Monday, March 22, 2010

Color Me Badd

I lot of people have been asking me about my new banner (see above). Questions like, "How did you convince an incredibly creative and talented and famous artist to paint your blog banner?", and "What artistic genius came up with that gorgeous composition?,"  and "How come you don't have a nose in that picture?" The answer, I am sure you will be amazed to learn, is that I painted it myself! (And  I can't paint noses!)
I have long admired the charming and pretty pictures by watercolor artist Caitlin McGauley that appear in Daily Candy and Lonny Magazine, and I've always wanted to be able to paint like that. But I don't have such an inflated self image that I think I could just freehand it the way she does (okay, fine, I tried and I failed)- so I decided I would figure out a way to fake it. As long as I was already stealing her style, I figured I might as well cheat, too.
Here's my tutorial on how to paint your own pretty little pictures. It's easy (you really don't need to be a good artist), addictively fun, and I think the personalized paintings make for super-cute gifts, cards, or d├ęcor (imagine a series of paintings of your favorite objects framed on a wall). And somehow, rendering even the most everyday things (like my husband reading the newspaper, or my silly dog) in watercolor just make them really cute. I mean, even cuter than they already are.

Step 1: Take a digital picture of whatever you want a painting of, and open it on your computer. Or, as I did in this example, find one on the internet, and scale it to the size you want (if you are planning to scan your illustration, as I did with my banner, scale it bigger than you want to paint and shrink it on your computer after- you'll be able to get more detail). This time, I decided to paint a beer bottle, because I figured that if watercolor could make a beer bottle look cute, it would work for anything. And, also, I like beer.

Step 2. Go into a dark room, and put a piece of paper over the image on your computer screen.  I use white cardstock cards from Staples because that was what I had at hand in the dark room. I am sure higher-quality materials would make a difference, but I'm not going for perfection here. In fact, I sort of love the imperfections. Using a very sharp pencil, trace the image onto the paper. It should show through very clearly. The more detailed you are here, the less you have to improvise later. But try to keep a very light touch so the pencil doesn't show too much, and so you don't poke a hole in your computer screen.

Step 3. Using a small brush, start painting. Again, no need for fancy paints- I just have a Crayola palette that I got at the drug store, and a few cheap brushes. I have no technique to share here - just play with the colors until you get one you like and paint it on there- like coloring, only watery-er. Also, put lighter colors down first, and darker ones on top. Also, if you are doing something detailed, let it dry completely before painting another color nearby- they will bleed into one another.  That's pretty much all I've got. Just have fun!

Step 4. Step back and admire your genius. And maybe have a beer.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice!!! I love it AND your blog!!

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant! Thanks for sharing it!

LabRat 101 said...

What a wonderful idea! I would have never thought to trace over the screen. =) And despite not being able to paint freehand, you shade quite lovely!

Ellen said...

That is so freakin creative! Seriously for a minute I thought you were going to say that you used photoshop effects or something similar. And that would have made me pretty sad. (actually it was kinda what I expected) Which is why I was so happily surprised at your idea!! I really love coming up with and admiring others' creative ideas. Very cool!

Anonymous said...

You are right that Caitlin McGauley's stuff is great. your site is fun

Lily said...

Thanks, peeps. Every once in a while I do have my flashes of genius. Unfortunately, they are usually related to arts and crafts and not how to make a million dollars and retire at thirty. But I'll take what I can get!

Has anyone tried doing this? I'd love to see your paintings!

Elizabeth said...

oh this is the most brilliant idea ever! i can't wait to try it.

and <3 your blog.