6×10 inches
Watercolor & gold leaf

Started with this little thumbnail drawing in my sketchbook for this mini painting. I knew the general composition, as well as the tonal focus. I had some initial ideas for coloring, and though I stuck to them for the most part, a few things got changed around during the process of painting.

A more refined sketch on the Arches Watercolor Board surface that I like to paint on. I actually enjoy Fabriano Artistico the best, but with a lot of my recent techniques, I tend to lay the watercolor ground on very thickly as relief texture, and so I like the heavier support that a board surface gives me.

Contrary to what the complex texture of the hair at this early stage implies, it was not a whole lot of time or effort that went to creating that look. It was mostly thanks to the separation qualities of the Daniel Smith pigments that I used. Specifically the Hematites. When purchasing DS paints, pay attention to the granulation levels that are indicated in the pigment description. I did go back at a later stage and refine these textures, pulling out highlights, blending areas where I wanted less focus, layering more glazes for areas that I wanted evened out, and even painting in some additional textured bits by hand. But the granulation provides an excellent base to work from.

I also threw on some base metal gold leaf to the upper areas and slathered them with some more watercolor ground, to give myself some additional texture.

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Once all those base layers dried, I began working on the face. For the dark skin tones I used a variety of brown glazes, as well as adding shadows with thin glazes of some greens and violets. Highlight areas I glazed a bit with some warmer tones of reds and yellows.

Dry-brush technique for the patterns on her cheeks and brow, and a thin edge of gold around the irises for an extra glint to her gaze. Kolner Miniatum sizing works very well with crow quill pens to achieve a very delicate and thin line for leafing.

And then the flowers. I still have not yet gotten tired of these poppies. Red used to be such a frustrating color for me to paint, never coming out as pure as I wanted. Until I discovered Quinacridrone reds, and now I can’t get enough of painting red tones.

Oh and as for the tendrils, here’s a 10 minute youtube snippet video of the painting process on some of the smoky wispy bits:

Sorry, there’s no narration on it, as I had lost my voice during the weekend before with all the talking I did for the “Immortal Ephemera” opening.


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  1. jettie

    Very nice to see the work in progress.

  2. Terry

    She has more allure than a Gauguin, with her beautiful hypnotic golden eyes, and wisdom beyond her apparent age. ephemeral and yet eternal, one kiss from her bee stung lips and your lost forever… That sends one into a timeless twilight of dreams of a fae world, where a young man would fall into a sweet slumber and awake an old man …
    The symmetry of the intoxicating poppy
    Who could hold such a vulpi essence …of course she is you Steph 🙂

  3. Terry

    I’m having second thoughts now, this could be a depiction of, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali” , but she’s and you, we’re made from the same spirit …

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