illustrations by wendy martin

"Best Buds" from start to finish.

Best Buds - beginning sketch  Best Buds - intial draft pencil

I started this painting right on a quarter sheet of watercolor paper. I like using Kilimanjaro Cold Press 140 pound. This brand has a bright white color and a stiff sizing. I often rework a painting several times through the different stages and like to have a paper that can take abuse. I edited in the modifications which have been suggested. Now I will add a border and start laying in color.

Best Buds - corrected pencil  Best Buds - Ugly duckling stage

After the finalized sketch, I lay in the shadow areas with a blue gray wash. Then I start with the lightest areas and the eyes to keep the expression of my characters alive. Once the shadow areas are dry, I start adding color. The apple is done, but the whole painting is in what I call it's ugly duckling stage. This is the point when I have to force myself to keep going. ALL my paintings go through this teenage gaukiness. After 15 years of paintings, I have realized this and pushed past the urge to tear the paper up and burn it. This is also the point where I can tell if the color scheme is going to work or not. "Best Buds" is working even if it is in the awkward stage, so I can push forward instead of starting over from scratch. (Thank Gods! I don't really want to sketch this one all over again!).

Best Buds - almost thereAlmost there. I figure I have another two hours of work to go. The boy's skin tones and his shirt have yet to be attacked. I need to bring the hat forward a bit more and add a little more color to the mane and pull it back from the boy's head. The shirt will have some sort of pattern in it, I am leaning toward stripes at mid shoulder and mid lower arm. Something to help with the severe foreshortening in his arm holding the apple.

Because the mane and the hat are blending in to each other I decided to add a slight green wash at this point. This was unfortunate as the wash picked up the reds from the mane and got into the bright yellow of the sky.

I waited until the whole mess was dry and attacked the entire area with a wet sponge and clean water. With the sponge I scrubbed out the bleeding color of the mane and most of the green wash as it had gotten way too dark for a bright Egyptian daytime sky. I also pulled some of the red out of the hat at this point, too. The staining quality of the paints wouldn't allow them to be pulled completely from the paper so I headed in a different direction with the mane, making it more yellow and green and adding gold flecks to the paint. This pulled it back from the boy's hat and actually brightened up the horse considerably.

Best Buds - almost done

Nearly done! I fixed the hair, I've added the skin tones and finished the sweater. There are some minor details I want to add to the scarf. The knotted fringe is still missing. It doesn't show in the scan but the gold tones in the mane have little iridescent flakes in the paint which sparkle when the light hits them right.

Best Buds - Final Painting

Fine details such as the scarf fringe and the highlights in the eyes are laid in using very diluted white gouache. I also darken up some of the shadow areas on the "bridle" frame. A clean water wash is run over the stripes on the sweater to soften them. The painting is done.

Copyright © 1992 - 2011 All rights reserved. Wendy Martin illustration.
Member of: Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Graphic Artist Guild & From the Mixed-Up Files.

society of childrens book writers and illustratorsGraphic artist guildFrom the Mixed-Up Files