Woman with Serpent- Step by Step with Ian Robert McKown


  • I was reminded that I had to pick this piece up from Landlocked show at Kaze Gallery here in Denver, and thought that I had taken enough in-progress pics to do a mini “how to” on this piece.  here it is!


  • Step one was to begin with an idea.  this piece was actually dictated by the size and shape of the frame I’d been given as a gift a couple years prior. I believe it was some sort of coffee-table dish with a mirrored surface.  I liked the frame and decided that if i removed enough of the mirrored backing I could have a bit of a ghostly and “antique” look for anything I would put behind it.  It was easy enough to take a few new flat razors and scrape away the parts I wanted to remove, and then clean the glass with a bit of turpentine.


  • The next step was to tailor a design to fit the frame. This meant a vertical and oval composition.  I had been drawing quite a few “fancy ladies” and this seemed to work for the space.  Beyond that, this painting was for a show that was featuring art from many of Colorado’s tattooers.  So even though much of my work is quite a bit more “painterly”, I figured I’d tailor this to be a bit more tattoo-esque.
  • If I’m not mistaken I had intended on including possibly the Serpent’s head on the top of the composition of perhaps a third rose.  but as the drawing progressed this seem to work well for my needs.  This stage was done with prismacolor’s Carmine Red pencils on Canson tracing paper.  I beliee in a more “sketchy” approcach, so if you lok you can see how many elements were sketched several times over before I decided on the final shaped.  The darker areas were where I was going in to the piece to try and solidify the major lines.


  • Although this picture doesn’t qualify as a step, it shows me testing how the layout will work within the frame.  Apparently it was taken with an Instagram filter (apologies)


  • Fast forward a bit.  Oce I was satisfied with the overall design and size I made a photo copy and brought it home to tranfer onto some  Crescent 110lb cold-pressed illustration board.  before transferring the image i took the time to do a light wash of burnt umber liquid acrylics on the board (made by J.W. Rowley). while that dried i lightly charcoaled the back of the photocopied drawing and with a pen, lightly traced the major lines onto the illustration board.  Then I inked in all the lines using a brush-tip Pentel marker or pen.


  • Next, I began coloring the piece using different strength of diluted washed.  I used a cool grey, earth green and burnt umber.  I worked each color separately until each part was the right values and worked well with the rest of the piece.  Although this was more of an illustrative piece, I kept the light source coming from the same direction (for the most part). Before adding the color I did so some under shadowing with a diluted drawing ink in the hair and a bit here and there to reinforce the darkest areas.


  • At this point I used a drawing black ink (Talens) to strengthen the darks along with some soft-bodied acrylic red to color in the blood and some soft-bodied white to make the highlights pop.  I went back over any of the linework that had lost its strength  with the same brush-tip pen.


  • This last pic shows the finished product right before I cut the board.  I made a small “washed” with foam core that went between the frame and the painting to give a bit more depth to the final product.

Thanks for looking!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s