Thursday, August 11, 2011

Watercolor practice

In his blog on July 21, James Gurney gave a nice lesson on doing watercolor sketching, starting with a pencil sketch, and then what he calls a "ghost wash", a wet-into-wet watercolor wash, in order to establish colors and tones in a lovely, soft mush.  Then as the paper dries, smaller brushes and more details can be added. 

Usually I begin with lines; I thought I didn't like the wet-on-wet look.  But now I wanted to try it.  So I have been experimenting with it this past week, with results much more pleasing than I would have thought. 

For this, I sketched Tofu sitting on the couch reading a book, but then he left before I could put any color on the page.  But the next day, with the same kind of light, I sat in the same place to paint.  Looking at the couch without Tofu there, I didn't have an exact reference for the shadows on his body, but I could see more or less where the dark and light places would be, and make educated guesses.  

I like the contemplative mood that the softness gives to the picture. 


  1. Do you give the paper an even coating of water before you add pigment, or is it a more strategic wet-tening? Is it possible to add more water to some parts and less to other? Or do you have to wait until the paper dries if you're interested in finer control?

    I just bought Aili her first pretty good set of watercolors, and she's loving it. I've never been very good at the medium, never taking advantage of the imprecise reticulatory qualities that makes it so ephemeral.

  2. After I did a pencil sketch, I gave the paper a pretty even coating of water, though if it's Aili doing it, if she doesn't have a big flat brush, it will be hard to get the paper evenly wet; you don't really want to just hold it under water. (hmm. Why not?) In any case, if you wet the paper with a brush, it starts to dry pretty quickly, which is also fine.
    It turns out there are lots of ways to manipulate the image with watercolors--from misty to crisp and clean.