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How to paint a Pig in Watercolour with Alison Fennell

Posted on Thu 14 Feb 2019

As 2019 is the Year of the Pig in Chinese astrology I couldn’t wait to choose the dramatically coloured breed of pig, the saddleback, to mark the occasion. In this tutorial we will look at building elements of the pig starting with the lightest colours first. Initially you will build large masses of colour and light and dark and only add details at the end. This way you can see how to use a methodical and measured way of applying watercolour that allows you to master techniques in a focused way.

Read through the entire demonstration before you begin. In that way you will have a basic idea of how to work and have all your equipment to hand. Spend a little time practising both lifting and blending colour. Practise lifting out colour and soften the edges of a passage of colour on a piece of scrap paper in the ways described below. These two techniques are used throughout this painting and are fundamental watercolour techniques.

Lifting out colour

First wet a brush then dry it with a flannel. This is now a very absorbent brush – more absorbent than a totally dry brush would be. Paint a patch of colour on a piece of scrap paper. While the paint is still moist wipe the ‘thirsty’ brush hard across the paint and see how the brush sucks away colour to almost the white of the paper beneath. This is called thirsty-brush technique

Blending colour

First moisten a small Round brush and give it a flick to shake off the excess water. Do not wipe it on a flannel but lay it to one side ready for the next step.

With any other brush paint a 1in. or so square patch of colour on a piece of scrap paper and immediately pick up the small moist brush and, starting right at the edge of one of the patch’s sides, touch slightly into the edge and begin rotating, keeping as much of the head of the brush flat to the paper for contact, and moving downwards along the edge of the paint. Touch it just enough to coax the colour to bleed out into the moist area you are creating. This should soften that hard edge away.

If when you have finished you have another hard edge just repeat with another freshly rinsed and flicked small brush and work downwards along the edge, rotating as you go to soften this newer paler edge away. The aim is to achieve a gradual transition from coloured paint area to the white of the paper and a seamless transition with no abrupt hard edge. This takes a bit of practice.

Demonstration - Saddleback Pig

You will need:

Surface

  • Saunders Waterford cold-pressed 200gsm 100% cotton rag paper (stretched on 1⁄4in. plyboard) 9x13in. (23x33cm)

Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour

  • French ultramarine blue
  • Burnt umber
  • Potter’s pink
  • Payne’s grey
  • Winsor violet

Brushes

  • Synthetic watercolour Round brushes Nos. 0, 3 and 6
  • Synthetic profile flats 1⁄4in., 1⁄2in. and 11⁄2in.

Miscellaneous

  • Gummed brown tape (36mm wide)
  • Wooden board slightly larger than your paper
  • Two water pots with clean cold water
  • A box of tissues
  • A flannel, masking tape, pencil and rubber

HOW TO STRETCH YOUR PAPER

1. Stretch your paper by soaking it for three minutes in a shallow tray of cold clean water. Pick it up by one corner and let the excess water drip off before laying it flat on your board and patting excess water off – especially about 1in. all around the edges – with a clean flannel.

2. Tape it down on all sides using gummed brown tape (the type that you have to lick because masking tape will not hold wet paper). Place the brown tape half on the paper and half on the board for good grip. Bubbles may appear in the paper but by the morning they will have flattened and your paper will be dry and flat.

3. Do not cut it off the board – just proceed now to your painting.


Your reference photograph for this project: a saddleback pig


The pencil outline

Begin by drawing or tracing the pig’s outline in HB pencil onto the paper. Tape all around the edges of your watercolour paper with masking tape, slightly overlapping with the brown gummed tape. This gives extra protection against water seeping under the brown tape and provides a nice crisp white border when it is removed at the end of the painting process.


Step 1

1. With an 11⁄2in. flat brush wet the entire sheet with clear water. Allow the water to sink in until there is a slight glisten on the paper. Do not let it become so damp that there is no shine on the paper or the subsequent washes could produce back-runs.

2. Paint a dilute wash of potter’s pink across the paper. This is a caprice to kill the white of the paper and give the pig something to stand amongst. It also sits nicely on the bottom third of the painting giving a sense of positioning for the pig.

3. Gently rock your board forwards and backwards to allow the paint to blend softly into the white background a little. Then lay flat.

4. Allow to dry completely. You can either let it dry naturally, which could take between 30 and 60 minutes or gently dry with a hairdryer holding the dryer about 10in. away from the paper.


Step 2

1. On dry paper and with a No. 6 Round brush wet the belly, the two white forelegs and the section delineated by the two pencil lines across the shoulder area. Wet slightly past those two lines, giving a margin of moisture into which our pale pink wash can bleed.

