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I have been working with different ink and watercolor techniques. I began the above painting with a line drawing of the tiger. The next thing I did was ink in about four of his stripes with a small watercolor brush and india ink (waterproof). Before each stripe dried, I spritzed it with water. The ink fans out in a fuzzy pattern to either side of the stripe. At first it looks like I am ruining my image, but as the ink dries, the color becomes lighter. I would dry that area with a hair dryer and move on to the next group of stripes and repeat the spritzing and the hair drying until I had the stripes done. I waited for this first step to dry and then repainted all the stripes so that the center of each one was as black as I could get it.  I worked black india ink into the shadows around the tiger, wet-in-wet, just like I use wet-in-wet with my watercolors.  After this stage dried, I painted with watercolor. If you click on the above image and click on it a second time, it will enlarge enough so you can move around it and actually see the textures the spritzed ink created on the surface of the watercolor paper.

I have done this type of ink and watercolor before.  You can view one I did with a nib here. I also have worked with an eye dropper here and here. This technique is defintiely not for the artist that wishes to control every element of  his/her painting. I find myself having to let go a little of my control and work with what we watercolorists call “Happy Accidents”. The reference image is just that, a reference image, because I usually have to stray from it in order to finish these.


  1. I love the way the stripes came out! Really nice, Leslie!

    bigsurkate, on a mountain top in Big Sur

  2. Awesome. Thank you very much for the explanation.

  3. I love the results of the technique you explained! This tiger is amazing! Incredibly beautiful work 🙂

    • Thank you, Scott! 🙂

    • I had an afterthought 🙂 I noticed that the broken grasses draw the eye back down to the tiger’s face and mimic, sort of, ears, and the unbroken grasses mimic whiskers, so it’s like two paintings in one, one where the tiger is looking at me, and the other where he is looking at something more appropriate to snack on 🙂 It adds a ‘gentle tension’ to the painting, for me, which is pleasant… the beauty of these cats and their unpredictable drive to bite and claw things for fun and food, very clever

      • Wow! Thank you. That is so perceptive. I did use the grasses to direct the viewer’s eye to the face and to repeat the stripes but I love the idea of the whisker repetition and the movement of the turn of the head. Thank you so much for that, Scott!

  4. This is a lovely painting! 🙂

    • Thank you, so much, Cindy.
      I have visited your site. I do not know how to do what you are asking in your recent Monday 27th post. I tried to comment on several things there and the comment box didn’t even open up for me, so that setting on your theme of choice may need to be activated or something. I use, so my site is different than the .org. I’ve just kept this same theme so I don’t get confused. I like your artwork and was able to click on the like button and it show.

      • Thank you, I am changing my theme, maybe I will be able to figure this out sometime 🙂

  5. I really like the combination of ink and watercolors. Excellent work, Lesile!

  6. Very nice. It’s hard to believe you strayed from the original image. You strayed very well.

  7. Splattering ink with water requires lots of guts, I mean I know how messy that could be, but here you turned each splatter magically in to a beautiful fuzzy tone, the orange wash added is brilliant with the white portions at the right places exposed,this is outstanding Leslie!

    • This technique would not have worked, for me, in my earlier years of painting, Padmaja. I would have quit after the first spritz! I have learned, over time, to work through some of these interesting effects. It would also have been a disaster if I had painted and spritzed every stripe without taking time to dry each three or four in between. So, I guess I’ve learned some patience and respect for the medium and allowing it to do its own thing, too. Thank you, so much, Padmaja!

  8. lovely !!!

  9. loving the words ‘happy accidents’ … Leslie, and your ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright’ is Magnificent, seeming to be no accident at all,.. just a wonderful result of an artists talent… I love too, your explanation of how you felt trying the differing techniques… all added to the whole experience for me.. xPenx

    • Those words “Happy Accidents” are well worn words for the watercolorist and all of us use them. Someone may ask us what we did to create something in one of our paintings and if we answer, “Happy Accident”? ; they know we don’t have the slightest clue as to how that effect occured and the result was just the water and the medium doing its thing. I often tell my students that half of the trick to being a good watercolorist is knowing when to respect and keep a “Happy Accident”. 🙂 It’s true! Thank you, so much, Pen!

