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How to paint a life-size turtle.

I think its best to start this blog by saying this: Painting this piece was rather odd... get the wine... and a funnel! (mum I'm kidding.. no wine bottles were emptied in the making of this piece)

So here are the colours that I used in this painting:

Most of them were used regularly, others were on a trial basis and didn't make the cut, but alas were still part of the mix that ended up creating a tone somewhere in the painting.

Step one... The background.

Avoid using bright blues such as ultramarine and Phthalo Blue, the aim of the background is to provide an impression that there may be something there without overwhelming you with detail. Keep it simple. Less is more. I made the mistake of using Prussian Blue as the base and ended up painting over it with the actual blue that blew my mind, Prussian Blue. Mix yourself a tone of Prussian Blue and Titanium White in a clear plastic cup. This should be your medium tone, which you will use the most of. Then in two more cups, using a bit of your medium tone, make one super dark (majority pure Prussian Blue) and one super light (majority white). Then using a rather Godly amount of patience, layer that paint generously and horizontally until you have a basic gradient of the depth you wish to imply. Once that is totally dry, use diluted middle tones to even out the brush work. Don't try dry brushing this over the back ground, you will go crazy. Its wrong. I was wrong.

Paint in the lip of the wave or what ever you would like at the top of the image and we are ready for the wild things.

Next Step...

After outlining your creature, feel free to wing it. That's how I rolled with this painting... there was a lot of winging involved. After a lot of repainting, I eventually came to the understanding that it was more economical for me to paint the base (this was done section by section as the colours are so diverse throughout the turtle) colour whatever the colour of the dividing lines were. For example: The head has a lot of segments that are mostly brown. It would be tempting to paint the whole head brown (Raw Sienna) and then draw the white dividing lines afterward. This proved to be annoying as once the line was painted, if I got it wrong (and I always got it wrong), it was a pain to paint over. SO I ended up painting the white first, and then painting the segments after. This helped me get the basic layout of the segments as it was much easier to paint the white over the brown in areas where it was needed.

The rest of the painting

Basically, the rest is all a guess... I will list the colours to use for certain areas, but I'm afraid I had zero process...uuhhh... I mean... I knew exactly what I was doing the whole time and perfected every detail as expected... (awkward cough).

  • Deep dark blue shadows:

Payne Grey, Prussian Blue and Australian Sap Green.

  • Dark browns

Burnt Umber, sometimes mixed with Paynes Grey

  • Strange warm greys on the flesh:

Titanium White, smallest amount of Gaynes grey and Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre.

  • Yellow tones:

Yellow Ochre

  • Pinkish fleshy tones:

Deeper pinkish tones I used a little Burgundy, but mostly Red Oxide (for the very red areas) and Burnt Sienna.

Light pinkish flesh tones was Titanium White and Burnt Sienna.

  • Green Tones:

Yellow Ochre and Prussian Blue and Paynes Grey (less Paynes Grey or non at all depending on how bright the green is)

Australian Sap Green and Green Grey

  • Highlights:

Zinc White, Australian Blue Gum, Aqua Green Light and Phthalo Blue.

  • Orange lighter parts on the brown areas:

Raw Sienna and Yellow Ochre

Small amounts of cadmium yellow and orange was used here and there, but it was mostly in the areas where the colour was the brightest and so was used pure and in tiny amounts.

In summary... I loved every second of this piece because I was working with blues, and blue is my favourite colour. I was not as much detail orientated as normal as the vast difference in colours created that detail for me. Things are not as they seem with this one... This turtle was full of surprises when it came to actually painting the guy. So many colours, and so many creases.

This one is another mile stone in the journey that makes up my stumble through the art world.

Much love

Carla Grace


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