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Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Watercolour myths

Here's a painting in which I tried to do things you're not supposed to be able to do in watercolour - namely, taking things out, painting light over dark, using opaque paint. I may have got a bit more interested in the process than in the finished product - don't know. Need, as always, time to think about that. But I think it's more or less what I intended to do - not something one can ever be too confident of achieving in any medium.
There are tutors who will tell you all of the above "don'ts" in watercolour; adding, with insufferable smugness, "of course, we don't use white in watercolour" (or black). What they do tend to employ, however, is masking fluid - which I loathe; not only because it destroys brushes, but because it can give a dangerously cardboard cut-out look (although in the right hands, it can work brilliantly; I'm just a bit prejudiced).
Well in this painting, which for the moment we'll call The Path, I included detail and washed it out again - I defy you to find it. I didn't use white, and in fact rarely do, but did employ Naples Yellow, which contains white and is thus opaque, and mixed it with Cadmium Yellow, which is also more or less opaque (no watercolour is totally opaque, but these two are more so than most). And using these opaque yellows, I painted light over dark. I did plan the painting - so didn't just slosh the paint on and hope for the best. But I like to think I broke most of the purists' rules, without using any kind of masking.
Sheer devilment - I do hate to be told what I can and can't do, in painting and in anything else.
This is, of course, a watercolour, on Bockingford 38 by 28cm 300gsm Rough.


  1. You are right about the "what to do and don't". If you feel it is OK for your painting: DO IT. If you have a look at the work of Martin Taylor, he is mixing watercolour and acrylic (or opaque paint) in his paintings. I think the washed out part in your painting is in the centre of the "black hole" under the trees. Am I right?

  2. As promised, revisiting your site as I do enjoy so many of your comments. In one of my classes - The Body Clothed, teacher Susan Wilson, Susan has encouraged me to go 'too far' and ruin a piece. It goes against natural feeling, but as an exercise it's surprisingly liberating. I think those 'rules' can be helpful in so far as when starting out they can provide a few boundaries, but rules are there to be broken......I'd say your rule breaking here has delivered excellent results both in the finished work and by your own account in the journey. Lesley

  3. Thank you both; anonymous, I identify you as Lesley Dabson, and claim my toffee apple; and Mia, no, hee hee, you aren't right: except in the sense that I applied numerous washes to that area, blotted them and applied more. I took out a fence on the left of the painting ... but you'll have to guess where.

  4. A second guess : in the left bottom, from very next to the corner and a little bit up. I think I can see some lighter "stripes" in between the foreground grasses. It is easier to find (I think) because the lighter part has the shape and hight of a fence. Am I right?

  5. Hallo Mia - blowed if I haven't forgotten now! But yes, you're in the right area.

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