By the Numbers

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I have another photo of the ladybug from a few posts ago. My friend Liz told me that ladybugs are called ladybirds in England. I like that better, so that’s what I will call the subject of today’s watercolor.

Photo: Ladybird on Fuzzy Plant



In some of my previous watercolors, I started the process with a brief sketch. Today I did a detailed sketch, a kind of topographic map, with the lines surrounding areas of the same color or tonal value. As a kid, I remember seeing these paint-by-the-numbers kits of famous artwork. They actually looked pretty good, on the cover of the box in which it came. I built my own paint-by-the numbers ladybird masterpiece for today’s experiment.


Here is my detailed ladybird sketch:

Sketch: Ladbird

I had a little trouble deciding the appropriate colors to use on my map.

This is the result of my first go-round with coloring inside the lines:

Watercolor: Step 1 Ladybird by the Numbers

I found that I had to do a lot more manipulation of colors and shading than I would normally have to do with a less detailed sketch. Perhaps I should have made my topographic map even more detailed.

I mentioned yesterday that I use transparent washes to try unifying areas of different colors. Today I used a lemon yellow wash and several transparent red washes in an attempt to do this very thing. I couldn’t get it just right. All the washes dulled the body of the entire bug… I mean ‘lady’. In the end, I had to use white acrylic gouache to accent the most reflective areas of the carapace.

Here is the final result:

Watercolor: Ladybird on a Fuzzy Leaf

Ladybird on a Fuzzy Leaf
6″x6″ Watercolor Pad


Painting by the numbers isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I think I should stick to painting outside the lines.

7 thoughts on “By the Numbers

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