Original photo - "Shadows and daylilies"

Original photo - "Shadows and daylilies"

I've started working on a new painting based on a photo I took last week. Even though stopping to take a few photos made me a little late to my class, I think it was worth it. I feel strongly that you have to grab the moments of inspiration when they are presented to you. The light in this scene was too lovely to pass up.

Wet into wet

The image at left is the photo I took, and last night I started working on the underpainting (below). The underpainting is the first layer of paint, and it's where I determine the beginnings of my composition and the pattern of color I want to create. I always do this step "wet into wet" - which means I thoroughly soak my paper first (I use Arches 140lb watercolor paper) and then work into it with very wet watercolor paint. The effect is that the color seeps like crazy, fuzzing out the hard edges and leaving you with a soft layer of color.

Don't forget the seasoning

Once I'm happy with the underpainting and pretty much ready to leave it to dry, lots of times I will add salt into the wet. The salt has the effect of repelling the color that it sits on, so you are left with spots of white around each grain of salt. If you've ever worked in watercolor you know how important it is to preserve your whites as it's very hard (sometimes impossible) to get them back once you've applied paint to the area. The salt helps keep the whites and adds a freshness and unpredictability to the panel since you can't control how the color will repel.

I couldn't help myself and as it was drying I did start putting in a few sharp lines and shadows. This is not technically the underpainting stage but I just couldn't wait. I finally walked away and left the painting to dry overnight - next step is to start laying in more color and depth. Can't wait!

Read more

See the progress on "Shadows and daylilies".


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