Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Finishing my painting

As promised, here is the conclusion to the painting I began telling you about here. This is a scene from a book titled Priscilla and the Hollyhocks where Priscilla, a young girl born to a slave in North Carolina in the 1830's, watches her mother carried off and sold, the last time she will ever see her. This may sound like a very dark beginning, but the story has a lot of hope and Priscilla is fiercely brave and resourceful.

But back to the painting...

After laying in a few washes, I began working up the color more. I try to lay out where the basic areas of shadow and light will be, particularly in the grass, which sets up the space in the picture.

Next I started to paint in the features in this character's face, and outline her shape.

Here I started to layer her skin tone, and add some lighter shades of green to the grass.

Still layering skin tones, also added in the folds of her dress.

Here she was just about done, but something didn't seem right. I decided the tone of her expression needed to be matched by a more somber blue color on her dress, so I painted over the robin's egg color here. Also, the log cabin is a little too perfect, needs to be roughed up a bit.

Here we go, much better!

In this scene Priscilla stands mournful, scared and shocked at what is happening. The text states "Ma turned her anguished face to me, raised one hand in farewell. I lacked the strenth to wave back, tho I 'spect my eyes mirrored her sorrow."


Anonymous said...

Wow, Anna, it has been amazing watching this painting bloom. The layered skin tones and dress folds give the girl so much character. Is she Priscilla? Are you allowed to tell us what's happening in this particular moment of the story?

I can't wait to see the whole book!

alvinaling said...

Oh, wow. That's beautiful.

Anna Alter said...

Thanks guys!

Jennifer- I just added a little context to the post to tell you a little about what is going on in this scene.

Anonymous said...

Wow, is right! I love getting to see how others work. Thanks for sharing this! Good decision on her dress color. I especially like the way you handled the grass.

Between this post and the one you did on clearing your desk to start a new project, I've been inspired to start up my own blog. I haven't really announced it yet, so I guess I'm announcing it here. Take a look.


Libby Koponen said...

Now it's my turn to say I feel awed and lucky to have such talented friends! The painting says so much more than CAN be put into words about her feelings and situation....bravo Anna.

Anonymous said...

Holy kangaroos--that's amazing!

Can you explain a little about the "building up" of color? What does this do, and is it something you do just with acrylics?

And when you don't like something you just paint over it?! Who knew? Okay, well, I didn't. Can this be detected at all on the painting--like, does it create a thicker texture or anything?

If you didn't like Priscilla's facial expression, would you just paint the skin color over it and try again? Is that what you did with the cabin, more or less?

How often do you have to scrap something and start from scratch?

So cool!


Anna Alter said...

Hi Jen,

Yes with acrylic paint you can just paint over a color if you change your mind, its nice and flexible that way. I usually use watercolor, and that is much less flexible- because its transparent if you make a mistake or change your mind you have to either layer another color on top that changes the shade of the color you've chosen, or just start from scratch.

Eventually, if you paint over acrylic again and again, it will become much more textured. But that takes a lot of paint, its rarely happened to me since I usually start out with a general idea of what the colors are going to be. Watercolor paintings I have scrapped many times to start from scratch, usually that will happen when I don't have much of a game plan going in.

When I'm layering color in acrylics, I'm essentially experimenting with different shades, until I find the right ones, usually I work from dark to light, buildinig the light areas out of the shadows. Things like facial expressions are so delicate, they are changing and being repainted pretty much the whole time I am working on a particular painting.

Anonymous said...

Completely lovely, Anna, and so expressive. You captured the mood of the moment you described in the story.

Kudos to you!


Bonnie Branson said...

Wow! Really lovely.

This is really interesting. A totally different way from how I work, and very cool to watch. I can't layer colors very well, I have to bring the actual tones immediately to the page, other wise I lose direction very quickly. (or eveything turns to mud) I admire how you use the paint.
Acrylics baffle me. I only wish I could paint with them. I try and try but I just can't seem to blend anything and the quick dry time frustrates me.

I use Watercolor and Gouache which at time is very unforgiving but it's the only medium I seem to be able to use.

Anonymous said...


thanks so much for sharing your process. i absolutely love these types of posts! here's a really dumb question for you and any other illustrators out there...

do you work on gessoed paper? how do you keep your paper from buckling? i seem to manage to make even really thick illustration board buckle, let alone straight-up paper when i paint. i would much rather work on paper than on board but haven't found the trick. do you stretch your paper? any industry secrets (or really obvious pointers) would be appreciated.

thanks again, anna, for the inside look!


Anna Alter said...

Hi Ariana,

I've had that same problem. I've been using Strathmore 500 series 4 ply bristol board, unstretched, no gesso. The paper bends slightly, but not that much.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Anna! I'll give it a try. You certainly have beautiful results with it :)

Anonymous said...

That was an amazing post. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm wondering how much photo reference you use for positioning of characters. Do you hire models and do much study, or do you draw -- folds in clothes, fingers, hair detail -- from your memory?

Linda S. Wingerter said...

anna you make me want to paint again.

Anna Alter said...


I've been using photo reference for things like skin color and hands. Hands are always so hard. But for gesture, clothes, etc I just work that out with my sketches, working from my head.