Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Camouflage (No 1)

It hadn't really occurred to me before that zebras had stripes as a form of camouflage. Now I think they do. Once you try to paint a zebra (i.e. really focus and look at it), it is amazing how difficult it can be to "see" the animal, because your eyes lose focus and the image starts to flicker, or so it seems. It goes all skew-whiff, as my mum would have said.

I tried to find advice on the internet on how to go about painting him. A couple of people suggested that you should paint the zebra as if it was a white horse and then add the black 'decoration' afterwards. Interestingly, no-one suggested you paint him as a black horse and add the white decoration afterwards.

I couldn't see how to do this - either way round - because his stripes are so important in defining and modelling his form. So, I dived straight in with a burnt sienna underpainting - I used very thin paint on the light stripes and less dilute paint on the darker bits. I then did the dark stripes first, although I added a fair bit of burnt sienna to my black. For the white bits, I mixed up two puddles of white: one with some burnt sienna in to warm it up and one with ultramarine in to cool it down, and dived in. 

If I pulled some of the black in by mistake from the wet black stripe, I used the greying effect to to help me with modelling his shape. If I pulled too much in and made a mess, I cleaned it off with a cotton bud (Q tip) and went away and had a cup of coffee and came back to the fray when feeling more serene

He took about 3.5 hours to paint. I remained cross-eyed afterwards for about the same length of time.

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