Monday, April 26, 2010

Playing In Puddles - Let It Flow!

My Watercolour tip of the week is to just let it flow. When you want a smooth, seamless expanse of paint, as in a peaceful sky, one of the ways I like to use to get that effect is the Wet-In-Wet technique. First, you need to decide where you want the colour to go, and then get the paper in that area quite wet. Then make a puddle of the colour you want to use (see, I said this was playing in puddles!). Charge your brush -make sure it is one that holds a lot of colour, and drop the wet colour onto the wet paper. Do this several times until you have fluid puddles of colour across the paper, then put you brush down and gently start moving your paper around to make the colour puddles flow. Eventually, the colour will flow across the whole of the wet area. You will likely still have puddles of colour gathering in places, so the last step (if doing a sky) is to turn the paper upside down and let the excess colour flow to the bottom. It helps give you the lighter horizon line you may want, and when the colour pools along the bottom of the paper, you can wick it away with a large brush, leaving a smooth, unbroken sky. If you want to add some interest to the expanse, wait until the surface looks shiny, but not soaked, and gently blot some colour away with tissue. This technique can used in areas other than skies, you just have to be a bit careful to not let the puddles overflow onto areas where you don't want them.
So get your puddles ready and start having some fun!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Playing in Puddles - Light

Light brings a painting to life, and there are several ways to achieve this. Just a few ways to do this are to put in shadows, to use contrast, and to vary the intensity and hue of your washes. The amount of water used in your washes as well as the number of washes applied, will dictate the intensity of the look when it dries. This takes a little practise, but it's worth trying.
Today's painting, BLUEBELL WOOD, uses all three things to bring it to life and add depth. You can see the glow in the sky. This is one of my quick, one day paintings of a place near where I live that I find especially beautiful. For a few days or a few weeks in early Spring, depending on the weather, this wooded area is carpeted in English Bluebells, and I look forward to it every year. This scene will be used in larger paintings, as background to dogs, maybe horses, and definitely in a Fantasy painting.
BLUEBELL WOOD is a 5 x 7 watercolour and is available matted for $95.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Playing In Puddles . . .Paper

I wasn't going to Play in Puddles until next week, but a look at the calendar convinced me to post this now while I have a chance.
Last time, I referred to watercolour "board", so lest there be some misunderstanding, I will explain my use of the term. Watercolour paper and Illustration board are two very different things. Illustration board is excellent for graphic artists and designers. It will accept gouache, acrylic, graphite, ink, and to some degree, even watercolour, although it can make washes difficult and it can be hard to build up layers of colour, but this board usually has a very slick surface and often is not acid free. It is not something that I use for my watercolour paintings.
Watercolour paper on the other hand, is made expressly for watercolours, although it can be used for other purposes. It comes in different weights; 90lb, 140 lb, and 300lb are the most common. The 140lb is heavy, more like a light board than a paper, and the 300lb is definitely a board. Most professional watercolour painters use the 140 and/or the 300 because of its strength, versatility, and because unless you are going to soak your paper, you needn't stretch it or tape it down. I use a style that uses less water than normally used in traditional watercolours, so I have found there is no need for me to tape or stretch my paper.
My favourite paper/board is Arches Hot Press. I've talked about it before and I probably will again. This "paper" has no paper in it. Arches is 100% rag content and is acid free. It has been used with confidence by watercolourists for over 500 years, ever since it first appeared in 1492. It comes in COLD press, a paper with some texture, and this is the most popular choice. It also comes in ROUGH texture, something that appeals to artists who love the unexpected effects this board gives you. I like their HOT press best, a sheet that is very smooth, but not slick. This paper absorbs the colour well, allows for almost endless washes and build up of colour, allows great detail, and takes a lot of abuse.
I've tried a lot of different papers/boards, including one that uses an acid free paper laminated to a non-acid free hard backing. I've liked many of them and found them to be really good papers and many of them are the preferred choice of a lot of artists, but I've settled on Arches for all its great qualities and its reliability, and because I love the way the paint flows across the surface. Its one drawback is that the heavier weights are quite expensive, but quality is worth the price.
My little 8 x 10 watercolour "Encounter" was done on Arches Hot Press.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Playing in Puddles - Serendipty

Time to Play In Puddles again! I know, I've shown you "Brittany Autumn before, but today, I want to talk about Serendipity in watercolours, and this painting is a good example of that very thing.
I wanted the main focus of this painting to be the dog and the flowers, so the background had to be made to be less prominent. I wanted that full, woodsy look, but didn't want to do the woodland detail that would detract from the dog. So I used a wet-in-wet technique that relies a lot on serendipity.
You'll notice that I kept to an analgous palette for the background. That gave me the depths of greens and the green/gold light I wanted. First, I applied water to the background where I wanted the colour, let it dry to the correct degree of dampness, then began to drop wet splotches of colour into the wet board. By shifting the board around, some judicious lifting of colour, and dropping in more colour suspended in various amounts of water, the muted, textured background began to take shape. From there, it was a case of knowing what colours and how many layers to add and knowing when to stop. Sometimes serendipity strikes and you get lucky and love what has appeared, while other times, . . .well, you can always start over. Please join me next week when I have fun Playing In Puddles again.