If you’re going to go wet in wet, do it at once, on crisp, virgin watercolor paper. Or, wait until your first color is dry and then go at it again.
If you are impatient, like me always, and you decide to blend in another color, don’t be wimpy about it…use enough pigment. If you’re like me, you’ll tend to add a wash that has too much water to pigment ratio. And the result will be mud. A wimpy mud.
Look how my wimpy, impatient wash in the background ruined the luminosity of this painting I did of yet another cherry blossom leaf thing.
You can successfuly blend two complimentary colors (colors that across from each other on the color wheel) without it turning it to mud. You can get amazing shades of grey. Or, you can get awesome blends of one color that is subdued and enhanced by the compliment. But be patient and bold.
It’s been a long time since I played with a watercolor style in oil painting- using lots of gamsol solvent. Somehow I think oil paint will be more forgiving – as it always is- when you’re doing your washes. I think if anything, if you go too aggressive with your solvent, you’ll just end up wiping off what you put down but you won’t end up with this awful mud stain thing.
And acrylic, man. That one is a tough cookie. I know people say you can use it like watercolor or like oils. But I think it’s very, very easy to do the wash thing wrong with acrylics, which is why acrylic has this bad reputation with me for being difficult and not looking as good as oil and watercolor. You best wait till that layer is dry before going again with another glaze in acrylics.
Art Mistake #1: Getting too attached to one section of a painting. This is happens when you start working on one part of a painting and you get “ahead” of the rest of the painting. Like I did when I started going overboard and painting in all the details of the petals- I ended up making the blossoms too dark and too strong for the overall composition.
This also commonly happens when your foreground is really detailed and fully modeled, and the background doesn’t really feel cohesive and fully integrated with the foreground. You get so excited that you leave the background behind.
Ways to avoid it:
Don’t get too attached. I do this all the time. I fall in love with one color, or one texture, or the certain way the something looks. Be bold and willing to paint over something if needed to make the whole thing work.
Keep squinting and zoom in and out. This helps you check the overall relationships.
Early on, use a large brush and paint general areas of light and dark rather than trying to get so precise about the lines and shapes. Think of paint as stains at this point, so you’re not going too heavy on the paint.
I actually found Randall, a Portland area artist, through his blog, Painter’s Process. I seriously consider him one of the top contemporary landscape painters, I mean why isn’t this dude in MoMA?
He graciously has shared some of his tips and wisdom with me. My favorite piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to ruin it (artwork). It reminds me of what Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book, Big Magic, to take art seriously but not seriously. He also inspired me to start writing this blog!
I absolutely adore the colors in this one: the cold, dark maroons and greys. He so wonderfully captures the quality of light in winter. It’s muted without being muddy, and somehow glowing. Incredible!
It’s all a matter of pushing the paint, scrapping, pouring, tilting, blotting, and wiping as I try to build my idea. The studies are where I can try something out in a manageable space, but I take them seriously as paintings. My goals are the same for any size. I want a rich, painterly image which represents my view, my regard, my understanding of paint and nature. For myself. I`m trying to paint the paintings I want to see.
Interview with Randall David Tipton The second to last sentence is so good- maybe the best artist statement I’ve read in a long while. Don’t get me started about artist statements…
It’s crazy that he paints largely from memory. Look how keenly he observes the subtleties of nature. He so convincingly captures the reflection of clouds and the movement of grassy wetlands.
Look at that cloud reflection! And this one is a watercolor. People it’s incredibly difficult to have both that freedom and control in watercolor. He is a master!
He has elevated Yupo, a plastic watercolor paper, as an artist medium. If you google or go on Pinterest, most of the stuff you’ll see painted on Yupo is amateurish and features extremely garish, saturated colors. It’s not surprising- Yupo is slick and even more difficult to control than normal watercolor paper. You can see how he takes the unique pooling and puddling texture that paint forms on Yupo and makes it work wonderfully to depict water and sky. I love the transition from the blue sky into the ambiguous forms of the tree. Lovely.
More free flowing textures on Yupo. This is all very, very difficult to do well.
He is wonderfully irreverent of “proper” art techniques- no underpainting or drawing, he’ll use black straight from the tube, he’ll use white watercolor, he won’t clean his brushes after use, he’ll use cheap brushes, he’ll use non-brushes as brushes. He’ll paint right over an older painting without second thought. I asked if he sands it first before painting over it. He said he supposes he should. He asked me, “What’s gouache?” He normally purchases canvases that have been pre primed with gesso, explaining that he doesn’t have the time for it. I like it! That is a very good lesson (I mean I’m already lazy and messy enough so I guess I am extremely biased here) but I think it is true that we all have so limited time, if we can afford to take shortcuts, why not outsource the awful, boring parts?
He credits his tenacity for pulling many pieces together. Hopefully I can be just as tenacious and keep working through paintings that are a struggle and that I’m down on.
Watercolor can be a battle, and I can end up with unpredictable results. I think that is why I am always drawn towards it. It’s so much fun. But it can get frustrating when the results are as they were today – inconsistent and illogical? I’m trying to find the lessons in today’s studies, because I think they all ended up pretty bad:
This one is the most direct painting. I like the ‘drawing’ and the brushstrokes. But, the colors are too garish. The foreground and background don’t work together. It’s meh.
This one is working into a wet background, trying to pull the form like I do in oils. It became a muddy mess, yet I love the texture on this one the most and the weird blob cloud that comes out of the blossoms on the lower right is very satisfying to me and feel the most convincing of all the flowers I painted in this session. But the rest looks like dodoo.
I try to mix between 1 and 2. Here you an see that painting a lighter color over a darker color in watermedia looks really funky -not as much fun as in oils.
Choosing a focal point and painting in a direct way like in 1 with the most paint. Then in other areas picking a midtone and laying a background wash. Then apply slightly darker layers on top. This one was my favorite of the four studies and I think most successful until it started to get away from me. I think if I had picked the right mid tones and then waited a little bit until that layer got drier and then went over with slightly darker shadesthat were still close too that layer and then letting the dilution that comes naturally from adding water to the brush create a gradation. Not only waiting a little longer for the background layer to get dry but also premixing my colors in my palette more to get more accurate mid tones. Wow I am overthinking it today. What’s next? I think if I was giving advice to someone else I would say simplify and try to keep everything the same and change one thing. I’m going to pull back on the color and try more monochromatic in the next session while focusing on things I learned in 4. Stay posted.
Art, Photography, Flowers- all images are my own unless specified