Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The difficulty of painting water in watercolour

I've been struggling with this topic for as long as I've been painting in watercolours. Given the name, you'd think it would be easy to paint water. Not! There is something about water scenes that keeps on evading me, particularly when it comes to ripple patterns. It's this mix of light and dark, vertical and horizontal.
Should you use masking fluid?
Should you work wet on wet or wet on dry?
Should you work loose or carefully planned (although these two are not necessarily mutually exclusive)?
What kind of paper to use?
How to keep the water transparent and the ripples dark?

I've been searching the web, but I'm not finding any easy answer. It's all about the wetness of the paper and the paint, but how to do it? I'm not looking for a photorealistic effect, but I don't want it all blurry either.

For me, I think the clue is in the fact that water is a fluid medium, and yet, the patterns on the surface of water are quite defined. So, maybe a transparent and light fluid first layer (wet-on-wet), followed by a darker pattern (wet-on-dry).

My attempts so far haven't worked out. I've even run my latest attempt under the tap to get rid of most of the paint  - plus I had to use a toothbrush to scrub off the phthalo turquoise, which is a staining pigment (left), and I might try one more layer to see what happens. Or just use the back of that paper for scrap! I need to spend more time with it. And keep trying. Although right now, I'm tempted to move on to something else! Clouds maybe?


  1. I'm not sure which is harder for me... clouds are certainly another good challenge! Btw... I like your water ripples.

  2. Thanks Dana! Nice of you to comment. I just went over to your blog for a little catchup. I love your multi-page spreads - the autumn leaves in particular!! Are you planning to do the Fake Journal Month this year? I haven't given it any thought yet, but I probably will. I found it so inspiring last year. I'm thinking of doing a 1-week challenge set by Liz Steel and Marc Taro Holmes, to sketch 100 people in a week!

  3. I'm definitely going to do IFJM, Marie-Hélèn... it's become one of my favorite months of the year! ... though I have no clue of what I'll be doing. Maybe I'll be inspired once Roz publishes a possible theme.

    I saw both Liz and Marc's posts this morning about their challenge. 100 people in 5 days. It's rather daunting to even think I could manage that! I guess I'll need to plan ahead if I decide to do it. When I heard 20 people's day I got the shivers.

    Thanks for your kind comment moments about the fold out pages. They're fun but it takes some time to wrap your head around the whole design thing!