About Steve Fleming
I am an artist who works in watercolor and acrylic, and I teach both for The Art League in Alexandria, Virginia, as well as workshops across the country and abroad. My goal as an artist is to be creative; my goal as a teacher is to help my students learn to interpret the world around them, not to promote the belief the goal of art is the perfect rendering of a subject. One of my core messages: art is a creative process and is not just the sum total of the work we sell. In this era of digital cameras, I caution artists to look — really look both inside and outside — for the subject matter that lights our artistic fires. Otherwise, our work will be lacking everything but technique.
Enjoy. — Steve Fleming
Opaque Figure Painting Demo
18 x 24 opaque watercolor on 140lb arches cold press paper
Start the painting with a simple line drawing of a figure, no details are important, you are just looking for an interesting shape to apply broad passages of colors.
I must tell you now I think my drawing is pretty boring but sometimes even the instructor has moments of lack of expressiveness. The painting is basically just a warm toned figure with a cool background. Really use bright colors because the opaque colors will grey them out when you put them on top.
After I get the drawing on the paper, I use some Higgins Eternal Black ink to create some nice dark accents on the edge of the figure. For the ink I am using a regular no. 12 wash brush.
Without letter the ink dry I mover right into the rich passages of transparent watercolors. I am using New Gamboge, Cadmium Scarlet, Cobalt Blue, Skip’s Green from American Journey, and Olive Green. I put the colors down in a middle value with very little water.
Again without letting the transparent washes dry I begin to over paint with the opaque colors.
I really control the water in the brush, I shake the brush into a trash can that sits right next to me, and try not to over rub the paint, I want a nice interplay between the under painting and the opaque colors. I work on the edges of the figure with the edge of my brush charged with rich thick whites and Coastal Fog. I also use the occasional knife to scratch the edge.
I pull some of the background colors across the edge of the colors on the figure. I really try to modify the edges with scraping, and the use of dry brush paint.
Now I start to adjust the colors adding warmer and cooler colors into the broad passages in the background. All of the time I am thinking of edges and the variety of color. Keep moving without letting the paint dry, don’t add water because at this point, watery paint will push a hole in the color. It will be very hard to fix later.
I get to the end of the painting and I find the background is boring and flat. By adding more whites, grays and blues, I begin to get a more interesting look.
I modify the edges and colors merging the figure in and out of the background. It is not a great painting but it does works as a solid demonstration.
Keys to remember:
Don’t rub the paint
Use a stiff brush for the opaque colors
Use less water with the paint
Really work on the edges.