Process: One for sorrow…

Posted on Jan 5, 2015 in Art
Process: One for sorrow…

“One for sorrow…” is my latest watercolor painting. It’s been awhile since I worked with watercolor. It was nice getting back into them. I’d forgotten how much I like watercolor. I made sure to document each step so I could share it with you guys. Here goes:


“One for sorrow…” is my submission for The Crow Show: Homage to the Raven — an exhibition at The Stage Door in San Diego. It’s a juried show (I did not get in). After I heard about it I researched literature/written works to base the painting on (something to illustrate). A few things came up like Odin’s ravens and some Aesop’s fables. But I was more interested in an old counting rhyme (counting crows — who knew that was based on an actual thing?).



The next step was thumbnails. I started playing around with the counting crows idea. I narrowed down the concept and changed the composition around. I decided to focus on the first line of the rhyme. Going further than that started to complicate things and I was having trouble translating more lines into one image. I moved on to the sketch once I had a thumbnail I liked.


I refined the thumbnail in the sketch. This is the point I started adding detail and making any necessary changes. The direction of the crow flipped so that the tail was in the center — it creates a more interesting negative space. The sketch finalizes all the composition and drawing decisions so that I don’t have to worry about them while painting. Once the sketch was done I was ready to transfer it to the watercolor paper.

Value Study:

I did a value study. It’s a step I don’t always do but it is helpful. Once again, it’s another way to eliminate decisions prior to painting. I like using Photoshop for things like this because making changes is quick and easy. I can make each shape a separate layer and play with different values. After I had this I felt ready to move on to painting.


I wanted to do this painting in watercolor. It’s been awhile since I used mine. I saturated the paper and taped it down to a board (the smell of wet watercolor paper is gross). Kind of a low-fi way of stretching the paper. I didn’t have any gum tape and I didn’t want to staple it down. Blue painters tape isn’t really strong enough to stop the paper from buckling. But it’s better than nothing. It definitely held up for my purposes.


Getting deeper colors with transparent watercolor requires a lot of layers. Near the end I did use gouache for the darkest and lightest areas. I used four brushes: 1″ flat, 1″ mop, medium round, and a small round. There was some sponging and a little salt for texture on the statue. I also used colored pencils for detail and to give the sky more color variation.


It was really fun to work on this painting even though it didn’t get into the show. I love birds, I found the counting rhyme fascinating, and I got a chance to work with my watercolors again. Also, it’s a finished piece I can put into the portfolio. There are a lot more projects on the horizon. I’ll make sure to document the process and post them here.


  1. Patric Stillman
    January 24, 2015

    Danielle, just wanted to say that your work is stunning. The Studio Door is so pleased that you submitted your work. I know the exhibition juror had a difficult time selecting from over 360 submissions. You are an amazing talent. Keep living art.

  2. Danielle Toomer
    February 3, 2015

    Thank you. I had a great time painting it! And thanks for letting me know about the show.

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