Afternoon Nap

Contributed by Graham Berry, Blackpool, Lancashire - UK

This is the kind of subject I like to paint on the first day of my 3 day workshops, a single figure, not too difficult but lots of challenges. 
I am always inspired by the effect of light and shadow and this simple figure is a good introduction in to my way of painting. I love painting people in everyday situations, going about their daily lives, social settings such as market places, seaside resorts, cafes etc.

People often ask if I paint from photographs, to which I answer yes I do but it is not just a case of copying a photo but being the inspiration for my paintings, it can also act as a reminder of the emotion you felt when you took the photo. I often take elements from different photos if needed, above all I like my paintings to tell a story and try to convey emotion.

Saunders Waterford watercolour paper. 140lb (300gsm) which I stretch.
Winsor & Newton tube watercolours: Lemon Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Permanent Rose, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Cobalt Blue and Cerulean Blue. Synthetic brushes - a 1" flat and sizes 16 and 12 rounds.
A ceramic palette and 3 water pots.
A roll of kitchen towel.

This is the photo that I worked from and is a good example of the way I edit and crop my photos. I cropped around the man enjoying an afternoon nap, the light and colours are just perfect and convey the warmth of the late afternoon sun.

This is the sketch that I did showing the tonal values and the path of light that I will try to capture in the final painting, this was a quick sketch using a soft pencil, I was not too concerned with the accuracy of the drawing, just the values, I spent about 10 minutes on this

Using a soft pencil, I begin a contour line drawing, making sure I draw the areas that will be left white when I begin painting. If you are not confident in your own drawing ability you can use a simple grid to help you or do the drawing on a separate sheet of drawing paper and once you are happy with your drawing you can then trace and transfer on to your watercolour paper.

Step 1. The First Wash.
I now soak the paper and using a 1" flat brush begin a wash using all six colours, letting the colours merge together, lots of blues in the background and a lot of warm yellows around the figure and a little Permanent Rose on the figure, I make sure I leave the whites of the paper for all the highlights. This underpainting will not only link the figure with the background it also covers the whole paper in one wet-in-wet wash, lots of vibrant colour that will shine through subsequent washes.

- I always begin by mixing a puddle of each colour on my palette, a lot more water to pigment ratio in the first wash and a little more pigment in subsequent washes, don't over mix your colours on the palette but let them mix on the paper, if you mix mud on your palette it will be mud on your painting.

Step 2.
I now dry the first wash using a hair drier and begin the second wash on the figure and bench. I am now using a size 16 round brush, I start on his hat and work down the figure. there is a little more pigment in my washes now and I begin to define certain areas of the figure, in some areas I let the first wash show through and in other areas I add a lot more colour, again I let the colours mix on the paper. As you can see I added Cerulean blue on his trousers to reflect the blue of the sky and Alizarin Crimson and Cobalt Blue in the shadow area next to the bench and continuing on to his shoes and in to the shadow, lots of warm green in his cardigan. I let that wash dry and I now work on the bench using the same process, it is now coming together as planned.

- I use 3 water pots when I paint in the studio, I first mix my two yellows on the palette and then rinse my brush in the first pot. I check my brush is clean by dabbing it on kitchen towel that I always have in my left hand. I then mix two red puddles and clean my brushes in the second pot and then after cleaning my brush I mix my two blues and rinse my brush in the third pot. I now have a yellow, red and blue water pot and even at the end of a few hours painting, there is still a pot for each colour. I also clean my palette frequently. Once I cannot see the individual colours I know it is cleaning time.

Step 3.
Now another wet-in-wet wash on the background, lots more pigment in this wash, a variety of crimson and Cobalt in the darks and Quinacridone Gold around the figure. The warmth of the colours in the figure is now standing out and you can feel the warmth of the afternoon sun which is exactly the feeling I wanted to capture. I like my paintings to tell a story or convey an emotion, if possible.

- All the little highlights that where left untouched are now like little jewels that add sparkle to the painting.

Step 4.
Now for another wash on the figure, adding more depth and definition especially in the folds in the clothing, in some areas I just let the rich cools of the previous washes shine through.

Step 5.
I stand back from the painting and I decide the background isn't dark enough, so I add another wash of Cobalt Blue and The Permanent Alizarin Crimson with a little Quinacridone Gold where needed, especially around the man's head. Also, a lot more definition of the wall in the background - a few hard edges where needed. I am a lot happier now and the figure and background are working together.

Step 6 - Finishing Touches
Not much more to do now just a little more work on the man's features and a little check pattern on his shirt. I put down my brush and the painting is finished.

> View more of Graham Berry's paintings in his Watercolour Addicts' Gallery.
> Go to Graham's personal watercolour website.