Slide Show: The Ice Queen (Study)

Stage 1

The artist has begun with a yellow wash for a warm tone, and applies dark washes to establish the shadows. The wet-on-wet watercolour technique is well illustrated by the central portion: circular applications of paint bleed into one another, creating a complex texture of subtle variations in tone.

Stage 2

The darker background shadows cause the figure to emerge more clearly. Observe the detailed snowflake pattern on the lower right, which the artist manages to achieve simply by adding a dark background; this will not change susbstantially in the finished piece. The underpainting continues to develop in all parts of the composition, but only the upper right corner exhibits the energy that the artist will strive for throughout.

Stage 3

The beautiful underpainting is now complete, and the artist has begun to execute the fine details; the icicle above the figure’s head and the ornaments on its left shoulder and waist are in something like their final form. The process of adding detail is extremely demanding, and in a painting as complex as this one, it can take many months, even years. The challenge for the artist is to bring the entire composition up to a convincing degree of realism without overwhelming it with detail, and thus robbing it of energy.

Stage 4

The artist has substantially reworked the painting in oils, leaving very little of the original watercolour work intact. The most noticeable change is in the face, which has been brought up to a high level of realism. The areas which had previously been watercolour underpainting have now been worked over in oil; as a result the colours are brighter and the overall feel is warmer, but the artist has managed to preserve the energy of the wet-on-wet watercolour underpainting in the new medium. This is a remarkable accomplishment.

Stage 5

In this final stage, the artist has tried to maximize the impact of the painting by drawing attention to the elements that really matter, and downplaying less important details. The artist has substantially darkened the background; potentially distracting elements like the curved metalwork behind the figure now recede into shadow. In contrast, figure’s ornamentation is now highly glittery and detailed: see especially the bodice and the two shoulders. Nevertheless the artist has tried not to overburden the painting with detail; the subtle blending of tones on the figure’s bodice and the delicate work on its skirt are suggested rather than spelled out. View the finished product.

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