Catnap in Positano, part 2 – Beginning the Painting

In this blog, part 2 of a 4-part series, I’ll try to show how I approached actually painting the subject I had identified and explored in the preliminary stages discussed last time.

Once I had sketched the cat and planter onto 140# cold-pressed watercolor paper, I began to block in the planter—a large, comparatively flat, central area directly behind my focal point—with a light wash of burnt sienna, the color of the highlight along the top lip. I was content to leave the initial wash quite light, since I knew I would later add multiple glazes at various times and over various areas of it, using burnt umber, brown madder, and indigo, to vary and enrich the color and tone and to suggest surface texture.

Then came the first tints on the cat’s head and darker portions of the body, as I applied a thin mixture of brown madder and sap green. I used the same mixture, adding a touch of indigo, for the initial wash on the wall, later reglazing this variously with brown madder, indigo, and burnt umber.

Catnap Initial Work

In building up the cat, I layered increasingly lower values of the same colors I had used elsewhere, eventually adding dark stripes of an indigo and burnt-umber mix. Final top glazes of indigo and a brown-madder/permanent-alizarin blend (which by then I had used in the geraniums—more about that next time) helped me complete the shading and color adjustment. The pink blend was also incorporated in the ears, nose, and toe pads.

Like the planter and the cat, the wall was built up in numerous layers to achieve the appearance of multi-colored stonework and shadow. Brown madder tends to bleed out and separate from other colors it’s blended with, as it did in the planter’s shadow; but I didn’t fight it, allowing it to “reflect” the planter’s color into the shadow.

Join me again next time as I continue the painting, building up the foliage and the flowers.

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