Here's my finished watercolor of my brother in-law Tyler, busy at his desk. And Tyler is actually *in law* as he is a first year lawyer. This 20"x28" painting was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. His face was a breeze and in many ways it was the easiest part of the picture. The shirt was OK, and the tie was about what I expected. I blasted through the phone cord and even enjoyed forging the tiny calligraphy on his license (I taught myself Old English when I was ten). But the following items approached torture:
1. The papers on his desk. Even white paper presents color-mixing opportunities in its shadows, so I had to mix the palest blues, pinks, and grays. The yellow legal pads and Post-it notes were fun, though.
2. The computer, specifically all of the stuff going on in the back. I worked with lots of depressing gray colors and painted boring items like that velcro loop thing.
3. The Diet Coke can. In the reference photo, the can was facing front, i.e. the giant Diet Coke letters were on full display, and had I painted it that way I'm sure the picture would resemble a Diet Coke ad. So I had to turn the can so Tyler's drink of choice wasn't so loud. Also, the more I worked on painting the can, the more I wanted to drink some Diet Coke, but I can't do that because caffeine makes my hand shaky and I can't paint tiny stuff when it's in me.
4. The Wall. Incredibly, this seemingly-benign section led to at least five hours of work spread over two days (with a weekend in the middle during which I fretted). Why so hard? It was a weird color: a combination of hooker's green, dioxazine mauve, prussian blue, and even some raw sienna. The space was huge, and keeping something that big streak-free has always been challenging. My paper hated being subjected to so much water at once and did that lovely warping thing before ultimately calming down. The first coat wasn't nearly dark enough, so I added a second and a third, gingerly doing my best to keep the paint from hitting Tyler as I painted around him with a big brush. Once the wall was dry, I drybrushed a very dark mixture of the colors into the corners and on the right side. Then I realized that the entire wall was too dark. Tyler's office had become a dungeon, so I did what I could to lift the color. This was only OK, so for the first time in my watercoloring life I called upon white gouache to rescue me. I soon filled my little trash can with handfuls of wadded up, damp paper towels along with a similar amount of cotton balls, which I used to apply the gouache in a painstaking process I can't really describe. Whatever I did, it worked. Thanks, gouache!
Tyler has been my brother in-law for four years, and he and my sister Emily (a.k.a. Poof) have been a couple since high school. She's a charismatic little dynamo, and he's a gentle giant. They complement each other perfectly, and their lives have changed so much since they were married. She worked her way up the southern Illinois TV news ladder while he pursued his law degree. She was able to land a morning news job in the same city as his university, which was not an easy feat, and later on he was able to find a job there, too. Emily and Tyler bought a house earlier this year, and I am so happy for their success. I often marvel that because of Tyler, Emily has never had a broken heart, and I thank him very much for that. I've loved her since the day she was born, and I credit Tyler for the fact that the sweetness, positive outlook, and goofy sense of humor of her youth remain very much intact. He's a smart, capable, quietly hilarious person my entire family adores. Check out this video of Poof and Tyler on a random Saturday. FF to 8:48 to see them being particularly awesome together.