Glitter War Studies: Pegacorn

My brother asked me to paint a picture for his daughter, with two princess castles caught in a glitter war with flying unicorns and rainbows. I did a few studies on it last week, and over the weekend I painted the Pegacorn as a draft. I want to experiment with how to paint that because I’ve never tried to paint one before, so I want to have a strategy for when it comes time to make the final painting.

In my first draft the Pegacorn came out ok, but the castle in the distance was an afterthought. So, the horrendous perspective on the castle distracts substantially from the successes elsewhere.

The hooves are pretty awful, as is the hair at the front of the head. In the next one, the hair must go between the ears. The hoofs shouldn’t be so heavily contrasted from the color of the legs. The extended rear leg should be in front. And the wing closest to the viewer should create more of a diagonal.

I also experimented with Irridescent colors, and interference lilac. I love the way the interference lilac works for this painting. It’s not terribly noticeable from one angle, and then, turn your head and it is a glimmering shimmering purple. The iridescent colors are more like painting with glitter. It’s a neat effect, and works well on this painting, but I need to keep it subdued – reserve these for a few spots in the final painting.

The rainbow basket worked well, I’ll do that again on the final. The glitter though did not work at all. In the final, I’ll try spraying masking fluid and interference and Irridescent pigments to create the feeling of glitter.

Once that was done I decided to try again. I wanted to focus on this painting – try to make it as if it was a finished product, not a draft.

I started by sketching it out very carefully. I drew the large shapes for the Pegacorn, then refined them as I continued sketching. I probably took an hour to sketch it the way I wanted.

It’s hard to capture the packing tape in a photo, but it’ll be more obvious when the paint goes down.

I then used packing tape as a frisket. I put tape down over the whole Pegacorn, then very carefully used an exacto knife to cut through the tape without cutting into the paper. It’s tough at first, but if you use a new blade, so it’s very sharp, you get a feel for it pretty quickly. This took a long time because of all the intricate lines. I can’t mask off very fine curls with the packing tape, so when I was done cutting that away, I used masking fluid to draw a few more curls here and there around the tail and mane, and I accidentally cut the fat ear off, so I used masking fluid there.

Then, I sketched the clouds, and used masking fluid to create circles. Next time, I’m going to start with the innermost circle and work my way out, rather than starting at the outside and working my way in.

I then sprayed some masking fluid with a tooth brush to make the glitter… I think that will work well.

All told, I spent about three hours on the painting before I even got paint out. It took a long time, but I think that early preparation will pay off. If this works out, I’ll do it that way on the final painting.

Finally, I got to painting. In about ten minutes, I had the sky painted. It’s just a wash of ultramarine blue at T3w with some Quin purple at the top. In the clouds, I used yellow ochre, perinone orange and Anthraq red, all at T4w trying to just splash the color around without mixing very much.

The watery pigments gathered at edges of the packing tape and masking fluid, so I used a bone-dry mop brush to suck up those beads, and let it dry.

When that was dry, I used ultramarine blue to paint the mountains at C3b. I used a dry brush and dry paper to define the mountains. I want the light coming from the left, so I shadowed the right sides of the mountains. Then, I came back with a few touches of Perinone orange and Anthraq red at T3w to add some hint of warmth, suggesting the clouds reflecting off the snow pack. Finally, I dabbed in a few spots of Quin purple for some added depth. This was all done in five minutes or so.

Those warm tones should neutralize when I glaze over the clouds with blue later on.

Finally, I added some blues and purples the the bottom right of the cloud shapes, and warm tones to the top left. Now, let it dry and remove the masking fluid in the clouds…

Once that dried, I removed the masking fluid from the clouds – and this is where it’s nice to use masking fluid and packing tape. The masking fluid came right off and left the packing tape totally I disturbed. I left the masking fluid that was around the Pegacorn (the tail, mane, wings, and ear) and then glazed the sky with a wash of Prussian blue and Quin purple at C3w. I used Prussian blue because it doesn’t granulate like ultramarine.

Then, I defined the shadows on the mountains with Quin purple on dry paper at C3b.

Now this has to dry completely – absolutely bone dry and without using a hair drier, before I can remove the packing tape. Before I do that though, I’ll sprinkle some Irridescent and interference pigments for the glitter.

I squeezed a bit of Irridescent topaz, Irridescent blue, Irridescent copper, and interference lilac all onto a toothbrush. Then, I dabbed it into a puddle of water on the palette, and flicked the pigment onto the paper with my thumb. I then took a pointed round, and added some Fuscite Genuine, Irridescent Blue, and Irridescent Purple near the mouth of the basket to make it look like there was a greater concentration of glitter there. I’ll be interested to see what it looks like when it dries – I’m very new to these pigments.

I wouldn’t really call these Irridescent pigments true watercolor, or at least, they aren’t transparent watercolor. Using these pigments might be unacceptable for a traditional watercolor painting, but this isn’t supposed to be a “fine art” piece, it’s supposed to be whimsical and imaginative, so I have no issues with using them. I certainly don’t know how I would get the shimmering quality of glitter without using them.

When it comes time to paint the Pegacorn, I’m going to try to keep it mostly white. I think I’ll end up using watered down interference purple and interference blue to paint it because those pigments have a unique characteristic where they appear nearly white when you look at them head on, but have a mother of Pearl quality when viewed from an angle. I’ll test them out on a piece of test paper before I commit them to this study though.

Then I painted the Pegacorn. Not much to say here other than I was trying to use very little pigment in order to keep the Pegacorn white. Oh, and halfway through painting interference lilac curls on the mane and tail, I dropped some Phthalo blue in the painting… no idea how to fix that so… good thing this is a study! I’ll have to be more careful on the real one.

All in all I think the strategies I employed were successful, but – there isn’t enough contrast between the sky and the mountains and the Pegacorn. On the real version I’ll need to make sure the sky is lighter.

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