Saturday, February 28, 2015

Process: Seafoam with Kelp

My latest tide pool and rock inspired paintings have been really fun. This latest, "Seafoam with Kelp" is a little larger than the previous series at 16" x 16" finished size. It started out 16" x 20", but in the end, I decided to stick with the square format of the previous small works.
Seafoam with Kelp, 16"x16" watercolor and ink, 2015

Here is the process I went through.

First, I had this reference photo, and gridded it out for the rough sketch.
Reference photo from Point Lobos State Beach
Pencil sketch on watercolor paper, plus whites saved with masking fluid.
I like to use a masking fluid with a pen tip to do small details, like the bubbles in the seafoam. For larger areas, I brush on masking fluid. The trick to not ruining brushes with masking fluid, is to dip them in dish soap first, and repeat often.
First paint layer plus salt.
The first couple of paint layers are wet on wet. Plus I like to add salt for texture. The salt absorbs the paint and leaves white starry spots. Because the kelp has a hard edge, I painted that shape after the background was dry. My watercolor palette for all these paintings has basically consisted of quinacridone gold, payne's gray, quinacridone burnt orange, Thalo blue and organic vermillion.

Adding blues and reds after the yellow layer is dry.
Adding more layers of color, alternating with layers of masking fluid.
After the initial colors are laid out, I start adding detail, layering on washes of color wet on dry. To build up depth, many layers must be added. Below, the pebbles are formed by adding a layer of masking fluid, then a layer of paint, and repeating 3 or 4 times until I achieve the desired darkness.

Pebbles in a crevice forming with layers of masking fluid.
More layers.
I started adding the contrasting black line patterns of the rocks with acrylic ink. I mixed black with some gold and red which looks pretty nice in a good light.

Its getting there.
At some point, its hard to resist peeling a little masking fluid off to see what you've got. When I peeled the first bit of foam, I was fairly pleased. But I added some more detail with a light paint for more bubbles, and some white ink for highlights.

Detail of foam and rocks after removing masking fluid. 
Some of the final details included spattering the rocks with a little black ink using a toothbrush. The kelp piece was darkened after adding the line pattern with masking fluid. A little blue added to the bottom half to balance the color.

Final 16 x 20" painting.
I decided that the knee-shaped rock in the lower right was really distracting, so I decided I would crop it out and make a square format painting (top image). 

So that's it in a nutshell. I'm happy to answer questions here, or by email at