click on image to enlarge
53 x 40 cm Watercolor 1900
Abbey of Montserrat
John Singer Sargent
|Fun indeed! Watercolor
is simple, versatile, and comparatively speaking a favorite to many
artists. Whether it be a preliminary sketch or a finished painting,
once you understand the basics of this medium and it's relatively minor
safety standards the possibilities with watercolor are almost endless.
Early in perfecting your skills with this medium
your first experience usually brings up two significant
questions. Why is my paper all curled up and wavy and how did my
painting get so muddy looking ? Your first question is explained
thoroughly on my page about cotton paper
preparation. Choice of paper and how it is prepared for your specific
painting is an important step to consider before starting.
Your most important judgment should be based on how wet
you believe your project will be. If you're not certain, consider using
Paper Stretcher" or the ZIPP
CLAMP . You could use 300lb paper or 100% rag museum board
but a well stretched 140 lb. rag paper will hold up to any torture
you dish out.
As for your puddle of mud that has left you scratching
your head. Fortunately, provided we are not talking about your entire
canvas (which you can throw out before anyone sees it) there is a
strong chance that you can get the color out. If you set your project
aside for a day or so to allow it to dry (or use a blow drier) you can
erase or sand it with 600 Paper. Now that we know how to fix the
problem, what do we do to prevent it from happening again?
Watercolor is manufactured as a suspension of pigment
with a binder usually some form of Gum Arabic. The binder ratio is
relatively low, only enough to hold the pigment to use as paint. At
this point all you have to add is water. Produced as a
paste in tubes
in dry cake pans
and more recently as
fine detail), in most cases and especially with watercolor a little
bit of pigment goes a long way.
The more water you add, the lighter
and more transparent the color becomes. Here are the two areas that
could get you in trouble.
With a dry paper technique watercolor washes built up
on the canvas start to mix as the water lifts the color previously put
down . This is caused by using too much water with your washes and
overworking the canvas. Sometimes with pigments less is more. Try to plan your composition
out more, thinking of how to use your layers of color more
- With wet on wet techniques your diluted paint is applied heavy
to obtain the deep color you are trying to achieve. To carry
that paint you are putting more water on an already wet canvas.
Then all the water puddles up the colors wick into each other
turning everything to brown. Try dry brushing your pigment or
watercolor fixative between layers.. Keep in mind
that the drier the wash is the darker the color will be.
for your deeper colors is also an effective way to go. Gouache is a
mixture of Gum Arabic and pigment pretty much the same as watercolor
except the pigment ratio is higher and with the addition of calcium
carbonate (caulk) a heavier more opaque paint is produced. Keep in
mind however of it's working properties where water can dilute or
lift it from your canvas are just the same as watercolor. Since
watercolor is a dark on light medium Gouache is most effective in
the final stages of your painting in areas where coverage is a more
Watercolor is most
effective and inspiring with light transparencies utilizing the white
of the paper and surface texture. The textured appearance in a
watercolor painting is created by artistry and optic allusion. For me precise
detail can only be affectively achieved on a dry canvas. It is for this
reason that I do not use the wet on wet method.
For your initial drawing, you can use a faint out line
in graphite that could be erased or painted over. This can be a
critical decision since your eraser could remove some of your color
after painted if you decide to erase it.
Renaissance masters used it as the first layer (under
painting) of an oil painting to assist with tonal values in their
work. An ordinary graphite pencil is best used for this under
watercolor since water-soluble graphite pencils will break down with
any water it comes in contact with, yielding unsatisfactory results.
| In contrast to a B
& W painting, when using graphite pencils in under drawings you
only place light emphasis on the tonal qualities. Drawing in low contrast should be
enough to provide strong outlines for your composition when it is to be
pencils are a tremendous advantage to the artist. When used affectively they can help
you to complete immeasurable amounts of intricate detail or assist you
with limiting the quantities of pigment you put on canvas. Color is
placed exactly where you want it and while controlling the amount of
water or medium used on canvas you have more control of your color.
Another advantage is that excess color can be
removed or blended with an eraser at any given time on your project.
Therefore in areas where you may desire deep color, water need not be applied unless you feel the composition
click on image to enlarge
x 17 " "The
pencil on 140 lb paper
Some common watercolor techniques are:
liquid frisket is a good one to start
with. This substance allows you to block out areas preventing the paper from absorbing color. You simply paint masking in the
areas where no color is wanted, allow the material to set and you can
paint over it with any water base paint. Remove the dry frisket
by peeling or rubbing it off with a soft eraser. This material can also
be used over a previously painted area to avoid pulling up color
with your next layer.
Although it is considered a mixed
medium, colored pencil can also be used in what is know as the wax
resist method. Clear wax lightly drawn before or in between washes also
acts as a resist or mask, and helps to add texture much like a
Greg Conley did a great job explaining texture
techniques with watercolors on his website using salt, alcohol,
stamping, splattering, etc.. He covered enough ground that any comments I
were to make would be considered redundant.
Not including use of other materials, there are three
basic techniques to utilizing watercolor pencils, meaning specifically
how to apply them to your paper:
- The first would be to shade in an area with your
desired color. Then dip a clean wet brush in the same area to break
down the pigment and create a wash appearance. This stage is great
after masking your subject or lighter areas of your painting to create
a diffused dry brush background.
- Draw directly on the paper with your pencil roughly
blending your pigment on the paper. Then blend, move and/or dilute your
colors more by stroking your damp brush over the area drawn. Care must
be taken to consistently wipe your brush clean to prevent color
contamination on your paper.
- As a means for touch up or fine lines, dip your
pencil in clean water to soften the pigment and use this fine tip to
Fredrix Archival Pre-Stretched Watercolor Canvas
Links on Watercolor
Painting. Awesome Resource For Beginning Watercolor Artists. Full Of Full Color Illustrations.
Watercolorist, Mary Ann Boysen
How to Paint Watercolors by Greg Conley
Techniques and Tutorials
National Watercolor Society
Transparent Watercolor Society of
"The only time I feel alive is when I'm painting"
Vincent Van Gogh
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