Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Watercolor Tips

Copyright, Jim Lane
Fenced In, 2017, Jim Lane
As I unpacked from vacation a few days ago, I came upon the watercolors I completed during two weeks of classes aboard the Queen Mary 2 in crossing the Atlantic. So, while all that is fresh in my aging mind, I thought it might be good to delve into watercolor painting from a fairly technical standpoint. In the past I've covered watercolors in general, painting tips across three mediums; watercolor portraits; and numerous outstanding artists, most recently the large-scale watercolors of the British painter Alexander Creswell. This is not the time or place to try teaching a watercolor class, even for beginners. Thus today's discourse deals in little quick and easy tips which might prove helpful to watercolorist at all levels of experience.
Watercolor terms and what they mean--

Flat Wash                   is a solid color from the top to the bottom of a given area.

Graded Wash             a gradual change in value or hue over a given area (as in a sky).

Wet-in-Wet                 applying color to a wet or previously colored surface.

Dry Brush                  is a texturing or detailing technique in which  the brush is only slightly
                                   wet, thus applying the color by allowing  the paper texture to "grab" the
                                   color. It's best used for rocky or pebbly areas or effects.
Lifting Wet                 is the use of an absorbent material or dry brush to lift water and color
                                   from the paper, usually as a means of correcting errors.
Watercolor Glazing   is the layering of colors one upon the other without appreciably
                                   disturbing the colors below. It's primarily used  midway through
                                   the painting and from there to the completion of detailing.
Using Salt                  is a tricky texturing technique not recommended for beginners except
                                   on an experimental basis.
Splattering                is a texturing technique using the color on a toothbrush then running
                                  the thumb over the bristles allowing them to splatter the color over an
                                  area. Use sparingly, if at all.
Back Wash               creating small dots of color (by whatever means) on a wet area,
                                  allowing them to bleed into the existing wash. It's sometimes used to
                                  create fields of flowers.
Alcohol                      Since alcohol and water don't mix, splattering it into a wet, colored
                                  area creates small blotches of white as it repels both water and any
                                  suspended color. It's roughly the reverse of the previous technique.
Tissue paper can also be used for removing paint from
a wet flat wash such as seen in step one.
Tissue Paper             is used in wadded form for picking up color in damp (but not wet)
                                   areas to create rocky textures or a texture for later overpainting with
Masking Fluid            is used for keeping the white of the paper in difficult areas, so that
                                   paint can be freely applied without destroying the whiteness. It is to be
                                   used only on dry paper and must itself be dry before painting begins.
                                   It's a latex substance and wipes away with a finger massage before
                                   detailing begins.
Intensity Scale          is a means of choosing complementary colors (opposites on a color
                                   wheel) to mix as a means of creating interesting grays and blacks.
                                   Experiment first.
Digital Images           using and solving computer software to enhance source photos while
                                   at the same time solving compositional or color problems before
                                   starting the watercolor.
Blow Dryer                 is a means of speeding the drying time of damp (never wet) areas. It
                                    should never move applied colors.
Color Harmony          hue (as on the color wheel), value (shades and tints), and saturation
                                    (intensity) pleasingly organized to create an overall, unified color
                                    effect as seen in Santorini Sunset (below)--important, but quite
Composition               is the linear, textural, color,  and subject content organized in such a
                                     way as to lead the eye of the viewer to a given focal point (below) as
                                    an introduction to the image as a whole. This starts with the first line
                                    and ends with the last stroke.
Copyright, Jim Lane
Watercolors, week two.
   1. Start with a portable set of pan paints. Watercolor paint comes in three different forms: liquid, tube, and pan. You can start with any kind, but sets of pan paints are compact, portable, and offer an array of easily accessible colors.
   2. Use just three or four good brushes and take care of them. Watercolor brushes have long, soft, fibers made specifically to move a watery paint around. The best ones are of natural animal hair, but a good synthetic brush is much less expensive. Only one or two large flat brushes are needed applying a wash; and one or two different-sized round brushes for details. Tiny brushes are prone to be overused and are best reserved for signing the painting. Clean the brushes thoroughly with running water, a paper towel, or a rag. Reshape the tip then store them upright on their handles or lying flat so they don't get splayed.
   3. Use a watercolor paper of medium thickness, usually about 140-pound Weight. Heavier paper (up to 300-pound weight) can take a lot of water (and abuse) without buckling. Thinner papers need to be stretched depending on the amount of water used. Watercolor paper is available in individual sheets, pads, or pre-stretched blocks (a pad bound of four sides). As each painting is finished, it may be cut free and a new one begun (my own preference).
   4. Plan your composition with a very light drawing to delineate highlights and details. Classic watercolor is painted transparently from light to dark, leaving the white of the paper as your lightest areas. Careful planning will allow such areas to be painted around. Masking fluid also preserves light area for later detailing, but should be used sparingly. Artists' masking tape can sometimes be used to preserve areas you want to leave white for later painting.
  5. Always mix more paint than you think you will need. Mixing only a little bit and then having to do so repeatedly can be frustrating when drying time becomes critical as in dealing with washes. Trying to replicate an exact color made earlier is likewise frustrating.
  6. Test your colors on blank paper before painting. Paint on your palette will dry lighter on paper than it appears when wet. Try to avoid the "surprise factor."
  7. Use large containers of clean water to wash out brushes between colors. Water that is dark and murky, will "muddy" colors and turn their whole painting brown. Some artists use two containers of water, one to clean the brushes, and a smaller one to wet the brushes before applying color.
  8. Don't overmix your colors. Another way to avoid muddy colors is to avoid mixing several colors together. Try to avoid mixing more than two colors together at once. Layering colors on the painting surface (wet-on-dry), or adding another color to an already damp surface (wet-into-wet) further limits the chance of muddy colors.
  9. Don't try to make a watercolor painting look like one in oils or acrylics. Watercolor is a transparent, luminous medium.
  10. Don't overwork the painting. Among the greatest strengths of watercolor is its complexity of color created by layers of transparent color. Light travels through the layers of paint and reflects off the white of the paper. Keep a light touch. Watercolor painting is a constant battle for control of the paint by using less water on your brush; and for more transparency but greater unpredictability, by using more water.
  11. Don't worry about making mistakes. Most mistakes in watercolor can be fixed or somewhat mitigated. One of the most important watercolor skills is learning all the ways and means of fixing mistakes you can't tolerate. Color may be blotted with a damp or dry tissue, paper towel, or clean, damp brush, Remember, there are three ways to lighten an area, use more water (flooding), or less paint (scrubbing), or spread both over a larger area (more paper). If you should accidentally ruin the painting, remember also that it in only a watercolor which can easily be done over from scratch. Watercolor is water-soluble. It remains workable with just a tiny bit of water even after dry.


No comments:

Post a Comment