- Lesson Details
At New Masters Academy, we’ve been receiving many requests for master artist Steve Huston to reveal his beautiful sketchbook drawing and painting techniques.We’re proud to announce that we have finally created a video lesson for all of you who have been so patiently waiting! In this video lesson, world-renowned artist Steve Huston shows you how to create gorgeous art in a scrap acid-free sketchbook using pencil, fountain pen, and gouache water color. Steve breaks down all the materials that you need and shows you how he uses reference or just imagination to create striking sketchbook pages. If you’re looking to create amazing sketchbooks for yourself or to exhibit and share with others, this is the perfect lesson to get you started.
- Acid-Free Toned Scrap Book
- Faber-Castell Fountain Pen – Fine or Extra Fine
- Sepia Fountain Pen Ink
- Prismacolor Turquoise Pencil
- Plastic Palette, Butcher Tray Palette or Palette Paper
- Paper Towel
- Winsor Newton Gouache
- Simply Simmons Synthetic Mix Watercolor Brushes
to reveal his beautiful sketchbook drawing and painting techniques.
We’re proud to announce that we’ve created a video lesson for all of you who have been
so patiently waiting. In this video lesson, world-renowned artist Steve Huston shows you
how to create gorgeous art in a scrap acid-free sketchbook using pencil, fountain pen, and
gouache watercolor. Steve breaks down all of the materials that you need and shows you
how he uses reference or just imagination to create striking sketchbook pages.
If you’re looking to create amazing sketchbooks for yourself or to exhibit and share with
others, this is the perfect lesson to get you started.
is probably, I don’t know, number three on the list of things people want me to do.
I love doing sketchbook drawings, and there are a lot of shots of my work out there. A
lot of people, a lot of you, have asked how I do it. We’re going to do a two-part lesson
on this. I’m going to show you the type of sketchbook and materials I use, explain
those, and then I will show you my pen and ink, it’s actually using a fountain pen
technique for doing drawn sketches, and then my gouache technique, my painted technique
on the sketchbook. Let’s go ahead and get started. We’ll see the materials,
and then I’ll show you the process.
Alright, so let’s begin with materials. What I use, and there are different brands out there.
This is just one I grabbed to show you. The key point here is that it is scrapbook material.
They used to make these for artists, and now they’re not doing it as much anymore.
They’re really in the scrapbook section of your art store. Nice, hard cover. I’ll
even paint on the cover oftentimes. The advantage of this is too—this is oatmeal colored paper,
and it’s scrapbook material, which means it is acid free. It’s not going to deteriorate
over time as quickly as like a newsprint. You know it’s going to last long. It’s
archival in effect. This nice color—you can get all sorts of different colors—but
it’s like a cardstock like a business card. It’s nice and thick. When I paint on it
with my gouache there will be a little bit of rippling in the surface, but it won’t
just fall apart like it would if it was on a piece of bond paper or newsprint, something
like that. It’s durable. Then the tone I like because this is like my toned canvas
or toned paper in a figure drawing class. I can build up with whites, either white chalk
over my pen and inks or white gouache over the darker painting and get those lighter
half-tones and highlights. I like the ring binder on this. Some of these are hardbound,
bookbound, you may like that better. I’m a lefty, so oftentimes this thing often gets
in the way, so I’ll even turn it upside down to work here. So sometimes my pages will
be here, and this will be upside down for this year. You’ll do what’s comfortable
for you. Anyway, that works great. You can, of course, flip it back that way
and get it out of the way completely.
Anyway, that’s a scrapbook sketchbook like that. The next thing I’m going to use if
I’m drawing, which will be one of the things that we do today, is I’m going to draw with
a fountain pen. This is a particular brand, but there are a bunch of different brands.
They can be very, very expensive. You can spend hundreds of dollars, or they can be
a few dollars. You want one with a nib.
I like to use a sepia ink, and I like to use a fine or very fine nib so I can hatch it in, so you’re working
like a pen & ink artist, like those great early American illustrators or like an etching, like a Rembrandt, Brangwyn,
Whistler etching. It has that kind of look. I like the sepia tone, the brown tone because
it’s warmer and softer. It’s not as heavy as the black.
Generally, I’m going to use this to get my darker tones, of course, and that means
it’s going to be shadowy. So if I use a really bright color, say a bright blue or
green, and then I’m putting dark tones, which means I’m putting a lot of ink on
my paper. Then what I want to be shadow is going to end up being pretty bright in color,
probably not a good idea. If I’m working on my oatmeal-colored paper, that brownish
paper will help kill the color. But still, you want an earthy, earth tone or black shadow,
not a brightly colored shadow. It will steal away—that brightness will look like lightness
and mess with your structure and with your value system.
Anyway, I’m going to need a fountain pen with ink. There’s the ink. Again, this is
a particular brand. You can use any brand and, as I said, any brown or black color would
be good. Not real light or else they’ll be ghostly figures. You want them fairly which
so it’s about like a brown charcoal pencil in effect. That’s why I picked it. So that’s
that. That’s all we need. Well, that’s not true. That’s almost all we need for
the drawing stage. If I’m drawing with pen and I want to do a careful drawing, then I
will do my construction with a hard pencil, typically I’ll use an H pencil. It can be
any brand, doesn’t matter. I want it to be lead.
You could get away with charcoal, but the charcoal resists that paint sometimes when you do in paint or would resist that
ink possibly. But you can see how light this is. I hope you can see on camera how light
that is. That’s how I’m going to draw. I’ll come back over with my ink, and then
you could erase it away or not. Generally, when I’m working with my ink I’m doing
little sketches. I’m not trying to do a real finished pen and ink piece of art. I
usually won’t do a pencil drawing first. But, if it’s a difficult pose or a difficult
subject matter, or if you’re learning the medium as you folks might well be then starting
out with a pencil is safe bet. Also, I’ll do this same bit if I’m drawing for a gouache
study. So when I do gouache I’ll sketch it in with pencil, and I will do that all
the time and then work back over with my painting, which we will see.
So that is all you need for your materials for drawing. Now, if I paint I’m going to
use several materials. The palette, it can be plastic or it can be porcelain. You can
have little chambers to put your paint it. You can do your foreground here, you’re
background here, your light colors, your shadow here. Or, it can just be a little porcelain
tray, and you can use that, but it will be this white typically. I’m not going to use
today because of the camera. It’s too shiny with the camera, and you won’t see the colors.
