The artist in you dwells in your right brain – and in your heart. Our culture assumes that you cannot be an artist without drawing things “right.” If you can’t make your drawing look like they do in the three-dimensional world, many people scoff at you.  Students come to me certain that they cannot become artists because they just can’t seem to get perspective.


The confusion is that we have to leave our right brain and use the left to do perspective drawing.  I am going to try to make it as simple as possible and promise — no vanishing points; they are almost always off the paper and in the next room, anyway.








The bane and the blessing of watercolor is negative painting.  Bane because so many find it difficult.  Blessing because of the way it can unobstusively direct the eye and focus attention. Learning to do it is like learning to back a trailer. It is difficult enough to teach in a class situation so teaching it without watching you as you try will be even more challenging. But here goes!

How do we get from that wet-on-wet start discussed in earlier posts to finished paintings? Mainly by negative painting and layering. We are always pushing back to bring other shapes forward. For example, on the left you see the end of my first wash for Natty Dred’s Love Shack.   On the right is the finished painting. The white shapes — what is left of the white paper — lead you through the painting. With layers of  negative painting they were carved out.

JoannescarolineCaroline Getting into Her Painting by Joanne McDonald

A group from my Edmonds class went together to the Picasso Exhibit that was recently at the Seattle Art Museum.  They considered the list offered in November, 2009’s posting, “Looking at Unfamiliar Art” while they went through the show.  During the discussion over lunch, they decided to each do a painting “inspired by Picasso.”  They surprised me with these paintings at the start of the 2011 series at Edmonds.


Dike Shadows

You laugh?  You say, “I know how to make mud!”  If so, why are you still doing it?  You only get mud in watercolor if you allow yourself to do certain things.  Why do them? Isn’t it like knowing that you put on weight if you consume more calories than you burn in a day?  Pretty simple but sometimes hard to live by. Let’s just worry about no more mud.


Autumn Farm

One of the things watercolor does best is to lay color over color only to enhance the original color rather than obscure it.  If you didn’t study and work with the November Technique Corner,  What About Pigments? I suggest you do that before moving on to this month’s technique.  Get to know your stains (dyes), luminous, your bi-functional (dye/luminous), as well as your sedimentary pigments before we take them further.


 Skagit Blizzard

It is that time of year and as the white stuff swirls down aren’t you tempted to try to paint it?  You could always frame a blank piece of paper and label it “Whiteout.”

All right.  This is a joke, but it is also a hint about how to paint snow.  It is all there.  What do you need to do to convince the viewer that the white of your paper is snow?


Buster, in all sedimentary paints, 1983

About thirty years ago the watercolor world began to talk about pigments as Transparent, Staining and Opaque.  At that time the thinking was — you choose your subject and then choose your pigment grouping: transparent for delicate subjects, stains for bold, opaque for earthy. What seemed to happen in practice was that artists came to prefer one grouping over the others

hint4_001 “That’s worth the price of the class!” When someone sings this out in a class — after I have just made a helpful hint aside — I always cringe. I hope not.  But when you have struggled for ages with something and then hear a solution that sounds so easy, you think you might have paid to have known that.

One such time was when a man who had an arsenal of brushes — a huge array, displayed in a pleated stand-up carrier — cried out after I had just banged my brush on the bottom of the water container and said, “If you REALLY want to get the paint out of your brush, don’t just swish it in the clean water, but jump it up and down against the bottom of the container.”

paisleymadrona72Most of those who use the technique corner are from the Pacific Northwest and while some of this month’s challenge will be specifically to you, there is no reason why those of you in other areas can’t adapt these ideas to a show near you.

Yesterday the NWWS 70thAnnual Open Exhibition, 2010 catalogue arrived in the mail. This is an extremely strong show.
Paisley Madronas, my entry which was not included.