Lesson 1 - Puddles of Paint
You have your paints, your palette, brushes, and if you are like I was you are probably itching to produce a masterpiece or at least a full painting.
I remember my first watercolour landscape paintings, very clearly like they were last year.
(One of the things i love about painting is you spend so long in that one spot that you never forget it.)
I Jumped in the car and drove to a local beauty spot: a forest, parked and sat in the car, with my paper in front of me looking out the windscreen.
I remember the overwhelming amount of detail, my god there were so many leaves on those trees, how could i paint all that? and i remember the terrible painting I produced ; so dissapointing! – and I knew not why!
Sure go ahead, do a few , as many as you like, but if it sucks don’t worry, there is a lot you can/need to learn.
At some point you will probably want to come back to the beginning and start from scratch.
You cannot run before you can walk, right?
Here I will explain the basics hopefully leaving nothing out.
Lancashire's Trough of Bowland
Swatches of colour
This is a good place to start.
IT’S ALL ABOUT PUDDLES!
A swatch is a small test of colour on a scrap of watercolour paper to see how the pigments will look having been diluted with water or when two or three different colours are mixed together.
I could never understand why my swatches were always so beautiful, so bright and full of life and yet my paintings were not.
Then I realised this is how the paint should be applied in a painting –
NO DABBING WITH THE TIP!
A painting should be built up of small or large, thin or thick swatches of colour that allow the pigments to float together, producing a bright translucent swatch of colour in which you can see the pigment settle delicately within the texture of the paper .
When mixing watercolour pigment with water there are 4 main points to consider:
- The size of brush – As large as possible.
- Which colour/s you will mix.
- The consistency of the mix – Thin or thick, creamy or watery, coffee or tea.
- The timing – To blend into an existing wet/damp wash or to glaze over o dry wash.
These 4 skills will become second nature as you practise.
Now Practise and practise and practise!
Making a Puddle of Creamy Coffee Consistency,
- Grap an A4 piece of 140lb paper there is no need to stretch it for this excersize.
- I always have two water pots, one for rinsing the brush and one for using to mix the paint.
- If your paints have been squeezed into your palette for a while or you are using ‘PANS’ they are probably hard, so give them a quick spray with water. If they are freshly out of the tube be carefull not to take too much paint with your brush, a tiny amount goes a long way.
- In Watercolour painting you should always use as few brush strokes as possible. Therefore always use the biggest brush you can get away with to avoid dabbing with the tip.
- Take a number 6 sable or similar and submerge the bristles in clean water.
- Now rub the brush gently in a pigment so that it becomes a creamy coffee consistency, transfer this creamy paint onto a ‘well’ of the palette,
- Its a good habit to always rinse your brush and then take clean water again, so as not to contaminate your mixing water.
- Take your clean brush laden with water and mix it with your creamy pigment in the ‘well’ so that it dilutes the cream to a ‘coffee’ like consistency.
- Now do not wash your brush in water but make sure it is completely loaded with paint.
- Put your brush to the paper and make a small puddle on the paper.
- Let it sit there until the paper absorbs it and begins to dry.
The Drying Stages
- The paper will begin to slowly absorb the pigment.
- You will notice that just before it dries, when it is almost dry, if you hold the paper up to the light you will see it still has a SHEEN this is very important in watercolour. At this stage with care it is still possible to manipulate the pigment.
- You will probably notice that colour diminishes and becomes lighter as it dries. This is a factor that has to be taken into consideration during painting that you must always mix a stronger colour than you want for the end result.
Mix Two Swatches
I have made thousands of swatches i still make swatches everytime i paint. It’s like learning a language, the colour combinations, the drying stages the mixing, the consistency ; if you dont paint often you beging to forget it all. The more you do it the more you learn and the more fluent you become.
- This time make a swatch with one colour. (The one on the left I made with French Ultramarine Blue and Crimson Alizarin.)
- before it dries make a second puddle next to the first and allow them to blend together just in the middle.
- This is when the magical beauty of watercolour happens, watch them mix together and take on a life of their own.
- Take a simple subject.
- sketch it out.
- fill out the various areas with swatches of colour.
- Keep Your Colours Clean!
- Keep washing your brush
- Don’t mix colour from one source of paint into another, only mix in the large palette wells or better still on the paper.