Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Watercolor thumbnails

A fun practical way to get to know your watercolor paints and brushes is to sketch thumbnails. By making quick test strokes with different strength washes of a single color and testing simple color mixtures on a small surface (this example was done on a 7" X 10" Arches Cold Press-CP watercolor block which has a slightly rough surface), you can quickly get a sense of the tonal and hue range that can be accomplished with the palette selection of a given paint box. It is also an efficient way to figure out picture composition (the way parts are arranged within a picture) and the effects that can be created with a given brush. The two top rows in this example were sketched with Utrecht watercolors using a fine #1 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinski sable brush, and the bottom rows were done with a large Pentel Aquash waterbruh and Pentel Vacance watercolors. As it would be expected, the small #1 sable brush can produce very fine details like the branches in the first thumbnail (top left corner) while the large waterbrush can create broader strokes and faster paper coverage as seen in bottom thumbnails.
The thumbnails below were done with Maimeri Blu 12-pans watercolor set on a 7" X 10" Arches Hot Press (HP) watercolor block using a #3 Winsor & Newton Artists' Watercolor sable brush. This new watercolor brush features a longer contoured handle that might take some time to get used to for those that enjoy sketching on a drafting table (for which I find shorter handle brushes to be more comfortable). The paint can be harder to control on the smooth HP surface, for it tends to sit on the paper longer before drying. It might often seem that washes are easier to control on a CP support (another name for watercolor paper), but it would be advisable to try and practice on both to discover their strengths and the effects that can be created on each. When painting landscapes, I would try the CP support first. The HP support is recommended for fine detailed work, and it's also a good paper for color pencils.

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