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Sneakers I: More Pouring

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Sneakers I (11 x 17) $125

Sneakers I (11 x 17) $100

This is my youngest daughter in a characteristic pose. I love the way she has clasped her hands in tight but spread her legs out with her feet pidgin toed.

I poured all of this painting except for her hands and feet and an under painting of the carpet. I painted her hands and feet first, and then masked them to protect them from the pour. I left the under-painting of the carpet pattern unmasked.

face and hand

face and hand

carpet underpainting

carpet underpainting

I masked and poured three times. When the mask came off: I adjusted the values, added shadows and shoe details; and touched up her face.

first pour

first pour

second pour

second pour

mask removed

mask off

I used Winsor red, alizarin crimson, and cadmium yellow for her face and hands. I used hansa yellow medium, burnt sienna and phthalo blue for the first pour. I substituted raw sienna for hansa yellow in the second and third pours. I direct painted with the pouring palette.

What would I do differently? Well I like this painting a lot as is. I would mask the hands and face before painting them and paint them after the pour next time. I think I would also leave the sunshine streaks across the carpet out.

I like the painting enough that I’m going to do it again without pouring.


Or purchase a reproduction of this painting at Fine Art America.com.

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The Counter-Weight Part IIA: A Pouring Demonstration

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After the last of the viable mask has been removed, I wet the paper generously to remove the last remnants of the of the mask. This is a necessary step because unless the masked area has been washed, it will take paint unevenly or not at all.

Then I laid in the sky. This time I went for blue (cerulean blue, and French Ultramarine).

With Sky

With Sky

From here on out it’s all detail. I used a mixture of French ultramarine and Windsor red for all of the brush work. I varied the temperature of the mixture to match the surrounding pour image and to cool shadowed areas. I mostly left the poured passages alone.

The Counter-Weight (11 x 14) ($100)

The Counter-Weight (11 x 14) ($75)


What would I do differently? Well, the current composition is unobjectionable but it lacks excitement. The early painting had movement and especially depth that this one lacks. I may go back to the bridge with sketchbook and camera in hand, but not today.

Here are some other examples of paintings I have made using the multiple mask and pour method:

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Counter-Weight IA: A Pouring Demonstration

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Pouring is one of my favorite techniques. It literally means to pour paint across the paper. It can either be the atmospheric beginning to a painting or a major part of the painting process. Some people use it to create abstract shapes to suggest the painting subject. But however much pouring is used, it provides transparent color passages that can be gotten in almost no other way.

The method I use most frequently was popularized by Jean Grastorf in her book Pouring Light: Layering Transparent Watercolor. Her technique uses multiple masks in much the same way batik uses multiple wax resists.

When I first began painting I used her pouring and masking method as an aide to help me paint with contrast, because it forced me to divide my picture into five distinct tonal values or less. It also helped me loosen up about color. These days I pour only when I think the subject of the picture will be enhanced by pouring.

Sunday I photographed just such a picture, one of the counter weights to a local railway drawbridge recently converted to a pedestrian bridge. The silhouetted subject is perfect for pouring.

Working Photo

Working Photo

After one false start detailed in the previous two posts I had a drawing of the bridge I liked. I began the painting by transferring it to a block of Arches 140 cold-pressed paper. (Because removing mask is hard on paper I always use the more durable 140 weight cold-pressed paper when pouring.) My photo of the bridge has loads of minute detail. In my cartoon I simplified. I want the silhouette of the bridge tower and counterweight to predominate. Too much detail would take away from the graphic nature of the image.

After making the cartoon I taped off the edges of the painting and began masking the sky plus everything I’d like to remain white. The trick to masking is to use nylon brushes and to soap the brushes frequently. This keeps the mask from gumming up the brushes and saves your quality brushes from rack and ruin.

Once the mask was dry, I mixed three cups of very thin paint: cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, and Windsor red. I deliberately choose staining colors, because mask lifts pigments. Then I wet the paper (an important step as otherwise the paint tends to run off the paper without staining) and poured the yellow straight across the top of the tower. I tilted the paper right to let the paint run off and wiped up the excess. Then I poured the red just below the yellow, tipped the paper, and cleaned the excess again. Some of the red bled into the yellow making orange. Then I poured the blue the same way across the counter-weight adding a dull purple where the paint crossed the red paint I had just poured.

After the First Pour

After the First Pour

When the paint had dried completely, I masked all of my lightest values and poured slightly thicker paint over the paper in roughly the same places. After the paint dried I masked the medium values and repeated the process with milk-thick paint. When the final pour had dried, I pulled the mask off, revealing a bold but rough painting in vivid color.

After the Mask Came Off

After the Mask Came Off

It’s all brush work from here.

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Anatomy of a Painting Disaster: Part I

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A couple days ago I began pouring demonstration. It was cheeky of me to post the first half of the demonstration before for the painting was finished. I got bit too. I thought about deleting this demonstration entry, but there is too much to learn from mistakes to do that. Instead I will rename it and recast it a hair:

The problem began with the composition itself. Here is the photograph I began with:

Working Photo

Working Photo

I began by making a line drawing of the bridge and transferring it to watercolor paper. What I should have done first was made a preliminary value sketch.

Cartoon For Painting

Cartoon For Painting

Then I became beguiled by the lovely colors produced by pouring it.

After the First Pour

After the First Pour

After the Second Pour

After the Second Pour

After the Mask Came Off

After the Mask Came Off

There were beautiful colors there after the pouring was done, but the darks were much to heavy. Lightening the darkes only muddied them. And the compositional flaws became more apparent as I worked. In the end I gave up in disgust.

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