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Using Only a Few Brush Strokes

May 17, 2019
Quick portrait sketch using a muse photo from the Sktchy App. Solid-tipped Brush Pen with watercolor washes made using a broad flat brush. 90 lb. Fabriano Artistico Cold Press watercolor paper in a handmade book.

Earlier this week I wrote about working quickly with the brush pen and all the benefits of different quick approaches.

But you can also work quickly with watercolor washes. You pretty much force yourself to do this if you work with a large flat watercolor brush. (Here I used a 1.5 inch wide brush.)

Why experiment with large watercolor flats? A month ago I wrote a post about using this type of watercolor brush. In that post I go into some of the things I like about large flat brushes.

In today’s sketch you can see how I used a large flat watercolor brush to put down washes to cover large areas quickly (the shirt especially) and to state simple shapes (shadow areas in eyes), or define a plane (cheeks). I also wasn’t concerned about having coverage everywhere on the page. I wanted just what would “convey” a sense of likeness.

Even the “detail” work in the hair and beard of this sketch was all done with the same large flat brush—I turned it on its edge to make thinner strokes.

Working this way will help you bust out from being fussy. It will also lead you to make interesting color choices since you know you’ll have one, maybe two (if you want glazes) “goes” at it. But most important, this approach will put the break on fussing.

I keep saying that because it’s important to me. I fuss too much. Maybe you do too? Working with fewer strokes will ensure that you work against that habit and get some fun results in the process.

Here’s a bit of a close up.

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