.

My set up for painting has pretty much settled down now into a standard workspace.  It looks like this:



Note the emergency Oreos – essential kit for painting.  I wonder if the Mona Lisa would have had a proper smile on her face if Leonardo Da Vinci had had a pack?  Maybe that’s why her smile is supposed to be a bit odd – maybe he only had boring biscuits.

I’ve left the picture taped down to my drawing board becuase I’m going to carry on and do the overpainting when I next get a chance (I’m still not physically very well).  So here’s a photo of it on the board:



And here’s a close up:


Watercolour Elephant

Today was a good day.

  • Firstly my wonderful son is feeling better and will probably go back to school tomorrow or the next day!  🙂
  • Secondly, for the first time I’ve painted a watercolour which looks something llike the image I had in my mind.  I feel happy!

It began when I decided to paint an animal using a pure watercolour technique.  Last night I watched this brilliant, brilliant video of a real watercolour artist doing a painting of an elephant.  The video I watched was this one:

I thought it was absolutely fabulous!

Elephants are such graceful, sensitive animals  I couldn’t resist having a try at painting one, especially having watched Fiona Clarke make such a fantastic job of a similar picture.  I have loads of animal books at home (typical biology teacher!), everything from a collection of ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ books to invertibrate textbooks so I found a photo that I was happy to use as a basic reference.

ele_referencephotoSome of the trunk of the  elephant I wanted ot paint is covered by her calf but, with other reference photos to look at too, I thought I could fill in the missing part.  I made a quick sketch while I got dinner cooked (spicy chicken wings, boiled potatoes in a herb sauce and corn, carotts and brocolli).

ele_sketchThen after dinner (and the ironing – groan) I was able to paint it.  I worked from light to dark and from big to small as lots of people seem to recommend on the internet and it turned out well.  Two things really helped – (1) I worked on one a small area at a time so I could play with the paint a little and use the water to make it go where I want without it drying out too quickly and (2) I took it slowly letting the paint dry out between layers.

So this is how it turned out:

elephant_FIN_WEBIt’s not as exciting as some of the wonderful work I looked at last week but I am happy with it.   😀

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)

The Lightning Tree

Near where we live there is a tree which has been struck by lightning – aptly named, the ‘Lightning Tree’.  I managed to get a sketch of it the other day.  It’s not the best but for me it represents a step forward as this was the first time I have been able to relax while sketching outside.

This is the sketch:

lighteningtreesketchI saw a you tube video where the artist painted a silver birch last night so I thought I’d have a go at this subject for a watercolour.

This time I did use watercolour paper.  It was done in A3 which was nice because it gave me lots of room.  Despite that I made a rooky mistake and sketched my tree a little too high on the paper but didn’t realise until after I was already painting it so I had to live with it.  This is how it turned out:

lightningtree_fin_webI got the hang of the watercolours just a little bit more doing this but I can see that, if I choose to paint a lot more in this medium it’s going to take a LOT of work.  I enjoyed the way the paint only runs on the wet patches and not on the dry which was useful for controlling the movement of the water.  I also enjoyed the sharpness you can get painting fine tree branches and fine shadow lines. I find this kind of detail harder to achieve in acrylics.  The thing I found most difficult was that you can’t get out of trouble by over-painting.  With acrylics I tend to paint my way out of a mistake.  There’s not room for that in watercolour – it just compounds the error.  I’m not sure how I feel about water colours.  They are amazing but they are difficult too.

PS:  I may not post much for the next week as I’m not feeling very well.  Hopefully I’ll be back next week.   🙂

(All Images unless otherwise explicitly stated are © Jo Fox, 2015)