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Famous Painting Study #2: Homer’s Sponge Diver

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Step 1: A Painting Study And A Sketch


Like the Monet painting study, Bill copies this painting to learn more about color relationships, human anatomy, and value. In lieu of this, he chooses Homer’s The Sponge Diver for its vibrant colors and unusual subject.

As usual, Bill softens his paints by spraying them with water to make them easier to pick up when painting. He then tapes off the same size of the printed image on his watercolor paper via artist’s tape, as he plans to reproduce the image at a 1:1 ratio. The white border also creates a clean edge for any future framing purposes.

After printing and analyzing the reference photo, you can start sketching, beginning from the largest objects to the smallest. Bill shows how to divide the image into 3 “bands” of information, and pencils in the horizon line first. Then, he marks off where the diver’s head is, working slowly to get the proportions right. The boat is also drawn in reference to the head’s position. Try your best to get the subtle curves right!

Focus on the diver’s anatomy next, and lightly outline the body’s position before defining the musculature. To do this, pencil in the larger shadows that emphasize muscle tone. Keep your guidelines simple and clear! Take care in the area where the body is submerged, as water refracts light and will distort the lines a little. Lastly, add the sea sponge, land mass, and oar, and some clouds if you need.

Below is a close-up of Bill’s sketch: