Janet Meinke-Lau
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Art and Surf Blog

Conversations around the process of creating and being an artist and surfer.

Seeing the darkest darks

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Hands in Hand

8x10” watercolor and ink (pen) on paper

This painting features the triplet daughters of my High School friend, Fred. I was so excited and humbled when he requested a commissioned painting as a gift to his wife for her birthday.

There were specific pre-planning strategies I used that made this painting one of my better ones, and I wanted to share them here.

Fred sent me a reference photo. Inspired by #inktober, I wanted to make the darks really dark in this painting, so I looked to Marc Taro Holme’s blog on “Sketching Tip: Seeing Darks.” A reader commented on the post recommending an app that helps you see value. I downloaded the See Value app and used its 4-Level Filter. The filtered photo simplifies the values and allows the darkest darks to really stand out. After I sketched with my regular Micron PN pen, I emphasized the dark shadows with black ink, using an ink brush pen.

Instead of using colors from the original photo, I wanted a more cohesive color scheme. I pulled out my color wheel and decided on the tetrad technique. Tetrad is using a combination of four colors on the wheel that are two sets of complements. I picked: blue-violet, red-violet, yellow-orange, and yellow-green, and tried not to stray too far from these colors. With the technique in mind, it felt like the painting painted itself :)

And then I was done! The finished painting was shipped to Fred in New Jersey. He wrote some lovely words about the piece:

I have known Janet for a number of years and started following her social media page, Thewavewriter, as soon as I knew it existed.  After seeing all of Janet’s beautiful work, and realizing she did commissioned work, I asked her to do a special watercolor sketch as a birthday gift for my wife.  I had a very specific request as I was hoping to have Janet create a watercolor sketch of a picture of our triplet daughters playing together and holding hands.  Throughout the entire process Janet was very professional and friendly.  She was in constant contact asking for my opinions and feedback about the project and process.  The final piece was absolutely stunning and could not have captured our daughters or that moment any more perfectly.  My wife and I could not have been any happier with how the final piece came out.  It is already hanging in a prominent place in our house for all who visit to see.  I cannot wait to continue to follow Thewavewriter and see the wonderful art that Janet creates and, hopefully, to work with her again to add more beautiful pieces to our home.

Thank you so much, Fred! And thanks to everyone for reading!

Janet Meinke-Lau