A Head-First Approach to Photo-Realism

When it comes to painting watercolors, I subscribe to the philosophy that life is unpredictable so it’s best to eat dessert first. Knowing that if a watercolor painting doesn’t work out I’ll have to pitch it, I don’t waste time starting with the tedious background details. I go right to the good stuff—the meat of the painting. If I’m painting a garden up close, for example, I’ll start with the petals of the main flower. Using a brush to lay down a traditional wash, I’ll establish an initial layer of color, then turn to an airbrush to build up color and add details.

Because the airbrush never touches the paper, it can create the lightest, most transparent glazes, without leaving a brush mark or disturbing an underlying wash. The airbrush works by spraying a pattern of microscopic dots of paint. The paint stays on the surface of the paper rather than sinking into the fibers; as a result, the color stays more vibrant and intense.

Once the main element has been established, I’ll turn my attention to the less fun, but equally important elements like stems and leaves.

Until a few years ago, P. Michael Kotasek made his living as an illustrator and then as a landscape gardener. “I went back to art because of the influence of my niece who’s now 11 years old. When I saw the pure enjoyment she got from drawing and coloring, it reminded me of the joy I’d originally felt about art.” Visit his Web site at hometown.aol.com/pmk33/index.html

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