Monday, January 20, 2014

Keeper of Keys

Size: 7x10 inches
Medium: Watercolor, ink, metallic powders, gold leaf
Prints ($16.95) and Detail closeups available -here-

I was visiting the Berkeley Botanical Gardens the other day, right about at sunset. The sun was slipping down and through the dawn redwoods, setting golden fire to the edges. A bit of that image trickling through my mind, as well as the lovely bark textures of the redwoods, and a desire to revisit Muhru from my Dreamsign painting of last month.

The sketch on the board. I didn't bother with sketching much of the background. I was going to let that happen organically. Just had a vague concept in mind for what I wanted, and the colors. The rest would happen as the paint dripped.

Here's the initial wash. This one takes the longest to dry. Because I use so much water, to let the pigment from the ink, metallics, and watercolor move, it usually takes about an hour before I can proceed.This is the scariest phase usually, though less so for this particular painting, because I spent so little time with the initial sketch. When I have a very intricate sketch it can be rather unnerving to pour all this ink onto the page and then hope things work out. I've started to lightly spray my sketches with workable fixative before proceeding so that the graphite doesn't get obliterated. I didn't used to fix my sketches.

Once that dried, I dabbed watercolor ground for the keys. I let the ground blob and mound up to create relief texture. Watercolor ground is basically a watercolor gesso-like substance. It's porous, and so you can paint watercolor on top of it.

And I lay a glaze of the watercolor ground over parts of the background as well to soften up the hardness of the black ink textures.

My daughter loved the keys. Every time she came to peek at what I was doing, she ran her fingers over the raised parts!

Once those base layers of texture are in place and dried, I start to pick out forms and shapes from the randomness with highlights and shadows.

Wasn't quite done with the background yet, but I decided to move on to Muhru and get him painted in so that I could figure out what colors he would be and therefore what other colors I needed to pull out of the background to tie things in cohesively.

Worked some more on the background, and then the final step was to apply gold leaf to the relief keys.


  1. Is your daughter painting yet?

  2. Amazing! This looks like a lot of hard work! Thanks for explaining your process, it is really helpful. I especially love the Golden colors on the keys. =)
    Keep up the great work!