Donkey watercolor

Steps to paint in watercolor?

This donkey watercolor painting made it into the juried charitable benefit for Lavender Dreams Farm & Donkey Rescue. These are truly wonderful people who rescue livestock, mainly donkeys in north eastern Washington. North of Newport WA. Please take a second to check them out.If this painting wins in the show, I get some and they get some.

Donkeys are quite important characters, and have been friends with some pretty significant people… really.  After I had heard about this benefit, I was thinking about what I would paint just before I went to sleep at night.

Dream Inspirations

A dream about a donkey appeared in my sleep, a talking donkey just like the old show I used to watch when I was real little. Did you ever see it? It was, “Mr. Ed the Talking Horse and it started with a Palamino horse looking over his stall gate saying…

Hello I’m Mr Ed…

A horse is a horse
of course, of course
and no one can talk to a horse
of course, that is of course
unless the horse
is the
famous Mr. Ed!

Donkey Story

I had a dream of this talkative donkey standing in a dirt road telling me about life as he chewed on some grass. He was telling me about the cool people he knew and the great things he had done.

Then he started to talk about a really neat guy that he gave a ride into a town once. He was brought to this guy that he didn’t know, who talked to him and patted his head, making all the nervous worry go away instantly. It was great to have a human pay some attention to him, instead of just ignore him expecting unquestioned perfect servitude.

This guy was on a mission and there were lots of people all around, so they headed out right away. This man did not hit him with a stick to get going but instead simply asked him to go as he sat comfortable on his back. There were crowds around and people lining the road yelling, it was a scene like he had never seen before or since, but the man on his back was calm.

The people were throwing palm fronds on the road in front of him, making the donkey afraid that he might trip so he had to look down and be careful with each step. They did finally arrive safely in the town and then this man named Jesus got off and came up to him saying, Thank you!

Isn’t that amazing?

The name of this painting, “Then Jesus Said”. I begin by drawing up a few sketches and arriving at one with the little donkey talking to me up close and personal, like in the dream.

pencil layout of donkey
pencil layout of donkey

The first part of the painting process for me is blocking in light washes showing where the background areas are. It is easier to see if my main character is positioned how I want then. With this donkey, it was important to see the sky, with desert background but I also wanted some palm fronds because that is a integral part of the story in my dream. Once the location of the main figure is in I can then start to add the darkest areas on him to see if the figure is still working when it starts to look 3D.

donkey watercolor light washes
donkey watercolor light washes

I almost always have reference photography on the desktop with me as I paint or draw. I don’t have to follow the references exactly, because I am not trying to make a photograph. I use the photography to check my sizes and where the light is casting.

different reference materials
different reference materials

I am adding darkness and detail at this point to the watercolor.

Donkey details left
Donkey details left

Here is the donkey finished, I am happy with him because it can almost hear him talking.

the donkey Je suis fini!
the donkey Je suis fini!

Grandkids Playing at the Beach Portrait.

Portrait of the grandkids playing at the beach is commissioned by the Franks family. This was added after the initial five adults were painted so that the grandkids would be included too. For those of you who know me, this location/subject did not need to be researched to be able to paint it. These are the children of the first son named Nathan and his wife Nikki.

This first image shows the pencil sketch with both boys laid out sitting on the beach sand with their buckets, shovels and the waves in the background. There is some yellow mastik applied to the paper where I want to reserve the white areas of the paper.

Franks grandkids 02
Franks grandkids 02

The background wash of the waves and the sand around the figures is now complete.

Franks grandkids 03
Franks grandkids 03

The basic skins are laid in in light washes with some shadow to show shape. Colors on the swimming suite are placed carefully to save the highlight areas. The same with the sand buckets and shovels.

Franks grandkids 04
Franks grandkids 04

Eyes and faces are detailed with darker tones, shadows are darkened too. Opposite color wheel colors are chosen to shadow on the sand and in the water. Greens are added tot he tans of the sand. Red or orange is touched to the ocean water to bring it into shadow.

Franks grandkids 05
Franks grandkids 05

Five Watercolor Portraits Frank’s Family

Five watercolor portraits for the Franks family are now complete. See the final images below.All four portraits done...

Here is the couple, Marian and Noel Franks, portrait.

Nathan Franks Portrait
  Nathan Franks
Nikki Franks Portrait
Nikki Franks Portrait

The first son, Nathan and his wife, Nikki.

Damian Franks Portrait
Damian Franks Portrait

The second son, Damian.

Sarah Franks Portrait
Sarah Franks Portrait

The beautiful daughter Sarah.

three portraits Franks

Three portraits of the Franks family, first the sons, one complete minus some minor details, second one is blocked in with background washes complete ready for detailed completion of the figure this afternoon. Third one, is of the couple and is sketched in with resist applied where I want to reserve the white areas on the paper.

Lunch break!

Nathan portrait
Nathan portrait
Damian portrait
Damian portrait
Marian Noel sketch
Marian Noel sketch

Typical Watercolor Portrait

The steps in this typical watercolor portrait commission for the Franks, starts with sketching from a portrait supplied for reference, then applying mastik or resist to reserve needed white areas on the watercolor paper.

portrait sketch with mastik
sketch with mastik

On this image you can see the main areas of the portrait laid out with pencil lightly which I plan on erasing when done. Look for areas of yellow and that is where I am reserving white areas. When I use this mastik it makes it a lot easier to use loose strokes of full color as I paint and therefore making the process of painting a lot more enjoyable.

background painting
background painting

Now, you can see as I begin background watercolor washes around the outline of the man. I love the way that watercolor will bleed into different areas of wet paper where you have other colors. It seems almost magical to me.

The portrait is finally getting to where I can work on the characters skin tones. That begins with a watercolor wash in the skin tones area starting with yellows and adding reds as a base, then blues for shadow.

At the same time I want to start with the shadows on his shirt. The highlights and shadows start to show the shapes in the t-shirt. Isn’t it great to start to see the 3D effect happening? I like to see things begin to bend and become round in front of my eyes by simply using colors.FRANKSson1_04

Franks son 1 background
Franks son 1 background

Time to turn in for the night.