54. DEVELOPING MY TEACHING CHOPS (WATERCOLOR, PART 2)

WET-INTO-WET:

Another essential watercolor technique is known as 'wet-into-wet.  When thinking of watercolor, this technique is one of the first that comes to mind to many people.  It's so named because fluid watercolor pigment is brushed onto a wet surface resulting in soft, amorphous edges.  It is a perfect technique for creating wispy cloudy skies, atmospheric landscapes, and subtly modulated forms.

Below are some of my class demonstrations.  

The example on the left shows what happens when pigment is applied at various stages of paper wetness.  The middle examples show the different ways the wet-into-wet approach can be matched to subjects.  On the right, three colors (alizarin crimson, phthalocyanine green, and French ultramarine) create abstract compositions on areas of different degrees of moistness...


Emil Nolde created hundreds of loose and evocative wet-into-wet paintings with his superb wet-into-wet watercolor technique...


The students were particularly attracted to this technique because of its expressive possibilities and the ease with which such captivating effects could be achieved...once familiar with how to keep it under control.   If you're not careful, it's easy to just get 'mush'...


My own related work:

After having taught watercolor at the Academy for almost two years, my own painting was evolving along with what I was teaching.  As I've written, there was a symbiotic relationship between my teaching and my painting.  Through teaching, I was essentially teaching myself how to paint...so what I was teaching was reflected in what I was painting. 

This interactive process was reflected in page after page of studies in my sketchbooks at the time... 


I loved the wet-into-wet process and Emil Nolde's loose watercolor paintings were a big inspiration as well as the English painter J.M.W. Turner's 'colour beginnings'---loose color studies where he applied large areas of muted, translucent, pastel washes.  These landmark watercolor studies from the early 19th century were revolutionary in Europe and inspired the Impressionist movement, although Chinese and Japanese painters had been doing similar types of work for centuries and Asian paintings had interested me since my university years... 

While I continued to keep the theme of landscape at the center of my work, the wet-into-wet technique itself was inspiring the imaginary landscapes I was creating...  


DRYBRUSH:

Drybrush is almost the opposite approach from wet-into-wet.  In this technique, much of the moisture is squeezed from the brush and the paint is applied to a dry surface...hence, it's name.  Unlike the loose handling and amorphous forms achieved through the wet-into-wet process, drybrush creates tight, clearly defined, detailed forms.  You can use stiff, old, wornout brushes to create a variety of interesting textures...
Andrew Wyeth's super-realistic, sharp-focused, clear, detailed watercolors were masterfully achieved through a painstaking drybrush method...


The drybrush technique is rarely used by itself in a painting.  It is usually used in conjunction with other techniques...like graduated washes and wet-into-wet.  It can create almost photographic sharpness and detail and, in that regard, it can be considered much like depth-of-field is used in photography...to focus in on certain areas and making other areas subsidiary.

My own related work:

As I have shown, my approach to teaching was both affected by as well as affecting my painting at the time.  Below are examples of my own painting that used this technique...



3. LEARNING TO PLAN THE PLACEMENT OF LIGHT

A great challenge in watercolor has to do with developing a strategy for creating areas of light.  Watercolor is traditionally a transparent medium which means that highlights are achieved by leaving the white of the paper showing and light areas are created by laying down transparent washes of pigment.  In this way, light areas are the result of reflected light from the paper underneath the washes.  This requires one to plan where the light areas are going to be placed at the onset of painting.  The darks are built up through the added layering of washes.

4-VALUE WASH EXERCISES:

As I did in my drawing classes, I developed a series of 4-value exercises of flat washes in order that the students could plan the placement of darks and lights in a simplified way.  The 4-value approach forced decisions as to which were the lightest areas and then gradually build up the darks around those areas.  As in drawing, we started by working from black & white photographs...


Each successive wash isolated the prior lighter values.  A painting has the most 'zip' when there are a full range of values...from the lightest areas of bare watercolor paper, through translucent washes of middle values, to the darkest buildup of concentrated pigments.


After practicing this exercise a number of times with different photos, it becomes much easier to spot lights and darks with any subject...whether working from a photo or working on the spot from still lifes or on location.  I demonstrated that this same 4-value approach could be used with a wet-into-wet technique as well as flat washes...


I combined both the flat wash and wet-into-wet approach to demonstrate creating more subtly modeled images.  From some antique photographs, I did monochromatic demonstrations using both flat washes and wet-into-wet which produced amazingly photographic results with transparent watercolor...


Below are examples of watercolors by my students using both of these approaches...



Copyright (c) Donald Archer 2020  All rights reserved

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