I arranged the shells in sunlight, photographed them, made a line drawing on tracing paper using a grid and visualizing mat to get proportions, and transferred the line drawing to the watercolor paper using a light table. I made a small value sketch showing the light and dark areas – as a painting guide. The illustrations shown for each stage are recreations, so each does not exactly match the previous stage.
I pre-wet the front and back surfaces of my watercolor paper which I then lay on a slick surface. I dropped in the paint as shown, starting in the center and taking care to leave the white areas unpainted. I used the fine spray bottle to keep the paper wet and shiny. (Paint dropped into wet paper on which the shine has gone will give watermarks or worse will make a muddy mess!) I blotted excess water from the edge sand dried the paper before proceeding to the next stage.
I “negative painted” the shells — that is, I painted around them. The key to success in negative painting is to paint one or two hard edges of an object and then to paint a large surrounding area over several objects without regard to their individual edges as in the lower right hand side. On the whole I laid in the same or analogous (related) colors over the original wash to ensure “clean” color. I let the first wash dry before bringing out more edges in subsequent washes.
I negative painted more shells. Note that as I make additional hard edges and get further into negative painting, the surrounding area to be covered is smaller, as in the darker area of the bottom right hand side. You can see how this works if you compare the areas painted in stages 2 and 3.
I continued making hard edges and negatively bringing out increasingly smaller areas. And finally, I added details and laid in the sparkling gold, silver and copper opaque layers on the shells.
Cobalt Violet Deep
Phthalo Blue (GS) (Use sparingly. It’s powerful!)
I only mixed the blue with water.
The Russet is dropped into the wet on wet application and will separate to create texture.
Palette 5 Opaque palette used in the final stage. Don’t mix these colors with water.