Colored Ground

I based my painting off of a photograph and chose a fairly light color that I saw in the water portion of the picture. I mixed my own hue from some acrylic paints and watered down the mixture a bit to paint a wash. I think I made the paint too wet since it warped the paper a bit (it's 90# watercolor paper). The warping decreased as I progressed through later steps.

Sketch

I lightly sketched the basic outlines of the dolphin's shape and main features.

Paint

I did my best to work fairly quickly before my paints dried. First I laid out the darkest values, then the mid-tones and lighter tones, and finally the highlights. I was amazed at how effectively the highlights brought the piece to life. In retrospect think I could have done more to adjust the dark blue-green area in the upper right portion of the piece. As my first practice piece, though, it turned out better than I expected.

Digital Paint Over

Used ArtRage to sketch out some changes I'd like to make to the actual painting. I added purple hues to the water and darkened the water toward the bottom to create depth. Then I added gray tones to the dolphin's belly and light orange and yellow tones in highlighted areas.

Edit Of Digital Sketch

Tried adding a bit of orange accents and darkened the water on the far left and right to frame the piece. These digital markings are just rough estimates of how I want to apply the paint. I removed the gray on the belly because it didn't seem necessary. I think I'm satisfied now and ready to make these changes to my actual painting.

Final Paint

I did another session of painting with acrylics and managed to reproduce the digital colors fairly well. I even managed to smooth out the texture of the dolphin's skin a little. There are still things that I could improve about this painting (I especially didn't like how the highlights on the water turned out). I think I have learned some good lessons with this practice piece, and I am ready to move on to a new project.