Friday, July 8, 2011


by Eric Fortune

I was wondering if I could ask you some questions regarding technique. I have no experience with watercolor (I use mostly graphite), and I was wondering how exactly you get such smooth gradations on faces and skin. I notice this prominently in your work, and also the work of James Jean and Sam Weber. Every time I try to render in acrylics or watercolor, the layers do not remain smooth - the edges can be seen, and my edge control leaves something to be desired. Do you use wet-into wet, or just noodle endlessly at an edge until it is a smooth transition?

I think most of us are comfortable with graphite as we use it almost everyday. As you can see I try to figure out most of the tricky value structure in pencil prior to laying paint down. It can help smooth out transitions. At the same time it can be a crutch of sorts if you spend a ridiculous amount of time rendering everything in graphite instead of letting the paint do some of the work for you. For example I know the branches are going to be rather dark. Using graphite on them in the beginning for value would not be necessary as it would get completely lost under the paint.

When it comes to a finished painting keep in mind that what one doesn't see in a final is all the time it took to get to that point. Even when one becomes a proficient painter things take a lot of time. Practice Practice Practice. Take however long it takes to finish the piece as best you can. Technically, I do whatever it takes to finish a painting or to try and get the look I want. That's includes wet on wet, dry brushing, more opaque subtle cross hatching, large wet washes and pulling out highlights with a paper towel etc. Remember to always experiment and try to learn new techniques to add to your arsenal. Sometimes mixing your mediums will also give great results.

Concerning painterly edges. If we look at Sam, James and many other artists out there, within the work there is a certain amount of embracing the medium and what it does naturally whether it's a wet dripping to paint dragged across the paper. I like to show some some of this as well. The balance depends on the artist's own sensibilities. So I'm not sure I would necessarily see this as a bad thing. Creating art and solving problems will always have it's challenges. Here are a few shots of what I'm currently struggling with.

I've also posted a new time lapse video of this piece for you viewing pleasure


  1. Wow, brilliant video, I love traditional art as opposed to digital painting I think it requires more patience and familiarity with the material- as you say, practice =]

  2. Eric, is your watercolor adhered to (what looks to be) foam-board? It looks like it's floating on top of it, but doesn't seem to slide off.

  3. Hannah- I love digital painting when done well. It has it's own set of nuances. But personally, I haven't seen anything yet that equals getting really close to an original and admiring the strokes and texture of the paint.

    Arkady- I make loops of tape and adhere the back of the paper to "gator board". It's like foam core's older, stronger brother. It has a plastic like surface and is very rigid. I've been reusing these boards for quite some time now.

  4. I was thinking about investing in some new acrylics but I'm really at a loss for what brand I should choose. My old brand was great for doing murals and stuff but I feel they are too 'plastic' to get these beautiful washes. Have you got any suggestions for me perhaps?

    1. Iris,

      Sam Weber uses Golden Liquid Acrylics, so you might start there for acrylic washes.

      Scott Talevich


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