Starting February 2014 this blog will be out of action.

But DO NOT DESPAIR. We've just moved, and you can still find the same riveting and informative posts that you have come to expect on our new blog:

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Watercolor

Man vs. Machine
12 x 18
Acrylic Ink on Bristol

So by watercolor, I actually mean to say Acrylic Ink. I have started using FW Inks for the last few paintings. And if you dilute them, they feel just like watercolor, except that once they are down you can't pry them up. No, not with a thousand golden crow bars. Their only down side that I can discover is that if you apply them straight, with no dilution, they will begin to take on the plastic feel of acrylic after several heavy layers. Other than this I really love them. Perhaps most of all because they preserve the underlaying drawing perfectly.

I am finished with the Acrylic phase, but I am not planning on stopping just yet. I am going to do an experiment:

I am going to do render a digital version of this watercolor, in the same manner as the Hobbit pieces. And then I am also going to take the original watercolor, and after sealing it in a few layers of acrylic polymer, I am going to finish it in oil.
Afterwards I am going to compare the 2 to see which looks superior and post the results here.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on these and which you find more attractive. (or less hideous, as the case may be)


  1. Great idea for comparing techniques. I'm guessing that each will have advantages (especially with the "undo" function). The "love/hate" technology backstory is hilarious...I'll stay tuned!

    On a side note...you can check my blog for a new sculpt I just finished (since you liked my "Flying Monkey Squadron").

  2. I can't wait to compare the two. So far this is looking awesome, especially the way you did the tops of the concrete piers. I know that's maybe weird that I notice piers before, say, a destructive robot, but they are still cool all the same.
    Keep it up man!

  3. Amazing so far. Really interesting so far, not only the story but also the technique and picture itself!

    Can't wait for the two side by side!

  4. This looks incredible so far. Can't wait to see you push it in digital. Thanks for sharing your process with us.

  5. Looking really good Justin. Is it not possible to get satisfactory results with the acrylic ink alone ? - just wondering.

  6. I just love your value work. Your value gradations are so soft and subtle, yet define the forms so well.

  7. Larry,
    That is a good question.
    I think it definitely is possible to get satisfactory results with acrylic ink alone. The Buccaneer post from a few weeks back made me feel that for something lighter in tone, and especially for a spot character, these acrylic inks are genius and I look forward to using them more in the future.

    But when I started trying to paint a full image with a heavier range of darks that I found the paper (which was Strathmore Bristol 500 in this case) slowly taking on the plastic surface of acrylic and becoming harder to work over. I found that the ink would puddle a great deal more and not soak into the paper enough. So I wondered if I might be able to stop midway, when I am usually most happy with the painting and switch to oil to finish out the darks. I just love how shadows look in oil. I can't seem to replicate the effect in any other medium.
    Though I know a lot of other artists have mastered it just fine using liquid or even normal acrylics. Michael Whelan comes readily to mind, and also some new names like Sam Weber and Eric Fortune.

    But I am still experimenting with these. Larry, I love your work. Have you used any of these inks yet and if so how do you find them to perform in the later dark stages of the watercolor?

    If any of you haven't yet, you should check out his drawings. They are really fantastic.

  8. I think considering the subject matter, the digital is going to outshine the oil. I have no doubt both will be amazing...I'm just sayin'. ;-)

  9. HI Justin!
    Sorry if I take the chance to give you a lil' suggestions, but you should try COLOREX-PEBEO


    They're liquid acrilics made for airbrush, but are the perfect mix between acrilics and watercolors,and they're really brilliant!!!.
    Here we go with a few artists I know they use Pebeo



    Hope it'll help;-)


    If you're curious, here we go with a few artists that use

  10. This is awesome Justin! Glad to see you're doing a differently themed genre for a bit. I love how you explained your thought process in the last post. Can't wait to see the 2 finals and compare them! Awesome as usual!

  11. I have to agree with you, FW inks are a joy to work with. That reassurance that underlying layers are inert is so comforting. I used the Magic Color was good, but FW has stomped all over it.
    I admire your steadfastness in completing the two pieces as comparison. I'd never have the luxury of time. I'm intrigued. Will you progress them in parallel or one after the other? To me the latter would make the second piece stronger by the experience of the first. Good luck.

  12. I really like the luminous color you achieved in the Buccaneer piece, which was also with acrylic inks. It seems like you could get the same level of color and contrast with the inks as you could digitally or with oils.

    Just curious, what brand of acrylic inks? What colors are you using in your palette? I am starting a childrens' book and exploring options for color in the finish. I love the idea of the inks. You like it because it preserves the pencil underneath?

    Great blog - I read it often and have fun doing so!


    Julia Lundman

  13. P.S. I'm looking on Dick Blick for the inks. Are you talking about
    Daler-Rowney FW Acrylic Water-Resistant Artist's Inks?

  14. Julia,
    These are indeed the FW inks as Peter suggested. I really love the way they feel. I have used several others, but I have not yet tried the Colorex ones yet.

    I am going to be doing these one after the other. I will actually be doing the oil over top of this watercolor. So it is perhaps a slightly unfair competition. But I still want to see what it looks like and what the response is. I love the look of digital, but I also really love having an original that I can display afterwards. So I am torn, and I'd love to hear what everyone responds best too.

    I think that I may do a post sometime after this one showing a clear comparison between a piece done completely in FW inks, and the same piece done in oil. Perhaps of the Buccaneer or the Fine Literature posts.

  15. Hey Justin,
    I agree with RobArt about the "digital outshining the oil." Your digital rendering is very unique and extremely tasteful. However, you're a truly talented artist and I know both the oil and digital will be great.
    Thanks for sharing the progress.

  16. great work looks really cool . i love your work . keep up the inspiring work
    just one of your many fans ernie ochoa

  17. Hi Justin

    I have not used the acrylic inks. My approach is similar to yours except that I start in watercolour and finish up with gouache. My goal now is to go all the way with watercolour, the way I did before I started using gouache.
    And yet I always find myself wanting to make those little adjustments at the end of the process. I really love the pure, tansparent colour of watercolour and you always lose that when you bring in the opaque colour.

  18. Hi Justin! I'm going to try this technique this weekend. The only question I have is how are you transferring the drawing to the illustration board? also do you recommend a specific weight of illustration board? cold press, hot press, watercolor board, etc?

    do you use graphite paper to transfer or some other method? i've used graphite paper before but it's super waxy.



  19. Hi Julia, this is actually on strathmore illustration board for wet media. I usually work on 500 series strathmore bristol board, but this was an exception. I think I used an artograph to transfer my sketch for this one because it was so big. Typically though, use a graphite or chalk paper transfer as I like the line variety a bit more there. For the transfer, I am only getting down the general lines and shapes, and not every little detail. And after the transfer I am more or less redrawing the entire image again from sight. I think the method of making that initial transfer is all personal preference, go for whichever way suits you best. You will essentially be redrawing the image again after the transfer and thats the part that really counts.

  20. ok - thanks so much for the feedback. I really appreciate it a lot! I thought that was how you were transferring but wanted to check first. I can't wait to try the acrylic inks too. so fun!

    i have a busy weekend ahead...

    i hope to bump into you sometime at one of the cons!