Wednesday, June 10, 2009

From photo to watercolor

Provence Field
As promised, I am posting some preliminary work to a watercolor. It all starts with a photo. This was a lavender field that we had access to when we stayed in some hotel in Lourmarin on our first trip to France. I will have to look up the hotel name, but they had to die for dinners and an amazing cheese cart. The pool was not on site, so we had to go to this little country house for pool and spa treatments. Just on the other side of those green bushes was the resort style pool. This was the lavender field and off to the left was their vegetable garden in which they grew for their meals. The lavender from this field was used to make lavender honey, lavender cookies and other yummy lavender desserts like creme brulee! We tested it all, and it all was delicous!
Back to painting. When I select a photo to paint from, I make a quick sketch with a grid on it. I use this sketch to find out what I like best about the photo and what I want to leave out of the photo. The grid helps me to accurately locate these items on my watercolor paper which is a larger size.
The next step is the most important step to having a successful painting. A value sketch!!!! I look for my darkest darks and lightest lights and shade those appropriately with a pencil, grey markers or in this case, 3 shades of ink. I then use this value sketch to paint my painting. I may refer to the photo for details, but, I try to keep to the value sketch to highlight the dark and light values in my painting. If your value sketch comes out prettier than your painting, it means that you did not follow your value sketch when painting!
Practice doing value sketches with a piece of fruit. I promise you will find all kinds of interesting shapes and properties about your fruit. Squint your eyes and look for the "darkest darks and the lightest lights", simply those shapes and draw them on your page! Before you know it you will have a beautiful piece of fruit.
(I took years of classes from Naomi Brotherton and she would always refer to the darkest darks, lightest lights).

I encourage everyone to try. It is just a piece of paper. Good luck and all questions welcome.
11x14 original watercolor by Liana Yarckin


  1. What an amazing field of lavender! Love seeing your progression from preliminary sketch to value study to final. so instructive!

  2. Ohhhh - I bet the smell was glorious... the purple of the lavender is so gorgeous. I like how you altered the photo to make your painting more interesting, and how you gave us your process! Thanks. :-)


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