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Sharon Hurst: Fantasy w/c demo, 25/6/2010

Visit her at www.Willowmead.org.uk, contact Sharon.Hurst@talk21.com or call 01730 892662

Sharon likes to have a story behind each painting.

She had taken a photo of a girl, Becky, at the recent Bodmin Faery Fest: dark hair dyed red for the last third; confident-looking but surprised into coyly arranging her hair when Sharon approached her from one side. This led to the idea of tonight's picture of a "girly warrior", Chance Encounter.

An hour or so's drawing and liberal application of masking fluid gave tonight's starting point, below.
- Becky
Sharon was working on 140 lb unstretched Bockingford: sized right through and very tolerant of rubbing out. The paint was Shin Han Special Watercolour. All its colours are said to be transparent and to have no "chemicals" - lovely creamy texture and available very cheaply on-line at Jacksons.

She started by absolutely soaking the paper, using a big hake to apply several layers of water over all the sky (the masking fluid protected the rest fairly well).
Still using the big hake, and remembering that watercolour dries lighter, Sharon picked up lots of "yummy cerulean" and a little burnt umber and put a wide strip across the top. She continued doing this repeatedly, leaving gaps so that the blue ran into the wet paper and the still-running water ran into the blue.

There are no second chances, except perhaps to add extra paint to edges (around the moon, the hair and the candle, for example) with a small brush. High speed is essential, especially on such a warm, rapid-drying, evening.
There are both intentional and unintentional runs. The unwanted ones can be removed with a damp sponge and some other too-flat or too-dark areas lifted out with a smaller hake. Only then was the hair drier used to dry everything off.

The masking fluid left a dodgy edge when it came off the moon but such edges can be sharpened with the same paint using a tiny brush. The moon was re-dampened and a little more burnt umber added to the mix. Before putting in a few blobs of the original blue mix, salt was thrown immediately onto the wet surface for texture ("Use table salt for fine texture, grinder salt for medium and dishwasher salt for coarse - and be very careful to keep it away from your palette and water pot").
After removing masking fluid from the skin areas a flesh mix was put together: primarily burnt sienna with small amounts of alizarin crimson and burnt umber (add yellow for Asians, more burnt umber for Negroes, more watery alizarin for "English rose"). Break the body into separate parts and start with thin flat washes of the palest colour, omitting finger nails. Put it on and let it dry - don't try to correct. "There is no such thing as a mistake - only an opportunity you've not yet dealt with. A tattoo?"
More glazes define the shapes. Repeatedly paint with slightly darker and/or bluer mixes into edges and into the shadow wherever one surface is above another, immediately blending the new paint with a damp brush (it was drying much too fast this evening, so the blending was quite a problem). The darkest shadow edges were fine lines of Paynes Grey (blended out).

Shadows shape the face, too. You can see some of the curved triangular and other shadow areas above, before they were hidden by repeated glazing and blending , including thin touches of other colours (alizarin cheeks for example). On curved surfaces, remember, the shadows themselves also curve
Excuse the new pink cast: an extra spot-light was turned onto the upper body and I failed to adjust the camera. Sorry.

Be very careful with lips and eyes.

The (alizarin) upper lip has a pale line all the way across the top, separating it from the indent under the nose, but the paler bottom lip merges almost imperceptibly into the skin below it.

Larger pupils are more attractive and leave more space for highlights. I couldn't start to describe all the little marks and shadows that went into the eyes: from Paynes Grey washes to white gouache flecks, red and white touches in the corner and so on. There's a workshop on eyes in her website.

Two quinacridone colours (magenta and gold), Prussian blue and french ultra were introduced for more subtle shadows.
During the interval Sharon put in a quinacridone pink arm and the blue trousers and started to shape them with darkening glazes at the edges, softening always from dark to light. Notice how the pattern remains, ready for the masking fluid to be removed later. She later gave them more depth by lifting out the light on her left leg and highlighting the edge of the left thigh with white gouache (which can also be blended).

The hair is to be black but it was started with a pale wash of Paynes Grey. There then follows a process of repeated darker (and pink) patterns following the direction of the hairs. Keep wandering about the picture and avoid too many repetitive patterns.

Sharon was softening edges and letting the paint dry completely before going back into the same areas. This left time for some more general inspirational chat: like how she uses magazine pictures to help her to compose people; advice on getting thoughts down on paper, however you feel; remember "dark against light"; wherever surfaces are one above the other there will be a shadow; for fantasy paintings you can be more imaginative about light sources than in the real world
A magical evening.

The painting above was far from finished but Sharon completed it over the next few weeks and then sent us this photo.

Thanks, Sharon, again.

"A Chance Encounter"

You can see the colours here, in Sharon's photo, are more like I had at the beginning of the demo, before the spotlight was switched on and I got the pink cast.

Sam Dauncey

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