Getting Loose with Watercolour. No 1. 'Back to basics'.

Starting with a thumbnail sketch helps plan the proportion of your sketch

Starting with a thumbnail sketch helps plan the proportion of your sketch

This was the first in our new series of ‘Getting Loose with Watercolour’ Workshops. Some students were experienced and others newer to Travel/Urban sketching, but all there to find out why they felt watercolour paint was a challenge.

My assistant Pamela had tea and coffee going flat out while everyone settled in. Meantime we revealed our palettes to see the 10 colours we’d use and 2 we wouldn’t - at least today.

Asking around the table to find out the particular issues meant we could note on the whiteboard every point made and we’d work through it one by one.

One of my most important differences with watercolour is that I don’t premix a colour. Instead I take a good look at what’s in front of me and decide whether it’s a yellowish tone, a blue one or a red/pink tone. I often start with a thin wash of yellow ochre as an ‘undercoat’

For people who’ve never had any training in using colour, particularly watercolour, I have a palette that covers the colour wheel without all the techno stuff. I find if you use the right balance of red, blue, yellow, green in your sketches - it looks great.

The leaving of white was a big factor too. Most felt they didn’t leave enough, but that just takes practice.

By doing some swatches first we found out how much pigment to water you need. Less water for stronger colour (foreground or centre) more water for middle ground and even more for background or edges. You can get depth with just one colour.

Onto the sketch. Page planning - how high/how wide/where’s the centre all helps to get that 3D thing in front of you onto this flat piece of paper.

A thumbnail sketch does help you know where you want to place the elements. You feel a little bit in charge now.

Take 10 -15mins to get your sketch down and onto the colour.

Chinagraph pencil, scribble firmly around tops and sides. Avoid shine or polish on the centre. We’re creating lots of whites round tops and sides of objects and the darks go down the centre. I don’t know anyone else who does it this way, but it’s the fastest way I know to get roundness or dimension in a sketch quickly. Works well.

All 8 colours are laid out in the palette separately, so no running together. Have a tissue at hand always as you’ll be washing your brush between every layer. be sure it’s really clean. Means you can quickly go between them as needed without constantly having to make a new puddle. Keeps the sketch moist as well so that the colours will blend when you hold the book up slightly and drop one colour over another. Let the accidents happen. Let the colours do their thing. Leave it alone. No dibby dabbing!

It was wonderful to see all the sketches coming to life and getting these whites and darks bringing the whole thing to life.

Everyone seemed to learn to relax and get loose. Not easy but everyone was still breathing at the end.

Next Getting Loose with Watercolour’ Workshop - ‘Water and Sea’. Monday January 21st. 11am - 2pm.

See you here for the next Watercolour Workshop results


Erin HillComment