If you have ever grown zucchini squash in your garden, you know how prolific it can be. It grows so fast and furious that I find myself scrambling for new recipes so that I don't waste one delicious homegrown bite! I may dedicate a future post to all the different fantastic things you can make with this versatile vegetable (or fruit, botanically speaking...who knew?) but this post goes in a bit of a different direction. I'd like to show how to ILLUSTRATE a zucchini using a watercolor salt technique.
Start by gathering up your supplies.
1. Salt (Just your regular grocery store variety.)
2. Watercolor Paper
3. A pencil
4. Optional: An ink pen
5. A Paintbrush
6. Watercolor Paints
7. A Zucchini (or a reference image if you need one.)
Next set up a still life for yourself. Grab your zucchini squash, some watercolor paper, and your favorite pencil to work with.
Look at this fancy technical set up. I just grabbed my tea mug and propped my zucchini on top of it. I wanted it to be at eye level. You can just leave it on your table in front of you, if you like. It's just a matter of personal choice. Choose a side of the zucchini that looks visually interesting to you. Spend a little time observing. This is one of the things I love about drawing and painting. An object that appears so ordinary and simple starts to look extraordinary when you take in the details. Note the fantastic galaxy on this zucchini! Isn't that gorgeous? As you may have noticed by the darkness of my photos, I tend to do a lot of my painting at night. I prefer daytime painting for better lighting and I tend to have more creative energy during the day but I grab the time where I can find it. Creating a habit really helped. Even though I am not as fueled in the evening, creating a habit of painting every night really made me look forward to it. Squeeze the time in to do things you are passionate about! You won't regret it!
Upon closer inspection, you can see the elaborate lines running up and down. This is probably the reason I am always drawn to simple objects as subject matter. Even the basic, most mundane objects reveal such gorgeous complicated details.
Choose your favorite watercolor paper. Any water media requires a thicker paper (the standard size is 140 lb paper.) There are different kinds of 140 lb paper such as hot pressed and cold pressed. Hot pressed is smooth and can be used for more detailed work while cold pressed is more bumpy and texturized. For this project, I am actually using a 90 lb mixed media paper. I kind of got hooked on this paper because I liked adding embroidery to my watercolors and it holds water but is also thin enough for embroidery. It really is a matter of personal preference depending on your style. Experiment and find a favorite. There are so many choices out there.
I like to work with mechanical pencils. I love the precision they offer and that they don't get dull when using them. I use the .5 which is the smallest size. You want to try to keep your lines nice and light so that they are easier to erase, in the end. Use whatever you have/like! No need to get fancy, this is for pure fun and experimentation!
Now I like to zoom back out again, visually, and just sketch out the basic shape in pencil, erasing and editing as I go.
Once I have the basic shape to my satisfaction, I get my handy-dandy micron pen. I love detail work so I use the .005 pen. The microns are water resistant once they are dry so you can paint over them without them bleeding. I have noticed some instances when using pointillism where the ink has smudged if I have not allowed enough drying time. If you are a purist, you may prefer a crow quill pen and ink. The ink is permanent and the pen allows for more line shapes, therefore more personality in the drawing. On the other hand, the micron is great because it is really easy to use, very portable and cost effective. Another option all together, you don't have to use ink at all! You can just make very light pencil lines and paint over them or you can just lay your paint right down without even making pencil guidelines. Play, experiment and your own favorite style will emerge.
Here I added my ink to the basic outline, then I started to add value using pointillism. For lighter values, I add less dots and they are spread further apart and for darker values I add more dots that are closer together. You can get the same effect with layering your watercolor paint if this type of detail work would drive you crazy. I find it relaxing and meditative but I know it's not for everyone and it is super time consuming! Sometimes I switch gears and just use my paint. There are no rules you have to follow! Do what you like and what feels good to you.
A close-up view.
Once I was satisfied with my ink drawing, I added an underpainting. After observing the little galaxy on the zucchini, I noticed this yellow ochre color. That is what I used for the underpainting.
See the yellow? You could use any watered down yellow and get away with it. It looks like a lemony yellow on the picture, doesn't it? I am going light to dark so I started with the light yellow and then will keep adding layers of paint and work my way to the greens.
I added my layer of green. Now here is the fun part! Get a nice sprinkling of salt. You want the paper to be damp (no puddles) but not dry. You can look at an angle under the light and there should just be a wet sheen. Sprinkle the salt onto the painting.
If you look closely at the bottom, you can see that wet sheen. I just sprinkled the salt from my hand right over the top. I let it dry overnight.
Here is what the painting looked like the next day, all dry.
Look what happened. The salt pushed away the paint and make crystallized patterns which sort of mimic the pattern on the actual zucchini. You can really experiment with this incredibly fun technique (try different sized salts and different amounts of water). Isn't nature amazing and beautiful? One word of caution, if you use a lot of water the salt can kind of melt into the paper and then pull some of the paper up when removing it. Just make sure to do your experimenting on a piece you are not too emotionally invested in.
When your paper is fully dried, gently brush off the salt. I just used my hand (make sure your hands are clean of oils (like, for example, the popcorn you may have just been snacking on, lol.)
There it is, minus salt!
Next I went back in and started to fine tune even further by adding some different shades of color and then adding some value using darker shades of greens.
Next I went back and observed these criss-crossy lines. I decided to represent them using more pointillism. Spend time observing then plan your attack!
Here I am using my pen to add the final touches.
There you have it! Hope you have lots of fun experimenting with this cool technique!