Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Portrait Palimpsest

When I'm working in a watercolor sketchbook, I don't get too worried if a sketch doesn't work out, because I can always start a new picture on top of the failed one.


This sketch of the draft horse Turk was painted over a restaurant portrait that got off to a wrong start. Beneath the horse, you can see the ghostlike yellowish shape of a man's head at center, with blue color around it. When I got home I just wet the whole surface of the paper and scrubbed out the details.

The next day I was visiting the farm, and I liked the way Turk looked in his stall. So I painted him over the portrait palimpsest. In the bargain I got a light effect that might not have occurred to me otherwise.

13 comments:

Leslie Hawes said...

You just wanted to use the word palimpsest...I can tell :)

Matt Dicke said...

James what did you use to scrub the paper with not to damage it? a sponge? Thanks. Love the glow on this one.

James Gurney said...

Leslie, yes, you guessed it. I love that word.

Matt, I usually use a wet cotton rag and gently dab it until the paper's pretty wet and the pigment is loosened up. Then I wipe it once or twice to remove any loose pigment. Not too much scrubbing, though or the paper will start to break own. Some dye-based colorants won't come out no matter what you do.

Curious Sam said...

I have to admit, I'm extremely curious to see what you mean by a sketch or drawing that "didn't work out." When all you ever see are artists' successes, you can get the idea that to produce abortive efforts is not to be an artist at all. Have to say, though, no one is ever going to see my failures!

James Gurney said...

Curious, if you watch the beginning of this video, you can see the sketch I'm covering up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKIfCxXe4L4

babangada r said...

just wondered what sort of paper you were working on...d'Arches? (which i know can take a beating)
and..hi!
jada

James Gurney said...

Babangada, I'm using a Moleskine watercolor book. The paper is 200 gram cold pressed surface.

benedict1 said...

I have painted transparent watercolor for years. Your casein examples have inspired me to try it and also some water-soluble oils(Cobra)(Cannot let go of water entirely, it would be a shock) Are there any good instructional videos for handling either medium, from scratch? I have found snippets on Youtube but I'm looking for something more substantial as an instructional video, or even a book would work. I have watched you paint Turk and the donkeys several times now and love the way you cut the shapes out with the flat brush.

James Gurney said...

Benedict, I'm working on full length, real-time instructional videos on watercolor, gouache, and casein. so hang in there and you'll see them announced on the blog.

Robert F said...

Very interesting spotlight effect.

David J Teter said...

Ah, the watercolor version of pentimento!

Sean said...

beautiful!

Matt Dicke said...

Thanks for the response. will have to scrub some of those false starts out of my sketchbook!