Caracal Cat – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

Zebra Zensations Technical pens and Daniel Smith Watercolor on Hahnemühle Rough Watercolor postcard.

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

Okay – this was one of those paintings where life and art collided a bit.

I thought I had scanned the pencil drawing, but I didn’t evidently. Note also that the pen drawing is minimal – almost unfinished. That’s because it’s unfinished.

It would be nice if you could always plan what you want and get the result you want. Sometimes though, you just do the best with what you’ve got.

I was interrupted when I was doing the pen drawing, and life got crazy for a while, and I didn’t get back to it for a couple of months. Who knew what I had planned at first. In the end, I made my decisions at the point where I was adding paint and they were partially dictated by the fact that I had left masking fluid on the paper for too long. I’ll explain why later.

Reference photo courtesy of Rinzler on Pixabay

I’ve written elsewhere about using color in shadows. In that write-up, I talked about the intense blue and purple shadows that can give a real sense of light.

With this painting, I wanted a much more subtle effect. I don’t know if you see it on your screen, but on mine, this cat has subtle hints of violet. It’s pretty subtle, but that’s one of the things you start looking for when you are more experienced.

I also had some colors that I don’t use too often, and I wanted to play with them. So I did.


Oops! No pencil scan. The shapes are fairly simple though, so I know I freehanded it, mostly just blocking in the shapes, placing the facial details and making sure everything fit the size of the card.

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.


The light blue on this scan is masking fluid. There is a lot of white on this cat, much of it interspersed with other colors so I decided to reserve it before drawing with the ink. As mentioned above, I was delayed in painting this and the masking fluid came back to bite me for two reasons.

  • You shouldn’t leave masking fluid on paper for very long because it will be harder to remove.
  • You shouldn’t use masking fluid on rough paper because it can seep into the wells of the paper and be harder to remove.

You get the theme of this? Harder to remove. More about that later.

When I came back to this drawing after a couple of months, I knew at this point that the masking fluid was going to be a problem, to the point where I might have to throw the whole thing away, so I didn’t draw any further.


Daniel Smith is known for colors made from unusual pigments. Often, these seem to be so close to other more common colors that people wonder why bother.

The difference often has to do with characteristics – the unusual pigment might granulate more, or be more intense. Sometimes, the main difference might be the way in which the color mixes with other colors.

It was the mixing qualities and temperature I was exploring with this piece. The colors I used were:

I also used Phthalo Blue Green Shade, which is a common color.

Note that I used watery mixes for all of this. I wasn’t trying to capture the exact correct color of the fur, but I wanted a subtle sense of light shining on fur.

I started by painting the sky with Phthalo Blue and dropped in touches of Wisteria here and there.

Many animals have an off-white color in their coat, especially when it is ticked or mixed with other colors. Buff Titanium is a good color for it, but I’ve found it easily leads to green if you add blue to your shadows. Monte Amiata is a yellowish color, but can take a little blue without going green. In a light wash it looks similar to Buff Titanium. Not giving up the Buff but Monte will be used more often.

For the shadows, I wanted to punch up that subtle hint of violet and turn it more towards purple so it would be warmer (look up purple vs violet if you are confused by that) so I used Wisteria.

In essence, I wanted the fur to reflect my background, which was Phthalo Blue with a little bit of Wisteria, so I add some Phthalo Blue to my Wisteria shadows, especially at the top of the head.

Rose of Ultramarine is an interesting granulating color. It’s a mix of Quinacridone Rose with Ultramarine Blue. It’s a purple, but the blue granulates – settles into the wells of the paper so the rose comes forward. (And yes – you could mix your own if you have these two colors-though getting the right mix might be a challenge).

The cat’s fur has a variation of color – more of a charcoal & brown with cream in real life giving a textured look to the fur. I added a darker mix of the Monte Amiata to give a feel of the real color, and then used the Rose Of Ultramarine for the rest of the darker fur, as though the light was hiding the real color from the eye. I let the Monte and Rose run together slightly.

The granulation doesn’t show well in the scan, but is there in real life.

And now for the masking fluid. I did get most of it off, but not all of it, and it left a muddy greenish stain in a few areas. Fortunately, that doesn’t show very well in the scan, either.

Should you run out and buy these colors? Only if you are at the stage where characteristics like opacity, staining, temperature, granulation, and other qualities of color pigments have started to make sense. The reason for this post is to help you get to that point, but there are other similar colors among the standards that are cheaper and easier to use for the beginner to intermediate watercolorist.

Whew! Sorry that turned out to be a longer post than I intended.

Ripe Pumpkin for Inktober

Artwork – Zebra Zensations Technical pens and PM-701 Permanent Marker on Hahnemuhle Nostalgie Postcards

It’s the last day of Inktober! I’ve had fun!


  • Inktober – Ripe
  • Doodlewash – Pumpkin

Happy Halloween for all who celebrate!

Interference Back-to-Back

After using my new Van Gogh Specialty set on both the Van Gogh black watercolor paper and on the Stonehenge paper, I decided to do a back-to-back comparison, so I could really appreciate what the differences were.

