Handling Watercolour Fluidity with Ease

A5 watercolour

This watercolour has several fluid techniques involved.

Fallacies and reality:

A lot of people think watercolours are unpredictable. Why do people have this negative attitude towards watercolours?

  • People generally think artists are so talented that they just have to splash paint on effortlessly and masterpieces materialize. So they try splashing paint on and land up working willy-nilly in the hope a miracle will occur. The fact is successful artists plan procedures before starting to paint.
  • Also people think watercolour paintings are created in just a few minutes. Not so, it takes more than a few minutes to paint a watercolour. Anything from an hour to three hours, depending on the size of the painting, considering drying time procedures and what effects you wish to create. Knowing at what stage you can take a break, when to leave off and continue the next day or even a year later!
  • Also, most people have problems because they impatiently apply another coat of paint before previous coats of paint has dried. So it isn’t surprising that the paint runs amok.
The fact is: liquids naturally flow where it’s wet. Example liquid paint flows freely in water or in wet paint.  ….All it takes to control the situation: is to observe the state of the paper and how wet, semi-wet or dry the previous wash of colour is, before adding more paint. That means, judging and timing the right moment.

It’s all a matter of cause and effect:

  • Where the paper is wet and shiny, the paint will run and blur there.
  • When the paper is dull and dry, the paint won’t run where it’s dry.
  • When there is too much water, the paper becomes soggy. Thin, over wet paper puckers (cockles) easily and pools of water form in the valleys. A recipe for disaster! Mop it up quickly.
  • If there is too much liquid on your brush and the previous wash hasn’t dried yet, you will get ugly watery ‘cabbage’ effects. Mop it up quickly, or if you want the lacy look, leave it to do its thing.

Mingling of colours:

Beginners are shocked when their brush touches a previous patch of wet paint and the colour from the brush is quickly zapped and mingles with the previous wash. Gosh, that wasn’t what they expected. What now, what should they do!!

Mingling of colours isn’t necessary a bad thing. Sometimes lovely unexpected ambiance effects are created this way. In fact artists often use this as a technique, to make special atmospheric effects! The result will depend on how much liquid is involved and what the constitutions of the pigments are.

Time artists spend on planning:

You have to ask yourself a few questions when planning your painting:

  • What do I want to achieve? What effects do I want?
  • What type of undercoats? Do I use an overall imprimatura wash or start within designated areas?
  • Since watercolours generally start out with light washes of colour, what under-colour do I need? How will the topcoats relate to this undercoat?
  • Consider the composition format. What is important? What can I leave out? How much detail do I need?
  • What should stay blurred?
  • What type of contour edges and textures do I want?

If your watercolour is a soggy mess:

  • It’s because you used too much water.
  • And kept adding and stirring in more paint.
  • And possibly three equal amounts of the primary colours (yellow, red and blue) were added to the ‘melting pot’.

Taking advantage of ‘tip and runs’:

If your brush has tipped another wet area where the paint is still wet, naturally it will run and spread out into the nearest wet area. To some people this may cause them drama. But artists use this as a trick to create distant trees along a mountain range’s contour edge.

Remember: the amount of water controls the consequences.

Spreading test:

Some watercolour pigments run faster than others in wet areas. To test the pigments you have:

  • Dab fresh clean water on your paper (like in the illustration below).
  • Then tip one side of the dab of water with paint and watch what happens. How quick or slow each pigment takes.
  • To make the test plausible: Make sure there is enough water in each dab, so that the paint can run easier.
  • Watercolours don’t run as quickly or spread so easily in damp or on semi-dry paper.

Note: If you tilt the paper, the paint will run and spread even farther into the wet area. Thus ensures you have some control where you want the colour to be.

Spreading of watercolour

Spreading test.

So you see dramas can be turned to your advantage! Artists learn to go with the flow of what’s happening as their painting evolves, if you don’t mind the pun!

If you want to learn more about watercolour secrets, start at the beginning of the ‘watercolour secrets’ category – listing in the left bar column.

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<a href="http://www.adafagan.co.za/watercolour-fluidity/">Handling Watercolour Fluidity with Ease</a>

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