Art Tip: Shape first for light and colour

January 28, 2016 | 2 Comments

I love starting my sketches with a watercolour wash rather than ink lines. I find that when it is just me and the pigment floating on the paper, I capture the light better and get more interesting coloured washes.

I think this is because I am purely focusing on the coloured shapes and therefore see the colour better. For some reason having ink lines on the page can affect the way I add colour – I am more likely to follow a set sequence of steps, and play safe with colour choices. When the paint goes down first, the paint has much more of a say about where my sketch is heading and I have been known to drop in some completely random as well.  I love giving up a degree of control to watercolour pigment.

There are some bleeding issues associated with drawing over the paint (whether it is wet or dry), and it often isn’t as accurate as I can achieve with lines first, but the trade off is worth it – for me anyway.

This is the first pass of the above sketch of St John’s Ashfield. I was sitting a little too close to the building so my perspective was a bit wonky, but I am liking some of those washes a lot.

If you missed it, I was playing with shapes last week as part of my Foundations Friday series. Stay tuned for Constructing Volumes tomorrow!


  • Shirley Miller says:

    I practiced your playing with shapes at a local coffee place. It was fun and helpful. I stuck with a small palette, so now I can try to use more color like in your lovely sketch. Thanks Liz!

  • Liz Steel says:

    Ah! that is great to hear!

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