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
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:
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
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.
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