Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Lesson in Watercolors

Our family went to the beach back in May and we had so much fun! Of course, it was all new for my little guy. He loved sitting on the wet sand and running his fingers through it. That is, until the wave came and got him wet up to his waist. Then he was done! Thankfully, my sister got a number of photos of him first. I decided this would be my first painting of him. I'm sure there will be many more in the years to come. But this was a fun first.

When starting out with most of my watercolor paintings, especially portraits, I pencil in the most important details. Here I make sure that proportion and shape are right. In this process I have both my pencil and my trusty eraser working overtime until the outlines are just the way I want them. A lot of watercolor artists don't like their pencil showing through their paint. To me it adds an interesting dimension. So I keep it.

After your initial sketch, you want to identify the parts of your painting that will remain white. Those are the areas I avoid before adding my first layers of paint (see next step). Masking fluid can also be applied at this point to help you avoid those areas a little better.

One thing I never realized before working in watercolor is that there can be many layers of paint in each painting. Layers? I thought that was only in oil or acrylic. In watercolor, the appropriate term (I think) is "glaze." There are many glazes you add to each painting. As a graphic designer for so many years using photoshop, I think in layers. So that's the term I use.

I start with the medium to light color washed over each area. Let the area dry, and then keep adding more and more layers. I work from the lightest color washes to the darker details.

Here I'm getting into the nitty gritty of the shadow's in my little guy's face. I probably could have used a smaller brush at this point. But I find myself so engrossed in what I'm doing at times that I don't stop to switch brushes!

I keep adding more washes of varying shades of blue until the sand he's sitting on looks truly wet. An important part in this particular painting that I had to watch out for was all those blues and golds. We all know that yellow and blue make green. So it's important for me not to get ahead of myself and add the opposing color while the previous one is still wet. If I hurry it, the next thing you know the wet sand will be a color that I wouldn't want my kid sitting on. :)

Every painting of mine gets to that point where I think I could maybe possibly add just one more detail. But when I know I'm close to finishing, I'll walk away for an hour, sometimes a day. If I come back to it and like it, then I sign it. Once I sign it, I'm done.... no touching up any more once that signature is on the painting. This painting was fully dry when I came back to it, so I pulled out my mat cutter and framed it. Why waste time? I hung it on the wall in time for when my husband got home from work.

Now on to Christmas card paintings. Yes, Christmas. I know it's July. One has to plan ahead around here.


  1. Beautiful painting! I love! Definitely going to follow your blog. I draw, but never learned to paint.
    (aronawalsh from castteam on etsy)

  2. Susan - you are very talented. I used to paint with watercolors. It is so interesting that you said that the pencil adds another element to the painting. It used to bother me that it showed. Maybe I will try again.


  3. Thanks for sharing you technique with us. I have done some oil painting years ago and watercolor is something I'd like to try someday.

  4. it's just wonderful - thanks for the lesson......

  5. amazing! so beautiful! I saw a few posts back you mentioned getting started for Christmas paintings, I can't wait to see those!

  6. Thank you all for the kind words! I finished a new Christmas painting on Sunday afternoon that I just printed to cards. And I sketched out a new one last night. I'll add those in the weeks to come. Blessings to you!

  7. That is a great job, you did on that watercolor

    I just found your blog from the CAST team site

  8. Wow! I love it. I've always wanted to learn to do that.