Thursday, November 1, 2018


Before going into the lesson, let me cite several good references on negative painting. Steve Mitchell's Mind of Watercolor youtube has a very good lesson on negative painting. I highly recommend it. Linda Kemp has written two books on the subject, one of which is Watercolor: Painting outside the Lines. Gordon MacKenzie's Complete Watercolorist's Essential Notebook
has several good pages on negative painting. See the end of this blog for 4 other blogs on the subject.

Today we did three exercise to try to understand what negative painting is. Here is a simple explanation: The positive is the shape of an object and the negative space is the space behind the object. In this picture (the stencil) the positive shape of the leaves is on the left; the negative shape is on the right.

To do the first exercise, first use two colors to create a background. Salt to create a little texture.
When it is dry, trace the stencil and paint a color two values different around the shape. That is the negative. When that is dry, draw another shape, and paint around both of those shapes slightly darker values. Dry, and continue to draw and paint around the shapes until you are pleased with the picture.

For The second exercise, draw three circles onto the paper, and paint BEHIND them. I used yellow. T
Dry and draw three more circles, some ovelapping. Then paint around all the circles. (I used pale green) Now you can see white and yellow circles with green background. Then make three more circles, and paint even darker around those. Now I have white, yellow, and pale green circles with a darker green background.

The third exercise is pretty simple monochrome.  Draw a wavy line at the bottom of the page, and paint everything above it a pale value. Dry. Draw another wavy line above the white and into the blue. Then paint everything above that second line a darker shade. Dry, draw a third line, and paint everything above that line darker. Continue until you have several values of the same color. It will look like mountains or ocean waves. 

So why do negative painting? Rarely are any of my pictures totally negative painted. It's usually a combination of positive and negative. Negative painting can make things such as a grove of trees easier to do. 
You can see several of my other blogs on negative painting for more. 

8/13/17  water lilies
8/04/17 Trees
6/03/16 leaves
5/26/16   leaves

Pen and Wash

In class I demonstrated three ways to use pen with watercolor. The pens I used were Sharpie ultra-fine, Micron 005 and Micron 003. You need to use bleed proof, permanent inks, not waterbased.

Pen and Wash: Bee Eater,inked first

Probably the most common method is to ink the drawing first, and then apply washed of water color. When inking you can use several techniques to shade: cross hatching, stipling, scribbles, etc. This bird is a bee eater, and you can use almost any colors, since there are many varieties of color in these birds. I used cross hatching (curved around the branches to accent the roundness of them) and some stipling. It was a snap to wash over these with bright colors.

Pen and Wash: Old West Cabin, sketched in paint first

IN Watercolor Artist magazine, December 2012, DeAnn L. Prosia presents a different approach.
You first draw the basic shapes with your watercolors, not drawing or tracing in pencil first. Lay down sections of color that represent shapes in the image. In this first picture, you can see that I've just sketched with paint.

The second step is to go over the picture more exactly. Draw the actual image on top of the shapes of color. She uses black colored pencil or pen for the foreground, dark indigo for the middle ground, and a medium warm gray for the background. Parts of the drawing may match up to the sections of color that were first laid down and some may not. But it adds interest to the picture.

Then you can go back with a second layer of wtercolr to give more depth. Sometimes more drawing is needed.

Pen and Wash: Old West Cabin, over toned paper

Wet a piece of paper and apply some spatters of color. Allow to dry.

Then, using an ultra fine pen, draw in the picture. Then use smaller pens to add details. Fill in blocks of color. I just liked this with just two colors.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

San Jose Mission Part 3

This first photo shows a few steps, especially adding shadows. For the bushes, I wet the bottom half of the bushes and applied blues and purples at the very bottom, and let them "bleed" upward. The shaddows underneath the bushes are also French ultramarine and violet. The important thing about these shadows is that the edge that goes over the sidewalk is horizontal, not slanted. Otherwise the sidewalk would look tilted. If you look closely, you'll see the shadow takes a "step" over the edge of the sidewalk. I then shadowed the pot beneath the tree on the right and the pots in the foreground. 

