Diana Probst, Cambridge Artist

Dragons: Day 2 – Watercolour Layout

Pale silhouette of a dragon as negative space in watercolourToday was the first day I’ll be charging my Dragon-loving client. The first days of sketching were on postcards, to get me used to posing dragons; it is unfair to make a client pay for my early efforts, before I know which questions to ask. The end of the day had us with an agreement of what to paint, however, and I could produce the proper laid out picture. In this case, I am offering this picture for sale to her, but she can trade it in for a credit towards the oil version, which is a way of making sure she gets a picture she likes. It was a half day’s work, and it will ship overseas relatively easily. It is also letting me estimate how long I will take on the original. I, uh, may not be doing this solely for the draconic effect of lying in my later riches, as it turns out. This dragon was sketched in in pencil, quickly, and then the watercolours were added as several layers, making the cave darker and darker as we move in. It is a planning piece for an oil painting, so I am pushing the colours deep and dark, letting me test the overall look as well as the design.

Red dragon in a blue cave, painted in watercolourFirst of all, I masked off the paper to give me a working area the size of what I will have in oils. That also gave me a test area down the right, which I made use of, adding a bit of my washes and shaping my brush there, to try out colour combinations. The sky went in first, as a pale yellow wash under everything. The light in this painting is going to be yellow, so I made it explicit. I’ll probably have a sunset there in oils, but in watercolour, the simple yellow was enough. After that, I painted watercolour layers, leaving out the dragon at the bottom. The paint areas got smaller and smaller, and the paint got darker and darker, to give the effect of moving into a cave. Then I painted the dragon delicately, in dilute red, until I have everything where I wanted it to be, and then I went in hard with the cadmium red hue. This is going to be a dragon that sticks out in the dark, and I wanted to be certain it would work. The watercolour is less subtle than the oil painting will be, and smaller. It’s not a map of where things will go, but an aide memoire. Dragon goes bottom right… Check.

I can, and probably will, resize the dragon. I will certainly make more of the one in the top left, which is currently just a silhouette. In the course of painting this, I practiced watercolour dragons quite a lot. If you want to see what I did, I have several available:

I want to see burning skies!
I want a dramatic landscape
A sky city please

You can support me as an independent artist with any small purchase or commission, and I am currently taking new work.