Testing some inks

On a cold day with 3 F outside and listening to Leonard Cohen a lady dances in my head to the end of love.

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inks: purple wampin, Rome Burning, black Red and Vampire red (private reserve) and the Zebra nib on Stillman and Birn Beta series paper cut from the notebook.

The problem I have working wet media on a notebook is the stains it makes on the back of the previous page, so I tore them off and trimmed with the guillotine. This ink dries fast, though!!

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Daniel Radcliffe

I made this portrait of Daniel Radcliffe from a black and white copy. I made up the colors using my usual palette for skin tones and Walnut ink for the hair.

My procedure for portraits is based on simplification. Drawing is not what you draw but what you leave out. I begin with a very accurate ink drawing. If the features are somehow hard to get I start with pencil first, but Radcliffe has a very distinct face that is somehow easy to do. The likeness is pretty much attained by an exaggeration of the eyebrows and getting the eyes right. The jawline is also key in this case.

As in anything, things come out better when you are in familiar territory, your usual palette, your best paper, and your favorite brushes. I particularly feel at home and use no other paper for all my work than the Stillman and Birn brand, because it absorbs washes beautifully without warping. The heavy stock is just perfect for watercolor. This Portrait was done on the Beta Series on a 9×12 notebook, Natural white, Rough Surface, Extra Heavy Weight, 180lb. When I use only Ink I usually go for the smooth surface of the Heavy Stock Zeta Series. The Beta has the extra tooth that holds the water runs better.

All my sketches are done with my favorite fine point fountain pen.

When I do portraits I try to create a rhythm of contrasts so your eye jumps from dark spot to dark spot back and forth keeping the interest in the portrait in a circular motion. The warms and cools also play a part in that rhythm. Since in this portrait most of the real state is warm, the cooling factor is the blue eyes. Eyes are the feature that we feel mostly attracted to in a face, so a very bold blue in that focal point compensates for all the warmth that is around. This cool color finds then a visual connection with another cooling color, the greenish blue of the shirt, between those two I feel I accomplished a balance and the portrait feels right. The shading in the face is done using about three layers of watercolor, allowing the first layer to dry completely.

Depending on the light source direction I start my first wash with The main skin tone. then I add the first pass of dark brown and follow with the lighter and darker skin tones once the first layer is dry. The cooling touches are at the end. The coloring process is about 15 min, The drawing part takes about 25-30 min

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I included my palette here with my regular colors that are both for landscapes and portraits. I have a special spot for skin colors as you can see, my darks and lights and my neutrals

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Here the list:

Alizarin Crimson,Cad Red Light, Orange Yellow, Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ocher, Cad Yellow Pale Hue, Pelylene green, Sap Green, French Ultramarine, Prussian Blue, Cerulean Blue, Violet, Lamp Black (Lamp black is opaque and highly staining, it makes the darks really dark as opposed to the Ivory black that is a warm semitransparent black that blends better with other pigments, I personally prefer more opacity)

Gouaches: White, Beige, Pale Peach, Flesh and Jaune Brilliant (Main skin color)

On regard to brushes I always use natural hair as it holds more pigment.

Here below are some short clips that show the normal speed in which I usually work as in watercolor you pretty much work with the flow and must be a rather quick application and in every layer pass, more and more specific in small spots/areas to create contrast.


Wedding at Martha’s Vineyard, MA

On Sep 26, Saturday was the wedding we were hired to sketch at Martha’s Vineyard. It was quite an experience to have so many moving subjects and trying to chase-a-sketch! We managed to get a few done and some were colored afterwards. We got about a dozen done each of us in 4hrs.

I chose Stillman and Birn Zeta series notebooks for this, The hard stock takes the watercolor beautiful without warping. I used Koi watercolors, they are a little volatile but it is good to have scans so I can reprint them in their original color saturation.

The bride, young actress Julianna Gill (from Friday the 13) here with her little nephew and Dave Franco with fiance Allison Brie (from Madmen) are here in these sketches.

