-by Eric Fortune

Hi Eric,
Your work has been a great influence on me ever since I started painting with acrylic washes. As an art student, I have been exploring a lot of possibilities with materials and techniques. There are just something I can’t figure out myself even with extensive research and practice. Without a doubt, it is still my responsibility to figure out my own process. However, it would be very helpful if you could help me answer a few questions. I have been struggling with these problems for a long time already, but haven’t found a right solution or person to ask. I sincerely hope you can help me out or guide me to the right direction.

1. For an under-drawing, using graphite, do you seal it with fixative before painting your washes? Or are your graphite done with hard pencils and does not bleed when washes are applied?

I do my final drawing and usually some shading with graphite. After applying my first light wash of acrylic over the entire painting and letting it dry the graphite is usually pretty sealed up. I don’t have too much of a problem with the graphite smearing on the first wash even with a 2b/3b pencil. If you are getting some smudging I would try a harder lead.

2. In such respect, how does a black monotone under-drawing affect the colors on top? Artists like Alex Ross makes use of this aspect quite significantly. Traditionally, blacks are frowned upon, but many illustrators make use of it as a underlying value to paint over.

I think using black as black and for darkening certain colors are fine. However, when you use black to darken certain colors it may not turn out to be the color you want. For example if you’re rendering a yellow object the color will probably shift towards a more intense and warmer yellow before entering the more neutral shadow area. Adding black to yellow will not warm it up. It will most likely give you a somewhat greenish tint. So using black can be fine just make sure that you are getting the color you want before applying it to your painting. Using a test sheet will help to see what the paint looks like on paper prior to using it on your actual painting.

Doing a black/gray under painting may also work fine. But again be aware of the color intensity that you are going for in the end. If you’re painting transparently remember that colors have their own inherent value and therefore may not need much of an under painting. Red is a great example of a very intense and inherently dark color. I would probably keep the under painting more focused on the core shadow areas where the values are the darkest.

Of course don’t forget to have good photo reference and a color study prior to starting on the final painting.

3. Do you find a need for an under-painting with black and grays after your graphite layer? Will this process be considered unnecessary since it is basically doing the same thing?

It depends. Often graphite shading on a white page looks dark enough, but when seen next to some dark paint it may not be as dark as needed. After my graphite shading and initial acrylic wash I usually go straight to whatever color is required.

4. As a student or even working illustrator, how do you manage with the extra amount of time that is required for layers to build up with acrylic washes?

The amount of time allowed for the project will help to dictate size and complexity of the work. So if a job has a quick turn around it may not be the best time to paint the largest or most complex painting you’ve ever done. Most printed images are not very large. So most paintings can be done at a manageable size. Of course this depends on the artist as well. Some artists can do amazing paintings at a large scale over night. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those guys.

5. Artists who work similar to your style use watercolor along with acrylic. Do you think it is necessary in order to capture an extra sense of transparency or are acrylic washes enough? Is air-brush another viable option?

I think it’s personal preference at this point. Each medium has different characteristics. I use acrylic. However, I don’t think using one over the other is a necessary choice. Plenty of great artists use mixed mediums. As for airbrushing I don’t have any experience using it so I’m not the best person to ask.

Hope that helps.