Thursday, September 1, 2011

Outline Drawing

Today being Ganesha Chaturthi, an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar for Shri Ganesha, I decided to start a miniature painting of Shri Ganapati seated on a lotus under an umbrella. 
I began with a light pencil sketch then made an outline drawing over the top with a very fine brush (3/0 size) and Winsor & Newton Indian Red watercolour (this is brownish red). I varied the weight of the brushwork lines to give the outline more energy and calligraphic quality.
Finally I used a soft eraser to remove the pencil. 
I used a slightly more diluted tone for the clouds in the background, as these will be softer and vaguer than the foreground subject in the final painting.
The paper is smooth 300 GSM Arches watercolour paper, and the size of the drawing is about 150 x 150 mm. It is thick enough not to buckle too much from the moisture of the paint.
Indian miniatures usually have a border (often very ornate). Select a border that supports the image and doesn't compete with it. I've gone for a simple line border. The border lines can be ruled, but I often do them freehand in order to match the lines in the image.
The outline drawing seems quite dark but It's surprising how much of this can disappear during the process of colouring. If the base drawing is too heavy it will dominate the painting, but if it is too vague then you will be less confident in completing the next stage.
Next step is to block in the main colour areas, using a bigger brush of course, without fussing with detail.  I try to leave a bit of the outline showing. 
I can sometimes be indecisive about which colours to chose, so I try to start with the most important elements of the subject and the colours that are fairly obvious choices fixed by nature, eg pink for the lotus. In iconographical paintings of deities, the colour choices are relatively fixed by tradition, eg blue skin for Shri Krishna, dhotis (pants) tend to be yellow or white, however variations are possible. 
When the main things seem to be the right colour then the secondary elements, such as clothes, and background landscape can be done in colours that support and set off the main colours. The sky need not be blue, but could be red (suggesting dawn or sunset), or gold or even indigo (night, monsoon clouds). So chose a sky colour that sets off the other elements. I will probably chose a shade of light blue for the sky because this will set off the coral colour of Shri Ganesha's skin which is more fixed by tradition (although He is sometimes depicted with grey, white, pink, orange or bright red skin. The rat could be tawny, grey, white or even black, whatever suits the rest of the painting. Water in Indian miniatures is usually a soft bluish grey, but it could be golden (reflecting the sun), again, whatever suits the main subject.
If you are unsure of what colours to chose, take a few photocopies of the outline drawing (or make some little thumbnail sketches) and experiment with various colour schemes on the copies. This can be done roughly and quickly.
Looking at miniatures from the history of Indian painting is a good way of seeing which colour combinations have worked in the past. Usually a limited palette looks better than a painting with too many different colours, but there is no rule.
It is said in India that a painting should have some grey area in it, a neutral shade to set off the bright colours.

If you have children, feel free to print a copy of my outline drawing for them to colour in.

1 comment:

KalpanaS said...

Not being an artist, this has been a very useful and interesting post, to learn about the technique and the suggestions you have given. Many thanks!