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I am trying something new again! This technique is one that will keep me trying for years to come. I always like techniques that take time and that don’t allow me to be so hasty as to ditch what I am working on. This technique satisfies my desire to explore and to fix things in an existing watercolor that has taken a wrong turn. The above painting is my first attempt.

I learned about this technique from an article I read in the February 2017 issue of Watercolor Artist. There was an article about the artist Nadine Charlsen. She shared a step-by-step tutorial of one of her paintings, so I tried it. Please understand that my first attempts probably leaves out a whole host of things she does that I have been a bit hesitant to jump into in this first try. I strongly encourage you to look for this article or watch how she works on a few You Tube videos. I think this technique lends itself to a whole host of individual ideas as to how each artist may approach doing the same thing.

My first step was to draw the image I wanted to paint and wash in my darks with paynes gray. I think you could use sepia or van dyke brown in this stage, too. Whatever you think lends itself best to rendering those darks.  Nadine Paints her paintings on easels, so the paintings are upright as she paints. I was chicken, so this was painted with only a slight tilt.

Once the first step was dry, I dropped large puddles of water all over the painting. This breaks up some of the hard edges and softens the background. I wait for this to dry. I took stiffer brushes and rubbed out some areas where the color bled too much to my liking and to save portions of the painting that I wanted to appear lighter.

The above step was the most time consuming. I painted the color of the items in the booths and and on the opposing side of the alleyway. My painting was becoming  full of edges, again, and looking too perfect and not at all atmospheric. After the color dried, I tilted my board and began washing white gouache over the surface, top to bottom. I dabbed areas of darks and some of the color areas so they did not become too overpowered and washed out. I allowed this watered down wash to trail down the surface of the paper. I did this three times until I got the above look. I waited for that to dry before moving on.

I thought the previous step had washed out too much of the roof area and softened some of the foreground too much. I went back in and touched up some of the colors, the roof and the foreground chair. I spritzed water on the surface to break apart some of the edges that were created by that. Once that dried, I tilted the board and washed white gouache all over areas where I wanted it to show up. I blotted some of that wash with a tissue and rubbed small areas with a stiff brush to further soften an edge.

In the final step I worked on the foreground chair and the people, brightened areas of color and filled in things that looked a bit unfinished.

I think the point of dropping and spraying water onto the surface of the watercolor is an attempt to bring out a mood and to soften the edges of a scene. I think it gives air and depth to a scene. I felt like I could do anything I wanted and still bring something worthwhile back to the scene. Sometimes it looked like it was destined for the trash. At other times it began to look better than anything I had ever painted before.  I will be teaching these things to my students in their next class. We will probably have a messy good time of it. I hope!

Oh! Nadine uses Khadi paper, mostly, and sometimes 140lb Arches rough. I used the Arches rough because that is what I had on hand. I will try the Khadi at some point.

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20 Comments

  1. What a lovely painting – thanks for sharing – look forward to checking out Nadine’s Youtube page.

    • Hi Jodi,
      Thank you for this comment. Also, click on her website. Her paintings are so much more than what I have done here.

  2. Washing with white gouache seems pretty cool, the final result is lovely!
    I have been wanting to paint such scenes but fear of failing grips hard! I would like to try this technique with oil and see how it goes.
    Thanks for sharing the technique Leslie!

    • Hi Padmaja,
      I know nothing of oil painting so don’t know how that would work out. I like this technique but know that I have a lot to learn as yet. I think I was rather hesitant with this one and know that I could scrub back more and layer more. It is definitely something I will continue to explore.
      Thank you!

  3. Hi Leslie. I just read your blog post! I’m friends with Nadine and paint with her sometimes. I met her trough a mutual friend in NY. She moved to Asheville about a year before me. Small world!!!!

    Carol

    >

  4. Love the colors in this painting!!!

  5. Leslie, thanks for the plug on my techniques and article. Be brave. Your work shows great technique. You choils come to Asheville and paint with us. 310art.com.

    • Choils=should. Sheesh!

      • First, you are so kind to take the time to comment on my blog, Nadine. I knew exactly what you were saying with that word choils. Ha! I kind of like it. Some keyboard slips are actually very creative looking.
        I am really impressed with how you paint and will keep exploring the use of the gouache. I am ordering that khadi paper, too.

  6. Oh Leslie I LOVE this painting!!! You demonstrate that it’s really difficult to make a watercolour look loose and atmospheric. It is a reminder to us all that we should not have any rules when creating art. Using monochrome first to establish the values works really well. I’m sure your class will enjoy these techniques and thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Oh June, thank you! Yep. I tend to be too edgy and this approach that Nadine uses is all about letting go a little and the technique really does work. Now, I just need to spend more time with it. I am going to introduce this in my next class coming up. I hope to get more free in my time off this summer. Check out Nadine’s paintings. They are awesome!

      • I did check out Nadine’s paintings and yes they are awesome.

  7. Have a painting now on my board destined for the “crap” pile…yes, yet another. Have re-read this post at least 20 times and will try this technique to see what happens. At this point…what have I got to lose? Thanks so much for always sharing your genius…or the genius of other artists. Raye

    • Oh , what a fantastic idea! Yes, this is the perfect rescue for all those paintings. Thank you for the idea. I often hang on to my “not-so-cool” attempts hoping for an idea to come along. This will work I think. Thank you Jots!

  8. Thank you for the step by step instruction. This information is so valuable. I used white gouache in one of my very first watercolors and was able to actually fix a tree that was mis-shapened. Since then I have tried white gouache in various ways including the method you describe (but in a much more limited way). I have used spray bottles and white gouache in my abstracts from time to time. The method you describe is interesting. Your painting is still vibrant. I have had difficulty with areas looking lifeless after washing white gouache across them. Also, even when dry, the gouache sometimes comes off when painted over? I think the gouache was probably too thick. I’ve solved the other problem by washing color over the white but there may be a better way. Any ideas? Loved the post. You are a true teacher…

    • Hi Linda,
      Nadine uses spray bottles on her paintings, also. I am going to get brave enough to try that. Nadine recommends that you use rags or tissue to blot areas of the painting to protect them. That is like a personal choice thing. I did that around my people and on the foreground colors in this one. I am not having a problem with gouache coming off but am not using it thickly. For me, on this first one I’ve tried, I would go back and forth between gouache and adding color. I probably could have gone back into this one more. I am watching the talks that Nadine has on You Tube and trying to watch what she does because there a a few posts of that nature. I hope that helps. I think I need to go further and that I’ve only touched the tip of the ice berg with this. Hope that helps.

  9. This is so lovely, Leslie. I must admit I may have to look at some videos to understand what is going on though. i have never worked at all with gouache.

  10. Great post, thanks for sharing 🌹


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