Well-known Portray Examine #2: Homer’s Sponge Diver

This second portray research is of Winslow Homer’s The Sponge Diver. Award-winning artist William “Invoice” Dunn traces the steps of this grasp watercolorist, and breaks down every part to make it simple to observe. Need to watch the video model? The total tutorial is out there to members of our Watercolor University.

Supplies Used In This Watercolor Class:

  • Reference image of Winslow Homer’s The Sponge Diver
  • A block of Hahnemühle’s Britannia chilly press watercolor paper (140lb, dimension 9.4″ x 12.6″)
  • Pentel Graphgear 1000 computerized drafting pencil, 0.9mm lead dimension with 2B lead
  • 1″ Artist’s or masking tape
  • Portray palette for watercolor paints
  • A container of water
  • Paper towels or a rag
  • A tabletop easel or a field to prop your portray on
  • A twig bottle with clear water

Paints (Holbein Artists’ Watercolors)

  • Lemon Yellow
  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Good Orange
  • Cadmium Pink Purple
  • Cobalt Violet Gentle (a.okay.a. “Lavender”)
  • Viridian
  • Cobalt Inexperienced
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Cobalt Blue Hue
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Indigo
  • Impartial Tint

Winsor & Newton’s Skilled Watercolors

  • Oxide of Chromium
  • Everlasting Mauve (or Sennelier’s Cobalt Violet Deep Hue watercolor paint)
  • French Ultramarine


  • Escoda Perla Joseph Zbukvic Collection: Spherical brush (no. 8)
  • Winsor & Newton’s Collection 7 Kolinsky Sable: Spherical brush (no. 1)
  • Winsor & Newton’s Collection 7 Kolinsky Sable: Spherical brush (no. 2)
  • Winsor & Newton Artists’ Watercolor Sable Brush: Spherical brush (no. 0)
  • Winsor & Newton Sceptre Gold II Collection 303: Quick deal with lettering/rigger brush (no. 1)

Step 1: A Portray Examine And A Sketch


Just like the Monet painting study, Invoice copies this portray to be taught extra about shade relationships, human anatomy, and worth. In lieu of this, he chooses Homer’s The Sponge Diver for its vibrant colours and uncommon topic.

As normal, Invoice softens his paints by spraying them with water to make them simpler to select up when portray. He then tapes off the similar dimension of the printed picture on his watercolor paper through artist’s tape, as he plans to breed the picture at a 1:1 ratio. The white border additionally creates a clear edge for any future framing functions.

After printing and analyzing the reference picture, you can begin sketching, starting from the most important objects to the smallest. Invoice exhibits how one can divide the image into 3 “bands” of knowledge, and pencils within the horizon line first. Then, he marks off the place the diver’s head is, working slowly to get the proportions proper. The boat can also be drawn in reference to the top’s place. Strive your greatest to get the refined curves proper!

Give attention to the diver’s anatomy subsequent, and flippantly define the physique’s place earlier than defining the musculature. To do that, pencil within the bigger shadows that emphasize muscle tone. Hold your pointers easy and clear! Take care within the space the place the physique is submerged, as water refracts mild and can distort the strains a little bit. Lastly, add the ocean sponge, land mass, and oar, and a few clouds in the event you want.

Beneath is a close-up of Invoice’s sketch:


Step 2: How To Paint A Tanned Pores and skin Tone


It’s time to color! Invoice begins with the diver, so he mixes a base pores and skin tone by diluting Yellow Ochre on his palette. He makes use of his no. 8 round brush, as it is going to assist get each massive brushstrokes and superb particulars. This mild tan shade isn’t a standard pores and skin shade, however right here it’s used as an underlying tone. Invoice applies this to the diver’s physique, avoiding solely the white highlights and the half underneath water.

Subsequent, he mixes in Burnt Sienna and Umber for a darker tint within the mid-tones and shadows. With simply these 2 tones, a number of the anatomy is outlined, so be daring however cautious when doing this. Be happy to color the ocean sponge as effectively, because it’s additionally orange in tone. Streak some within the underwater space as effectively to get the impression of a submerged decrease physique in clear water. All through the entire portray research, keep in mind to regulate your values as obligatory.

Step 3: Layering Shadows And Anatomy


Add extra Burnt Umber to your pores and skin tone, and paint the darkest shadows on the diver. If extra paint begins to pool, use the tip of a clear brush to lift out the puddle. Paint the face and head final, and attempt to seize the totally different values (i.e. mild vs darkish) of the cranium. For the skinhead look, add Cerulean Blue and Impartial Tint to your pores and skin combination for a heat grey, then paint the again of the top. Elevate out highlights with the identical methodology as earlier than if obligatory, then darken shadows by including extra Impartial Tint and Cobalt Blue Hue. For the reason that blue complements the orangey Burnt Sienna, it is going to create a great distinction, and stability out the orange the place obligatory.

Touch in a tiny little bit of Viridian within the backbone, then add extra of the blue combination and Impartial Tint to darken the top space. Darken the underarm areas as effectively for extra depth. In case your paper is simply too moist, let it dry a little bit earlier than persevering with, or else your colours will flip muddy and unfold an excessive amount of on this portray research.

To heat the pores and skin tone once more for that “sun-kissed pores and skin” look, dilute Cadmium Pink Purple and add a layer to the mid-tones. Lastly, paint the darkest areas on the top by mixing extra Impartial Tint and Cobalt Blue Hue earlier than leaving the diver to dry.

