In the world of watercolor there are a million plus ways to apply pigments. Every artist has their own methods which helps to portrait and express their own style. The hardest part of learning to use watercolor is to learn to control the application of paint. Over the years I have spent teaching watercolor I developed some simple brush strokes with names to help simplify the process.
I hope this helps! Understanding the use of crisp and soft edges in important. A painting with only crisp edges will have an excitability and edginess to it that may not lend itself to the message of the finished product. Only soft, wet edges, creates an ethereal, whispy image. Using both soft and crisp edges can communicate depth, volume, atmosphere, personality in your work.
There are more video links and blog post lessons found on my Lessons Tab at the top of this page. Let me know if this helps! Thanks to those who have commented on my posts. I appreciate the feedback!
In watercolor it is sometimes challenging to be able to control soft and crisp edges. A painting with only crisp edges will look too structured and stiff. A painting with only soft edges may look too washed-out. A painting that contains both soft and crisp edges can convey mood, atmosphere, and detail.
So, how do you create a brush stroke with one soft edge, especially if you are layering this stroke over an existing wash that is already dry?
It’s all a matter of how wet or dry your paper is. Here is a link to my YouTube video that demonstrates how to create what I call a “Softened Edge Stroke”.
This link can also be found on my Lessons Tab above.
Take a look at the previous post if you would like to see this lesson from the beginning.
I am working around the rose petals with tiny washes of three pigments, a yellow, a pink, and a cool red for the shadows.
I have to work around, and around so that one petal may dry before I paint the one right next to it. If the wet edges touch they will run together. Notice that there are cool (dark red, plum) and warm areas (light pink and golden). This is because when the light hits the different edges of the petals it bounces around and casts different hues – the lighter side, facing the light source, will have warmer colors including in the shadows, and the side that faces away from the light source will contain much cooler colors, not just darker colors. Understanding this helps to build a believable painting.
The rose is nearly completed at this point. Now that most of the petals are completed, I can see how the colors, values (lights and darks), and shapes work to create the illusion of a three-dimensional flower. Notice that I left tiny white areas at the tops of some of the petals. I want to leave these so that the edges between petals are shiny, clear and vivid. These little white areas help the painting to sparkle, and also help to set off the darker shadows just under the edges of the petal’s white edge.
In the next post I will start with the leaves around the flower! Let me know what you think, I love hearing from you!
Using French Ultramarine Blue, I have added the lines on the towel. I tried to create each line with as few brush strokes as possible. This keeps the painting looking fresh and painterly. It’s okay if the lines are not perfect. The towel is not the focal point for this painting. Too much detail, even in detailed work, becomes fussy-looking.
Today I have used Sap Green to add a wet wash of color to several areas on the jar. I have again used the softened edge stroke (see previous post) to create soft glazes. I have used different strengths of color (by using different mixtures of pigment and water) to develop some darker values and some lighter values. It’s important to use your photo reference as a key. It will guide you as to where you need color, what shapes those colors should be applied, and how dark or light the color should appear.
Because the previous glazes of color were bone dry, the soft application of another color on top of the previous layers creates a depth of color that cannot be achieved otherwise. When glazing several layers of color, be sure to use a very light touch and do not brush too much! Extensive brushing will simply lift and mix the colors and create mud.
Now that my foundation is complete, I can begin to work in a little detail, just one step at a time. I have mixed little puddles of very wet pigments. One puddle is a bit of Permanent Sap Green with a touch of French Ultramarine Blue, another is French Ultramarine Blue on it’s own with some water, another puddle is of Antwerp Blue and another puddle has a combination of the above colors. These puddles are all very, very wet and pale.
Using a number 10 round, or larger, I applied a pull-push stroke to create some shadows and ripples in the water. The ones in the background are very faint/wet, and smaller in width. The strokes in the foreground are wider and more crisp.
I used a clean, damp brush to soften edges here and there to break up the crispness of the lines. Be sure to look A LOT at your photo reference for clues as to where to add the brushwork, where to soften the lines and what color and direction the brushwork should flow.
If you would like to paint along with this lesson, go to my etsy online shop and click on the Online Class icon. For $5.00 I will send you the reference photos and the prepared drawing in a pdf file format via email. Then, you can paint along each day as I describe with photos and journaling, how to paint this little picture.
Today I have used VanDyke Brown to develop some more of my details within the vines, the impressions in the trunk, and to again develop more little details. By applying small amounts of pigment, then immediately softening the edges, I can create the illusion of details and depth without actually painting every little thing. The top coconut is my focal area, so I want to create the illusion of detail without actually painting each bit in. By using this “poking” method of touching the wet pigment with a damp brush, I can create a myriad of edges that make it look detailed, without being fussy.
I have glazed VanDyke Brown again within many of the shadow areas to deepen the value. Once dried completely, I glaze blues in the same manner over the browns. Using relative opposites on the color wheel creates much darker values.