We didn’t realized who they were until a while later which helped in the sense of not being star struck while drawing!
It was quite stressful to try to sketch in so little time as many sketches as possible but I did learned a lot. On the next gig, if we have another one like this, I think I will apply watercolor off site if i have to work this fast because running with a wet tray and brushes, while holding a sketchbook a pen and a water container just… Doesn’t work!
Some sketches were very… “Accidental” *_* like the color one here, that sky is a bad spill… my tray fell over the sketch.
My friend Mia said that this was a gig that could break the most confident speedy sketcher! And yes when I saw my works I wanted to cry :I but I worked on them at home a little more, adding watercolor touches here and there. Some of them I didn’t have time to add color.

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Leo’s accidental watercolor

I used my own carved wood sticks to make this drawing and permanent ink, on a stillman and birn Zeta series notebook. Then I applied W&N cotman’s watercolors witha petit gris brush

the result was ok, with a few spots here and there but overall I’m happy with this 🙂

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Downtown Boston

Downtown Boston. Park Street
Cotman watercolors S&B sketchbook
Something I would like to note here is the alignment of the human scales heads. I was taught that a good practice to keep proper proportion of scales in the background midground and foreground, the eye level of all the figures is aligned with the horizon, so you start by doing their heads and then drop the rest of the body down the horizon in proportion with the head size.

Downtown Boston downtown Boston

A sneak peek into my watercolor tutorial on sea creatures

I am collaborating on a project (like my previous collaboration on Pen and Ink book) on “Living Creatures”. My theme is marine life 🙂

Today I submitted my finished article and will publish here very shortly as the head of the project assembles the work of several collaborating artists.

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Portrait of a couple in watercolor

This is a 20 x 30″ watercolor rendering on Arches 300lb hot press, a commission portrait for this lovely couple from Matamoros Mexico.

I started this with alight pencil sketch just massing out the main shapes, placement of features and proportions. that is the part that takes me more time since its the barebones and the likeness depends on that. In order to achieve likeness i take the most prominent features and I exaggerate them a bit, as long as the features are flattering. Brenda

I usually shed a couple of lbs on the faces because, this being from a photograph, the photos flatten the images and in my view adds apparent weight to the people’s faces.. I tried to be more gentle and delicate in her linework and a little rougher on his. this is about 6 layers of watercolor buildup the final touch is to use some white paste out of the tube and do some brush strokes here and there for highlights. I squint my eyes constantly to see masses composition and contrast. contrast is very important to make the images pop out.

I used a staedtler pigment liner #5 and tried to keep linework to just essential as every time I plan to add color, otherwise I work with several points and detail, when its just an ink sketch. i have to do this very quickly to keep the image dynamic and fresh, the more I work it the less spontaneous it becomes. I think brushworks should look like brushwork to give this feeling. the background is always a choice of color to go with the overall scheme, since they were outdoors and it was sunny I added yellow. Her dress was black. but it was too monotonous to make it black

A Collaborate Book Project -Sketching in Pen & Ink Tecniques

I am pleased to begin FREE distribution of this PDF that we, the Sketching Workshop Group have authored.

The SW group is a free association of urban / city sketchers across the world. 150 artists working mainly on architectural renderings, sharing mutual knowledge, and ongoing critiques of everyone’s work in a social friendly atmosphere. The group includes architects, and working artists.

This is our first collaborated project. We are eager to work together and share our tips and techniques across social media, including the Wiki Commons. Please feel free to redistribute. This is not intended for sale anywhere in the web.

This booklet has articles written by 8 authors, including myself. I also had the pleasure to do the final layout.

The work includes tips and techniques advise by working artists:

Jorge Royan -Buenos Aires, Argentina -Founder of the group.

Jennifer Lawson -Portalnd ME USA

Di Metcalf -Cape Town, South Africa

Doug Bodel -San Francisco, CA USA

Wesley E. Douglas -Chicago IL USA

Percy Acuña -Lima Peru

Jonatan Alcina Segura -Cáliz, Spain

and myself, Laura V. Sfiat -Boston, MA USA

Download HERE > PenInkFinal-Alpha

Microsoft Word - BBBBB Pen line work (JR)