Creativity Workshop | Test Kitchen

Watercolor Artist Creativity Workshop

chef in watercolor | figure painting
Atlanta Chefs (watercolor on paper, 17×21) by Bev Jozwiak

By Bev Jozwiak

Most of my figure painting involves people doing everyday things, whether it’s kids playing in the rain with umbrellas or dancers warming up in the studio. My most recent body of watercolor painting has taken me into uncharted territory: In my chef paintings, I explore the delights of the life happening in restaurant kitchens.

Look into your own life and consider what painting discoveries it might offer you. Is there a particular setting that captures your imagination and offers you new technical challenges to master? If so, you may have found the perfect test kitchen for your watercolor painting practice.

Follow my watercolor techniques for creating one of my chefs. Artists interested in figure painting will learn a few tricks of the trade along the way, but there’s something for everyone here, including a mixture for great grays.

Step 1:

After finishing the preliminary drawing, I started with the face. Painting directly, I began with the darkest value because I like to dive right in. I used a mixture of cadmium red, burnt sienna and French ultramarine blue for my base flesh tone, but as I moved into the lighter areas, I added bits of yellow ochre and manganese blue hue as needed. I tend to be a direct painter, but sometimes glazing is called for. I ran a thin layer of manganese blue hue in certain areas of the chef’s face. (Blues help colors to recede, so they worked in places like the corners of his eye sockets.)

Step 2:

I continued working the entire painting from top to bottom, always aware of the need to weave darks and lights throughout. I used a colorful gray mixture (yellow ochre, rose madder genuine and manganese blue hue) in the area next to the less dominant chef. Planning ahead is a must; I already know I’ll have steam rising from the unseen pots, so I used the same colors in the hat and shirts. The darker background color is Winsor blue, burnt sienna and some cadmium red.

Step 3:

Continuing on, I thought about the repetition of colors, shapes, warms and cools and of course values. Drybrush can be a hard look to capture on hot-pressed paper, but I managed to employ it in the jars and shelves. I used thick paint with very little water in those areas.

Step 4:

I thought about painting shapes, not objects. For example, I worried more about the lights and darks on the shirts than the fact that they’re shirts. I didn’t worry about getting a perfect hand, because I knew it would ultimately be covered with steam. The main chef’s face was in the sweet spot. He had the leading role, and everything else was subordinate.

Step 5:

To finish Atlanta Chefs, I glazed some light washes over areas in the shirts. There were some white areas of the main chef’s hat that needed to be toned down. At this point, it was just about finishing small details, such as the utensils.

I used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser sponge to create the effects of the steam. Dipping it in clean water and scrubbing out colors above the pots helped create that look.

Courageous Brushstrokes

There’s no one right way to paint; it’s only through constant study that we’re able to find our way. Painting in a series or around a theme is one surefire strategy to direct your creative energy. And you might just find you’ve discovered your unique painting voice along the way.



Explore bold new territories in your work. If you’re feeling ambitious, paint around a theme or in a series. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to [email protected] with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a year’s worth of Watercolor Artist issues in one convenient package: our 2012 CD archive. The deadline for entry has been extended to April 25.


To read the full text of this article by Bev Jozwiak, order your copy of the April 2013 issue of Watercolor Artist.


To catch up on the Creativity Workshop exercises you’ve missed, click here and start painting!





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