Manly Sketching class: Week 4 - Colour

May 30, 2013 | Leave your thoughts

Yesterday was week 4 of my 8-week sketching course… and finally we got to use our watercolour paints!

Putting together an 8-week course is a lot of fun for me – I am trying to provide a broad overview of all the foundational techniques that I use in my sketching and trying each week to leave my class with one or two key thoughts  that they can use to build on, in whatever direction they choose to go. So how to do an introduction to colour and watercolour in one morning session was a challenge!

And before I go any further I did not mention any pigment numbers!!!! (well I don’t think I did…maybe one or two slipped out in passing by accident…but it was not my intention to do so!)

When it comes to colour theory it is easy to get lost and confused by the formality of it all… and although I have a few (!?!) books on colour theory that I have read over the years NOTHING replaces a working knowledge of the colours you have in front of you. I also think that colour is SO personal. “what is your favourite colour?” is a question toddlers get asked! Gaining a degree of confidence to trust your own colour preferences is what is most important. Yes, sure read up on colour theory – the more you know the better – but don’t read and read in the hope that you will become ‘good at colour’ by reading!
So my big thought is “play, play, play” Colour is FUN!

When it comes to watercolour… ok, we all know that it is ‘hard’ …but I think we need a mental shift… its unpredictable nature is what makes it MORE FUN! Especially in the context of sketching. We are not trying to create perfect works of art… so a watercolour ‘happy accident’ is part of the joy of sketching. Don’t take watercolour too seriously!

My silly catch phrases of the day  are ‘juicy’ washes and ‘ hit it hard and leave it’ – now how can you ‘hit watercolour hard’? Silly expression but the principle is to be bold! In particular, it is important not to be wimpy with that first wash (nail the local colour first time) – this is something that I have picked up from Charles Reid… he is my watercolour hero!

I was SO impressed by how bold my class was yesterday…. we painted vegetables in the studio and then went down the road to a group of shops with some crazy colours… and played with colour, tried to make our washes juicy and tried to apply the things we were looking at last week – local colour-shade-shadow. It was great to have another glorious warm sunny day.

What was also exciting was how, while devouring our lunch at the lovely Cafe La Bas, we could SEE the process of some people’s watercolour use. We could see those that worked very wet and those that worked dry, the washes that were over mixed, how to get a backwash, how leaving white gaps separated the washes, putting water down before the sky vs running out of water halfway through. Maybe that is why I love watercolour so much- the process is so visible. We also talked about mixing problems (murky browns) and granulation (ok, I will admit it I did start talking about pigments and how I love to find the ones that will react together the way I want… but no numbers)

Anyway… such a fun day…of course we will be working in watercolour for the last 4 weeks… but next week buildings and that dreaded p word! (perspective!)

Final thought – there is NO way to understand watercolour except by using it and making many ‘mistakes’ … the more joy you can get out of the happy accidents and crazy stuff watercolour does the better.

PS – Here are some photos (thanks Suzi!) from yesterday. You can see me(or my hands!!!)
top left: getting very excited about the pigments reacting on the paper
top right: pointing out an exciting backwash where the yellow exploded into the red(happy accident!) during our lunch review of everyone’s adventures with paint and water
bottom: showing how my first attempt at painting the vegetables (in the larger book on the table) I didn’t have enough pigment and the red pepper went flat and splotchy.
(BTW, I think that the secret to using Stillman & Birn Alpha paper for watercolour like I do…is lots of pigment – juicy washes!)

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