This is typically what I use, something like this.
Instead, today we’re going to use this, and you can use this instead of, or you can
cut out a piece of it and stick it into your tray. That would be fine too. We’re going
to use palette paper. It can be whatever brand. The palette paper is designed kind of like
watercolor paper, with watercolor paper what they’ll do is they’ll glue the edges of
this so when you do your watercolor and the watercolor wrinkles your paper when it dries
it’s glued and it’s held and it comes back into form, and then you have a nice flat
watercolor piece that you can peel off then a sheet at a time and frame. They’re doing
a similar thing for the palette paper so it doesn’t wrinkle. They’re just gluing it
on this end. This has that nice—it’s basically a wax paper. You can put your colors down,
and then you can work your rendered pots of color, your blended colors in there.
So, palette paper.
I’m going to need paper towels. What I’ll do is I’ll take a sheet. I’m going to
use it for two things. I’ll use it sometimes to dab over if I got a real wet area I want
to dry out quickly, or I want to pull a little bit of the pigment away, or if I want to put
water into it as I’ll show you and float it. I want it to pull some of that water back
out. I can lay this down and rub over it, or I can take this. If I get a little puddle
of say, red—we’re actually working on a tilt so the camera can see it and I can
see it. That paint is going to want to drip down if it’s too wet. I can take this and
dip into that little puddle of water and dry it out. Also, I’m going to use this for
my gouache. I’m going to fold it and fold it, and depending on how my colors you use,
fold it again. This will lay, let’s say this is my palette, the frame. I’ll put
this over here, and I’ll put all my colors on it. The reason I do that is I wet it with
my water, and then I lay it in the corner of my palette. That wet, you can see if I
squeeze it out it is wet. That makes the paint last longer.
If I just put out dry paint onto my palette that gouache or watercolor is going to dry up pretty quickly.
I’ll get a skin over it. I won't be able to use it as well.
Once you get through the skin and get it, but the archival quality of the paint is compromised a little
bit. It wants to come out of the tube wet, be used, and then dry on the surface of the
artwork. That’s the most stable way to have your paint. We want to keep it wet as long
as possible. Also, with gouache if you have to re-wet your colors you’ll still get that
red or that white, but they’ll be a little less opaque than when they first came out
of the tube. You’ll poke into them or add a little water to them, and they’ll be less
opaque. They lose their opacity once they have dried and then are re-wet, so you want to watch that.
So this lays there, and then I’ll just run my one or two rows of colors down. I’m using gouache.
You could use watercolor. This is Windsor-Newton. They make some of the best
gouache in the world. There are other brands that are terrific. I tend to buy Windsor-Newton
but it could be almost any of them. These are a little shiny, so I’ll just point them
out. Let me do it order here. I’ll do my colors. Anyway, these are the little tubes.
These are actually quite expensive. I’m not sure exactly. It’s been a while since
I’ve actually priced them out, but you could spend $20, $30 for a tube easily. You want
to pick the cheaper colors if you’re on a budget. There are always more expensive.
Cadmium colors, if you get a cadmium color or a cobalt color those are more expensive.
There’s cheaper ones you can get, so I’m going to recommend those.
We’re going to have titanium or zinc white. I use titanium. This is actually zinc. I bought
it. I went to get new tubes for this demo and the art store was out of titanium. It’ll
work fine. Titanium has a little bit more opacity. Ivory black. If you use mars black
that’s a brown-black. We’re going to use a black that’s cool.
This is basically going to be like a gray-blue.
Then what we’re going to do in our palette is get at least one color of each of our three
primaries. So I need a yellow. You can use Hansa yellow. This is brilliant yellow. If
I have cadmium yellow pale it would be a much better yellow but more expensive and actually
more toxic. But there’s a ton of yellow. You want a sunshine yellow, slightly warm.
I’m going to use Windsor red. It could be vermillion, naphthol red. There are a ton
of reds—a fire engine red, though, a slightly orangish-red. You don’t want it to look
way into the oranges like a cadmium red light, but you want it slightly warm. Then it will
mix nicely into oranges.
I’m going to get alizarin crimson or magenta or permanent rose, any slightly purply red.
The alizarin crimson is the cheapest one. I tend to use that. Again, I ended up picking
magenta here. But any red that is just barely purple. We don’t want it way in the purples.
We still want it to be red but just slightly purple. That way I can mix reds into the orange,
and I can mix reds into the purples and have nice, rich colors there.
Then I want a blue. It can be a cobalt blue, and ultramarine blue. This is a primary blue,
kind of a true blue. The blues then will mix over to my purples and mix towards my greens.
I have a flat blue. I usually actually use an ultramarine blue, which is slightly purplish.
Then oftentimes I’ll add a viridian. I love blue-green. I don’t use it a lot in my paintings,
but I like to sneak it in every once in a while.
I’ll get a very bluish green, a Windsor green or viridian or a thalo green. Thalos
tend to be really strong colors, so I tend to stay away from the thalo colors. You put
a little tiny bit of that thalo color into your mix, and it just explodes with that greenness
or whatever you’re working from.
Those are the colors I’ve used, so only six colors. Now, those colors are biased towards
flesh tones. Since I’m a figurative artist, almost all of the work I do is flesh tones.
We’re going to do a few little studies here that are landscape, and I do landscape and
love to do it. Sometimes I’ll change the palette but oftentimes not. I’m working
not out of a full impressionist palette, I’m working out of more of a Brown School palette,
so my landscapes are going to look a little bit more like a Courbet or a Barbizon School
landscape painter than a Monét or an impressionist painter. I still have the green in there.
I’ve got blue and yellow, and I can get a rich range of colors in that green range
for landscapes. If I was doing a lot of landscape I would want a lemon yellow too probably to
go along with this. Less is more on this. I like to work fairly gray, and then in a
little bit of intensity say in the greens or the blues or wherever, the reds, whatever,
just in a couple of areas. Let it overall be tamed and controlled by my values
and not with my rich, bright colors.
It could be a little lid from a peanut butter jar. It could be a little coffee cup. You
can buy little jars from the art store. This is just a little tiny jar with a lid you can
put on it. Any kind of water, and that’s going to be, of course, where we clean our
brushes. Speaking of brushes, I’ll have several brushes. They can be of varying sizes.
