Today’s experiment:

The combination of two factors is responsible for today’s experiment. First, there was a sale at a local art supply store. Daniel Smith, the watercolor manufacturer, has a line of luminescent watercolor pigments, which I decided to try. The second factor that inspired today’s sketch is my recent purchase of a couple of science fiction pulp magazines. I’m actually not that interested in the dystopian nature of many of the stories, but rather the intersection of science and technology with the human condition. Having said this, I must admit that one of my favorite sic-fi movies is the dystopian future of P.K. Dick’s Blade Runner (from the story, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?). Although dystopian to be sure, Dick questioned the very nature of being human in this saga.

I decided to test my new colors: Duo Autumn Mystery (made up of ‘silica coated with Titanium White’ according to the information on the tube of paint) and Duochrome Desert Bronze, made up of mica and Titanium White.

I prepped my wash of the Duochrome Desert Bronze in a small white porcelain dish. I could see the reason for the name Duochrome. The reflection from the dish reminded me a little of an oil slick that one might see in a puddle on the street after a rainy day.

I started my composition with the idea of creating a desert scene. I abandoned that idea after I thought of painting a blue sky that faded to black, to get an other-worldly look. The color reproduction seen below should be a bit darker.

Watercolor Sketch - Alien Sunset

Alien Sunset
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I like the watermarks left by the lemon yellow that I dripped into the still-wet sky. I emphasized the yellow center of the ‘sun’ by overpainting it with ‘Spectrum Yellow’ gouache.

While the foreground (Desert Bronze) was still wet, I carefully sculpted the alien planet surface to show rolling dunes. I tinted the hollow in the foreground with Payne’s gray.

I was disappointed when I applied a glaze of burnt sienna to the foreground. It erased my dunes. I had to re-shape them with the wet brush that I used for applying the glaze. I glazed the hollow with Prussian blue.


This is a rather bland study. The sparkle of the duotone paint doesn’t come across in the above photo, nor does it show in real life. Perhaps I’ll hold this study aside until I can think of how to improve it. A couple of thoughts: include more detail; add objects that cast shadows; look at more pulp sci-fi magazine covers for inspiration.

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