Tea, Milk, Honey – three pass watercolor

I went into figure drawing today, with the goal of focusing on painting in three passes. I’m trying to be a bit more systematic, as I’m teaching some workshops later this summer.

(I’ll be at the Urban Sketchers Santo Domingo workshop in July. Registration and info Santo Domingo Workshop).

Today’s stuff is an extension of the ‘draw the shadow shapes’ idea from last post (two down).

The idea is to mass-in a pale transparent wash filling the whole figure. As it dries, (ideally waiting until it’s completely dry, but that’s impossible with short poses), return with a stronger pigment mix for the shadow mass, and then stronger again for the contact shadows. (Contact shadows are the little ones where forms touch – like under the thigh touching a chair).

The mental guide I use is “Tea, Milk, Honey” – describing the viscosity of the pigment for each pass.

It’s a bit of a lie, as I never get quite as dense as honey, but I need some matching words. You could say Tea, Coffee, Cream, but it doesn’t make a proper set of words. In any case, the concept is you move up a grade of pigment viscosity as you go darker. When the shadow shapes are dry-ish, you can make the final touches of darkest dark and lightest light with thick creamy honey-like mixes. Almost, but not quite, opaque. I often use 60/40 gouache/watercolor at this stage.

14 thoughts on “Tea, Milk, Honey – three pass watercolor

    1. In fact, yes! I just got back from the Sunday session. My first time trying it out, though I know the moderator from other groups. Were you there today?

      1. I wasn’t but I know Marie-Lyne very well.
        I might start attending, though. The monday night session I used to attend is shutting down in 3 weeks…

        If I see you (I’ll recognize you by looking at your paintings) you can be sure I’ll come and say hello! =)

  1. This is so good. There is a sense of effortless beauty in these pictures (I am sure this is misleading, the effortless I mean). My efforts at life drawing feel so laboured and heavy by comparison. As always your sketches are an inspiration.

    1. Well, if it helps, it kind of *is* effortless. In the sense that the learning is done so gradually over so much time, each individual drawing is just what it its – another step in the process.

      Would you say a musician is struggling with his instrument? No – they are playing :) But if they play for 10 years, they reach mastery.

      Certainly you try to be focused, It takes concentration. But you can’t be struggling with it.

      Just do what comes naturally, don’t try too much each drawing, and then *look* at it critically. And the next one will be slightly better. Learning to draw the figure is a slow sneaky process. Its a surprise when you look back.

      I think my next post will be a historical look back at my training process:) That might in interesting :).

      1. Thanks and your historical look would be really interesting.
        Bottom line is I really admire your drawing style. I don’t want to copy you exactly, but what you do does encourage me to just keep at it and explore techniques.

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I love the watercolour posts. I’m starting to make a few faltering steps with watercolour life drawings myself, and I find the explanations you give for what you’re doing and why are very helpful in figuring this medium out (it has a mind of its own!).

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