American Kestrel A watercolor by Shanti Marie

100_2085 22 by 30 a full sheet watercolor 300.00


Work in progress 22 by 30 inches Watercolor on paper

I’m painting this butterfly for a customer. It will have a halo ( currently masked out) and I may paint the background, I’m not sure yet if I ‘ll leave it plain white paper or paint it. The customer wanted it just white paper… I think it may need a background, we’ll see… stay tuned for updates. I will finish it by Sunday March 29TH 2009

WIP young boy


Here we are back from the holiday weekend ready to get started on this painting.  I will have the parent take a look and make the final suggestions and we’ll start to paint.  Since the last time I posted this drawing I changed the mouth, refined the ear, and also worked on the eyes.    The bridge of the nose seems a bit wide, but remember all small children have a very wide bridge as they do not yet have the cartilage for the higher more thin bridge of an adult.   Shadows will be utilized to create the illusion of the bridge between the eyes thus setting the eyes back into the head and the brows sitting over the eyes.

At this stage you’ll want to decide your palette. Keep in mind some of this is decided for you.  The client wants the painting to have a bit of an African feel so the colors will be warm except fot the trees  tops which will be green. Usually with so many warm colors the obvious green would be a less yellow green and to use a bit of blue in the green, this will compliment the warm colors.   (Compliments are always opposite on the color wheel)  But thinking about the African feel, we may stay with at least some of the yellow green because this is also an African color.  When I say African colo, I mean colors which remind you of African cloth or of clothing worn by native Africans.  Since I have never been to Africa its safe to ask the customer in this case what they feel are African colors.  Commissions are not your vision, they are the clients, so its important for you not to project your needs above theirs. 

There are many skin tones and usually if the child is anything but of color you will not paint the child as dark as the child actually is because the child will appear to be of color.  Its very important for you to select skin tones lighter than the child’s actual skin tone.   Also many tans,  browns and reddish brown will make the skin appear dirty or ruddy. Avoid this at all cost.  The delicate skin of a child dictates an almost transparent skin color regardless of the child’s photo. 

Combinations of blue, red and yellow are best.  Although many fine painters will also use burnt sienna I strongly feel that beginning students should use this color in only very thin washes.  It can become dirty very quickly and repeated glazes makes it worse.   I have also used with great success cobalt violet which is a cool undertone seen in many Mediterranean  skin tones.   The problem with this color and use of any of the green skin tones may result in a customer who feels it’s not life like and too “Artsy”  (although green and violet have been used for skin tones since the Renaissance), most folks today relate to photos which will not show these tones in the skin.

I’ll be right back,  I’m creating my Palette for this little guy.  Get your pencil ready because you will want to make a record of these color combinations.



Colors for child’s face and hair

Cerulean blue

Cad yellow light

French Ultra marine blue

cobalt blue

cobalt violet

Alizarian crimson,

raw sienna / yellow Ochre

Burnt umber/burnt sienna

Rose madder/ Permanent Rose

Quin Sienna

new gamboge

For the light skin tone of the face… the three main colors will be Permanant rose, Cad yellow light and Cobalt blue.   Before I actually start this mixture I will paint a wash of Cerulean blue over the shadow side of the hair.    I will paint a raw sienna wash on the light side of the hair.  Paint this wet into wet and allow the portion where the light is shining to stay white.  This is the underpainting for the hair.  Then while that is wet I will paint right into this blue the color of the face which will be the cad yellow and the Permanant rose.  This mixture should look almost like water with very little value.  Whatever you do…  Do not make green with the mixture.  The cad yellow and the blue make green so mix in enough red so the yellow and blue do not  mingle.   if you do not use cads you can substitute  a very light wash of naples yellow with a touch of burn’t sienna with the permanant rose.  Let this dry..

color of the eyes will be French ultra marine blue and Burn’t sienna

Rose madder will be used to warm up the skin in areas such as under the nose.

Cerulean blue will be between the eyes

Burn’t umber will be used for some of the shadow and darker less warm areas of the face.

Over the shadow side of the face, you will use cobalt violet or cobalt blue…

Colorful Koi

I love this painting, the depth of color is very much as you see it here.  Usually I work with a cruciform under painting but here I used the bulls eye, this threw me at first and I had to tell that little voice who is always there reminding me of the rules of good design… that I was going to paint it anyway so shut up. 

Sometimes we have to break the rules to create good art. 

I wanted to get a better picture of this painting before I frame it, I still need to flatten it out as some of the bottom area is pretty wrinkled.    If you have any questions about this piece let me know, I’ll explain anything and try to help you understand this process.  My style is one where I allow the painting to dictate where the painting is going next so that is actually the hardest thing to explain.

The technical stuff I can help you with anytime. 


BTW…it will be for sale for $700. plus S&H. I may enter it into a fall show before I release it to a buyer. 

Heres how I flatten out a large painting.

I use a large table top where it can sit for at least 24 hours undisturbed.  This in itself can be difficult when you live in a house that is 1260 Sq feet.  So after dinner, I will usually use the Dining table which sits six.  


I place paper towels ( or any absorbent paper) on the table and lay the painting face down onto the towels.  I don’t use real towels because they are too thick and won’t allow the painting to get really flat. After I have the painting laying face down on the paper towels, I spray the back of the watercolor paper with water and rub the water into the paper with my hands. I make sure no water goes over the side and onto the actual front of the painting. I get it wet enough so that when I press the painting down the water can evaporate into the towels and leave the painting flat. I cover the BACK of the painting with more paper towels and make sure every part is covered.  Then I lay a  piece flat foam core ( you can use wood make sure it won’t bleed if wet or anything that is flat and larger then the painting) which is slightly larger than the painting. I then put weights ( usually books and heavy pieces of marble)on the foam core making sure not to leave any spaces between the weights. I line the books up edge to edge.  The tiles of marble go on top for added weight.   Make sure the weight is evenly distributed.  I leave all of this as is for at least 24 hours often 48 hours. When I take off the weights the painting is totally dry and usually completely flat.  If its humid I may have to put the weights back on if  I see that the Watercolor paper is still damp. Its OK if the paper towels are damp.  I of course use these towels over and over.  For the smaller pieces I have a press which works great and pictures of my press are on my other daily painting blog.

check it out there is a search box you can use to find the post.

Koi Passage work in progress almost finished

Koi passage


Here it is with out it being angled back on the table easel.  I do paint this stage on an easel its actually easier because I on’t have to lean over a table. I paint standing which really helps me with my freedom of movement and I’m always stepping back to take a better look at it from a distance.  I also will hang it upside down and look at it for at least a day. This gives me a fresh perspective and helps define the big shapes for me.  iIalso use a piece of red acrylic to check the light passages the values. I have an earlier post showing how a painting looks thru a piece of red acrylic and how to utilize the tool to assist  an artist in determining the light and dark areas.