Iím fortunate to have an excellent instructor from whom Iíve learned a lot a about watercolor. Iím hoping I can relay some of that knowledge to others.
I thought it would be fun to have a work along while I teach the way I love to paint in watercolor.
Any questions, comments, photos you have, please post to the May 2012 - Thread for Questions, Comments & Paintings. Ė May 2012 Class
I will be using wet-on-wet, negative, and wet-on-dry painting techniques. I donít use masking of any type.
I will show photos of the steps it takes in completing the painting. Although I try to be consistent in my photo editing, the coloration in each photo will look different. You will also see my many mistakes and how I attempt to correct them. At this writing I havenít finished my painting.
In the beginning, it will look as if weíll never get to paint. Please be patient, as the up front stuff is what sometimes makes or breaks a painting.
There are many good things about painting flowers. One is that you can make mistakes and it will not make a big difference as long as your painting says ďFlowerĒ.
One last comment before we begin. If youíre painting along, which I recommend, your painting will not look like mine. Each one will be different. Thatís part of the fun with watercolor.
Although the details of the leaves are more prominent in photo (b), I prefer the contrast between the white Petunia and the dark green background in photo (a). I will use both of them. If you look closely at the photos (although the image is not very clear when enlarged) you will see some yellow and violet.
In any painting, composition is high up on the list, 2nd only to value, as to what makes a good painting. It starts with your center of interest.
Center of Interest (COI): This is where your eye immediately goes when you look at a picture.
Is the reference photoís COI in one of the rule-of-thirds sections?
For those who donít know what this is - mentally divide your paper in thirds (like a tick-tack-toe graphic). Generally, the area around where the lines cross each other, is where your COI should be positioned. As you can see, in the photo below there are four (4) possible locations.
I donít really see a precise COI. That happens quite often. In this case, I see two areas,. My eye goes to the petunia center and to the darker area to itsí left. I donít want the petunia center as my COI. I prefer the area near the upper left crossing point and will need to add some dark value against the white flower. The COI is usually where the darkest value is abutted to the lightest value.
At first glance the photo seemed well composed, but when I started to draw the simple outline from the reference, I found that the white flower touched the right paper edge exactly in the middle. This is a composition no-no. This has been corrected in my drawing by lowering the place where the flower exits the paper. The left edge light-valued leaf placement looks correct, as it is not centered.
A general rule for composition is that all outside edges should be different lengths. When I look at my drawing, I see the top and both sides have their edges broken up at different lengths. The bottom is all one plane and will have to be broken up when I paint. In fact, I will need to watch all edges during the painting process.
Please note that I made only a general positioning drawing. It is my opinion that with a too detailed drawing, the painting gets a coloring book look. You lose freedom and get a tight painting. If you feel you need a more detailed drawing, do so by all means. If you are a beginner in negative painting, it will help in understanding the concepts.
Paper: Use the best quality watercolor paper that you can afford. I highly recommend cold press. Rough is great when you want to see a lot of texture. Hot press is okay for detailed painting. Each paper brand has its own way of taking the paint. Use one youíre comfortable with.
For this painting a quarter sheet (11x14) is a good size. I would not go smaller. Iím using a Lanaquarelle cold-press 12x16 block. There are both advantages and disadvantages in choosing a block over a sheet that I will get into as we go along.
Pictured are the brushes I tend to use a lot and will probably use them all in the project: A one-inch flat, a ĺ inch flat, a small, very pointed mop, a pointed round, a small round. I will get into the howís and whys as I use them.
Two (2) water containers: You will need that 2nd container of clean water available.
My painting color chart. These are the paints I use for all paintings. Donít go out and buy new paint. Check your tubes and find colors that seem to match mine.
Put out new paint. In this project I will use:
Winsor Blue (cool), Permanent Rose (cool), Permanent Sap Green (cool), Phalo Yellow Green (warm), Cadmium Yellow (warm), New Gamboge (warm), Cadmium Lemon (warm), Cerulean Blue (cool).
Winsor Blue and Permanent Rose make wonderful violets.
Majority of the time I paint with the paper flat on the table and will do so for this subject. When Iím putting in large washes, I stand. When I do small details or negative painting, I usually sit.
In many of my paintings I like to get the correct color and value in the initial wash. But, leaves and background usually take multiple washes. I start out with the lightest values.
What you see in photo 1 is the first background wash meant to carve out the white flower. This is negative painting on a large scale.
Note: I put a suggestion of the petunia center and got a hard edge. This is not what I intended and will deal with it later. You can put a very light value there just to suggest the center.
Have your paints ready. I put some fresh paint on the palette on top of what is already there.
I have variety of puddles ready:
Permanent Sap Green.
I mix a small amount violet (Winsor Blue and Permanent Rose) into the green, as Sap Green alone is too harsh a color. Phalo Yellow Green, Cadmium Lemon, New Gamboge, Cadmium Orange.
I started by using wet-on-wet.
REMEMBER: At this first step, if you keep your values light, you canít mess up your painting.
If youíre new to this, I encourage you to use a sample paper before going to the actual painting. I suggest drawing your petunia on two sheets using one as practice.
