The Painter’s Journey ~ Part II : making your Muse at home
This is the latest painting I am working on. I started her about a year ago, inspired by my love for the colour blue and for the mythological story of Leda and the Swan. I have probably spent an hour on her – she measures 7 x 10 inches and the paper is a gorgeous cold-pressed smooth cotton rag .
The muse cannot descend with grace if you don’t have a few elements in place to welcome her. I have discovered that using good quality watercolour paper is essential to allowing the paints (and your Muse) to mix and flow beautifully. My preferred paper as I have mentioned in a couple of other posts is the amazing Stonehenge paper which I discovered at my local art shop The Artist’s Store while living in Katoomba, Australia. I love this paper because it is smooth – it has no grain like many other watercolour papers do, so it is great to use with coloured pencils and pen for clear, sharp lines and lovely blending.
The first thing I generally do is sketch out my design roughly in a soft lead pencil so that I can easily erase if necessary. Then I apply a light wash to whatever areas of the composition I want to have definite colours. Above are examples of this initial process from previous paintings (which can be found on this blog)
The paint brushes I use vary between ones for acrylic and watercolor. Some of my favourite paint brushes are also the cheapest ones, but I do have some beautiful sable-haired brushes strictly for watercolour use. The fan brush to the right is great to use for blending in larger areas of colour wash with great effect and feathered delicacy. It’s good to play with each paint brush and see what it can do: I use the finest tipped brushes for drawing in lines and faces little details.
As you can see, my palette is simple: I have used this old plastic plate for years now, and just squeeze out a selection of watercolour paints, plus some chinese white, in a way that I know I will use and blend them together. My favourite watercolour tube paints are Van Gogh brand which has a large selection of beautiful colours at very good prices.
Many people ask how I blend my watercolours, and the rule of thumb with this type of painting is to be very subtle when applying the paint to the paper. Watercolours by nature are transparent and have a beautiful translucency which is desirable to translate onto the paper or canvas.
Try to always keep the paper showing through to some degree, and gently layer your colours as you go along with delicate strokes, being careful never to overload the paintbrush with paint, and to use a good amount of water as you blend. I blend on both the paper and also on my palette, working from light to dark layers – so don’t start with your darkest colour first.
Next time I will explore more about adding detail, layering and making the composition flow….