Sunday, January 13, 2013

Painting Metal in Watercolor - French Horns

3 Figures in French Horn Painting LWatry ©2013
I started my new band painting on November 1, 2012. I worked on it throughout November and December between holiday preparations and other events. I am now approximately two-thirds of the way done. I thought I would post the process and explain some of the steps.

This is a painting of french horns. I wanted to paint them because I loved the repetition of the instruments and the girls hands, and the shiny instruments! I took a long time on the drawing and used a grid to sketch the piece from a photo that I took. Next I transferred it to a full sheet of watercolor paper (140lb. cold press Arches). I then used masking to mask all of the highlights on the horns, so that I could get that sparkle on the shiny metal when I removed the masking at the end.

I started with the figures in the painting by washing in a light skin tone over their hands, arms, and faces. I wanted to make sure before I got to far into the painting that I was getting the figures to look the way I wanted. If they weren't working out, I could start again without having invested too much time into the piece. Also, their skin tones were one of the lightest colors in the painting and I usually start with my light colors. I have slowly added layers to the figures and I may still add another layer of color after I get more of the values into the painting. I would rather add the skin color a little at a time rather than make it too dark all at once.

French Horns LWatry ©2013
In the next image you can see that I have started to work on the horns and a little bit of the darks. I needed to put some of the dark in so that I could start judging my other values by them. You can see the chart I made in this picture to test out black mixes. I have an early post that talks about black mixes. You can see this post by clicking here. You can also see my photograph that I am painting from. I adjusted some of the horns and added some more blue reflection that is not in the original photo.

French Horns Closeup LWatry ©2013
French Horns with Nook LWatry ©2013
There is a lot going on in this painting in the horns and the reflections so it is nice to have some resting places for the viewers eye like the faces, arms and dark areas. However, I don't want my dark areas to be flat black. I want some color variations to give interest to the piece. You can see where I have removed some of the mask from the highlights on the closeup image at the left. I was getting a little anxious to see how they would look. It also helped me judge if I was getting the color around those highlights dark enough. Here the figures faces are still sort of light. I have since added another layer to the skin.

In the next image you can see that I have now started adding even more dark to the background. It doesn't show up in the picture, but the dark goes from a cool black at the upper left corner to a warm burgundy/black in the lower left corner. I have also begun to work on the dark reflections in the horns themselves. I am using a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Pyrrol Orange for the dark in the horn. I used a mix of Prussian Blue and Alizeran Crimson for the background dark. I also started using my Nook to help me see my photo better. I uploaded my photo onto the nook and I can enlarge it to look at sections of the horns to better understand the colors and what I am painting. Also, I get a truer sense of the colors on the nook than from the print of my photo.

French Horns LWatry ©2013

The final image is showing where I am currently. The photo is a little light, so it is not totally representative of the true colors. I have a lot more darks to put in on the black dresses of the figures and I have a lot of the center of the horns to complete. I will continue to try and post this paintings progression.


  1. Hi Lori, I've been absent from blogger for quite a while. In checking today, I see you have put up a wonderful post. I recently bought a tablet and thought of doing what you just mentioned. This will be a wonderful painting in every respect, and you are progressing wonderfully. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Johanna,
      Thanks for checking in. I really like using my nook to help me see my french horn photo better. In the really detailed areas it is nice to be able to zoom in.