wetdribble There are fewer than 10 commandments in watercolor. One of the most important is the answer to the question, “How much water?”

You need to always be asking yourself, “How wet is my paper? And with that amount of wet, how much water and how much pigment should I be using?”


Haven’t you stood on a river bank and wondered how you would paint rocks under water?  It can be extremely complicated but is, in effect, exactly the opposite of The White Veil Effect and what you might want to try next. It is a question of planning and process.

veilpeople_001Have you wondered how to get the effect of people walking on a foggy beach — some near and some farther away? Or how to show the illusion of gauze curtains?

This illusion is called the White Veil Effect. How to paint these may be the opposite of what you would think.

MovableFeastlA Movable Feast, Caroline Buchanan
How much do you think about designing for the flat of the paper? Most of us have spent a great deal of effort learning how to make things appear to be 3-dimensional in our art work. However, no matter how well we create the illusion of believable space, we greatly improve our painting if we also design for the two dimensional surface of the paper.

brooksforce208Let’s start with the WOW! factor. On occasion, there are paintings, there is music, there are other forms of art that leave you speechless. They are that good. There are paintings that have moved me to tears, as there is music. You know what I mean.

rubypalette(1)_001Ruby My Dear in the garden

Often students ask to have a workshop on finishing paintings. The trouble with this is the way you finish one painting is not the way you finish the next. I can give you some guidelines but when each painting is done is as individual as the painting itself and its creator.

Years ago I was dating a man who had no grasp of what it was to be making art. I gave him the book, “The Zen of Seeing,” and said, “If you are going to understand art, you are going to have to get in touch with your feelings.”

nattydreadsloveshack_001A painting goes off track and I often hear,”How can I fix it.” Sometimes we can. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you have passed a point of no return. It will never be a good painting. People are reluctant to give up because they don’t want to waste all of that time they invested so they keep flailing away, hoping to save the painting. Does this sound familiar?

What I would like to suggest is, when a painting goes off track, stop and study it. Try to figure out why it is no longer working. Often we can’t tell what it SHOULD look like until we try it once on the paper. Then we see …. this should be larger, that should be eliminated; the colors are wrong; or it is simply overworked. Consider it your first draft.

whitelilysm_001Perhaps you have discovered that one of the first things that changes when you start painting and/or drawing is how you see things, how much more you are seeing! This summer while  you are spending more time out of doors, PRACTICE SEEING the way a artist looks and sees. An artist does look and see differently. You can learn it faster when you really think about it.


Why stretch your paper?

Watercolor paper expands when it is wet.  It shrinks back when it dries.  When you wet small areas of the paper you have hills and valleys develop.  These are particularly noticeble when you put the painting under a mat. However, if you soak the paper and secure (staples, butcher’s tape) it during its expanded stage, when it tries to shrink, it pulls tight and stays that way.