We have a couple here that are very close, so let’s pull that out. Typically, I’ll
have a good-sized brush this size or bigger. It can be a flat brush, or it can be a round
brush. This I will load up with my water, and I’ll kind of prime the paper with water
and then put my pigment in there. That’ll help create my soft watercolor-type edges.
What I’m going to do basically is I’m going to begin my gouache like I would a watercolor
painting, and I’ll finish it like I would an acrylic or oil painting. I’ll go from
transparent to opaque. It might be opaque just in the highlights, or it might be a little
more opaque in more areas. Generally, I start it like a watercolor, like a Sargent would
or a Winslow Homer would.
So anyway, I’ve got a good-sized brush. This is an eight, so eight or bigger. A mid-sized
brush. This is a six. This is going to get into finer details. I can do a lot of painting
with this, get the gradation down the cheek or in a tree or whatever. It gives me a little
bit more fine tuning. You’ll notice how this kind of splays out a little bit. It’s
a mark of a not real fine brush. I just dipped it in water.
You can actually tame the point by rolling this around on your finger or on the surface.
Now I’ve got a nice point.
The bigger ones won’t hold as good a point as the smaller ones. Then I’ll have a small,
very small. This is actually quite small, probably even a little too small, but that’s
okay for what we’re doing. You can see, again, I can tame it with water. I tend to
use cheap brushes because I’m hard on them. I tend to grind in and stuff. I’m a little
more of a light hand with a gouache, but I’m pretty hard on the brushes so I don’t see
any need to buy a real expensive brush. These I actually bought on sale for $2 and $3.
You can get them fairly cheap.
So those are our materials, so not a lot of materials. You can get into this quickly.
The nice thing about sketchbooks, set up is quick. If you have a half-hour, if you have
20 minutes, if you have five minutes you can sit down with your fountain pen or with a
ballpoint pen you could use and just wail away on a few little notes in your sketchbook.
Or you can set up. Spend ten minutes to set up your gouache and really go at it for a
half-hour or an hour.
Alright, now, here’s my fountain pen. I like one that has a nice weight to it. This
is actually quite heavy. Sometimes you can see that flowing. Sometimes you filled that
up the day before, and depending on the fountain pen—this actually flows nicely—I haven’t
used this fountain pen before. I bought a new fountain pen. You’ll need to wipe it,
or you’ll actually dip it into the water or put it under the facet. If you have dried
ink in there—let me just show you how these work real quick. There’s a cartridge in
there, and this—I won’t do it or it will squirt ink out—but you put it down into
the ink bottle, and then you unscrew it and it draws a little plunger up and draws the
ink up in there. You can see the ink, maybe you can’t, but I can see it slosh around
in there. And so it can dry out on you. Wet it. I’ll even lick my finger and get it
going there or with my paper towel. This I put on the end so I’ve got a longer or more
balanced tool, and I’ve got my nib. The nib if you don’t know is, it’s steel that’s
split. So when you push down on the paper it actually opens up a little bit, and you
can vary your stroke. It’s different from a ballpoint pen in that way. In other ways
too. It opens up and so you can have a very fine or a fine or a coarse, and you’ll get
a varying pen line. I suppose you could even have a couple different pens of different
size if you wanted for thin strokes in the half tone and thick in the shadow or thin
in foreground, thick in the background. But anyway, you want to make sure it’s charged
and working, and then you don’t need that anymore. Oftentimes I’ll end up getting,
you know, just working I’ll end up having my hands with little smudges of ink on them.
This paper is fairly, it’s basically a hot press, which means it’s smooth and a little
shiny. Whatever medium I do kind of sits on top rather than soaking in like if I did a
watercolor paper it would soak it in. You get a crisp line. When it soaks in it tends
to bleed. Also since it’s sitting on top it flows pretty nicely. That means it is going
to be slicker. For ink which has to lay out in flow, it works beautifully. Then I am going
to use a hatching strategy here to build up my tones. We look at our Michaelangelo, I
am going to draw this left hand here, this Sybil, most famous drawing in art.
You can see it’s been drawn a couple of different times here. I’m just going to work with
this. My sketchbook I will use to copy old masters. I’ll draw out of my head. I’ll
draw from reference. I’ll draw from life. You always have a lot of sources you can work
from, as I said in our little introduction there. I can lay it in with pencil first,
and you may well want to do that to get to know the medium.
But I’m just kind of, this is just a warm up maybe before I start my painting for the day. Or it’s a pay your
respects to the old masters. Harry Carmine, one of my teachers and a good friends, said,
“Pay your respects to the Old Masters every day.” It meant draw from them. Look at them
every day. Analyze them. That is the greatest lesson you can get, the greatest teacher you
can learn from. Just because you may not like their Old World style or Old World technique—
I hope you do. But, oftentimes people will look at a Pontormo or whoever and they’ll go
I don’t like that subject matter. Or a Tiepolo, and so they won’t look at them because they’re
not current. But whoever your favorite fantasy artist is, they learn from Frazetta.
Frazetta learned from Wyeth and Pyle. Pyle, really. Pyle learned from others including Sargent,
and Sargent learned from Velazquez, so on and on and on. Velazquez learned from lots
of people including Frans Hals and da Vinci.
So go back to the sources.
Get past that snobbery of fashion; not
current, not the latest fashion. See the wonderful lessons that they’re waiting to show you.
So, notice my strategy here. There are several strategies I could use with pen and ink.
Let's talk about a few here.
Okay, so what I’m doing now, I’m hatching it. Of course, the
hatching mark is going to show my shadow and possibly, if there is any, my darker half-tone.
Watch this area.
Notice when I keep my hatch lines farther apart I get a lighter tone.
When I crosshatch them over each other I build up the tone to a darker tone. I’m making
my border a little darker than the interior. That’s always the best strategy to create
realistic looking—notice with that hatching I keep correcting. Let’s say that I really
wanted that over here, so I can correct that edge and it gets lost in the hatches so I
can make corrections to a bad choice or new revelation or whatever.
Okay, so let’s talk about this now for a second. Here’s the arm.
It drops out of light compared to the hand. Depending on how carefully I build up my hatching, I will create
a value, kind of an abstract version of it, but a value pattern, a value range. I have
darker half-tone, middle half-tone, light half-tone, and lightest half-tone.
