If your paintings proceed from general statements toward specific description you have probably observed that the later layers often serve to clarify the meaning of the broad brushwork of the earlier ones. Seeing this in advance signals an opportunity to be more casual with the light first layers, trusting that the content will be adequately described by the layers that are yet to come. This matters if you like being able to see some passages of fluid, juicy paint in the finished painting.
In class this week we practiced estimating the role of the darks in the process of describing the content of a scene. By painting a quick version of just the darks we could easily see how much of the identity of the shapes was described by the final layer.
In Andrew Wyeth's portrait of his neighbor the lights and middle values are very freely painted. Without the dark hat and coat the wall is entirely abstract. By itself, the white shirt would be meaningless, but in the company of the suspenders and, of course the head, it is a beautifully realized bit of fluid brushwork. Being able to see a couple of layers ahead of himself, Wyeth knew the darks would make that jumble of middle value marks into a perfect shirt! The thrill of seeing how intellect and instinct come together to make art is the attraction that keeps us coming back to watercolor.
The photos that follow feature various opportunities to let go of some control
This one and the one below could use some soft edges
Trust your instinct!