Painting Experiments

This month I’ve been creating a doodle a day along with several other artists on Instagram (#doodleadayaug). I wasn’t intending to have a theme when I started, but after the first few days, I realized I kept drawing flowers. They are one of my favorite things to draw, so it’s been a fun month!

One doodle in particular inspired me to take the subject a little further.

initial sketches

I enjoyed the sketchy line quality, but felt it could be improved upon with some added color. An idea formulated in my head to do a loose underpainting of color with gouache and then add the sketchy line work on top of it with an acrylic paint marker.

The first step was to print out a quick copy of the original sketch, and transfer each drawing to watercolor paper using graphite transfer paper.

Transferring sketches with graphite paper

I really love the way these taped down sketches look, so I had to share!

Once the doodles were transferred, I painted each one using various colors of gouache. I liked the paintings at this stage, but I felt they were missing something. At this point, I was wondering if the intense black outlines would be “too much,” but I still wanted to go ahead and try out my original idea, just to see what the result would be. One of the thoughts I like to keep in mind when I make art is to not be afraid of “ruining” a painting or drawing by trying something new. True, sometimes ideas don’t translate well, but I figure that if I’ve done something I like once, I can always make it again if I mess up!

all flower paintings, side by side

After seeing the side by side comparison of all the paintings before and after the addition of the black outlines, I’m on the fence about which I like better. I still think that at least some of the paintings without the outlines are missing something, but maybe the black lines are too overpowering?

Taken on their own, I don’t mind most of the outlined versions, but I also wonder if they read as paintings, or just as colored-in drawings. If that’s the case, I could probably achieve this look in a much faster way, maybe using marker or colored pencil instead of paint.

Now that I’ve tried out my idea but am not 100% satisfied with it, I’m planning to redo the paintings to see if I can come up with a result that I really feel is “it”. Instead of outlining with black, I’ll work on adding depth and maybe outlines with more layers/colors of paint. So the experiment will continue!

Do you have a favorite of the above paintings? Do you think the outline works better for one painting more than another? I’d love to hear what you think!

16 thoughts on “Painting Experiments

  1. Fun! I loved these flower sketches. I’m glad you are working on taking them to the next level.

    I think I prefer the non-outlined ones – only because I do think the black overpowers it a bit. Yet, I agree, the paintings do need a little something more. My favorite is definitely the 3rd one – between the arrangement…and the palette, it’s beautiful.

    Do you have pens of different colors? Because I was thinking, perhaps you could do the outlines, but if they’re in color, instead of black, you’ll get the crispness of the linework without overpowering it with a very strong black. Does that make sense? So for the 2nd yellow arrangement, instead of outlining the petals in black and losing the underlying color, perhaps outlining in a mustard or a darker yellow/orange would help make the color pop instead of hiding it.

    Just a thought. I think you’re really on to something here! :-)

    • Yes! That makes a lot of sense. My thought process was *almost* there, but I was so hung up on the black outlines that I wanted to see it through.

      Now that a little time has passed, I was looking at the paintings again, and I think the black outline is most successful on the last one because the painted color is so bold it can stand up to it. In the third one that you liked, the black definitely overshadows a lot of the subtle details, which I think I could maintain if I’m using a different color for outlines.

      I do have other colors of the paint marker, and I’m also kind of curious to see how a regular marker would react and interact with the gouache.

      Also thinking about maybe using a pencil for outlines and details? Might be an interesting contrast, and more controllable than the black paint marker.

      Thanks for the thought provoking comment. Much appreciated!

  2. I also prefer the third one, but I like them all with the outlines which give them a graphic sense. Beautiful colour schemes and line quality. I agree that if you find the black overpowering, the line work would also be effective in a different colour. You might colour photocopy just the paintings and play with line colour? Thanks for sharing your process. : )

    • Thank you! I do like the black outlines too. I think it was maybe just not the look I expected, which is why I’d like to explore it further. :)

      What a great idea to make color copies!! That’d be a whole lot easier than re-painting them each time! Definitely going to do this–thanks for the idea!

  3. Hey anika – AWESOME EXPLORATION! i actually quite like the black outlines. As barbara said there is a graphic quality about them, and I feel like without the added lines, they lose their power as SKETCH inspired pieces. The black makes them come back closer to the originals. I wouldn’t mind seeing you experiment with some of the variations people have suggested like painting with DEEPER matching color to outline, or perhaps just trying a mid-gray instead of black? but as I’ve said, there is something very interesting about the SOFT watercolours in the back, and the bold/vividly described line quality. If you didn’t have the outlines, you would lose the original power of the sketches, which in theory were ALL ABOUT LINE. Excited to see more.

    • Very good point Jessica! You are right, they were inspired by sketches, and the line is very important. I like the mid-gray idea. One of my favorite “colors” anyway, and might soften the look just enough!

  4. The flower sketches are gorgeous. I like the originals and I like the colors with the black lines over them. There’s something about a thick black line that always gives off such energy to me. My faves are the two bottom ones.

  5. Man you CAN’T BEAT flowers for giving you that daily dose of inspiration.

    I agree with you that the outline-less flowers lack a certain amount of definition, but I also agree that the black lines are too much. Have you every experimented with colored outlines? Sometimes that saves me when I’m in a similar jam (though sometimes it doesn’t work at all, not sure why.) Ideas: a shade or two darker than the base color, a reapplication of the base color (if the ink is assertive enough), a contrasting color (what would a teal outline look like next to a peachy color? Maybe awful. Maybe awesome!), or a color nearby on the wheel. Orange on reddish orange, lavender on pinky fuchsia, that sort of thing. I think the obvious is the nect darker color but it might be AMAZING to experiment a little there.

    Other things I have done if I’m trying to leave stuff looser is do a colored outline (or darker version of whatever main color) but just on one side. The “shadow” side. Thin, thin lines. Again, sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s worth playing with.

    I love your water-displacement by the way. That can be hard to achieve convincingly and you’ve done wonders here.

    • Thanks so much Maggie, for your thoughtful comment! I love flowers, and pretty much anything from nature. I like your ideas, and will definitely be trying them out!

  6. I love these, Anika! I know I told you on Twitter and I also asked a question there that if I’d come here first I would have found the answer to. The first is my favorite, but I love them all. I also love the outlines on them. Since my favorite medium is pen and ink my thought process for this would’ve been exactly backwards from yours. I always draw and then add color last. That’s why it’s so much fun to read about other artists’ work and how it happens. I’m always looking forward to seeing what you do next!

    • Thanks Carol! You know, doing the color first is something I’ve just started playing around with, just to mix it up and see if the results are different. It does feel a little “backward” but I do think there is the potential for some really fun, different results by adding lines back in as an accent to the color, rather than the other way around!

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