Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Watercolor of Another Artist by Polenov

Polenov's watercolor portrait of a another artist at work reminds us of a basic strategy in watercolor painting. In the dress, notice how he laid down the large dark shape first and then defined the smaller folds and wrinkles. Big shapes first, details second.

Vasily Polenov (1844–1927) Portrait of N. Yakunchikova

She's using a wooden box hinged open with an upward extension, and she has her painting surface (probably oil on panel) almost vertical. 


Unknown said...

Hey Gurney! Great post, I haven't heard of Polenov before, but his work is outstanding, thank you for sharing.

Quick question, If this is a basic technique, what would be considered more advanced? I'm curious to hear your insights


Melissa Dow said...

How can you tell from looking at it that he did the big dark shape first and details later? i.e what specific elements should I be noticing? (Thanks!)

Unknown said...

Watercolor is a transparent medium and if the large black shape had been painted second, the folds and small details wouldn't be as crisp since they would be partially or fully obscured by the dark black paint laid over the top. Also, in fine art, large shapes are usually drawn or painted first. This helps us work out proportion, scale and perspective instead of worrying about the minutia of small details until later in the process. These big shapes are your foundation and they are like the walls and beams of a house. It doesn't matter how fine the furniture and decor is if the foundation isn't correct from the very beginning. An example would be if I painted a dog. No matter how well I paint the fur and small details, if my larger shapes and outlines are not accurate, then my dog will look wonky and deformed. Hope this helps!