I always assume the toned paper is my skin tone. If you’re working from a darker-skinned model,
tanned, black, deeper skin tones, then you’d make another adjustment. So maybe this for
a black model would be the lightest half-tone before the highlight or something, but I think
of that as a half-tone before the light source hits it.
Anyway, I hatch that up and get my value range. Now, how I do that. Notice up in here all
of these hatches, and I can add background to it, whatever I want, create a whole scene, of course.
They’re all just going this way, and so none of those hatches are intentionally tracking the form.
In other words, if this is my structure going this way, tracks over the
direction of the form. If this is my structure going this way or this way, and this could
be this way. I move it along the axis of the form.
Here I’m going over the contours of the form.
If we looked up at this little joint of the thumb at that moment I am more or less
tracking the direction of that boxy idea. Just by accident I come down here on that,
and it’s cutting right across that whole form even though it is a form that does this.
It’s not following it at all. Down here it’s not really following it.
This would really want to go this way.
I have a couple strategies. I really have three strategies. I can let the hatch go in
one direction. Since I’m a lefty, from the upper left to the lower right is the easiest.
If you’re a righty going this way would be easier. You can tell--
If you look at your Old Masters you can tell what hand they used.
You can see Michaelangelo is right-handed here,
because that’s the natural default stroke; down, away from your body towards your body
from your strong hand to your weak hand. You just let it hatch.
Or, you can let the hatches track the axis,
the long axis or short axis or angular direction of the form.
But not the contour of the form. I can build up that egg like that or I can let the hatches actually
contour over the form. The Old Masters, del Sarto, Michaelangelo, they would do both.
Sometimes it would just go in the direction, just in a general direction without tracking
the form. Other times it would actually lay over the form. It just depended which way
they were going. These hatches just go right across. They’re just a value statement.
They’re not tracking over the form. These tend to track in the direction of the hair
going from back to front like the hair is combed back behind the ear, and then others
actually are going over the form. Take your pick. In the big picture it doesn’t matter
because you’re just after the value and the shape of it, but in terms of subtleties
it can make all the difference in the world in terms of we recognizing this as your drawing
and not somebody else’s. You might have a very distinct way to make marks.
Okay, the last thing we can do here is I might want to use a white pencil, or I can use the
white gouache, and I could come back and let this then be the lighter half-tones with highlights.
I could blend this in or hatch it in, whichever. I might think, well, I hatched
the dark so I better hatch the lights. It wouldn’t have to at all.
You can see how we can mark that off and get a little bit more bang for the buck out of it.
So, sketchbook as a way to analyze Old Masters.
I can also work—and we won’t do this here--I can work
from life and do the sketchbook as a way of painting from life, just work out
of my sketchbook rather than off a canvas or off drawing paper in a workshop class.
Or, I can work from reference, which I am usually doing. I could also set up a little
still life. I could draw a little object.
It could be just sketched out with basic construction,
or it could be fully rendered out. You can see I scratch it, and sometimes
the mark doesn’t take, and I’ll roll my pencil around. Sometimes you have to work
to get the marks down. Sometimes it will start to bog up so it can throw you a little bit.
But I actually kind of like that uncertainty.
Okay, so these strokes follow the contour of the form.
These strokes went across the axis of the form.
These are cutting right through in the direction that I’m most comfortable and you can go right off the form.
These are going a little bit more over the contour of the form.
These are showing going in the shadow but also showing the lighter half-tone.
It can be a very strong—you can really play up the linear quality of it, or you can keep
it more lost and found edges. It’s a little more realistic. All those possibilities. Again,
we can pick up maybe the shiny tube.
Generally, when I do a long highlight like that I’ll
have it vary a little bit. Go look at Sargent highlights going down the nose. They won’t
stay the same all the way down. They’ll be hotter and then brighter/hotter, and then
softer/grayer or darker. Or they’ll be thin to thick or sharp edge to soft edge or warm
to cool, all those things. Alright, so that’s that.
workshop before becoming very famous in his own right. One of the great portrait painters in history.
So I’m drawing down the shape, capturing the shape of the structures, and
then I’m filling in the value. I’m defining this drawing through the shadow shapes.
Since it’s a sketch, I may not put in the value of the hair. Maybe I’d pick up the hair
kind of like our Michaelangelo’s Sybil. I’d pick it up to pick up the side plane
or whatever, but I’m not really trying to build up the true value of that. Then I’m
going to look, I’m going to allow these subtle half-tones to break out of the shadow.
That’s usually where my half-tones are most valuable and most complementary. If I start
putting half-tones in the middle my design gets spotty. You’re much better keeping
your half-tones connected, at least at first, but generally all the way through.
Connect those half-tones to the shadow. That’s where they do the most good and the least damage.
We have this, the hair is blocking the bottom of the face, but also there’s a general
dropping off of light, so the pen and ink sketching technique is a nice way to get a
general concept of the value pattern, how things are dropping off.
I’m always interested in the transition from lighter to darker values, getting gradations in the there, soft and
hard edges, lost edges, all that kind of stuff.
Notice I can keep building this up, nocking down tones.
A little gradation on the nose. Picking up these secondary forms, these soft transitions.
And then maybe play that off just a linear flow of hair, not really trying to capture the
actual exact shape or certainly value range for it.
You can pick up some of the lace quality of that if you want to.
We’re not going to bother with it, but if you would like to go and knock yourself out.
Then, you can see it gets kind of addictive. You just can keep playing and playing, building
it up. Then if we chose then we could come back in...
...and just knock that down a little bit here. Oftentimes, these little subtle forms like on the cheekbone pulling
down you get subtle half-tones in between the hot spots. You can pick those up with lines that actually
move and actually track down the contour of it or move across the axis of it.
Let me knock this down just a bit.
Let me put a little hot spot there.
You can see then that those little half-tones will contain your hot spots, your highlights, your light pencils.
Maybe there is a sheen of the hair we want to pick up, and then some of the wisps or something
like that. And you can just, notice how I’m just wiping that back to tame it and settle
it down. Oftentimes, you put something in there, and this a particularly bright pencil.
It’s a Conté of Paris. So it’s like the chalks but in pencil form. It’s particularly
strong, sharp. If you used a CarbOthello it wouldn’t be quite so hot. So I’m taming
it down a little bit. Also, that blends it, of course, and we can pick up.
And I can even, you know, if I had to adjust something—let’s say this line is too strong
here, I could come back over that and almost like an eraser play that down a little bit
so it doesn’t do quite so much damage as it did before, let’s say.
