Crab Redux

I was going through recent paintings and found this one. Now, there is a LOT that I like about this but… since I have improved and learned as a painter, this one just looks a bit pale… washed out. Feeble. It’s a bit uninspiring.

So I thought, well, let’s just do that one again, now shall we?

Old watercolor painting

Time to do the usual. This has become a bit of a ritual for me and gives me a few minutes to think and scheme on how I am going to approach this. I get the drafting tape to create a margin and get the paper all strapped down.

Mounting watercolor paper

The only one of these crabs I have seen in real life was dead, so I went to find some decent reference photos. Here’s a decent one that will do. And yes, I LOVE those colors!

Reference photo of a crab

Time to draw out how I am going to do this. I just use pencil. The lines will show through the finished piece but not enough to bother me. The pencil lines are light though and did not show up in the photo I took.

I then started to outline the crab, background shells and pebbles with Fineline Masking Fluid. With that done, time to start doodling the sea foam.

Using Fineline masking fluid

You might be able to see how I have penciled in the form and flow and placed shells around in the sand. The sea foam is pretty free-form and it can sort of go where it wants to as I get going.

Watercolor in progress

Just about happy with the masking. Since I do the background pretty wet and sloppy, I also mask all the shells.

Watercolor in progress

Masking sea foam done~

Watercolor in progress

Next step is just to dot the Fineline around to create the illusion of sand and give it some texture.

Finishing the masking

Now, I have the colors I think I will use all wet on the palette. Time to play in puddles. I get the paper very wet with clean water, then wet it again. I do not want any dry spots while laying in the background and it can take a few minutes.

I start dabbing in colors and letting them run together to see how they all work. This is Burgundy Yellow Ochre, Amethyst, Undersea Green and Amazonite primarily. Undersea green is a really ugly color but will separate out into Quin Gold and Ultramarine as it granulates. This can create great effects but I always tone its harshness down with Cerulean or Amazonite.

As it is very wet, I throw some Morton’s salt on there and leave it to dry. You can see by the puddles how wet it is. But also check out how the colors are separating out!

Watercolor in progress

After it has dried, you can see the effects of the salt.

Painting detail

Another detail to show how the Undersea Green separates out.

Painting detail

Before removing the mask, I decide that I want a dark shadow around that crab. I think here I used Hematite Violet later I will darken it even more with Rare Green Earth – one of my favorite “non-color colors”.

Watercolor in progress

Now, time to remove the mask and see how this is looking.

Removing the masking

And here is what we have…
One of the things that I just love doing is letting the watercolor blend, granulate and do unexpected things. It reminds me of when I did ceramics in school. There were certain glazes that could be used with … were they called stains? – and the colors would run, fuse and interact. I remember using cobalt and red iron oxide a lot and you never knew how it would turn out. Using granulating paints and salt reminds me of that.

Watercolor in progress

I’ve touched up the masking on the crab and started painting in the background shells and pebbles.

Watercolor in progress

I just do the background rocks any old way trying to get them to look all … rocky. One trick I have found is to paint the rock, and while it is still a little damp, taking a dip pen loaded with a little watercolor and just dot on some… texture.

Watercolor Detail

Oh, and now the hard part… the crab shell. Not sure how to get the pattern right, I just dove in with the mask and, did it.

Watercolor in progress

Now for some fun – I have found 3 incredibly odd colors that blend well together. Hematite Violet, the color I used in the shadows above –

Daniel Smith Hematite Violet

Napthamide Maroon – which is an ugly not quite brown, not quite violet, not quite red but oh, in the right place, it is magic!

daniel smith naphthamide maroon

And Garnet Genuine – this is a reddish brownish orangeish color that I think will work on the shell.

daniel smith garnet genuine

Note, you never know who is having a sale or will have the best prices on watercolor or paper. I go back and forth between Cheap Joes, Blick and Amazon. Usually, Amazon has the best prices if I just want 1-2 tubes and don’t want to have to pay shipping.

There is also “Amazon Warehouse” (an option on the category menu) where you can sometimes find a deal on Daniel Smith. These are mostly returned – but new – items or items in damaged packaging.

Checking today, I only see 2 items on there – but it changes every day –

But back to painting, first layer of the crab with Garnet Genuine. It granulate wonderfully so I use a lot of water. I’m adding a little of the violet and maroon in the shadows. Yes, it ran a bit onto that claw but that can be fixed.

Watercolor in progress

See how wet this is? Fun!

watercolor in progress

A lot more maroon and I think I used Quin Sienna or Quin Burnt Orange there on the top.
(You don’t have to buy anything when I post these links although it will help keep me going if you do, you can always just click and see a color swatch, price and whatever info on the pigment that Amazon has).

Watercolor in progress

Ready to start painting the rest of the crab. One thing that I just love about these crabs is not only the orange hues but the pale greens. I am going to try to get that right. And of course a little amethyst. Yes, let’s mix orange, green and purple, shall we?

Watercolor in progress

And with the mask removed.

watercolor in progress

Getting there but I think it is going to need a lot more shadow so it doesn’t look like a flat crab just painted in there. I started using all the dingy, dirty, shadowy pigments that I have like Rare Green Earth, Goethite, Zoisite and not sure what else. I could just use Neutral Tint but I want some more “life” to it.

Watercolor in progress

Now, it is time to take my damp, well worn brush and go over the whole thing, blending in those whites and color patches. I put so much pigment on the top shell, that a little water will make the colors run and should work to make that shell look right.

Watercolor in progress

And the finished piece. Surprise! I decided that I like it better upside down. Or maybe not. But anyway, this is the way I signed it so I can’t change my mind now!

And yes, the above are photographs but the final image is scanned. My scanner can drop out light blues and it did some weird things to the golds, but it is what I have for now.

Finished painting
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    • Standard size watercolor paper is about 22 by 30 and I quarter it so each painting is about 11 by 14. Not ideal for framing but I didn’t invent this size 🙂

  1. I love your artwork and it is wonderful to read about how you go about creating it. Thanks for sharing.

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