Step 4: Paint The Colours Of The Sea


Paint the ocean subsequent on this portray research, beginning with a lightweight Cerulean Blue on the horizon line. On this part, paint rapidly with the “wet-on-dry” methodology to stop the paint from streaking an excessive amount of. Be happy to permit some white to point out by for a “surf and waves” impact, even when it’s not in Homer’s portray.

As the ocean isn’t only one shade, combine in Cobalt Inexperienced and different blues for the following band of paint. Use Cobalt Blue Hue for a stronger shade in direction of the underside, and streak it into just a few areas for some shade concord. Swap blues and greens as you see match, utilizing your reference picture to information every part of sea. Don’t neglect to depart the boat’s reflection white! Permit the combination of blues and greens to bleed into each other for softer shade transitions, and alter up the colour when it seems to be too monotonous.

For shadows, contact in Impartial Tint to your blues, and paint the diver’s submerged arm and the world to his left. For the world across the boat, use the gray-blue combine, and add some Viridian for the greener areas. Combine Cobalt Inexperienced and Impartial Tint for the boat’s shadow on the water, and for the darkest space, add extra Indigo and Impartial Tint. You may as well dilute this shade and add it to the shadows within the boat’s reflection.

To get the sensation of the diver’s decrease physique being underwater, dilute a number of the blue combination and streak over that space. Then, add extra Cobalt Blue Hue to the ocean’s foreground, giving it an additional punch of shade for extra depth.

Step 5: A White Boat In The Water


Let’s proceed to the boat itself. Though it’s white, it’s nonetheless tinted with totally different hues because of the lighting and angles of every airplane. So begin by mixing Cadmium and Lemon Yellow, and water it down quite a bit earlier than tinting the entire boat with this shade. Subsequent, dilute Cerulean Blue with a contact of Cobalt Violet Gentle, and add this tone to the face of the boat that’s closest to the diver. For the boat’s shadowed underside, dilute the turquoise (Viridian and Impartial Tint) combination, as this shadow will tackle a number of the sea’s tones. Contact in additional Cobalt Violet Gentle for the boat’s facet, and make it possible for total, the underside ought to be the darkest airplane.

Step 6: A “Moist-In-Moist” Sky And Sea Sponge


Subsequent up on this portray research is engaged on the sponge and sky. Combine Burnt Sienna and Umber to color the darkish space on the ocean sponge, taking care across the hand and highlights. Whereas the shadow is moist, contact in Cobalt Blue Hue to the darkest areas. You may as well change it up by switching to Everlasting Mauve for a variation in hue. Doing that is referred to as the “wet-in-wet” method, which can produce softer edges and paint transitions.

Give attention to portray the sky subsequent. Once more, use the wet-in-wet method right here, so pre-wet the sky space with water earlier than dropping in diluted Cerulean Blue. Keep away from the clouds, however be happy to cowl the land mass and oar, as you possibly can paint over these areas later. To separate the sky and water a bit higher, drop in Cobalt Violet Gentle as effectively, then a diluted Cadmium Yellow Deep for the space above the clouds. Elevate any extra paint utilizing a rag or paper towel, and for one of the best outcomes, strive to not overmix or overwork the sky.

Step 7: Warming Up The Mid-Tones


Contact in Good Orange to the sponge for a little bit extra shade within the highlights, then add some to the diver’s mid-tones for a greater distinction to the blues. Doing so will add extra complementary areas in your portray research, and enhance the general look.

Step 8: A Dry Lifting Approach For Highlights


Swap to the no. 0 round brush, and apply it to the diver the place you wish to get some highlights again. Invoice exhibits how one can moist tiny areas such because the curve of the person’s ear, then lift the paint out utilizing a rag. Whereas the paper gained’t be fully white, this can be a good methodology for fixing components the place you might have by accident painted over the highlights or made too darkish.

Earlier than fixing the again of the neck utilizing this lifting methodology, darken the shadows within the head and brow space, mixing Burnt Sienna and French Ultramarine for distinction. Use the no. 1 spherical brush for this, and go across the highlights this time. Soften the perimeters so the shadows aren’t too jarring, and paint the underarm and elbow too for additional emphasis.

Step 9: Portray A Distant Land And Particulars


Swap to a no. 2 sable brush, then combine a diluted Burnt Sienna and Umber to color the land mass within the distance. Whereas it’s moist, drop at nighttime turquoise combine. Depart a skinny white line between the water and island to maintain the horizon line clear, and for the palm tree on the correct, add Yellow Ochre to the darkish green-blue combine in your palette. Watch out right here, since you solely get one shot at this! Drop in Oxide of Chromium as effectively to the island for a touch of flowers.

For the oar, combine Burnt Umber and French Ultramarine for a darkish brown. Contact in Impartial Tint for the darker underside.

Step 10: Ending Shadows And A Signature


It’s time so as to add the ending touches to your portray research. First, there’s a forged shadow from the diver’s forearm on the boat, so use a diluted grey and brown combination to color that in. Soften the left facet of this shadow, then use the identical shade to darken the ocean space between the person and boat.

Subsequent, add a few of your brown combination within the sea space to the left of the diver, and glaze over the identical space with a diluted model so the brown doesn’t look too misplaced. Lastly, contact up any components the place the paints have bled an excessive amount of, or add or repair any shadows to assist enhance the general feeling of your portray.

Whenever you’re finished and the paint is dry, be happy to erase a number of the pencil strains within the clouds. You may as well use a small rigger brush to signal your portray! Keep in mind to credit score the unique artist with an “a la Winslow Homer”, as this portray is only a research. Hopefully, you’ve discovered quite a bit from this deceptively easy train, and apply what you’ve discovered to your future work!

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