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Thursday, August 5, 2010

She's - gasp! - planning her next watercolor painting!

When it comes to painting, planning has not always been my strong suit. Far too often I was so eager to get to the good part - the color - that I didn't properly prepare and it shows in those paintings in the form of reworked and overworked areas, muddy color, too many colors that jumped all over the place and various other undesirables that left me less than thrilled with the result. I needed to put more time into preparation and think things through to avoid as many problems as possible.

So I've spent most of today planning a little 4 x 6 painting. You'd think something that small wouldn't take much time to plan. But it did. The same thing goes on in a 4 x 6 painting as an 8x10, 12 x 16, or whatever size. Regardless of size, there are underlying principles behind a good painting. Hence the planning session.

First off, I've found out - from messy experience - (remember the cherry shadow fiasco a few posts back?) that it's difficult - if not impossible - to glaze successfully over a hefty layer of cadmium red. Or any other cadmium color for that matter. Why? Because cadmiums are opaque and if you apply a heavy layer it's going to sit on the surface of the paper; then when you attempt to glaze another color over the cadmium it disturbs the color and you end up with splotchy mud instead of a smooth glaze. Trust me, I know.

So, determined not to let a little mud get the better of me, I selected the colors I thought I'd be using for my next painting (butterfly on a flower). Then I went to each of the manufacturer's websites, got the specs on their watercolor paints to verify the transparency or opacity of the colors. I'd read somewhere that you can mix several colors together and, as long as you're using all transparent colors, you'll keep bright, clear color - i.e. no mud. I wanted to see if that was true.

I now have a selection of colors, all transparent, all artist grade. My next quest was to find a beautiful orange. I already had a tube orange, but it was cad orange so it was a no-go. In the pics you can see the mini color charts I made while experimenting to find the colors I wanted. I have to tell you... this was absolutely fun! I oohed and aahed as beautiful, rich, clean oranges starting appearing before me. Yes! Free from the curse of the cads! ;-)

Some of you are probably thinking right now, "But I like cadmium red, yellow, orange, etc". So do I. But not when I've got multiple layers of glazing in mind. Which is why I spent the time on planning: my palette is selected, I've found several pleasing color combinations (some of them used four colors... and the resulting color did remain clean and vibrant), and have done the drawing and masking. All of this leaves me delightfully free to concentrate on the painting part. Oh, and I also stretched my paper for the first time to keep it from buckling.

You know, I think there's something to this planning stuff. I could get used to this :-)
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