Friday, February 27, 2015

Beginning Watercolor 2/24/15 Working With the Wetness of the Paper

In class we've been working on how to decide what kind of edge best suits a given shape or texture. It quickly became clear that working with a damp brush on wet paper is is an appropriate approach much more often than we might have thought. It has also been revealed that it is easier to control how wet the brush is than the paper.

The dark hill in the background looks like a good candidate for a soft-edged treatment. The variation of color is very subtle. But you might also approach the foreground field with an overall green wash into which you could put the red and darker green texture. The individual blades of grass are distinct in the photo, but painting them as separate entities with hard edges would most likely end up too busy. If you were there, you'd probably perceive the foreground as a single thing - a field - rather than as a collection of tiny shapes. Working with a fairly dry brush, the textural strokes can stay where you put them, just softening without spreading into oblivion. Remember that the initial wash is your water supply, so there's no need to add more water to the brush. If you wash the brush or switch to a different one, just remember to keep it drier than the paper so the new strokes don't cause blooms.

Some of the edges between shapes in this pond scene might best be kept hard to clarify where everything is in the illusory space. The foreground grasses, for example, seem to want to be kept separate from the water. But within the grass shape soft edges would allow us to see the complexity of the texture without being distracted by too many insistent hard edges. I think the patch of grass on the other side of the pond would need a different treatment, with only a couple of hard-edged marks along the waterline. It's the same kind of grass, in the same light, so the colors and values should be very similar, but I'd want it to seem farther away. Edge quality will do the trick nicely.

 A quick review of technique:
Shape by shape, look for a way to begin with an overall wash - a common denominator - into which you can put the secondary information. Make that wash nice and wet, so it will stay wet long enough for you to mix the texture colors and apply them with the edge quality you want. This step is often referred to as "dropping in" color, a very unfortunate term.
As the overall wash dries the strokes you are making into it become darker. If you are not adding any water they also become more specific. In the image above, you could treat all the hills with one initial wash and then add a slightly darker pattern of marks to suggest the individual trees. Their soft edges would allow us to see the forest as all one thing. While the wash is still wet, you might add more pigment to the brush and put a second layer of texture on the nearer hills, and one more, a little darker and a little warmer, on the closest hill. Remember to watch closely for the first hard edge to show up. When it does, stop making marks, unless you want hard edges. You can dry the paper, rewet it, and continue making soft-edged marks.

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