Open Your Mind, Open Your Heart

Contributed by Lana Privitera, Hudson Valley in New York State

GETTING STARTED - This is my usual set up when I paint a big watercolor. I always mix large, deep puddles of the colors I need. That way I avoid evaporation or running out of them in a critical moment.
Being my favorite brush, I relied on my Robert Simmons round white sable # 14 to paint most of this piece. As for colors, I worked with a very limited palette of Da Vincis and Winsor&Newtons.
I applied masking liquid with a ruling pen in just the few spots where the paper needed to remain completely white. This time I happened to use the brand “Fineline” – for none other reason that their bottle is easier to open than the Winsor&Newton bottles.

DRAWING EVERY DETAIL IN - As you can see, I drew in all the letters and details in my sketch. I don’t leave much to chance in my hyper-realistic paintings. Usually.

MAKING SURE THE SHAPES ARE CORRECT – A first light wash of color will show us if something doesn’t look right in the drawing. Here I used just 3 colors in different combinations and intensities: Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Permanent Rose.

PLACING THE SHADOWS SHAPES - I needed those shadows to be of a very dark value, so I mixed a large puddle of Purple (Ultramarine Blue + Permanent Rose) and painted all the major shadow shapes with it. They look very purple and lifeless at this point, but I’ll apply some color glazes over them later to make them look more natural or darker.

CREATING 3-D SHAPES - Using the same purple, I paint all the smaller shadows in the keys. The 2 skeleton keys get some extra wash of Burnt Sienna and Raw Sienna to help create the effect of roundness. Notice also how when you start placing more vivid, more saturated colors here and there, the shadows seem to look less intense?

GLAZING THE SHADOWS – See what a difference it makes in the large shadows that light glaze of Burnt Sienna & Permanent Rose? It’s more transparent, dark and colorful that if I had used just plain Burnt Umber from the beginning.

GLAZING THE SUNNY SIDE – Using different combinations of Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Pink, I glaze over most of the keys. There ‘s some wet-on-wet blending of colors on some of them.

WORKING ON LETTERS & DETAILS - Still using the same 3 colors + some Ultramarine Blue mixed with the Burnt Sienna, I start to work on the details and texture in the keys.

REFINING TEXTURE AND DETAILS – I finished most letters and darkened the center keys shadows with some ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. Now I’m ready to start the background!

STAINING THE BACKGROUND YELLOW FOR LUMINOSITY – I used Winsor&Newton Raw Sienna, to underpaint all the background, to prepare it for the next layers.

GLAZING THE BACKGROUND WITH PERMANENT ROSE - Once the yellow was dry completely, I used a gentle hand to deposit a pink glaze over the yellow, turning it into a luminous red color...

ADDING SHADOWS TO THE BACKGROUND – Once it was completely dry again, I glazed it carefully with a layer of Pyrrole Red Light, by the brand QOR, which is a strong, vivid red yet transparent. After this dried, I worked on one section at a time creating shadows near some of the keys. For this I used a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Pyrrole Red and sometimes Burnt Umber. It very easy to disturb the previous layers of color and get them all “muddy”, so I used my softest brush and deposited the color barely touching the paper with the tip of the brush.

MODIFYING and ADDING DETAIL – Time to add more texture and work on the details inside the shadows.

CORRECTING THE COMPOSITION – It seemed to me that the Top Right area was weak an unbalanced, so I scrubbed off gently a section of it. I used a watercolor brush first –blotting the excess paint often with a clean paper towel. This lifted quite a bit of color off without damaging the paper. Then I used a “scrubby” brush, which has stiff synthetic bristles that dig farther into the paper and remove deeper particles of color. I didn’t need to go all the way to the white, so I didn’t damage the paper either.

WHAT’S STILL WRONG?? – I finished the new keys on the Top Right and extended even farther the shaft of the key on the Right Center. This was my final version of this painting for a couple days, but after staring at it long and hard, I realized that the glowing red background next to the smallest skeleton key was catching my eye just too much. So I grabbed my brush again and painted the background even darker in some spots. Of course I couldn’t help myself and dabbed on some more texture and details here and there. Lucky me that I had to frame it for a show next day, or I would still be obsessing over it!

Finally done!! 

If you would like to see more of Lana's amazing watercolours visit: