I use a toothpick to lay down my Windsor Newton masking fluid because it’s very viscous and I can’t handle it with a paint brush. In this illustration, I am protecting my foreground subject (mailboxes — I love mailboxes) with the masking fluid:
I can get into tight corners better with a toothpick than with a paint brush, which is important considering the small scale of my work:
You have to make sure the masking fluid is bone dry before you go to the next step. Notice that all I have here are a few lines drawn in pencil to guide me in this illustration. In other words, things can go very, very wrong at any point in this operation:
As I paint in the background (using my chalky Grumbacher paints with a lot of water for a light, pastel effect) the masking fluid protects my mailboxes so I can be loose with the watercolors:
I’ll be using a lot of green/blues in this picture, and a lot of yellow/reds. I use my fancy Windsor Newton paints for all the yellows and greens I need, and the Grumbacher for orange…and I’m also using two different cups of water for the cool (green and blue) colors and the warm (yellow/red/brown/orange) ones and I change the water frequently to keep the paint colors crisp:
You can see that I’m working on an Autumn scene and unfortunately I’ll have to paint fallen leaves. I have no idea how to do this, so I’m winging it here:
Now time for background detail:
See how the yellow wash is peeking through the dark foliage? And the masking fluid is giving me a lot of freedom to slap on paint without worrying about my mailboxes:
This picture as a steep perspective, so here I have to “go big” in the foreground:
And now I’m ready to peel off the masking fluid and get to the mailboxes:
And then, mailbox No. 2 looked wonky to me, so I re-did my drawing:
I left the foreground without detail because I will be dropping in some text down there:
(I think I’ll have to go back and fix that black mailbox. I think I made it worse with the re-drawing of it.)
This is an actual road on the north shore of Long Island that leads to the wonderful Autumn garden of the 19th-century poet/journalist William Cullen Bryant. Eight years ago I painted a similar bend in a road for my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam (see the Triscuit on the left) so you can see how far I’ve come:
You can see that Triscuit on page 161 of Wanderers. (For more about “Triscuits”, see my blog of Jan 18.)
Eight years ago when I did my first book I had never heard of masking fluid, and I could never have imagined that one day I would have the cajones to paint a picture that was bigger than a tea bag. And now, isn’t it cute to compare the two??
You know what else is cute to compare in Big and Small?
Yes, that’s how I feel about my Triscuits, the darling kittens of my illustration portfolio.
And now, an announcement:
Le Road Trip is being published in CHINA!
You know what they say about China. “You take an author with a small cult following in the USA and translate those numbers to the billion people in China and you have an author with a small cult following in The Middle Kingdom.”
Question of the day: Does this post leave you with a craving for Triscuits? Or kittens?