Sirens III

This week, I did another version of Sirens. I had wanted to color this in for a while but wasn’t sure how. I began with a carbon copy, which I didn’t take a picture of, but I think it was fairly close to Sirens II (below).

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Sirens II (2010)

It turned out really well and I was waffling on painting it because since taking the above photo, Sirens II has somehow gotten splattered (2 to 3 pin drops) with water color… aaargh! It would’ve been nice to have a cleaner version, but then again, I was curious to see how this would turn out.

Sirens III 092618 (1)

I began by darkening the thicker graphite lines with Chinese ink (applied with a brush), and then darkened the thinner lines with a fountain pen.

It turned out okay, but the difference between the thicker and thinner lines worked better in graphite, as one was in 9B and the other in HB, so the contrast was more obvious. I also didn’t like how many smudges there were (not very careful while reusing a towel for blotting excess ink), especially at the top where there are few lines and you’re supposed to be getting a sense of emptiness to contrast with what’s below.

Sirens III 092618 (2)

The first sections I filled in were those which I knew I wanted to be the darkest. Starting with a diluted shade gave me some room for making mistakes, and indeed, I changed my mind a number of times on which sections would be darker than other sections. I needed to consider the overall balance of color, the path a given color takes the eye across the surface, and how each color path interacts with another. The more interactions, the more lively it is.

I was happy with the above version, but because I smudged it earlier, I decided to paint in the top section, which made me make two of the sections of the top-left figure the darkest shade; which is a good example of the overall process for coloring this in.

Sirens III 092618 (3)
Sirens III (2018), 18″ x 24,” Ink on paper 

I know it’s weird that I comment on myself, like I’m observing myself in the third person, but hindsight is often better than foresight. Speaking of which, I can appreciate, in hindsight, my foresight to not let the smudges influence me in prematurely coloring in the top section.

In order to mask the smudges well enough, I had to give it a fairly dark wash, and going as dark as I did would’ve made me begin with an undiluted shade so that I would have had no room to make the mistakes I’d made.


Water color paper (Strathmore 400)




Picasso, The Early YearsI am currently reading Picasso: The Early Years (1892-1906), by Marilyn McCully. I haven’t had time to dive into it yet. Eh, other creative endeavors, life, etc. In the mean time, I’ll leave you with another response to Picasso.


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Sirens (2009) Pastel and charcoal on watercolor paper, 18″ x 24″

I was reading The Ultimate Picasso, by Brigitte Leal, et. al. and I had just finished the section on Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, including the studies leading up to it. I was also very moved by the section on the Blue Period, which preceded the one on Les Demoiselles d”Avignon. After drawing an outline in pencil and before applying the pastel, I had to decide on a color scheme. I considered one that was similar to Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (sienna/beige/brick red), but it was ugly. I made one or two more sketches and settled on the above.

Note: I would not recommend using pastel on watercolor paper. It slides off very easily. I had to soften the pastel before applying it like a paste. Fortunately, and I discovered this by accident, if you let the pastel dry a little, it won’t move around as much. After the first day, I found that I could go over the previous day’s work and smooth out the surface and/or the line between two colors. It took me four to five days, two to four hours each day. It really should not have taken so long.

This was in February of 2009.

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Sirens II (2010) Pencil on watercolor paper, 18″ x 24″

Eight months later, I was unhappy with the original composition. I didn’t like the fact that I used black charcoal to make outlines and color in the eyes. It felt a little like cheating. So I made a carbon copy, thinking I would do the same version over again. In the zone, I ended up experimenting with the line work.

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Sirens II b (2011) Pencil on watercolor paper, 18″ x 24″

A year later, after watching a biopic on Modigliani, starring Andy Garcia, I realized I could indeed make another version of the original but color in the eyes with a pale blue-gray. I took out both versions, because I keep them stored in the same place, and ended up “editing” the second version by making some of the lines darker, which made it look, you could say, more focused.

I’d now like to make a third version which is like the second but colored in. In my head, it’ll be a cubist water color painting… but I may be getting ahead of myself. I have another book, Picasso and Braque Pioneering Cubism, by William Rubin, which I’d like to get into, before thinking of my own approach to anything “cubist.”