In this picture, I have painted the low stone wall next to the sidewalk. Leaving much of the edge between wall and sidewalk dry, I wet the top of the wall and applied burnt sienna and coral.  After that was dry, I indicated some cracks and separations between stones with mostly horizontal lines. When dry, I painted the vertical side of th wall with burnt sienna and French ultramarine. 

I began making the trunks of th palm trees and shadowed the pots. To make the dirt in the pots,
just apply French, burnt sienna, and a bit of purple or burnt umber. I also put some red and yellow blossoms in the trees and bushes. Then I darkened the posts in the background. 

In the finished product I emphasized some of the arches and finished the foliage on the plants. Be sure to leave whites in the palm leaves, or they will fade into the bakground. 

For extra texture on the sidewalk or walls, you can wet the area with clean water and use sandpaper and watercolor pencil ... see the blog on watercolor pencils. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


I just wanted to post some student work. I didn't get as many pics as I'd like, so hopefully next week I'll remember.


After the first coat is on the arches, I wet the bushes and added yellows throughout, still using a FLAT BRUSH.  While the yellow was still wet, I added in some blues and greens where it will be darker. 

While that was drying, I mixed burnt sienna and French  ultramarine and painted the outer part of the arches on the top. I kept it on the warm side, adding a little quin burnt orange in places. Then I did the lower outside arches with the same mix, but a little more French ultramarine.I also darkened the second row of arches. 

 For the little tree on the right I wet the tree, then painted in some yellow, adding French on the underside, and a little sap green as it went toward the top of the tree. When the tree dried, I added some purple shadow to the right and underneath. 

I removed all the masking fluid. For the sidewalk, I put a light coat of quin coral with some burnt sienna to tone it down, and painted right into the flower pots. I added some French into the flower pots while wet. I rewet a few areas and sanded some brown colored pencil into the pots and sidewalk.  

I began darkening the bushes on their shadowed side. Working upside down, I wet the dark side, added French ultramarine, and then added sap green as it came closer to the top of the bushes. I let that dry, and then painted the side of the bushes that face the sidewalk with a green and some French. Even though my reference shows the side areas of the bushes to be about the same value, I wanted to emphasize the square shapes of the bushes by making the values of the top and sides different. 

As the paint was drying, I spritzed soe water into the green to get a bit of texture and shaved some pale green colored pencil into the top. At this point, I still haven't used anything except a FLAT brush. 

Just a little bit more to go!


This is from a lesson we did this summer, but my computer was on the fritz, so I didn't get to blog about it. Thanks for the reminder to post it.

In the August 2014 issue of Watercolor Artist magazine, page 61-65, Judi Betts discusses "toning" watercolor paper to get some beautiful effects. She starts out by dividing the paper into four rectangular shapes, each a different size. She then tones each section with a different color, each painted a light value. (Don't use purple or browns or greys) The yellow should have the same value as the green, blue, and red.

Draw your picture right over the toned areas. When painting, use the complementary (opposite) color of that area. If you have toned with yellow, use purples in that area. (see top left boats). Over orange, use shades of blue. (top right boats) Over green paint reds (bottom left), and over blue, paint oranges.(bottom right). 

It's a challenge, and a bit freeing, not to be constantly asking myself, "What color should I use here?" 

The object is to notice that you don't have to leave white whites for something to look sunlit, as long as you are using darker values. And the use of complimentary colors enhances the look. 

My reference was a picture I found on Pixabay, a free photo site. So this painting was done for my own use, to experiment, not for sale.

When you are painting near the border of two colors, do a little overlapping to obscure the border. For example, have some of the purple painted a bit into the area you would otherwise paint red. 

Judi Betts has examples of this on the internet and in this article. She also suggests using five organic shapes instead of four rectangular shapes as a background. 

Friday, October 5, 2018



If you are cooking, you likely have several tools at your disposal: different spoons for different jobs, different knives for different cutting needs. You COULD cook your oatmeal or fry your bacon with a teaspoon, but that's not the most efficient way to do it. Likewise, our cell phones can do some amazing things, but if I don't take the time to learn, I miss out on knowing how to edit a picture, take a video, keep a calendar, or use the GPS. 

