Painting the lady in the purple kimono

The other weekend after a short detour into Ghibli x  Star Wars land, I went back to painting my favorite theme: women in kimonos.  

This time my reference was Yumeji Tsukihisa's work.


Unfortunately I don't have a video for this one, as my video set up is pretty tedious to get going and some times, I just want to pick up a pencil and get straight to it. 

So here's my pencil sketch. 


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In this you'll see its still very different from the final version. Mainly because in this one she has a hand holding a fan. I removed this because I didn't want her arm cutting across the picture, or having it snake around from behind her kimono. It was just an awkward composition all the way through (not because Tsukihisa's work is awkward, but because I couldn't find a big enough reference photo to make the appropriate adjustments so everything I tried looked strange). So a decision was made that I should remove the arm and let the focus be on the woman and her kimono...rather than the woman and her awkwardly placed arm. 

 

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Here she is outlined in pen. Look Ma! No arms.  

I really like that I got the angle of her nose and chin just right.

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As usual I started painting at random. For this painting I decided to tackle her skin first. I put in the slightest color of blush on her cheeks. The paper started to buckle because of how much water I had on my brush, and that's when I knew I needed to ease up a bit, let it dry in the meantime and move on to another section. 

 

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So I worked on some other less intensive areas, like the doodles on her kimono! I love this pattern. It's so free form and organic. I decided I wanted this to be the only pattern on this kimono. I didn't want the pattern to detract from her face, and I also wanted it to catch the viewer's eye  so that they would try to follow it winding around on the kimono.  

 

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Next is the purple. I don't see purple get featured a lot on kimonos. I usually see black, reds, brown and greens..and the purples I do see are usually quite dark. So I chose a lighter shade so the whole painting would be nice and bright. I also like to imagine that I was painting a flower and that this would be a great shade for the petals.  

 

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Finally her hair. Every time I paint Japanese hair it's all such a big struggle to not freak out and just trust in how it will all look when the paint dries. I was very worried at this point that the different shades of black wouldn't show, but thankfully it did. Having the different shades, helps me build up the highlights in her hair.

I also painted in some vertical x patterns on her orange belt as a counter point to the curvy doodles on her sleeve. I just did this freehand with a brush. 

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I really like how the transparency of watercolor sort of captures how light weight the fabric of her kimono is. If I could do it over again though, I probably wouldn't have used so much water on her face and neck because the paper couldn't quite recover from buckling. It's not so bad when looking at the painting in person, but is a little tricky to fix and is still visible after I scanned the painting.  

Anyway, that was definitely a good learning experience. I now have 4 pieces in my Bijin series. One last one to complete the set I think!