"Slice Of Life" will be a step-by-step of how I approach a watercolor. I've taken a detail from an older oil painting, showing a farmer, sitting on a knife that is resting on a plate of apples.

I've rendered the image in pencil on paper, drawing it to the same size as the intended watercolor.

Having taped a sheet of tracing paper over the drawing, I'm tracing the outline of the image with a thin black marker.

Now, with a No. 2 pencil, I'm rubbing the graphite onto the back of the tracing paper in the area of the marker outline. The tracing paper now becomes carbon paper.

Next I've taken Arches 140# cold pressed paper and soaked it in the tub for 30 minutes. After laying it out flat on a 1/2" plywood board, I staple it securely around the edges and let the paper dry thoroughly.

My next step is to position the tracing paper on top of the 'dry' watercolor paper and tape it into position. I then retrace the marker lines with a 6H pencil, transfering the drawing's outline onto the watercolor paper.

With a kneaded eraser, I lift any smudges and lines that are too dark.

When I'm satisfied with the outline, I take a kitchen sponge (dedicated to this watercolor preparation step), and dip it in clean water. I wipe the surface down gently, twice from top to bottom and twice from side to side. I then let the paper dry completely.

To begin the painting, I look at every object and paint it's highlight value over the entire object. What is a highlight value? If you think of an object that is being hit by sunlight from 360 degrees, (Impossible, but it helps me explain this painting step.) you wouldn't have any shadows, just highlight colors. That's the hue and value that I mix for each item. In the photo above, you see that I've begun putting in the highlight values (top of the cut apples, the plate, the man's shirt and hat and the knife handle).

Here is the painting with every object painted its highlight value. I know I am ready for the next step when I look at the painting and see if I can find any 'white' paper. The only white paper showing in this painting is on the front of his hat and his hair. Those are actual 'white objects', looking the way they would if the sun was hitting them.

Here I am applying the 'second step' or the 'shadow wash'. I mix up ultramarine blue and burnt sienna into a gray wash and then apply it everywhere that the direct sunlight doesn't hit.

Here's the result! If you compare this photo to the image two photos up, you'll see that this is really a unifying wash for the painting. It defines the light source, and guarantees that now the only white paper showing is of white objects in direct sunlight. In this painting that would be the two chunks of white on the farmer's hat. From this point, I will begin putting the subtle details in the highlight areas and in the shadow areas. These details will be a combination of grays and color, giving more definition and interest in the objects.

I've increased the color and detail in all areas of the image. The cohesive blanket of the 'gray wash' has started to diminish as it is being broken up with all the 'detailed' small washes. As soon as I am satisfied with the detailing of the objects, I will go back and lay down another gray wash to subdue these hard shapes.

I've increased the color on the apples and most of the cast shadows. The cast shadows have a darker value than most of the shaded areas of the objects so that is why I strengthen them. Also, by darkening the shadows, it tells me more to increase the color and value of the objects in the painting. I will keep adding color to the objects until I feel I can reach the end of the painting with one more gray 'blanketing wash'.

I've put more color in the back wall and increased it in the apples. I've purposely avoided darkening the farmer since he overlaps areas that will be lighter than him. If I had darkened his trousers, the shaded area of his shirt, and the knive blade, the edges of those areas would bleed into the lighter washes that have been painted up against them. I'll now apply the final gray washes on the apples' shaded areas, muting some of the color and bringing out the contrast necessary to show the light source again.

I work on a flat table, facing my drawing that I've put on an easel. I use two sets of double 4' flourescent lights overhead, slanting the light fixture that is closest to me away from me to reduce the glare on my eyes. I've alternated the flourescent tubes with warm and cool varieties. Notice the level by my water container. I make sure that the table and watercolor board are level, making it easier to lay smooth pools of watercolor washes.

Here is the completed painting. The wide range of values helps make the light convincing. Notice the texture of the back wall from the granulative nature of the ultramarine blue pigment. Hope you enjoyed "Slice Of Life".