I wasn’t looking to see which was better. That’s not my philosophy when it comes to art supplies. I wanted to see how each handled the paint, so I’d know how to get the best out of each in the future.

Van Gogh Speciality Palette & Van Gogh Black Watercolour A4 Pad

The Van Gogh black paper has a marvelous texture. It isn’t labeled as Cold Press, Hot Press or Rough. I’d say rough, but toward the smoother end of it. The paint moves well – almost too much. You can get detail but have to work at it. The paper is cellulose.

Stonehenge Aqua ColdPress Black watercolor paper

The paint moves well on the Stonehenge black, but not as freely as on the Van Gogh. The paint takes a bit longer to dry, which results in brighter color. It was easier to get detail, and keep more contrast because I had more control. The paper is labeled as Cold Press. It still has a definite texture but it doesn’t show as much through the paint. The paper is 100% cotton.

I really like the texture of the Van Gogh, and this is the paper I’d choose for looser effects. I like the brighter colors on the Stonehenge and would use it if I was looking for specific detail.

Bekki Page reviewed the Van Gogh Speciality Palette & Van Gogh Black Watercolour A4 Pad and I reviewed the Stonehenge Aqua Black watercolor paper. at Doodlewash earlier this year.

Interference Landscape

Artwork – Van Gogh Specialty watercolor and black paper.

This is another painting I did, playing around with the Royal Talens Van Gogh Specialty Palette set.

One of the problems with using only shiny colors is that it is difficult to control what the viewer sees. These colors are usually formulated to look different as the light changes, so the painting can look fine sometimes and confusing to the eye at others.

Simplicity and contrast is key. Here I was experimenting to see if I could get any contrast by layering the colors. I could – to the eye and in certain lights, but it is pretty much lost in the scan. It would have been better to just leave large areas of black and up the contrast.

Also, in the abstracts I did for yesterday’s post, there was a wonderful sense of texture because I only used one layer of thin paint and the weave of the paper showed through. With the layering I did in this landscape, I lost the texture.

Kind of what I expected, but it’s fun to confirm what you know. Makes you feel like you actually know something, lol.

Overall, I think these colors would be better used, in moderation, to add shine to other pigments, like the sheen on a bird’s wing.

Bekki Page reviewed the Van Gogh Speciality Palette & Van Gogh Black Watercolour A4 Pad at Doodlewash earlier this year.

Interference Abstracts

Artwork – Van Gogh Specialty watercolor and black paper.

Recently, I picked up a Royal Talens Van Gogh Speciality Palette set which comes with a Black Watercolour Pad (A4/8.3 x 11.7 in) and 12 paints in a cool black palette. Even the interior of the palette is black. I wouldn’t like that with regular colors because it could mess with your sense of color. But These paints are all metallic or interference colors, which in essence means shiny! and you don’t usually mix those.

The colors are Silver, Graphite, Light Gold, Deep Gold, Copper, Bronze, Interference White, Interference Violet, Interference Blue, Interference Green, Interference Red and Interference Yellow.

I haven’t had much chance to play with these, but I did a couple of abstracts just to see how the colors look and these are what I came up with.

The paper has a really nice texture. The scans, of course, are not showing all the shiny but I think these look very interesting even without it!

The colors are semi-opaque so you can paint light over dark. It does take a bit of work to pick up a good amount of the interference colors but that’s the nature of interference colors!

And what are interference colors? At a glance, they look much like iridescent colors, with an opalescent shine. But in the right light and on the right paper, an interference color will ‘flip’ from one color into it’s complimentary color. In other words, if you look at Interference Red, it is red in one light, but move to another light and suddenly the color is green.

Have to admit – most of the time, with any brand of interence colors I’ve seen, the ‘flip’ is rarely seen. It’s more obvious with white paper, but even then the light has to be just right.

The important thing is though – the colors are purty!

The set also has a small (tiny) brush that will work in a pinch, though it wouldn’t be much good for large paintings.

Bekki Page reviewed the Van Gogh Speciality Palette & Van Gogh Black Watercolour A4 Pad at Doodlewash earlier this year.

Olive Baboon

Artwork: Zebra Zensations Technical Pen & Daniel Smith watercolor on Hahnemühle Burgund Postcard. Princeton Neptune Quill Size 4 and Princeton Velvetouch Long Round size 6. Photo reference courtesy of huqiang1995 on Pixabay.

Today my hubby took an Olive Baboon in his lunch bag.

It isn’t easy being green. Not a color you expect from an animal! The mix of yellow, brown and black hairs on a Olive Baboon, however, make them look as green as green can be! My scanner didn’t want to believe it though, and my baboon just looks yellow.

Tools Used and Where to Buy Them

Hahnemuhle Burgund Watercolor Postcard Rough 120lb (review)

Zebra Zensations Technical pens (review)

DANIEL SMITH Blues- Hand Poured Watercolor Half Pan Set of 6

DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Hand Poured Watercolor Half Pan Set of 15

Princeton Short-Handle Neptune Squirrel Quill Size 4

Princeton Velvetouch Synthetic Brush Long Round