Saturdays I try and get caught up on my reading! I try to find inspiration, new ideas and new projects from many different sources. Today, I picked up the Spring 2009 edition of Take Ten. Imagine my delight when I found an entire article devoted to watercolor backgrounds. "A Wash of Watercolor", on pages 72 & 73, is a delightful glimpse at what is possible with watercolor backgrounds. It features the beautiful creations of the talented Dianne Mahoney.
As I have been on a watercolor kick, I decided to switch my focus from the foreground to the background and do some simple watercolor washes.
Making a watercolor wash is quick and simple! All you need is some watercolor paint or reinkers, watercolor paper, a good brush with a flat edge, a palette, a cup of water and some ever-useful paper towel.
To start off, I add a couple of drops of reinker to my palette. I then add a few drops of water. I use a small plastic bottle so that I can control the amount of water. Mix the ink and water a bit with your brush before picking up any color.
Next, I place my watercolor paper down on a work surface. You may wish to adhere it to your work surface with some masking tape as the paper tends to buckle with the addition of the paint and water. I was feeling a little reckless today so I did not. Adhering the paper down does help control where your water wanders, but I like happy accidents too!
I load my brush with some of the mixture and draw it across the paper. If I want a consistent color for the whole piece, as in this example, I would reload my brush for each stroke. The trick here is to let your brush stroke overlap the previous one slightly. This allows the brush to pick up the last line of water and will keep the color smooth and consistent. Keep reloading the brush and moving across the paper in even strokes until you have completed your background.
For a fading background, simply don't reload your brush from the point that you want the color to begin to fade. It's that easy! Keep dragging the brush across the paper, once again overlapping the previous stroke just a little to continue to bring the color down. You may run out of moisture before your piece is finished. To keep going when this happens, you can dip your brush in clean water and bring down a little bit more color by running a few strokes over where you have already painted.
For a "fade to the middle" look, use the same technique, but turn your background 180 degrees when you run out of color and begin with a fresh wash from the other end. When complete, dip your brush in plain water and go over the middle strokes to blend the color. In the example below, I faded two different colors to the middle for a different effect.
For a mottled and multicolor wash, you can add colors to a simple wash as in the example below. I washed a background with blue and then added green and plum in randomly. It is important to work quickly so that your initial wash does not dry before you are finished.
When I add the color on top, I generally use a Z-shaped stroke to keep the shapes more organic. For this piece, I went over the entire piece with a clean wet brush to meld the colors together. As I like subtle color, I then placed paper towel over the wet piece to pick up the excess moisture. This technique also softens the color.
You can also build your background using small strokes of color, cleaning your brush (I do this by dipping it in clean water and running the brush over a paper towel), and adding new colors in. Be careful to slightly overlap your colors so that they will blend.
Well, that gives you several different looks to work with and create some great pieces with the wonderful look of a watercolor wash!
Have a fun day and check back later to see what I did with all those backgrounds!