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Working Transparently and Opaquely with Watercolor

September 16, 2019
This is the first color painting I did after my second cataract surgery. (No glasses to correct vision.) Fluid 100 Hot Press Watercolor Paper (140 lb.) Brush pen, watercolor, collage, and acrylic marker. 9 x 12 inches.

My eyes have still not settled down after the cataract surgeries (January 28 and March 5). There are some issues which appear to be permanent. I’ll deal with them in another post.

Today I wanted to write about the drive to paint in color, the need to push paint around.

If you saw the journal I kept during and after the surgeries you’d see that it is almost all monochromatic. It is filled completely with line work and ink wash. Until of course it isn’t; until of course I couldn’t stand not putting some color down on the page—regardless of how my eyes were or weren’t working.

I was working in a green-lined notebook, something I’d purchased at a bookstore. Such books are comfort food for me, reminding me of my childhood. But I noticed that about three quarters of the way through that journal I started to put splashes of watercolor on the non-wet-media pages. So I knew it was time to sit down and paint on real paper after 2 1/2 months away from watercolors.

My Approach

I took some photos of the various stages of the image shown today. I wanted to note for myself what I was doing to see how my eyes held up. I was looking for clues as to how the comeback from surgery would go.

But today I’m putting up the stages photos for you because I think it’s a fun look at using watercolor both transparently and opaquely in one sketch. Such an approach can help you achieve different textures or lighting effects. For me on this day there wasn’t much planning. I was using transparent watercolor and then decided that I wanted to test the Holbein Shadow Green on the hood. And I of course wanted to use it opaquely.

Typically I might then lay in opaque watercolor across the entire face, but I liked the washes on the face and left them.

I’m not advocating that this is a look to be desired, but for me on this day it allowed me to have the most fun.

What I can advocate is that in any painting in watercolor there are going to be passages you want to do transparently, translucently, and even opaquely. It will depend on the subject and your own aesthetics. Practicing them in all three ways (the beard is more translucent than transparent) together in this way will help you discover what it is you like about watercolor.

I used a 3/4 inch flat wash brush and a small filbert for the face and several large filberts for the hood.

Since I was still stuck at home after surgery when I returned to color, I used a photo inspiration from the Sktchy App.

About the Gallery

If you click on the small arrow at the bottom right of the gallery the gallery will blow up to full window (larger image) with a black background. Then if you click on the little “i” at the bottom left the captions will appear for you to read. The final step is the finished portrait sketch. You can click on the thumbnails below the main gallery image to move through the gallery.

Steps one through five are photographs of my work in progress. They were shot in varying light conditions. Image six is a scan of the final painting. Image six shows the color accurately.

    • Kathy Clark
    • September 16, 2019

    Thanks for sharing the stages of this portrait, love the lines on the face and the beautiful green brushstrokes on the hood.

    1. Reply

      Thank you Kathy. I really love the paint on the hood. I had so much fun with that. It is so fun to push paint around.

        • Paul
        • September 16, 2019

        That’s a gorgeous green and it really vibrates against the complementary pink! Thanks for sharing the process, very informative!

        1. Reply

          Paul, I find that perylene green is a wonderful pigment and with the staining red and blue you can get some wonderful shades of “black” that are temperature appropriate. But really I just enjoy pushing the paint around as you know.

    2. Reply

      Kathy, glad this was of interest for you. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Kare Furman
    • September 16, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your approach and the photos. I find the photos especially helpful with the written information in understanding how the results were achieved. Play is a wonderful creative tool.

    1. Reply

      Play is the best creative tool Kare—get some play in today!

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