2. Use a No. 3 brush and paint a mix of potter’s pink with a speck of burnt umber to the belly leaving it paler at the right and making it darker (by adding more paint) at the left where his legs meet his body.

3. Paint the same colour along the two outermost edges of the moistened shoulder area, leaving a passage of unpainted paper in the middle, and run a stroke of the colour down the right side of both legs.

4. Next use a No. 0 brush to add the same colour but slightly stronger and with less water to his toes.

5. With a ¼in. flat thirsty brush wipe away small areas of bleed above the darker toes. This will make his white skin and bristles look lighter. Allow to dry completely.


Step 3

1. On dry paper, wet the head and part of the neck as shown by the painted black area in the image. Wait until there is a slight shine on the paper then paint a bold dark mix of Payne’s grey, Winsor violet and burnt umber. Don’t worry if it isn’t exactly the shade of my mix – all we want is a rich, interesting dark.

2. Make sure that you leave this dark mix a bit shy of the moist margin of his shoulder area so that the colour will bleed beautifully to fuse more softly with the white stripe of skin.

3. Use a 1⁄2in. flat thirsty brush to firmly lift out some grey areas as shown – along the end of his snout, a part of his mouth, along his jawline and the whole of the near ear. Remember to rinse then dry the brush after each time you wipe out the colour.


Step 4

1. Repeat Step 3 with the pig’s back end now lifting out highlights as shown left. Wet the whole back end, beginning at the edge of the white stripe over his shoulders and down to the edge of his flank that stops above the belly and include both back legs and tail.

2. Paint the same pigmented wash of potter’s pink, Winsor violet and burnt umber into the moistened area and as it dries use a thirsty brush again to lift out the highlights of grey areas as shown including the toes. Dry completely.


Step 5

1. On dry paper, mix up another puddle of the same colour of potter’s pink, Winsor violet and burnt umber, get a moist No. 6 brush at the ready and lay to one side. Use a 1in. flat brush to pick up that black colour and add it in diagonal strokes using the flat of the brush’s head to make sweeping dark accents as shown in the shadow areas on the pig’s body.

2. If any of these hard-edged passages of dark look too hard soften them in places with your moist brush.

3. Use a small No. 3 brush to paint this same colour accurately above and in between his toes to give the trotters more definition.

4. Add accents around the tail and in places along the white edge border just up from her belly.


Step 6

Moving to the head, prepare a No. 3 moist brush and load up a No. 6 brush with the black mix and add this to the areas shown in the head detail. Notice how I darkened the distant ear and all around the rim of the near ear as well as a dark accent under her upper lip. There are also a few wrinkle lines on the nose and a darker curve right at its end. These details are enough to create a believable face. Again – if you want to soften any edges of these dark accents use a moist brush to do that which will blend them more gently with the previous wash. A mix of hard and soft edges in a painting adds interest. Dry completely.


Step 7

1. On dry paper, using a No. 6 Round brush mix up a puddle of weak burnt umber and potter’s pink and brush that all along the left-hand side of the back black leg, up into the belly and each teat, making sure you overlap a little bit with the black flank. Keep going along up into where the leg meets the body into the white stripe of hide about 2in. and down over all of front far leg and right hand edge of front near leg.

2. Use a No. 3 moist brush to soften the edge of this colour on the near white leg and around the area under the legs, going up into the white hide.

3. Quickly use a No. 0 brush to add a concentrated mix of potter’s pink with a speck of Winsor violet and pop a tiny bit of this colour around the right arc of the teat and down onto the right side of them as well. Put darker shadow into the distant white leg using potter’s pink and burnt umber mix with a No. 3 brush, as shown.

4. Next mix a dilute wash of French ultramarine and brush an inch or so wide stroke of it all along the top of the pig starting just behind her ears and landing on her rump just below her tail. This will give a blue-sky light cast. Where the blue traverses the white patch of hide soften this with a moist brush.


Step 8

Mix a dilute puddle of Payne’s grey, Winsor violet and burnt umber and brush a cast shadow under the pig as shown – brushing through the feet a little then softening the near edge of the shadow with a No. 3 moist brush. Leave the far side of the shadow with a few teats showing hard for contrast.

The finished painting. Saddleback Pig, watercolour, 9x13in. (23x33cm).


Alison Fennell

Alison runs weekly watercolour classes in Pontypridd; email eastwitching@hotmail.com for details. Find Alison’s card range, Alison’s Ark, published by The Museums & Galleries Collection, in WHSmith and shops attached to galleries and museums. Visit www.eastwitching.com for more information.


This demonstration is taken from the April 2019 issue of Leisure Painter

Click here to purchase your copy


How to paint a Pig in Watercolour with Alison Fennell

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