Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Doing a wash - wet into wet

One of the things I like about watercolor is the soft look. It can be soft or it can be bold. Above you see where I am experimenting. I did the top image, painting the actual figures and not doing much with the background. I did add a few shadows underneath, but most of it is the image itself and then the finishing touches, the spattering.

Think of building watercolor in layers, working from the back forwards. First, the background goes in. The bottom Autumn image shows a wet into wet background. Next would be the word or the image being painted (after the background dries!) and last, the final touches, like spattering. So you have back, middle and front.

To do the background "wash", I worked "wet into wet". That means that I painted clean water in the areas where I wanted paint. Then I came back while it was still wet and added color. Often I will mix colors when working wet into wet, but here I wanted the background to remain simple. I want the word Autumn to be the star.

On the top word, you can see where I used two colors on the letter A. See how the golds and oranges mingled? It is much more interesting than one flat color.

Often people will complain about watercolor being hard to control. Working wet into wet, you do have control where the paint goes. The paint can only go where you put the water. Now, if you put too much water or if you mix the colors too much, you will lose control. Especially if the two colors are complementary colors on the color wheel. Mix those and you will have mud!

I also tell people that there are two things you need when painting with watercolor.....patience and a sense of urgency. Patience to allow things that need to dry, time to dry. A sense of urgency that when something needs to be done while wet, you have to do it while it is still wet!

Using a big brush is better here. If (and I did) I miss little spots around the word, it is OK. Once the whole thing is finished, that wash will fade into the background and hardly be noticeable.
While on the Autumn, I painted a fairly straight rectangle with the water, above, I wanted a looser shape around my ghost....all the better to scare you with, my dear! I have also added salt to the wash while it is wet, a special effect we will talk about later. Notice that I did use more than one color and also that I added the salt while wet. I am also getting a little puddling in the right hand corner. That is fine for this image, but not good always. You can remove that, wicking it up with a paper towel. Never scrub wet watercolor. Stick the tip of the paper towel down in the water.

Another good use of a paper towel or tissue is to lift paint. If the image below did not already have clouds in the actual image, I would have used a tissue balled up to go down into the wet paint, lifting up and removing paint to leave a cloud like look.
I can do the two sections above at the same time, as they are separated by dry paper. Otherwise you can not paint two areas next to each other at the same time without the colors joining each other and having an arty party! (for all you food network fans) If you do find that you are having an arty party where you don't want one, use a paper towel, straight down and straight up to blot and nip it in the bud! Nip it, Nip it! (for you Barney Fife fans)
If there is too much water and you do not wick the water soon enough, you will get a backwash or blossoming like above. Here again, I would prefer that did not happen, but once it is finished, it will not show up as much.

So that pretty much covers working wet into wet....simple, huh? For any neat freaks that don't want the loose look around the edges, there is always painters tape or masking tape that you have run over your clothes to pick up lint (so that it is not so tacky). That will give you crisp edges. You could also just paint large enough and then crop the edges off.
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1 comment:

Marian said...

Holly - I'm loving your watercolor instructions. You may have me doing watercolor before you know it!
:o) Marian