Unicorns have had a long history in mythology; with what started out as attempting to catalogue creatures from far off distant lands, later turning to something with a more magical quality. Notoriously difficult to catch, they could once only be lured in by virgins; now they’re everywhere and everyone’s friend. It’s a great thing to know that unicorns have finally decided to share their magical qualities with the rest of us, even becoming vengeful when called upon.
So yes, unicorns have been around a long ol’ while. And as with any story, like Chinese Whispers, the details get warped from time to time. I like to question and play with what is understood about this creature: why is it still white if its qualities are not so pure anymore? What would happen if rainbows came out of its mouth instead of its butt?
As I form ideas about what I want my unicorn to look like, I start practising drawing horses. Horses are notoriously difficult and after the first few wonky horses, I’d wonder why this was a good idea… Despite this, my way of tackling challenging shapes is to draw them over and over and over again, so that each time, my hand to eye co-ordination comes to understand the shape and weight of a horse; the power, the gesture, the lines I need to communicate ‘horse’ to any viewer.
Once I eventually find the shape I like, I’ll trace it onto my watercolour paper, ink it up and head on in with paint. Before I even touch the main image with paint, I’ll always have a test sheet nearby or use the corner to make sure I’m mixing my colours correctly. You can see some of my tests with the rainbow effect for a rainbow breathing unicorn.
Once I’m ready to go, I usually try to paint it in one sitting. Watercolours can be quite unforgiving and personally, I find it works best if I work quickly, to make sure I’m happy with laying my paint down with different tones and blends before everything gets a chance to dry out. I know other painters have a slower approach but this is the one that I find suits me.
There’s a lot of grey in the final unicorn, as you’ll see below. One of the things I love about paint is that it allows me to only work with three paint colours: red, yellow and blue (in warm or cool palettes). The grey, believe it or not, is made by just the right blend of red, yellow and blue. No black, no grey, no white. Amazing huh?
Maybe in a future blog post, I’ll talk about the magic of grey…
But for now, here is a bad-ass rainbow breathing unicorn: