If you've been following along lately you probably already know that I'm in the midst of building up my painting skills. I've been posting a lot lately about the oil paintings I've been doing in class, but I thought today I'd post something digital I've been playing around with. Just as with my oil painting work I'm trying to get comfortable working directly in paint rather than doing a drawing and then coloring it in. Technically this means blocking in the composition with a large brush into large areas of color and then breaking those down into details, but it's not an easy adjustment to make. Practice, practice.

The fun part (or the really daunting part depending on how you look at it) are all of the settings and brushes and textures and whatnot to choose from. I think it's going to take a while to find a combination (or a few combinations) I like. If you saw my post last week about library studies for my Grunion project then you saw what a difference just working with different brush opacity settings can make.

I had a really vague idea of a fox winding it's way through some trees so I sat down and just started. Here's what I got on my first try:

Like I said, big blocks of color followed by transparent washes for detail. There's some stuff I like in the bottom third of this one. The composition is a real problem however, and that stems from not starting from a sketch.

Next try! Start with a cursory sketch, just to sort of hold things together. Here's how that went:

Ok, so here's the sketch. You can't see them here but there are a bunch of trees that the fox's tail is wrapping around (I accidentally painted on the tree sketch layer so I don't have the linework anymore, oops ^_^).

Here it is with some paint. Same approach here: start with opaque blocks of color and then shape them down with increasingly transparent brushwork.

So what have I learned?

  • Sketching? I still think there's value in learning to sketch in paint, without lines. But that doesn't mean not doing a sketch at all. I need to find a happy medium. Compositions don't compose themselves.
  • Pixel color is not paint color, but pixels make mud too (just faster). I don't think mixing pixel colors on canvas with transparent washes is the best approach.
  • The color picker is good for vibrant colors and greys but finding earth tones is a challenge.
  • What to do about color? Maybe sampling colors from an existing source would be a better approach.