  10. I love the effects you achieved with this technique, Leslie. Having animals with marks and variations in their fur, I know that the bit of bleeding effect is actually more true to reality. There are always stray hairs mixed in and that is what this reminds me of (ooh, bad grammar). I love too that you’ve used some of that bleed to lend shadow and color to the earth. A total stunning piece came together with this one!

    • Thank you, Sherry. You are so right about animals and hair. I had not really thought of that. More reason to divorce myself from the reference photo!

  11. This is a wonderful piece. I like ink and water.

    • Your work reflects that you allow that water to become your best friend, Gretchen. Your work is superb. Thank you for this comment.

  12. A Watercolour full of life and animation, Leslie. the technique, plus explanation is brilliant.

  13. Beautiful tiger, wow! I just love those giant feet. Wonderful technique!

    • Thank you, Cindy. …also for noticing those feet. I love drawing paws. …even on people. 🙂

  14. I’m guessing the reference image is also that because you don’t want to be that close to a tiger! I zoomed into your painting and loved how the stripes bled into the surrounding area. It really makes it look like the tiger’s stripes are in fur. You are a born teacher. Thanks for always showing us different techniques.

    • Ha! You got that right! When I visit the local zoo, here, the tigers are always pacing pacing. The lions are always sleeping sleeping. I just figure tigers must be very quick and energetic? I don’t want to pet one…… Thanks for taking the time to zoom, Carol. Waterproof Ink just spreads so differently than watercolor does. Thank you! 🙂

  15. Love this one. It has an Asian feel to it. Tigers are easy to like, I think. So majestic, fearsome, and feline. 😉

    • I thought the same thing about the “Asian feel”, too, Yousei. Thank you for saying that. I don’t know if it is the linear work or the color. Maybe it is the line and the ink. I love their color. Thank you for your comment! 🙂

      • I think you’re right about the color and linear nature of the art. Of course, the use of watercolor creates that feel for me. I also think that the tiger facing away, something in the shape of it’s head, and of course the grass (very sumi-e style) add to that feel. Could just be me, but those are my thoughts.

      • Now why didn’t I think of that? Yes…just the fact that it is watercolor. Thank you.

  16. The use of wet media help convey a sense of the humidity which is a part of some tigers’ environments. Nice painting Leslie!

    • Never thought of that! You are so connected to nature. Thank you, AL!

  17. Oh WOW!!! I really love this one, Leslie. Zooming was a real treat!!!

  18. How Chinese of you!!! 🙂 I LOVE this! You’ve mastered this art as well!! He is fantastic!!

    • LadyBlueRose's Thoughts Into Words
    • Posted May 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm
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    • Reply

    This is gorgeous!
    I wonder what he was listening too?
    Take Care…

    • I don’t know, but I think he could be listening to anything you want him to. ..and thankyou because it really means something for an artist to know his work inspires a question or sparks a story. 🙂

  19. I love the colors here. The misted ink texture is wonderful on his fur. I think you are right about the tigers moving about and the lions laying about. I plan to make a zoo visit this summer to restock my photos. It’s been quite a while since I have been to one and I think it will be easier with a digital camera.

    • I need to take a trip to the zoo, also, Ruth. Thanks for the reminder. …and thankyou for this comment. Spritzing this ink is like unleashing a wild animal. I never know if it is going to work…..

  20. I had to breath this one in again. I love the big cats and this one is particularly beautiful. I like the effect of water and ink. Clever.

    • Thank you, so much, Jamie. I taught class last night. My students were beginning their Citrasolv collage pieces with watercolor and two of the students liked this ink method so well that they began this next assignment with the spritzed ink in their dark values. That is what makes all this exploration so worth it; sharing techniques that other artists can speak with.

  21. William Blake has nothing on you when it comes to Tigers, Leslie.
    Gorgeous….. Tiger Tiger

    • Wow. Thank you so much, Eva…… I must not allow this comment to go to my head. I like that poem.

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