Painting Sunshine - Adding Color To My Clay Pictures

I'm often asked how I add color to my clay pictures, so this time as I was painting I photographed each step so I can finally share how it's done.

With all my clay pictures I start by first "washing" the entire surface with rubbing alcohol to remove any oils that would keep the paint from sticking and cause beading. Once the alcohol has dried I begin painting in very thin coats of acrylic paint - it's better to have to add more paint than have too much that it floods all the detail - so I keep it really thin. My favorite paints to use are Plaid and Galeria. I like Plaid for it's dull chalkiness, it flows nicely over the clay and when watered down it highlights the details of my sculptures really well. Plaid also works well as base color for the Galeria paints. I mainly use Galeria paints for adding the final black wash at the end of painting which highlights all the details, but I also use it where I need deeper color. Many of the colors are slightly transparent, but with two coats I can get good color.

So here's how I paint my clay pictures:

They have both been washed with alcohol and here I've painted the first layer of paint. This is green Plaid. For my painted clay pictures I like to only partially paint each detail - it gives a slight worn look which I think adds to the style of my sculpting. Normally I go with the highlighting of the sun and paint mainly on the tops and the left side of each detail - like the sunshine has added the color. There's no sun in these two pictures, but I continue with painting top and left.

Now I add the first layer of paint to the dirt and seeds in the sunflower picture. As it dries it will nearly disappear, but all I really want is a base. When I add the second coat the color will be darker.

Here you can see most of the dirt and seed color has almost disappeared. I'll paint the second coat next. But first I paint the first layer of yellow to the sunbeams. This time I start with a coat of Galeria cadmium yellow - it has better color than the Plaid yellow, which can often look slightly green - no green sunshine please!

Now I add the second coat of brown. I use burnt umber Galeria this time and now it shows up.

Next I paint the base color of Plaid yellow on the sunflower's petals. I also add a very thin layer of bright green Plaid to the hills and grass. The sunbeams are dry now and ready for some orange.

For the second coat on the sunflower petals, I use Galeria cadmium. Then I add a thin coat of mixed Plaid orange and yellow to the sun beams.

Now it's time to work on the kitty picture. I use Plaid paints and paint the butterfly white and then mix a tiny bit of red into cream for the flowers.

Next I start painting the kitty. I'm using a mixture of Plaid cream and black. I often use cream instead of white to lighten colors - white can sometimes look too harsh. And again I'm concentrating the color to the left of the sculpture.

While the kitty dries, I paint the sky in and around the sunbeams in the same orange/yellow mix I used for the second coat on the sunbeams.

The little kitty is dry and now I mix a darker color of grey, adding more black to the first mix I used. Then I carefully paint stripes keeping them to the left.

And finally, after the grey stripes are dry, I add teeny tiny black stripes over the top. I have to use a wooden tooth pick - my brush is way too hairy!

And now for the last part of the painting. I mix Plaid blue and cream and paint a thin layer on the sky. In my previous pictures the sky was really dark, almost black once I added the wash, so this time I went a lot lighter with the blue. I always keep in mind that once I add the wash, all the colors will be darker, so I like to work a bit on the bright side - it's always easier to darken a color than it is to try to make it lighter. One time my colors were too bright, but it was easily fixed by first washing the surface with a thin coat of Galeria burnt umber, and then adding the black wash once it was dry.

Now I wait for all the paint to dry completely before adding the wash. It's very important for the paint to be dry or it can rub off with the wash.

The paint has all dried and now I paint the black wash. I use black Galeria thinned (really, really thinned!) with water and paint it over the entire surface letting it flow into the details and brushing it mostly off of the high points. I always watch as the wash dries, carefully adding or removing to make sure there are no spots that are too light or too dark.

Again I wait for the pictures to dry and then I use a watered down mix of Delta Ceramcoat matte varnish...and they're all finished. Now I just have to place them each in their frames. More photos soon!