In this post, I will show you how I take a poured watercolor composition from conception to finish. In yesterday’s post, I noted the steps I feel are important in developing a successful poured painting. Today, I will illustrate these points.
Critical concerns to Ensure a Successful Painting
- The artist needs to make studies before painting. For each mask layer to be successful, a careful drawing must be executed with accurate shapes and values . Additionally, the artist needs to consider all the elements, (line, color, texture, form, and space, as well as shape and value), to insure a balanced composition. Though pouring is primarily a studio technique and not suitable for pleine aire painting, poured watercolor develops technical skills, habits of mind, and the awareness of compositional elements that are critical in the field when an artist must work quickly to capture the light.
- When initiating compositional studies, develop your ideas into connected shapes with three or more values.
- Edges matter- draw and mask shapes very carefully, so the painting will read when the mask is removed. Buy the best brushes you can afford for masking, (you will need a variety), and take good care of them, so the mask doesn’t destroy them. Mask brushes and water containers must be dedicated for masking only.
- Exploit lost & found edges, negative space, and counter-change when developing compositional studies.
- Avoid details until the end, when the mask is off.
- When the mask is off, find areas where the edges must be softened.
The photograph below shows my daughter’s pony, about 17 years ago. It is well suited for a poured demo, as it has large shapes and strong light.
Develop strong connected shapes in three values:
I made an initial drawing in three values. You can see how the shapes connect- the white area of grass flows into the pony’s nose, and the dark area of grass flows into the pony’s legs. This gives the painting nice use of negative space, and the lost and found edges compel viewer involvement. In the actual composition, the white leg flows better into the white grassy area. Without making the value study, I would not have noticed this. At this stage there are few details, yet the painting clearly reads as a pony in his pasture.
Consider each element of art: (line, color, texture, form, space, shape, value)
I begin designing with shape, value, and space, then I consider the other four. The light on the pony’s back and the lighter belly areas will define a well-rounded, solid form. I will enhance this element after the mask is off, as I soften edges that define form.
Color, line, and texture come from my painted studies.
Raw sienna, cobalt blue, and manganese blue all produce granulation, which will add texture to both the pony and the foreground. This color study tells me what to expect as the colors mix during the pour.
In making a small color study, I learned that my initial primary color triad- raw sienna (for yellow), burnt sienna (for red), and cobalt blue, needed a little punch to the earth pigments. I added rose madder, because it is earthier than permanent rose, and manganese blue for its lovely green mixing qualities and granulation. I use a limited palette of 4 blues, 3 reds, and 3 yellows for my paintings. For poured paintings, I limit my palette to just 3-6 pigments.
In the painted study, I connected the white leg into the white grassy shape, as noted above. In painting the grass, I used a variety of long, short, and broken lines to convey both texture and to lead the eye into the pony, as subject. Then I added juicy drops of color into the tail to blow tail lines that echo grass lines and blend into pasture.
Shapes are carefully masked. I use my value map, (first photo), to make order out of the chaos of masking and pouring. Once the first mask is applied, it becomes difficult to see how the painting is progressing, so the initial studies are critical to organizing the pouring process.
Avoid details and soften edges when the mask is removed:
Check back soon for how to resolve the painting once the mask has been removed.