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Monday, August 5, 2019

Monday Morning Art School: basic protocol for painting in watercolor

An efficient plan for fast plein air painting in watercolors.
Surf at Marshall Point, by Carol L. Douglas
Last week I gave you a basic primer for oil painting in the field. This week, I've done the same for watercolor.

1. Set up your paint box/palette with pigments arranged in a rainbow pattern.

You don’t need as many colors as you think you do. But be sure to replace a color when you run out, not when you think you’ll next need it.

2. Do a value drawing of the scene in question, in your sketchbook.

Identifying a value structure at the beginning is the single most important thing a watercolor artist can do to make a strong painting.

Blueberry Barrens, by Carol L. Douglas
3. Crop your drawing, and identify and strengthen big shapes and movements.

If you start by filling in a little box, you only allow yourself one way to look at the composition. Instead, draw what interests you first, and then contemplate how it might best be boxed into a painting.
A watercolor value study. I sometimes do this in oils as well, when I'm a little concerned about my composition.
4. Do a monochrome value study, using a combination of burnt sienna and ultramarine to make a dark neutral.

This is where you solidify your choices of lights and darks. It’s a ‘practice swing’ for the final painting. I took a watercolor workshop from the incomparable Poppy Balser a few years ago and was chuffed to see that she teaches the same thing.

5. Transfer contour drawing to watercolor paper.

The more thinking you’ve done about placement and composition before you start, the less likely you are to obliterate your light passages.
Glade, by Carol L. Douglas
6. Apply Initial Washes

Using a large brush, start with the sky and work down. Allow lighter washes to bleed across spaces for darker objects and let the sky bleed into the sea, if applicable.

7. Add darks and definition

Work down from medium to smaller brushes, remembering to leave some white space showing.

8. Paint the Cast Shadows

The cast shadows should be transparent and colorful, not gray. 

3 comments:

Robert Kahler Landscape painting said...

Great sketch. Makes me feel like I'm at the ocean. I love hearing about different peoples working methods. Great advice.

Bruce McMillan said...

Surf at Marshall Point fabulous, brevity of the the brush magnificent, you distinctive style present, reminds me of you award winning oil at Brandywine last fall.

Carol Douglas said...

Thank you both!