A few weeks ago, I painted my Little Amabie. This mysterious character, to recap, is a legendary amulet in the form of a mermaid that emerged in the 1840s to protect Japanese citizens against the plague. Copying her image and sharing it is said to help ward the disease. With the onset of COVID more than a century later, the image of the Amabie naturally reemerged with popularity. More details are outlined in a previous blog Little Amabie if you like to know more. After having painted one with my Copic markers and colored pencils, I thought it would be an idea to do another one, this time in watercolor and gouache!
I began with a pencil sketch on a page from Strathmores’s Watercolor Sketchbook. Happy with the image from my last painting of Amabie, I drew a similar one. Of course, I made my Amabie in the form of Little One! Is the Amabie disguised as Little One or is Little One dressed as Amabie in a fancy costume? I’ll leave that to your imagination!
This time, I wanted to make the background more mysterious than the previous and hence opted for a darker one. A combination of dark blue and purple was used here. I went for some watercolor but seeing I wanted something intense, I chose Dr Ph Martin’s Hydrus Liquid Watercolors in Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Violet. Rather than mixing the two together, I merely added a few drops of the blue on the paper, spread it with a wet brush, let it dry then added few drops of the purple and spread it again. The result was that you could somehow see both colors rather than when merged to one.
Painting in Gouache
For the Amabie, I decided to paint her with gouache as I felt the colors. as compared to watercolor, would pop out more against the intense background. Gouache also has a chalky finish which is best suited to the pastel shades I was seeking for too. Holbein’s Acryla gouache was used here in a variety of shades including Lemon Yellow, Pale Pink, Pale Lilac and Pale Mint for the hair and scales. For the eyes, though, I went for Aqua Green and continued with that shade for the bottom part of her along with the Light Blue I had used for the fins. The skin, however was painted in watercolor using Winston & Newton’s pans. Look how Amabie stands out!
Adding Some Details
Not done yet! I felt a bit more could be added to finish the painting off. First I used white gel pen for the tiny dots in the Amabie’s fins and the doodles in the background near her head. Another wonderful medium that works very well with watercolor is Ecoline Ink. Here I went for the markers, first the grey for the eyelashes then purple for the little doodles on the bottom part of the background. The whites of the eyes were then filled in with some white Uni Posca marker. And now here we have it, another kawaii Amabie!
What a sweet little Amabie she turned out to be! The original legendary one is not as cute but many of the animated ones you see in Japan have a kawaii twist to them to appeal more to the public. Working with a combination of watercolor and gouache is also so much fun, providing stunning results if you’re looking for a range of intensities; watercolor gives a more subtle transparent feel while gouache is more matte and intense. And I’m really getting into this painting Amabie. Perhaps I’ll try another version of her in another medium. That will be so much fun!