Also, I could use it as a value statement. This is going to be the white costume, let’s say.
We can show that the darker flesh plays against the lighter costume there.
Alright, we’re going to start again. We’ll just go from the ground up. I’ll show you
how I put out the paint. Not a big mystery probably, but you never know. If you’ve
never done it before, it is. I’m going to start with black. And the order does not matter
a lot. In fact, once you’ve painted for a while it doesn’t matter at all to me.
In the beginning colors can confuse, and you grab the wrong color at the wrong time. It
can mess you up. So I’m going to put the black and the white up here. They’re the
kind of non-colors in a way. They don’t have any of the sunshine rainbow stuff going on.
Then I can go whichever direction I want.
I’m going to go from black—I’ll come down here and do green. And I can just run it right down, but I have a lot of
room to work. You don’t need much palette space to gouache, unlike oil paint where you want
tons of it. Here’s my blue. I could have just run it down, of course.
Here are my two reds. Notice I’m going from a green-blue, a yellow-blue to a blue. Now I’m going to
a red that is slightly blue. That’s my rainbow. Then I’m going to a red that’s slightly
yellow. Now, notice you don’t need to put out very much. Oil paint we put out a lot.
This, we don’t have to put out, at least when we’re painting ala prima, this we don’t
have to put out much. Then I’ll do my yellow, and maybe I’ll have two yellows. I put those
out. In this case I just have 1 yellow. So that’s plenty. You wouldn’t even have
to put out that much, but I’m doing it bigger so that you can see it. I keep a paper towel
going. You can see I got some on my hand. And that’s what our water is for; it’s
to clean my hands. I’m going to do that.
Alright, so let me grab some reference here. What we’re going to do first—I’ve got
my pencil, my little H pencil, and I’m going to do a little sketch. Now, gouache, any kind
of paint works on several levels. You can do big masterpieces, little masterpieces,
detailed renderings, loose sketches, or little studies, little color comps. That’s what
I’m going to do. Little thumbnails we call them because they’re so small. Not quite
as small as a thumb, although sometimes they can be. But nice and small, and we work out
then our ideas. I’m just going to sketch very lightly the key ideas. This is such a
simple set up here the way I’m going to paint it that I could do this without a pencil.
You could certainly come in with a brush and do a little bit of sketching with your colored
brush. But anyway, that’s all I’m going to do. I’m really just interested in basic
simple shapes and then basic gradations, how that blue in this case—this is a nocturne
piece like Whistler might do—I’m just going to look for those basic shapes and basic
gradations. There is not going to be much rendering. I’m not going to be careful about
the branches of the tree, any of that. It’s just the impression. Just the sense if you
sought for just an instant what would be memory of it. That’s what the comp is.
So I’m going to work with my big brush. I loaded it with water. I’m going to work
with my mid-sized brush. I charge it with water, and then I keep in my off hand my paper
towel to dry it off, to make sure it’s the right amount of wetness.
Alright, now, one of the learning curves on a medium when you haven’t used the medium
before is how much paint to put on the brush. How much oil paint do you put? Do you do a
little dab or do you just load it up like a shovel. Then how wet? How much medium to
you put or solvent do you put in the oil paint? How much water here? In general, the paint
is going to be the most stable when you just leave it as is. If I were just to pain with
this that’s the best. But, generally you’re going to want to adjust it somehow.
I'm going to want to add a little bit of water. Notice, how I barely—I think you can probably
see that on camera—barely touched it, like a little aphid on the creek.
Then I'll wet it and then I’ll add some more paint and I’ll wet it. I’ll ease into how thick
it’s going to be. Now, this whole world that I’m about to paint is a blue world,
and so I’m going to do more paint, and I’m just going to put a blue wash over the whole
thing. I don’t care too much if it goes outside the border. Now, let’s do one down
here like that. We can do it like that, or we can wet.
Sometimes it will feel better to you to wet the area. Prime it with a little bit of water.
So my brush, my big brush that just
has water in it, and I’ll put it in. The advantage of that is notice what I can do
now. I clean off my brush. I dry off my brush, and I come back. I’ve got the wet water
down here. Now I can get a gradation. So what I want with any medium is I want to be able
to create a hard edge, hard edge is what I needed. Gradation is what I needed. Now I
can do that. So that is going to be my tool chest, basically, those two bits. There could
be textural differences and all that kind of stuff, but basically that’s it.
Hard edges and gradations.
Let’s go ahead then and wet this up a little bit more. I’m going to put a wash over the
whole thing. We do this while I’m doing it at a later point.
I’m trying to keep it fairly smooth but not nearly as careful as my little rendering demonstration there.
Notice that if the paint starts to dry as it here, it’s not real solidly, and since this is a paper that
is a hot press, that’s slick, and the paint is sitting on top, it’s not staining the
paper so much. It is a little bit. If I try and rub this away just with water, notice
that there still is a stain mark. I could actually erase away a little bit once this
dries, but if I do too much it will tear this paper. Notice that most of the pigment is
sitting on tape of the paper. Very little of the pigment is soaking in and staining
the paper. That means when I lay in a loose, rough wash like this, if there is a little watermark edge—
For example, notice now if I do this see the watermark edge there cause I put a new wash
over a dry wash the edge shows. Now, I can come back and try and soften that and do a
pretty good job of softening it if the paint is newly dried and if we have paper that is
keeping the pigment up on the surface. But if it has sat there for quite a while, and/or
the paper is like a watercolor paper. It’s a sponge that soaks the pigment in, you’re
going to be in big trouble. You’re going to have those watermarks if you’re trying
to be slick. In that case you have to work in a very careful technique. Having this hot
press, a slicker paper, gives me room to correct my mistakes. Also, it’s just a sketch, so
the little imperfections not only don’t hurt; oftentimes, they add charm to it.
to pick out—I’ve got the light wash which is more or less the sky value. It’s close
to the sky value. I’m really setting things up for that little white sun in the fog, that
white light in there. Maybe it’s a UFO. We’re going to assume it’s the sun. Now
I’m going to build darker from that. When I key a painting, when I figure out the values
in a painting I want to look to what the lightest thing is. Let’s just even put it in there.
I want the lightest thing to pop out as it should pop out. So notice I can make it glow
even by coming over. I wiped off my brush, loaded it with water, cleaned that off, and
then with that clean, wet brush went around the outside as you saw,
and that softened that edge and set that down.
I want everything to be dark enough that that lightest part of the painting pops off the
way it should. Likewise, I want this light enough so when I put my darker accents they
pop or read as they should. So now I’m going to go with blue again because it’s a blue
world. I’m going to add a little bit of red. I’m going to add the blue red so that
it’s nice and intense. I’m going to take my blue, add a little bit of water to it.
Notice I just barely tip the brush in and can do a little bit more. I’m going to add
my warm red, my yellow red, because that’s going to make a purple that’s dirtier. I
don’t want it to be so candy color maybe. Notice where I’m coming, I’m going on
the edges of these so I don’t pollute the whole color. So now if I need to make an orange
out of that red I can come from the other side and get the orange, and the blue stays
over here. That’s awful dark so I’m going to add a little bit of white. This is where
the watercolors will go UGH like that. Watercolors, the purists say you never use white. You always
start with a white paper and just go from the white paper. That becomes your highlights.
You do a light yellow wash over it so it’s a yellow-white highlight maybe. Then you add
washes and washes and take it darker, darker, and darker. This is kind of abusing that concept,
and we’re painting half like watercolor artists. This was all watercolor technique.
As soon as I did that white now I’m using wash ideas or opaque painting ideas.
Now I’m going to lay this on here.
I’ll pick up another color and plug it in there for these lighter purples, or I could
come in and bleed some of it out. Notice it damages the surface of the paper. Can you
see how the paper rises up, and you get that kind of little speckled effect? That’s really
the paper being damaged. You can see it here where you get that kind of grainy effect.
You can see it here and see where it corrected it here. It’s actually pulling up the pulp
of the paper and doing damage. I don’t mind that at all because it creates an interesting surface.
I like to ruin things.
No, it’s just I like that textural difference.
Notice I can come in and soften these, so now I’m going to drag out some of the medium; wiping
off, loading up, making sure I’m not getting too much water on that.
Now in general I’m going to use the rule of thumb of every time I change the value
I want to change the temperature.
Now I’m going to start coming in much more opaque.
When you squeeze out your tubes notice that when I hit the top of that white it resists,
almost like it has a skin. It doesn’t. It’s still wet but it’s just very thick. Other
times you squeeze it out and Gum Arabic is the medium they use on this gouache. You’ll
get the medium, the Gum Arabic, flooding out. Or in oil paint you’ll get the linseed oil
flooding out, and it’s very, very wet. So you never know how wet or dry that paint is
going to come out, so you want to be very careful to get it the consistency that you
want. You’re only going to find that consistency after doing a bunch of paintings. You’ll
find what works for you. So now I’m going to make a lighter blue, but I’m going to
mix it out of the white rather than just glazing over the page. You’ll see the difference
between using a watercolor technique and basically an acrylic technique here since....
...that is what it looks like. It actually has much more intensity than acrylic, but that is more or less what
we have. Now, the other problem with gouache—now watch.
See what is happening there? As it
dries it gets darker. When you start working with opaque gouache it’s very tricky at
first because you put that on. You say it’s way too light, and then it will darken a little
bit as it goes. You need to kind of figure it out. You’re over here on the palette
making a wet version, and then you have to wait for it to dry. Let’s just do that.
You can see now it’s getting fairly close to value. It’s still a little light but closer it dries.
We want to make sure that we’ve got that right value. Some people don’t like gouache
at all just because of that because it’s tough. But will happen is you’ll end up
after a while mixing several pots of color for your rosy cheeks, your red lips, your
pale flesh, your brown hair, your green eyes. And then you’ll have those pots of color
that you can refer to, and that’s the value I want. Even though this is dried now, I know
it was the lighter version when it was wet or vice versa, and it works in there.
So anyway, let’s go ahead and pick up some of this. So my general strategy here is to
lay down a shape or a wash of color...
...and then come back with a wet brush to soften the edge where it needs to be softened.
So let’s see what those do when they dry.
They almost disappear wet.
They show up a little stronger when they’re dry, don’t they?
I'm going to make an even darker version. I’m going put some black into that purple. I’m going
to use this red because it’s a darker red than that a little bit. I’ll do it again.
Now it disappeared completely now that it’s dry.
General rule of still life and landscape painting, in a still live if I’ve got an egg I’ll
put a dark shadow underneath the egg and then a dark accent in the shadow, and that will
help give it a weight. It anchors it down. That’s what I’m doing with these trees
here, just kind of anchoring them into the ground there.
So we could just stop there for a little sketch like this.
Or, we can come back and say and what would happen if I brought this in opaquely.
That’s a little too light now, but it’s going to dry. Let’s
see what happens when it dries. We’ll bring that down.
Maybe I want to refine the branch structures.
Maybe I want this to have a little bit better…
You can see the difference wet to dry.
Also, these things, the brush is getting thinner and thinner in paint, so these are
not going to be very opaque. Now this is a much more transparent painted sky
over here than it was over there.
So I’ll reload so I can get there.
This I’m going to actually wash off, lose the edge there. Then I’ll let this pick up in here.
Okay, then we have to wait patiently to see it dry. Alright, so as you can that this stuff
has dried it comes and goes in its value ranges. It generally gets a little bit darker as it
dries. Every once in a while it will get a little bit lighter when it dries too. Generally
it gets a little bit darker. You can see the finish here, and that would be all I’d do
for a little study. Oftentimes I’ll do a big study like this, or relatively large,
and I’ll come down here, and I’ll do something even simpler. I’ll have gotten fussy in
this. The renderer in me will come out, and I’ll start noodling around on branches and
pinecones and things like that. I want to clean it up, and so I work it out here, and
I come here and get cleaner color, simpler design, cleaner execution, move on.
Alright, so we’re going to do this little study of one of my daughters, actually. Then
as I said this is our introductory bit on this, so we’ll do some more careful renderings
another time, but we want to just kind of get the basic idea of our stuff here, our
medium and materials. That’s the way to learn the materials too. Don’t try and do
a photorealistic or really ambitious rendering. Do something that is just simple. Take a little
bit of pressure off yourself. Get to know the medium.
I’m just going to work this out. Generally, I’m doing a very linear drawing for the forearm, for example, and
then I’m think of that as balls, boxes, and tubes, that kind of construction.
But I’m just laying it in a little flatter. I can correct it a little bit in my painting.
