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Session 11
(14 July 2015) (Also see Watercolour Animals - Session 12)

Watercolour Discovery


“It’s not just about describing objects, it’s about exploring the medium.” – Keith Gentle



There is often a tendency to focus attention on trying to reproduce what you see in objects, whilst forgetting to loosely experiment with the medium - in this case, watercolour.

One of the key qualities of watercolour is its ability to be both opaque and transparent when applied densely or by subtle 'washes'. Rather than mixing all colours on the palette, watercolour washes applied and built up over time will create new colours as those below are viewed through those above.

By trying out different experiments with your paints, you will more often than not discover interesting or unexpected outcomes that could be later reproduced to great effect in your painting.

Try some of the following on your watercolour paper:

Apply a wash and then add pigment

Apply some pigment and then add water

Tilt your paper in different directions, before and after applying washes - allow the medium to express its nature

Apply pigment in a wash and then dab areas with a cloth or kitchen towel to remove water and pigment

After applying colour, use a dry or damp brush to 'lift' some of the water and/or pigment

Paint 3 or 4 vertical strips of low to medium opacity - one colour per strip (perhaps primary colours - red, blue, yellow) - and leave them to dry. Then choose a single pigment colour (Perhaps another primary) and make a diluted 'glaze'. Paint 3 or 4 different coloured horizontal glazes across the strips, allowing the base colours to show through the new top colours. After drying, try adding further glazes to build up the depth. Notice how the colours change where the strips cross one another.

Although not laid out in strips, as mentioned above, you can see in the image below how overlaying washes change the colours produced.


Artist's palette Water pots

Notice too, the 'limited palette' of colours used. By using fewer manufactured pigments, you reduce some of the difficulties encounted from mixing 'muddy' colours. Also notice the number of water pots - essential for keeping brushes clean between uses. You don't want colour contamination - particularly if you want to preserve clarity or reproduce an identical colour in several places.

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Here are a few of the experiments done by some of our artists:
Watercolour experiments
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