As I mentioned last time I am studying how to paint shells and other beachy things for an upcoming exhibition.
I wanted to have another go at shells, to experiment with masking fluid. Masking fluid is a rubber latex solution, used to retain highlights and other light areas. Watercolour painting works from light to dark, so it is easy to cover up lighter areas and highlights. They are crucial because the highlights, reflected light and shadows give life to a painting. And they are easy to lose. Masking fluid can help out.
Shells have very definite rings (that I suspect are growth rings — am I right?). On my shells they are subtle but obvious, if that makes sense. I wanted to try to use the masking fluid to develop those rings by allowing their different colours to come through. I had to think through what parts of the shell I wanted to mask; that is, what parts I wanted to be lighter than the next layer of paint. I planned to layer the masking fluid as I layered on the washes.
The photo below shows my set up. Obviously the top three shells are the real ones! You can see small dabs of paint around them. This was to help me decide on the colour mixes. I had recently bought a new paint — Perylene Maroon — and it seems to be perfect for these shells. Mixed with Windsor Lemon it makes a very potent orange and Naples Yellow makes it opaque. The shadows were Perylene Maroon and Blue Black.
The next photo shows a close up of my work in progress, with a couple of layers of masking fluid already on. The right hand shell is the underside. You can see my drawing with some masking fluid on it. This shell had much less definition, so I wanted to see if I could create it by using washes of paint. The other two were built up by small brush strokes.
Of course, the masking fluid masks what is underneath and it can be difficult to remember what is there. So when I was removing it, and it peels off easily, I had a little heart flutter in case I had done a major stuff up. Fortunately I hadn’t. However, it leaves quite definite, obvious edges, so there is further work to refine and soften them.
This is the finished work.
I love how the right hand shell has turned out. There are times when creations almost create themselves — and this was one of those times!
As for the masking fluid….I don’t know that I will use it in the final piece. I need to paint some other shells, so I may make a study of them with masking fluid. The masking fluid lines would need to be much finer than I have managed here. Also, I think it is too time consuming.
I have actually made prints of this study to sell in my Etsy shop. I usually sell the originals of my works, but I want to have the original to use as a reference. Have a look here if you are interested.