I can even draw back over it if the drawing gets out of control or something like that.
So we’re just going to get the basic stuff down so I can lay in my shapes of color and
gets those shapes of color to harmonize.
That shadow goes way back behind her.
I’m going to have it come to the side cause it’s more interesting.
Alright, this is going to be a little vignette, so I’m not going to bother to frame it.
I’ll just kind of render it and let it fade out. That’s what the vignette means.
little things going on. That’s the nature of the sketchbook and the fun thing. You can
actually harmonize. If I need to get something cool and gray, I’ll work out what I did
in the last painting. So I’m going to take the coolness of the last painting and I’m
going to add some warmness of that straw hat, and that’s going to end up being my shadow.
In this case, it’s a straw hat, so it has that scratchy quality to it, so I won’t
use the blending strokes maybe. I’m going to slowly warm up from there as I get into
the half tones. And on this one I will use, I’m going to switch brushes, come in now
after the fact and rub that back. You can see that watermark. I’m going to use that
watermark where the water ends against the pristine page, and that will create a little
edge there. I’ll do some of the same warmth out of here, and I can even rub back in.
Look what I can do too: I can come into here or the shadow and rub out, pull it back.
Let that go down into the hairstyle. Isn’t she cute?
Pick up some of that warmth and reflected light there. Soften that edge. So I go back
and forth using the same brush using the watermark brush to get what I need to get.
Now that is not going to let me do anymore. If I want to go real dark in here, and I may well not
because one of the charms of the watercolor technique, like if you look at Sargent’s
watercolor technique that was where he was a true impressionist. He never really was
a true impressionist, like a French impressionist, like a Monét. He was just highly influenced
by the movement. He couldn’t get away from that structural, the Frans Hall and Velazquez
influences that marked him. In watercolor, because of the nature of the medium he started
out with brighter, lighter, more mid-ranged colors to stain things down like this over
here. Then he never—it’s hard to get really dark in watercolor. You have to do several
washes. Oftentimes if you do more than three or four washes, more than three really, it
starts to destroy the paper. He stayed much lighter in the more luminous painting is the
best way to put it. That gave it an impressionist beauty to it.
My point in saying that is I may not come in and push the darks that are really in the
reference. Now, since it’s light pink as a dress, and it’s just kind of an orange
or peachier version, a richer version of that in the flesh, I’m just going to mix a pink.
If I do a red stain over this it’ll just look dark and dirty. I’m going to go ahead
and use white. Because that white is so pokey, I’m going to put out a little bit more.
This is going to be my warm. I’ll have a cool white for cool colors. I’ll have a
warm white for warm colors. I do this quite a bit in oil or any medium. You start mixing
in and you dirty up the pot of color that you put out. Rather than risking dragging
that dirty color in, you should end up with another clean color to work from. William
Merritt Chase would actually lay in his painting, and then at that halfway point let’s call
it he would wipe off, clean all of his tools, get new paint out there, new brushes, clean
turpentine, and begin again.
Now, this may well be too dark by the time it dries. Let’s take a look. See it going
darker and darker and darker? So that’s a little dark, but I’m going to go ahead
and leave it there because I can always bring lighter paint over it, and I want room if
I decide to do a little highlight on the chin or something like that. I want room for that.
So I’m going to use that as our paint. I’m going to go over the arms and the dress and
notice how I’ve just destroyed my drawing. Some of that will come back through because
this is fairly thin and transparent.
Oftentimes, you have to come back and find your drawing
in the painting process, and don’t be afraid of that. If you fuss around trying to pain
around your drawing you’re going to ruin the pain quality to save the drawing shapes.
That’s why if you want to be a really good painter you want to be a decent draftsman.
The really great painters were usually great draftsman. You can be a really great painter
and be a good draftsman; that happens. But, you can’t be a really good painter and a
lousy draftsman usually unless you’re doing a modern take on things. Okay, so now I’m
going to lighten this up. Go over it again like so.
You can see a little bit of water there dripped. I’ll do that so it doesn’t ruin my hat. Now let’s do it again.
I don't like this white, really, this tube of white. It could be the zinc. I haven’t used zinc
for a while. It’s real sticky. It’s got that kind of skin on it. I have to fight it
to get the white I want. So when you try that you might find the same thing. You try something
and you just don’t like that color; it doesn’t feel good to you on some level. So you try
a different brand or a different version of that same temperature. So titanium, maybe
dugamblin or Sonayle for their gouache. Rumbacher.
Okay, so now I’m going to make a peachier version of this for the flesh tone.
I'm just going to put it right over the top. So this is very opaque. I’m not doing a stain.
This is just a light value, and I have a darker value paper than I want for her porcelain flesh.
Okay, now I’m going to clean that off. Somehow I ended up with a different brush.
I do that all the time where I switch brushes. That brush had that green for the hat on there,
so I don’t want that to get into the flesh. That would not be good. Now I’m going with
a redder version of this. I’m going to come in here, clean that off. That red is going
to get darker as it dries and pull it in there.
Okay, I guess we’d better do the other arm there, huh?
Now that’s a little dirty. It had some green in there. That’s going to
make that arm dirty, so I have to clean my brush and remix. I could scrub that away and
bring it back somewhat, but I’ll just go ahead and cover over it.
I can go over opaquely and bring something back.
I’m just easing that color into the pile, a little bit at a time.
I’ll bring it back down into that just to make sure it all feels like the same,
more or less. It can vary a little bit and that could even actually be nice.
Let’s see what we have here, see if it stays so yellow or see if it goes pinker for us.
So you can see the difficulty here as I stroke that in it doesn’t look like it’s any
different. Then it starts to dry, and it looks very different. Now I’m cleaning the brush
off and I’m making that loose gradation there.
I’m just trying to mix that together and let it blend with my lighter pile. You can see kind of the damage control
because I didn’t have enough paint and then I got distracted and went off on another area.
But, those kinds of things are part of the process, part of the learning curve. Learn to master
your medium. Sometimes part of the magic that can happen in a painting you get, oh my goodness,
I didn’t know—I was trying to fix that and it turned out even better because rather
than just painting it fast the first time I came back and I fixed it. That correction
gave the paint real life. I do that a lot where I make sure I actually do something
that needs to be fixed, taken further and corrected later just so I can build up the
paint quality or create a different texture or try and find another shape solution so
it’s not the same old thing each time.
this out. I’ve been a poor host to my background.
