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.