Any job has specific tools for specific occasions. For artists, one of our most valuable tools is our brushes. We can have an arsenal of wonderful brushes, but if we don't know how to use them correctly, we miss out on making our painting experience more enjoyable.

Sometimes I see a student struggling with an area in a painting that could be resolved more easily using a different brush. So I'd like to take a little time to talk about the uses of a FLAT brush. Flat brushes can be considered "wash" brushes or "brights." "Flat" has longer bristles, and brights are shorter. "Angle" brushes will have hairs that are cut at an angle, often used by watercolorists as "blending" brushes. 


I usually work with a 3/4 inch or 1 inch flat, depending on the size of the painting. If I am doing detail brick or something smaller, I'll use a smaller flat. I like the brush to have some spring to it when it is dry or wet. When it is wet, you should be able to press the fibers through your fingers to make it come to a sharp chiseled edge. You don't want the hairs to separate or have loose hairs. 


A lot of people keep their flat brushes handy for making large washes in skies and other parts of the painting. They make short work of a smooth or graded wash. But there are other great ways to use it.


Just hold the loaded brush against the side of the object and pull the paint out. This is also great for those smaller areas that are square. 


Work from the tip with brush almost perpendicular to the paper. Just tapping it down makes a great line. For a fence post, hold the brush on one side of the post and drag it across the width. 


Hold the brush nearly perpendicular and pivot 


Using just the corner of the brush, you can fill in small shapes or create dots.


Load the left side of the brush with one color and the right side with another. 


Using clean water, run the brush alongside a shape you want to soften
while the paint is still wet. The width of the brush provides a larger wet area for
the paint to soften and run into, creating a very gradual move of paint. Notice how the left edge of the brush catches the wet edge of the paint, while the rest of the clean water in the brush creates a wet area for the paint to run into. 


Hold the brush nearly perpendicular. Pull the brush straight in a short line, then lift
in the direction of the palm leaf. 


Splay the bristles a bit by separating them with your fingers. This will make it behave
much like a fan brush. (dry brush technique)

#9 BRICK (not shown)

Use a smaller flat, depending on the width of your brick. Starting at the top of the brick, paint down
to the bottom of the brick. A "bright" brush is sometimes good for this because it has shorter bristles and retains the shape a bit more. 


My youngest daughter's father in law took us to see the San Jose mission in San Antonio in 2008. I used one of my photos from that for this reference. 

Below is the pattern for the San Jose Mission painting. There are some changes in the final painting: I took out the fence in front; added another pot in front; simplified some of the arches. 

#1 Miskit. I only miskited the foreground trees and spattered some where I want to have some red or yellow flowers. Always use a brush designated only for applying masking fluid. Wet it, put soap on it, then dip it in the masking fluid. 

Here are the ways we have used the flat brush so far.
#2: The sky

The sky is done wet into wet. I used cerulean, but you can use your favorite blue. The flat brush was used to wet the entire sky, starting with the hard edges of the building and working into the body of the sky. Then with the flat, I applied the paint to the wet paper, starting where I wanted it to be darkest, against the building. You can encourage the paint to flow into the water either by brushing side to side or by tilting the paper on its side. 

While it was wet, I pulled out some clouds with a "thirsty" brush (one that has been dampened and then the water pressed out with fingers or on a cloth) and some tissue. Also, while damp, I added some raw sienna to the background trees. (around the arch on the right) I wanted them to be very soft edged and a more muted color so they would look more distant. 

I then went back and painted the sky inside the arches, also wet into wet. 

#3 Underpainting the mission building

I want a warm undertone for the stonework in the building. I also wanted to suggest texture early on. I used four colors: Lunar Earth, Raw Sienna, Lunar Red Earth, and French ultrmarine, because all of them granulate. Other combinations can include burnt sienna, Indian Red, Ochre, anything warm and granulating. 

I wet an area and just put down warm colors all over and let them blend together randomly. I did this to ALL of the building, not paying attention to the inner lines that I will later define. After the paint lost its shine, but was not completely dry, I spattered some clean water into the area. This created a more mottled texture in the walls. 
 (Because I had miskit on the palms in the front and the little one on the building, I could easily paint right over the walls without trying to work around small shapes.)


Next week: Finishing the mission; underpainting the green bushes;