If I want that to look pinker in flesh I could make it pinker, or I could put what is next to it greener.
If I want it to be lighter I could make it lighter, or I could put what is next to it darker.
I’m using the same blue that I used in that little thumbnail landscape.
I just made it pinker. I put in my cool red.
I’m going to take most of that off my brush.
Again, I have to wait to see if it’s the right value or not.
Notice I’m putting in the brightest colors and the darker half-tones and shadows.
That is so she glows in warmth to that cool background. See how that really
charges things up. That’s an idea I stole from Boucher the Rococco painter.
He would have these little cherub-type woman. The arm would be pressed against the breast and the
armpit, side of the ribcage. Where the pink flesh of the arm came against and pinched
in against the pink flesh of the armpit, you get this little bright fire-engine red line.
That’s what I’m doing there. Notice that this color, especially in here, it actually
gets a little dirty cool here. But it is very pale and not all that attractive. It’s a
nice color, but I mean it’s not saying glowing cherub-like flesh of a little girl. So then
as I go down into darker half tones we did that little bit that you watched, and it gets
oranger and oranger, and then as I go into the darkest edges of the form, which is where
the darkest moments are in this reference I go even deeper golden orange and then bright
red. I like to call what I call anchor the form, put a deep shadow in an area to show
how dark it could be. That’s not black dark. It could get much darker. Caravaggio would make
that quite a bit darker, make it pretty much black. It gives us a pop of value. It helps
us feel how delicate the values really are there.
You can see how much fun this. I’m having a ball, actually. There’s not much pressure.
If I screw it up then I just tell my gallery or my patrons or my mother that, oh, it was
just a sketch. I’ll finish it later. You’ve got an out. You’ve got an excuse.
You don’t have, you know, hundred-dollar materials. You can set up a canvas and spend a $1000
on a big canvas, depending on the canvas. It can be scary.
You can spend $20 on a piece of paper that you’re going to draw on.
If you screw it up, every time you goof it up that’s $20 down the drain. That actually does create pressure.
I’m just doing a little bit of variations of that pink so it feels like it’s a bit of a wrinkly surface as we have in the reference.
Maybe I’ll lighten this just to give some variation to that. It feels like it has some
translucence or has some action to it, those kinds of things. Now, Anders Zorn taught me
the value of value. He has this Grover Cleveland, American president, and he’s just this bear
of a man with a walrus mustache sitting, barely being held in the chair he is in. Big, round
fat guy. He has this lovely hand like this. It’s just a big ball. Instead of making
these deep, dark shadows, because there are deep, dark shadows everywhere he just wanted
to celebrate that ball. These deeper marks that should be so dark, that should be like
that red just below her armpit there, dress to arm, the restraint in that man still astounds
me. Let’s see if we can do a little bit of that here.
I’ll show you what I mean.
Okay, now we have to let it dry, see what we got. We’ll frame this here. Now, I’m
going to do a lighter version of that and let it dry. Blowing, blowing, making it dry.
Okay, now it’s coming up. Can you see the subtlety? There’s just a slightly darker
moment there. It looks like it could be a knuckle and a separation of fingers. But the
overall shape—let’s call it an egg—the egg shape of that hand is maintained, that
little nuance there where we look at the fingers separating on the reference. Look how subtle
it is there. That keeps it simple. Sometimes you want to add a detail in a lovely silhouette
but you don’t want to destroy the integrity of the silhouette. You can back way off the
value range that you would see there.
Again, now we’ve got the feet coming out and catching light.
Okay, so I have the feet here. Doing to do some real dark spots there just to anchor.
You can see if I don’t want to make that shadow lighter by making it lighter, I can
make it lighter by putting what’s next to it darker. We always have that bit. Notice
down here what I did is when I laid in the paint here I used the old paint that was dried
and I had to re-wet it basically. See how once you re-wet it, it’s not near as opaque
as it was. Notice also when I make these little accents here, this little touch marks, you
get that watermark effect that is characteristic of watercolor, which I love. Maybe that one
is a little too strong, so I’ll play it down here for a little bit.
But, I really like that bit, and that adds to the sketch painterly quality. This is not
such as precious commodity kind of thought, so let’s have fun with it. Again, that’s
one of the charms of a watercolor by Sargent.
Alright, so let’s put on our, this will be kind of the punch line. Let’s put on
our lovely pink Crocs, and let’s give it a dark shadow.
So I’ll use a dirty dark red, so I’m using a cool green and cool red.
I want to dirty up that green a little bit, so I’m just using whatever dirty bit is there to be had.
Let’s lighten that up just a touch. I’m going to load that. It’s a technique we didn’t really use in this
painting, but I’m going to load it up with a lighter version while it’s wet, and I
can even add a little bit of water to it. You can see I bled off now, so I’m going
to draw it back. Little harm done, but it just will add to the charm of it. We hope.
If not, it’s a gift for Aunt Millie.
Let’s work on that hat just a little bit more. I wanted to bring in some of the straw
color so it’s not quite so green. Okay, we’re going to let that—load that up.
Take a little bit of it away, soften that.
Okay. Some of these things can take a long time to dry.
I’m not sure what our editors will do, but they might well come in and speed up the drawing
time. So just keep in mind you might need to just wait for 2 or 3 minutes to let the paint dry.
I’ll just kind of tie it in to our little landscape there.
Anyway, that gives you an idea of how I work. We’ll do some more finished renderings.
As I said before, those are a lot of fun too, to really get to noodle things out. But this
gives you a sense of how I begin the process or work loosely with a process, how you get
that paint down. It’s always fun to see how other people do the things that you’re
working on. Like I said I have a particular soft spot for these mediums here. So anyway,
I hope you hope you enjoyed it. More importantly, I hope you learned something from it. Let
us know how the lesson does for you. Hopefully, watch the improvement as you go from adventure to adventure.
We’ll see you next time.
Free to try
1. Lesson overview1m 14sNow playing...
1. Introduction to materials15m 23sNow playing...
1. Fountain pen sketch demo with Michelangelo reference and still life sketch18m 41sNow playing...
Watch the whole lesson with a subscription
2. Fountain pen sketch with Van Dyke reference, introduction to gouache paints16m 23s
3. Gouache forest scene study15m 18s
4. Gouache portrait study14m 15s
5. Final touches16m 54s