My process for creating a watercolor painting

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Since 1967 in the city of Valledupar, Colombia there is an annual celebration of culture and music known as “El Festival de la Leyenda Vallenata” (The Vallenato Legend Festival). The festival focuses on the talents of musicians of all ages excelling in the vallenato genre of music (folk music originating in this region of Colombia). Traditionally three instruments are used to play vallenato: the caja (small drum similar to a tambora), the guacharaca, and the accordion. This is the second in a series of paintings inspired by this little city, where my mother was born.


To get things started I find a reference online if I can’t make one or don’t personally have one. In this case I had to find one online because I don’t own this type of drum, although I really wish I did. For this painting,  I sketched the part i need from the reference and tweaked it here and there and added a background. skecth.jpgOnce my sketch is done I scan it to my computer. I do this in order to enlarge the image. My sketches are usually small. For instance, this sketch was about 5″ x 7″ and I wanted it to be a bit bigger. For this painting I used Arches 10″ x 14″ watercolor paper, which is double the size of my sketch. I print out the sketch after I enlarge it and flip it horizontally (so as to mirror the original sketch). Since the image is bigger than the letter size paper in my printer, I print out two versions that as a whole make up the entire image. enlargesketch.jpgThen I align the print outs and tape them together. Once that is done, I trace the sketch on tracing paper and transfer it to the watercolor paper. When transferred to the watercolor paper the image is mirrored back to its original form. Now, why do I go through all of this instead of just sketching directly onto the watercolor paper? Well, there’s a lot of erasing happening in order to get exactly what I want. tracesketch.jpgWhen you erase something you can still kinda see the remnants in the background and depending on the hardness of your pencil you can create unwanted grooves on the paper that can affect the flow of the paint (or at least it does for me). So it’s a long process but worth it in the end. I then outline the image with and waterproof archival ink pen and proceed to painting by adding a wash of color and layer by layer adding more detail.

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