I make no apologies for painting yet another watercolour of the same image of my step-daughter, Ruth. Inexplicably, this particular image fascinates me and I may still do one final, very loose version. For art to work, it’s important to do what satisfies you and to keep doing it – not what other people expect or what may sell – you have to do your own thing because that is your unique voice.
Watercolour is often thought of as a light, delicate medium. Used correctly, however, it has wonderful, intense depth. In this painting I took my cue from an exercise I did in negative painting. I built up numerous layers, using the most transparent colours from a fairly limited pallet:
- Quinacridone Gold
- Burnt Sienna
- Alizarin Crimson
- Phthalo Blue
- Ultramarine Blue
Despite watercolour being a fast-drying medium, waiting for each thin layer to dry wasn’t easy. Still, it provided the opportunity to stand back from my work and view it from a distance in order to evaluate it. Turning a painting upside down, viewing it in the mirror or via a photograph are other ways to help seeing it through ‘fresh eyes’.
Fifty percent of my art is detailed thinking – sometimes days of repeatedly going over the process in my head before getting the paints out. That being said, once the painting begins, I don’t really know what I’m doing and have to put my trust in the paint…but that’s creating!.
For once I’ve uploaded a large image, but you’ll need to click on it about three times to get the largest version.
Where has the sun gone?
This Hydrangea sketch is my attempt to defy indications that the British summer has already bowed out. It’s still July and I’m not ready to put my sandals and sunglasses away just yet.
Based loosely on the principles of negative painting, I worked around the petals and leaves to define their shapes and bring them forward.
Transparent colours were used as several layers of increasingly deeper tone are required to develop the shapes.
For quick reference I use a Winsor & Newton chart of hand-painted professional waercolours which has proved invaluable to me. It not only clearly demonstrates what each colour looks like from intense to watery pale, but it also lists whether they are transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. It also saves me the bother of making my own chart.
It is important to allow the paint to dry properly between each glaze…something I’m particularly bad at.
I’ve left it so long that I’ve forgotten how to paint; my neglected paintbrushes stare accusingly at me and I fear my paints will putrefy.
To remedy this I searched for a simple painting exercise and Google did not disappoint. I chose a negative painting technique to try and capture something of the beautiful autumnal leaves before they disappear.
It was a surprise to find how much I enjoyed this technique, pushing the paint around without caring about the end result…it’s purely an exercise It is one that I’ll use in future.
A bonus was that it also gave my brain an unexpected (much needed) workout.
My talented friend Carol King did some much softer, prettier versions, which I wish I’d found before I started mine.
- Select three transparent colours and paint a light background wash using one or all.
- It is important to allow each layer to dry completely.
- When dry, draw some outline shapes of leaves (or whatever). Then, in the negative spaces only, paint another wash, preferably in a darker tone.
- Allow to dry completely. The idea is to suggest shapes by painting around them.
- Into these darker negative spaces, draw in additional shapes and continue with another wash into the negative spaces.
- Continue building up these layers until you ae satisfied with the picture.
- Try not to overwork it by losing some edges, softening with a water spray and facing towards the edges of the paper.
- For better definition I refined the shapes with pastels and ink.
You are very welcome.