I used a one-inch flat brush. The 1-inch flat brush gives a wide wash. You can also use the edge and corners to give sharp lines and edges.
Wet the paper around all the large, white areas with CLEAN water. If you get into the white petunia area, let the paper dry and start in again. Your paper will be divided into two long, horizontal wet sections. The dry, white center area should extend out beyond the side edges. Sometimes when wetting the whole paper, a sheet is better than a block. The paper in a block is glued on all four sides and can buckle. A sheet will not buckle as much. A lot depends on how wet you make the paper.
Look at the wash at an angle to make sure that it is evenly wet with no dry spots. You might have to remove some areas where water is pooling by stroking your damp brush over the wet paper and blotting the brush on a towel. Do this until the entire wet area has the same degree of wetness.
Watch the shine. What do I mean by this? The wetted area should not be shiny, but have a dull wet look all over.
Once the paper has the desired shine, you need to paint immediately. Donít stop and talk to someone, or go somewhere. You donít have to paint fast, but you have to paint now.
If youíre using a sample paper:
Using the 1-inch-flat-brush, pick up a puddle (milk consistency) of a green and make ďONEĒ downward stroke on your sample paper.
If the paint spreads rapidly and fans way out in all directions, your paper is too wet.
If it does not spread at all, the paper is too dry.
You want the paint to spread slowly, but still hold its color value. Pay attention to how wet the paper looks as the paint spreads. This step is crucial Ė practice until you have confidence. It is a combination of the wet paper and how watery the paint is. The only way to know what is correct is to actually do it with different combinations of wetness in both your paint and your paper.
If you find your paper was too wet, let it dry some on its own some and try again. If you find your paper was too dry, let it dry completely, then start again.
Once the painted stroke looks correct, paint another stroke Ė a different color Ė NEAR the first, but not touching and WATCH them merge together.
Let the paint do its own thing Ė if you try to correct something, you end up with a muddy painting. One of the joys of watercolor is how the paints mix and mingle on their own creating beautiful color combinations.
Now your painting.
Use your 1-inch flat and pick up some milk consistency paint. Donít be stingy with your paint. Have a good puddle to draw from. Going from the top of paper down to almost where the wetness ends at the white flower shape, paint a vertical stroke. Use light values. We will darken later.
Dip the tip of your brush into water, then add some of a different green or yellow into the first green you used. Make sure you keep the milky consistency.
Make another stroke close to, but not touching, the first one. This stroke should merge on its own with the last one. Let the paint do its own thing. If your paint accidently touches the first painted area, donít worry; just continue along, again leaving the small unpainted area between strokes. Occasionally, you may want to leave a larger space between strokes. This will result in an area with a lighter value.
Continue with this routine changing your colors using different green combinations. Variety is a good thing! Try using violet on its own letting it merge next to a green. DO NOT MIX THE PAINT ON THE PAPER. ONCE YOU HAVE PAINTED A STROKE, LEAVE IT ALONE!
NOTE: If you are painting on a sheet and not a block, lift the painting and move it a little, wiping the table beneath the painting. Or, take a tissue and clean the edges where the paint has puddled up. If you donít, you are likely to get unsightly blossoms along the edges.
Let it dry. Know your paper. For instance, Lanaquralle dries without losing much value. Arches dries about 50% lighter.
One last step:
I decided that my background was too light and too dull. Compare photo (1) shown earlier, with photo (2) below.
This time I painted wet-on-dry. Again, I used the 1-inch flat and the same colors as above in the first wash but mostly the greens. I did the top half first.
Donít be stingy with your paint.
Mix a large puddle of milky consistency greens. Start from the top and stroke down to the white flower. Pick up a different color and repeat Ė BUT THIS TIME Ė just touch the first wash and stroke down without lifting the brush. The two colors will blend.
If it seems that you are running out of paint, you didnít load the brush with enough paint, or your paint was too thick.
Repeat across the top with different greens.
When done with the top, mix a heavy cream consistency of dark purple. Using a small, round brush filled with the purple, just kiss the brush tip to a painted green area. Slowly move the tip over the top of the wet green in a curvy motion over a small area. Some purple will flow into the green. DO NOT MIX - LET IT FLOAT ON ITS OWN. Lift the brush, add more paint and do this in a couple of more areas.
You might want to try this: Mix up a cream consistency puddle of Cerulean Blue and do the same as above. Cerulean Blue works wonders when a little is floated on wet paint. Cadmium orange does the same. Remember, donít over do and DO NOT MIX. DO NOT FIDDLE.
One other thing you can do at this stage is to sprinkle water or a little salt on the wet paint in a small area. Again moderation. DO NOT TOUCH THE PAPER. My painting shows a few blossoms (paint back-runs that occur when there is a different degree of wetness on the paper). They developed as the paper dried. I love seeing these things happen and itís one reason why I love watercolor. Blossoms are great in foliage and some buildings as they add interest and variety to the painting. Again moderation. Blossoms donít usually work in skies or water.
When done with the top, finish the bottom in the same way.
Thatís it for this week.
Please post any comments, questions and your paintings in the Homework Thread.
I will try to answer any questions you may have there.