Wednesday, November 9

Mixing and Applying Watercolor

For this Watercolor, I Used Both
Wet-In-Wet & Wet-On-Dry
 & Mixed Color on the Palette
(Copyright 2011)
Other than the motif itself, I think color in your paintings is  most important—more than the genre, more than the style, and more than the values. That’s my opinion. Color, or the absence of color, as in the case of monochromatic paintings, is what initially draws our eyes and attention—or not—to any painting.

Color is important in all paintings but especially watercolor in the way it can be applied, manipulated, or just left to mingle. It’s that transparency or shimmer that makes watercolor special, and that’s why I’m blogging about it.

For anyone not familiar with watercolor, there are several ways to mix and to apply watercolor paint.  

There are three methods for mixing:  applying washes, mixing on the palette, or mixing on the paper. None are particularly easy. Washes provide the transparent look, but getting the right consistency and the right color wash-over-wash is very difficult.

Mixing on the palette is relatively easy to do. You see what you’re going to get before you apply it, but it’s also easy to mix mud, so be careful.

When you mix on the paper, you apply colors separately (or you should) and then let them mix on their own. I don’t suggest this way if you’re a micro-manager since you don’t have much control.

However, there is one way of mixing on the paper I recently learned about that I really like.  Rather than adding each color separately to the paper, you dip just the tip of the paintbrush in each color successively, and then you apply the paint in one brushstroke. This lets the colors mix on the paper, but you still retain some control.

For applying, there are also three methods: wet-in-wet, wet-on-dry, and dry-brush. There are other ways to do it—like spattering-- but basically they all fall into one of these three. Note, you're the artist and may use more than one method in a single painting. The names are practically self explanatory.

In wet-in-wet, you dampen the paper to the desired wetness, then apply the watercolor. In wet-on-dry, you do not dampen the paper at all, or you let wet paper dry completely, then you apply the watercolor. Dry-brush is when you apply very little paint on a brush (the “dry” brush) on dry paper; the paint is dragged over the paper so that you get a broken line.

Naturally, you get very different effects depending on which method you use. Wet-in-wet gives you that ephemeral  watercolor  look, but it’s almost uncontrollable, so you better have a plan. Wet-on-dry is easier to apply (relatively) and control, I think, but you better know what percentage of water- to-paint to use—too much or too little of either can ruin it. Dry-brush is used for many reasons, but I think it provides a special artistic effect that many painters are looking for.

There’s so much more to know about watercolor, one little blog is like a drop in the ocean. But maybe this has piqued your interest in learning more about it.

Happy Painting!

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