• Sara

Choose & Sketch Your Reference

Now that you have your inspiration board it's time to pick out the pose/face and practice sketching it. For these demonstrations I'll be using my award winning mermaid 'Coral Hymns'.

watercolor mermaid playing harp

The Inspiration & Photos

For Coral Hymns I felt her pose was perfect for a mermaid, I was drawn to her face, her hand playing, and the harp. The harp mostly, even though I was a bit anxious about drawing it. I found this image while searching "vintage nudes" on Deviant Art. I personally lean towards these kinds of photos because of the romantic atmospheres and lighting.


I also grabbed a few images of coral and seashells to work from. Even though I know how to draw shells and coral, I wanted to make sure they looked more authentic. Also it helped me with variety without thinking too hard. :P My own fish inspired the fishies.


Sketching it Out

Okay, so now you have your references laid out before you. I recommend having them together somehow. This can be all in different web browsers sized down so they're all visible, or, you can print all the images out and have them in front of you physically.

In this video you will learn some tips on how to sketch out your reference. The more you draw it out, the more familiar you become with it, thus when it comes time for your watercolor paper you'll feel more confident. Also it will allow space to make it your own creation!


The tips you'll learn are:

  1. Use a pencil extender to use your pencil till the very end.

  2. Hold your pencil like a wand to stay loose.

  3. Sketch on drawing paper to practice before moving to watercolor paper.

  4. Use the subject's eye as a measuring tool to map out features on the face.

  5. Use shadows to help determine where facial structures lie and as guides.

  6. Keep your eyes on the subject by placing a finger next to the spot you're referencing.

  7. Don't hold back changing lines as you go. Draw what you SEE, not what you think you know.

  8. Gently erase guide lines to help in the detail building of the face.

  9. Use shadow shapes to find form when something isn't obvious.

  10. Map out shadow shapes, as shapes, to define the subject's form.

Here's what my 'Coral Hymns' sketch looked like before my final concept for watercolor. Remember what I said in the video, don't settle. Keep reworking or resketching until you confident enough to get started on the painting itself. You don't have to be perfect or 100% accurate, just like what you've drawn! Be messy! We'll clean it up later. ;)


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