Watercolor Painting Demo | Joan Iaconetti’s “Subway Series,” The Killer

The aging subway—with its miles of girders, tile work, gloomy corridors, crumbling masonry, stains and scars—emerges from layers of gloriously active watercolor in the work of Joan Iaconetti. View some of the progressive stages of her work, The Killer, below.

Learn more about Iaconetti’s watercolor painting in the October 2015 issue of Watercolor Artist, available now in print or as an instant download at northlightshop.com, and on newsstands beginning August 18.

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Step 1

Reference photo

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Iaconetti usually takes subway photographs holding her camera askew; this is one of the few paintings in the Underground series that’s deliberately aligned.


Step 2

Manipulating the Photo

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With the Google Picasa application, she converted her color image to black-and-white, then exaggerated the contrast with the Posterize filter.


Step 3


Iaconetti used a program called PosteRazor to enlarge the image to 30×22, and transferred it to Arches 300-lb. rough watercolor paper. She then created several studies, both smaller and full size, moving or subtracting extraneous elements.

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“The Killer” Study 1


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“The Killer” study 2


Step 4

Painting in Progress

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The artist began to apply watercolor with wide bristle brushes, using a mixed black with a base of Winsor & Newton Payne’s gray, overlaid with Daniel Smith lunar black. With her paper on an easel and her major values established, she began to “deconstruct” some of the hard lines, carefully using a spray bottle to move paint down over the car. She also layered more dramatic marks on the image, using techniques such as spattering, dripping, dragging a damp brush through thick paint, puddling and scumbling. “This was the most boring photo imaginable,” Iaconetti says. “Just a man getting on a train. Exaggerating the values gave it a film-noir feeling that made me think, who knows, maybe he’s been ordered to collect on someone’s bad gambling debt? Or will he be the victim of the man in the shadow?”


Final Watercolor Painting

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The Killer (watercolor on paper, 22×15) by Joan Iaconetti



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