Fun with Watercolor: Sometimes It’s Best To Use as Little Water as Possible

November 1, 2019
Pen sketch using a Sailor Fude Fountain pen in a 9 x 12 inch Canson 180 sketchbook. The paper in this commercially bound book really does enjoy pen and ink work.



To finish today’s sketch I used as little water as possible with my watercolors on a non-wet-media paper.

This post shows you the ink sketch, the painted face, and then my decision to paint a background of color behind the face. 

What this post can’t really show you is how much fun I had making this sketch. The stubble might be a clue. I love to sketch stubble. The wonkiness of the lines as I flipped the nib of the fude fountain pen over to get a different line weight might be another clue.

I worked very fast throughout the process spending less than 15 minutes sketching and maybe five minutes painting.

I think that when we work faster than our accuracy can tolerate we sometimes discover fun things about ourselves, our approach to painting, and what part of image making feeds us. (I had also had my eyes dilated earlier in the day and still had no close vision for accuracy.)

For me there was also the excitement of putting paint on this face—it was the first time I was painting on the sketch paper in the Canson 180 sketchbook.

You can see the strokes of the wide flat brush I used for this painting. (The thinner strokes were made with the edge of the same brush.

Watercolor added to the sketch. Very little water used with the paint as this paper will buckle when it gets wet.

I was using leftover paint so my pink and lilac are already mixed a bit with white gouache. I was so eager to paint that I didn’t even put out new pigments.

I think when you are using up paint leftover from another image, you can either feel constrained by the limitation or embrace it. You can whimper to yourself the whole time “I wish I had another yellow,” or “What can I do with that brown?” Or you can say, “Wow, what if I do this?” And then do whatever it was you thought of—with abandon.

I think it’s also worthwhile to practice letting go of your lines. I had some great lines in the mustache and then I painted opaquely (with watercolor) over them. 

You know what—it felt great. 

I can always draw more lines.

(Though you do notice I took a little more care to work translucently and transparently on the stipple on the neck!)


When I finished painting the face I thought about doing a marker background like I do on many of my portraits. But I had not tested the marker on this paper yet. I decided I’d use up more of that leftover paint. 

I find the shape of color around the head interesting because of the brush stroke variation. And I like the way it isolates the head. 

This is just me, encouraging you again to let things happen and see what you discover: about your materials, approach, and of course about yourself. 

Note: I used Platinum Carbon Black in my Sailor Fude Fountain pen. I find that this ink (I have a Sailor converter in the pen and use bottled ink) is waterproof almost immediately on this paper. Go right to paint and keep the momentum going.

Finished pen and watercolor sketch in a Canson 180 sketchbook.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close Cookmode

Pin It on Pinterest