The ear. Probably the most commonly neglected sensory organ in painting which is located in the human face. While many artists like to paint the human eye and mouth, the ear is not quite as attractive. The auricle with its curvatures casts a lot of shadows, which have to be replicated in a realistic looking piece of art. Below you will learn how to paint an ear in watercolour representing the most important external parts of our auditory organ. This requires only a minimal selection of colors and little material.
List of materials to paint an ear
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Cadmium red
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Yellow ochre
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Ultramarine blue
- Winsor & Newton Cotman Burnt Umber
- HB Pencil
- Medium and fine watercolor brush
- Watercolor paper
Step 1: The sketch of the ear
Copy the auricle to the screen. The more accurately you draw the preliminary drawing, the more confident you can be in your final work. Mark at least the most important points in order to have some orientation.
If you want to work completely free, you can also work without a sketch. Be aware that in this case the result will most likely not be as realistic as it could be.
You can also use tracing paper to transfer the reference image onto your painting paper. Draw the main lines of the pattern on the tracing paper. Then place the tracing paper on the drawing paper and trace the lines with a pencil.
How we did it: In our case, we didn’t draw a very elaborate preliminary sketch.
The large curvatures of the outer ear were drawn with the HB pencil, but the exact details are left to the imagination and the flow of the water.
Step 2: How to paint an ear in watercolor – Prepare the colors
Look at your reference image to determine all the tones you will need for your subject. If you want to paint an ear, you should also consider other areas surrounding the ear. Consider the skin, hair, and shades of the chin if you want to integrate the ear into a portrait.
Then, mix several shades of color to create a midtone, accent and shadow.
How to use it: We used a mixture of cadmium red, yellow ochre and cerulean blue (or ultramarine) as a base. Burnt Umber is added for the darker accents to darken the skin tones.
Step 3: First layer and determining highlight areas
Apply the first layer of skin color. This layer acts as a base coat, which will only rise to the surface in a few spots later.
Nevertheless, it is essential to ensure the skin color is consistent.
Step 4: Layering colors to create depth
Watercolor painting means to perfect the technique of layering. To bring dimensionality into your artwork and paint an ear that looks realistic you need to lay several layers of paint on top of each other. Each layer uses a little less water and a little more paint in the mixture.
To blend the edge and make the contours less visible you can fuse several areas together by applying a glaze with an extremely high water content and little paint in it.
Application: Layer by layer, the application of paint becomes more intense by adding less water to the mixture.
For darker layers we add more cadmium red and cerulean blue to create a more intense, shaded brown. For heavily darkened areas it is smart to add burnt umber.
Step 5: Set highlights in the brighter spots
The final steps when you want to learn how to paint an ear in watercolor include the deepening of the darker areas. The areas of the ear that lie in the shadow or simply are deeper in the auricle must be repainted with darker colour. This is the only way to effectively accentuate the contrasts after the paint has dried.
Intensify the shadows behind the ear to emphasize the distance to the face. In this step you can also carefully repaint some areas with light shades. Be careful not to make the color muddy by using to much pigment.