Happy Friday, y'all...and yes, I said y'all....I'm a northerner turned southerner, so when in Rome...
So, the elusive and difficult watercolor trick of painting reflections within reflections. Nothing pushes you ahead in your watercolor journey like painting marbles, my friends...and marbles within a glass jar...that'll REALLY challenge you.
I'll do my best to break things down and give you some tips in this post. If you're new to marbles, start out small. Place a couple of marbles in the sun and study them. Take some pics, choose one that you like and have at it!
I decided to paint this one b/c number one, it was challenging and I knew it would stretch and yes, frustrate me to no end, and number two, I wanted to enter something hard into the FALC juried show this month and this was as hard as I could get...haha.
So, after sketching out all of the little circles and some of the patterns, I had to stop b/c I was so cross-eyed that I couldn't sketch another marble...ha ha...I decided to work marble by marble. I sketched the general shapes and just some of the inside shapes first. After masking all of the little points of light and reflections, I would go back in and do more of a detailed sketch of the inside of the marble. Marbles are complicated! The solid ones are the easiest....
For the blue marble, I just wet the whole inside of the marble and laid the colors on, working from the outside edge in. The outside edge is darker and recedes from the eye. I painted the marble and the shadow separately. For the shadow, I wet the whole area and then with a number 2 round, painted on the reflected colors.
You can really paint the details in each marble forever and never be done. Pick out the most interesting details and concentrate on those. It's really just noticing all of the small shapes.
So, for the marbles that have all of the inside patterns, I paint those patterns first. Then after they dry, I'll VERY LIGHTLY wet the whole marble and drop a really watered down mixture of the green around the edges....Your inside pattern will bleed a little, but let that dry and then go back in and darken your inside pattern again so that it "pops". At the very end of the marble, add your darkest darks around the edges of the marble and soften inwards. I used a mixture of Viridian Green and Payne's Grey.
For a few of the shadows, I did two washes for brighter colors and greater contrast. This can be very time consuming with each marble taking up to 2-3 hours, so take a lot of breaks and don't rush.
I'm working left to right so that my arm doesn't smear the sketch and erase what I worked on. Below, I've finished the marbles in the forefront and I'm starting on the jar. I'm actually pretty nervous at this point b/c the jar looks very intimidating to me, but, just like in my mural days when faced with a huge empty wall, you have to just dive in and start and it'll come to you. :)
I did take the masking fluid highlights off of the front marbles and finish those up by softening the light spots with a clean brush, clean water and a tissue.
For the jar, you are really going to be exercising your powers of observation big time. Little shapes and shadows, how they move, how the marbles on the edge bend and refract with the glass.
Always take a minute to study where your light (white of the paper) is and be sure to preserve or paint around that area. You don't want to lose that.
I've added the jar shadow on the right. I'm working wet on wet for that and I did add some salt, but I ended up not liking that and toning it down in a second wash on that shadow. I'm still working through the marbles.
The "mason" letters proved to be a bit tricky, but again, you're just painting the shapes within the letters. I probably didn't paint half of the shapes that were there in reality! ha ha
Here's the first background wash. The background will carry through the jar, but I realized that I needed to treat the upper inside of the jar like a marble and sketch some more and mask some more to get it correct, or at least believable, so I decided to save that until last.
Working wet on wet....And I'm using pretty pure colors to capture the vividness of the marbles. I love bright colors.
It's been weeks at this point with this painting...just to give you an idea of the amount of work. Some days, I'd only get one marble done...then it snowed, so I was distracted by....you know, snow and hot chocolate and marshmallows, sledding and mainly wiping up huge globs of muddy snow that my kids and their friends and my husband and our critters tracked into the house....and laundry, and more wet mittens laying about than you could imagine...
And my feet were cold, which always hampers the artistic creativity from flowing...cold feet.
And I spent a good amount of time just gazing at the snow....us Southerners don't get much snow..Oh, and we hiked and I found an old metal bucket in the woods and also a jar of some cancer inducing bug killer...the jar was pretty, but I was concerned that I'd gotten it on my skin and my days were numbered...ha ha.
Focus! Back to marbles!
I did another wash to the outside and a wash on the inside of the jar and boy, if this picture isn't terribly blurry....I do apologize.
Can you tell I'm dreading the marble with the "M" in the middle....I'm thinking that if I mess that marble up, it'll be terrible...ha ha
Last details, another background wash, paint your darkest darks to make things stand out! Brighten up anything you can at this point. Paint on any light reflections on the outside of the glass to make it look like the marbles are inside the jar...(next pic)
Here's the finished product! Entitled "Cat's Eye Candy"
So, don't skip your details and softening at the end of your painting. Go back and brighten colors, soften edges so that they recede, paint your darkest darks so that your marbles really pop for the viewer!
I hope you'll try a marbles and reflections painting sometime! I think you'll enjoy it, if you like painting details...
Almost the entire painting was done with a number 2 round, except the background.
List of colors:
Happy Painting! Please comment and share if you've enjoyed it and if you have questions, just ask!
I'm a wife and mother of four kids. I homeschool, paint, run, and garden! I am always interested in digging truths out of Scripture. Here, you'll find my thoughts on art, adoption, gardening, mothering, homeschooling, books and whatever else is on my mind. Enjoy!
Creativity doesn't exist in a vacuum - like skepticism, it's a means, not an end. It cries out for a theme. To treat creativity as an end in itself is to assume godlike character for humans as though they could create ex nihilo. -J. Cheane