Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fred with his Bicycle, ca. 1919

Step 1
My grandfather, Fred, who was born in Canada a few years prior to World War I, lived on a farm for most of his childhood. I have no way of knowing where he obtained the bicycle he's shown with in this photo -- or even what kind of bicycle it was. I suspect it is a model manufactured in the late 1800s, as it has no visible braking mechanism and no chain-drive.
I love the way Fred looks as if he's lounging in this photo --  acting casual, but in reality he seems impatient to get back to playing with his bike. He wouldn't even make eye contact with the camera!
I thought this photo would be perfect to use as a reference, and decided a single color would be effective for this sketch -- giving it a "vintage" feel.


Step 2
For the first step, I used a #12 round brush, loaded with a thin wash of Burnt Umber mixed with Burnt Sienna. My goal was to block in the main shapes. The challenge for me is always to avoid getting caught up in details in this initial step. Although I did this completely "freehand," after the wash was dry, I decided to use a pencil to sketch in the two bicycle wheels  -- I didn't trust myself to get the angle correct otherwise. I painted around the lighter area of his shirt and his hair, using a vignette technique.
Step two involved using a darker wash, a smaller brush -- a #4 pointed round -- focusing on adding shadows, which are the darkest values.
For the third and final step, I used a #3 pointed round brush to add details to Fred's hands and face, and to add the bicycle. My goal was to provide a rough form of the bicycle rather than a lot of fussy details. Switching back to the #12 round brush, I added some additional mid-value washes, including an anchoring shadow and a suggestion of background.
"Fred with his Bicycle, ca. 1919"
7.5" x 10"  transparent watercolor


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