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When I was in college I did a series of opera posters for a class assignment. I had these grandiose visions of how they would turn out and every single one failed spectacularly. It was very discouraging.

Aida was one of those operas I painted. Probably because at the time I was obsessed with Leo and Diane Dillon and I had just gotten my hands on their illustrated version of Aida. So really, I was setting myself up for failure.

So when I couldn't sleep the other night, I started scrolling through my inspiration files and thought "I should do a little Aida portrait." Or something like that. It was like, 2 o'clock in the morning, and I hadn't slept the night before either, so I'm not sure what the "thought process" was or if there really was one. It might have been something more along the lines of, "oh, pretty! Paint that!"

The only thing I know I was trying to do on purpose was her expression.

The underdrawing in indigo Col-erase pencil and the first layers of black colored pencil.

I was experimenting with doing some of the darks in the black colored pencil along with the line drawing.

It threw me at first. Maybe because I was sleep deprived. I had to fight the desire to go in and try and render everything. What was I classifying as "darks"? The darkest shadows? Did her hair count? Would the watercolor lift up the pencil and make the colors muddy? Fortunately, I was sleep deprived and was able to filter out the inner critic and just do it.

Hot press watercolor paper does not behave like cold press watercolor paper. I mean, that's obvious. But I've been painting for a loooong time on cold press and it takes some concentration to switch that though process over. Fortunately, I was sleep deprived - oh, I already said that? Right. Anyway, I did a ghost wash and painting wet into wet was the way to go for getting the shading on her skin to transition smoothly.

Am I going into too much detail?

I could have pushed the value of her skin tone, but I was liking where it was going and didn't want to ruin it by overworking it.

Lastly I went back in with the colored pencil and beefed up some of the linework and shading.

The final Aida painting, watercolor and pencil on hotpress paper

And that's the final! I'm prepping the piece to sell, so if you're interested in purchasing this one, I'm going to announce it first on Instagram before putting it up in my online shop.

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