If you are just beginning in watercolors, the first thing you need to learn is how to paint a “flat wash.” First, it’s important to have the top your pad, or a piece of watercolor paper taped to a drawing board, raised about 3 to 6 inches higher than the bottom. This allows the paint to puddle at the bottom of your strokes.
To begin, mix about a tablespoon of water with a middle tone color of watercolor paint on your palette. Red, green or blue will work fine. Use a good amount of paint to get nice color with the water. Next, fill your brush and paint a thick straight line from left to right on your paper, about four to six inches long. (Note: If you are left-handed, paint from right to left.) By keeping a full brush, there will be a puddle across the bottom of your first stroke.
Next you will replicate what you just did. This time, start at the bottom of the first stroke, picking up the puddle at the bottom of the first stroke. As you keep repeating this over and over again, keep picking up the puddle at the bottom of each stroke as you begin a new stroke. You are actually moving the puddle down the page.
When you get to the bottom of the page, or when you are finished with your “flat wash,” there will be one last puddle. Gently squeeze the excess water/paint out of your brush with a paper towel, the pull the tip of the brush across the puddle. The water will be absorbed into the dry brush. You can let your wash dry in one of three ways: 1) dry naturally, 2) dry in the sun, or 3) use a hair dryer, gently moving it back and forth over your work about 6 inches away from the paper. Any closer and you could burn it.
Painting lips is a great skill to learn. The mouth is one of our most prominent and expressive facial features. Because human emotions express visually via the lips, in a portrait the mouth tells an important part of the story that is communicated with the entire painting. By giving careful attention and observation of the structure of lips, your portrait will radiate strong feeling. Because the mouth has a lot of dimension, colors must be blended to create the form of the lips, using highlights and shadow. Though you may see multiple highlights on a lower lip, it will have more impact if they are gently condensed (blended) into one light tone, as opposed to putting “white spots” to insinuate shine. And where the lips meet, it’s better not to paint that line all the way across the mouth. One or two light or dark marks will work.
Watching other artists draw and paint is a fast track way to learn , as opposed to being given the how-tos verbally. It surprising how watching other artists gives our own abilities a boost. For visual artists, audio learning doesn’t work as well as visual learning. The Old Masters had a culture in their society of peers wherein they not only watched one another, but they also duplicated one another’s work and drew and painted together from the same models. By studying another artist’s work, your personal toolbox of methods, materials and ideas will grow.
By duplicating another artist’s work, this does not mean to copy it. Rather, it means to put yourself in that artist’s shoes and try to do what he or she did, as if you’d had an opportunity to watch the other artist. How did he mix the colors? What direction was the cross-hatching going? How thick was the paint? How did he make those brush stokes? Never compare your work with another’s. Just use their art and techniques to enhance your own creative experience! Enjoy watching Russian artist, Igor Sakharov, while he paints by clicking here.
Becoming a good watercolor painter means learning how to control water with the brush. A watercolor brush is thick at the base, designed to hold a lot of water since we do lots of washes; and pointy at the tip for detail work. When painting a wash, the idea is to move a controlled puddle of colored water across the paper, and the brush must be loaded. Your paper should be taped to a drawing board that is set at an angle to let gravity help you control the water. Tip the handle of the brush up as you paint so that the water flows out the tip and doesn’t run back into the base of the brush.
Painting the “color” of light brings beauty into a painting. For an area where the sun or light touches an object, many artists use white. But white is the absence of color, whereas light is the essence of color. Because light is warm, warm colors are used to express light. One of the ways I mix colors of light is to combine Cadmium Yellow Medium + Cadmium Orange + Titanium White. Combining these three creates colors that seem to emanate light. One of my favorite artists, Joaquín Sorolla, was a master at painting light and you can see that his Children on the Beach in this post truly glows!
When a painting glows with the color of light, this can create an emotional response in the viewer. Traditionally, light is beautiful, light is good, light represents the divine presence, etc. Feel free to exaggerate light in your painting to create beauty and warmth. Try using the colors of light on areas in white clouds, on flowers, buildings and skin. Notice how Sorolla even used the colors of light on the blue blouse in the example!