I'm travelling into a new way of working, a new country, a new language, and a new hobby which I'm passionate about. Come with me for some of the journey...

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Watery Florals

Hello all!  More baby steps in watercolour to share, and we're getting a bit flowery today.  Apart from the meadow flowers and Wild Grasses with which I admit I'm slightly obsessed (but I know I'm not the only one), flowers are fairly rare here at Words and Pictures.  But they do seem to suit watercolours, so I've been having a bit of a dabble.

And my flowers are still mostly related to the meadow.  This lavender is my favourite, I think, though it wasn't the first, so we should probably stick to the journey in the right order (though some of the other doodlings you've already seen, and some you've not yet seen, came in between these - it just made sense to group the flowers in one post).

So, you saw a glimpse of these sort-of-dandelions in the Mixing and Daubing post, but I wanted to include them in more detail because there's a looseness and wildness to them which I like.

That's probably because they were utterly unplanned!  I just put down a splodge of green paint to see what the mixed colours were like.

There was so much pigment on the page that I started spreading it with my brush, and that became a clump of leaves pretty much by itself.

I thought I'd try sticking some flower heads on the top.  Since the two colours I was playing with on this page were Nickel Azo Yellow and Phthalo Blue, the yellow seemed the better choice, and they ended up a bit like dandelions in full bloom.

(I'm now tempted, as I write this, to go and try out some dandelions in seedhead mode, which is how I like them best.  I'll finish the post first.)  That doodly page was done in the hotel room.  These next flowers were done back at home, but they're still in the large 9 x 12 inch Canson watercolour pad.

As I mentioned in the last post, I've been watercolouring in the warmer living room rather than the freezing craft room, and there were some unopened tulip buds just by me in a vase.

"Paint those," said Cestina, who's in the UK rather than the Czech Republic (or newly-renamed Czechia, a name she hates though I rather like it) at the moment.  She's fond of hurling down challenges.  Well, I'm still just messing around so I thought I'd see what I could do.

I love the loose impressionistic watercolours you can find on Pinterest, so that's what I really wanted to have a first play with.  There's a definite through line here to my crafting journey - the delight in shimmering light and translucence which has been there from the start.

(I have a Watercolour pinboard - you'll get an idea of some of what I enjoy there... and see how far I still have to go on this particular journey!  You'll also see the inspiration for the lavender stems.)

The shape of the tulip heads is not quite right - though they were in very tight buds - but I like the sense of light and sunshine of all the splatter and the soft washes disappearing at the edges.

And I do like the leaves - and how the colours bleed from the flowers, the reflected glow of the gold on the surface of the leaf.

The bit that pleases me most about this is the completely invented glass vase.  The real tulips were in a dark brown jug which I wasn't very interested in trying to replicate, so I created an imaginary one for my tulips - much lighter and airier.

I'm quite excited about the glass and the water inside for a first go.  Though I suppose, what could be better than watery watercolours to capture water?

Finally, back to those lavender stems.  As you can see, I was again playing with that watery expansion of colour into nothingness at the edges.

There's a freedom in putting down the water first and then letting paint flow into it...

... and then adding more details at various stages - sometimes wet on wet for the flow, sometimes waiting for the whole thing to dry so that you can add more intricate details.

I've watched quite a few artists in action on youtube, but my main guru is Steve Mitchell, whose channel is called The Mind of Watercolour.  (Okay, he spells it 'watercolor', but he's American and I'm not.)

Mitchell veers between very precise work and much softer, looser techniques, and he's a natural communicator and teacher.  My favourites are the ones he calls "spontaneous paintings" - but more of that another day.

I've spent happy hours watching his videos full of fantastic techniques and inspiration (and enjoying the contributions of his studio assistant, Rhys, a plastic skull... you probably have to be there), and I've learned so much along the way.

Now I've just got to put in the hours to continue developing my skills.  I know that I'm just stumbling around in the foothills at the moment.

Thank you for bearing with me on these forays into watercolouring.  I don't think flowers will be a major avenue of exploration for me, though the lavender may continue to pop up (given I have an idle dream of being a lavender farmer).

But it's all about discovery for now - enjoying the steepness of the learning curve, finding out what fits, what feels exciting to me... so who knows?  So far, the Wild Grasses and maybe this lavender feel like the most like "me-in-watercolour", and they're flowers, really, aren't they, so I'm not ruling anything out at this stage.

There's a brief PaperArtsy diversion next before we get back on track, and when we do we'll be heading from the flowers to the first of many trees.  Trees are another existing obsession alongside the meadow grasses, so there are already plenty of them to share, and with some of them I feel as though I'm on the way to another "me-in-watercolour".

I hold no preference among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous.
Edward Abbey

Watercolour is a lifetime pursuit... mostly uphill.
Robert Wade

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Mixing and Daubing

Hello all!  Thank you for the lovely feedback on the Wild Grasses.  I have a feeling there will be more coming along those lines as I continue to explore how I want to use watercolours in my creating.  For now, we're going back to start at the very beginning (a very fine place to start).

Really these posts are for my own virtual scrapbook records.  I like being able to trace the steps on the journey.  If you care to join me on the way, that's a lovely bonus, or you can just go for a quick scroll if you prefer...

I was very happy when my short trip to New York for work at the end of January coincided with a 40% off coupon at Blicks, a favourite art supplies shop.  Once the work was done, I was straight on the subway to go and see what they might have to play with.

I did have an idea of what I wanted.  About two years ago, I got some Qor watercolour paint tubes (made by Golden) on an offer and had a tiny dabble with them then.  I knew there was a newer sampler collection of 12 tubes around, and that was on my hit list.

Happily they were in stock so I grabbed them, and some large 9x12 inch Canson watercolour pads which were on offer, as well as a cheap set of brushes.  I did, of course, have brushes at home, but I wanted to play right then, that evening, in my hotel room!

I really just did some mixing and daubing, to see what sort of colours they were and how they played together.

I started with a fairly formal colour chart of just two colours - Nickel Azo Yellow and Ultramarine Blue.  The two left-hand columns are the colours unmixed.

It's not too formal - my pencil boxes got a little tipsy as they went across the page.  It's great fun to see how many shades and tones appear with different mixes and water washes.

And as you can see I used up some of the extra paint on some words...

But I decided that was too formulaic for the mood I was in that day (though I'll definitely do the same with other colours another time), so for the next page I allowed myself four colours - Paynes Grey, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), Permanent Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre - and just dabbled.

I love letting the colours run in to one another to see the mixing possibilities.

And because it's just playing and learning, loose and free, I even found myself really enjoying the red zone (and on into pink and orange too...)

A couple of my usual doodles made their way onto the page.

The cheap brushes turned out to be rather nice to use, creating shapely strokes to turn into leaves.

Back down to a trio - Paynes Grey, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Phthalo Blue.  I had so much paint on the brush (unintentionally - lesson learned now!) that the first dark blue sweep took up half the page by the time I'd spread the pigment out.

A little more writing practice, just using up paint on the brush.  My brushwriting turns out to be similar to but not the same as my handwriting.

I had a play with how light a wash I could use.  There's so much pigment in these paints that you can really use loads of water and still get a beautiful effect.

I wanted to see some of my green options, so I tried out a page with Nickel Azo Yellow and Phthalo Blue, mixing both on the lid of the paint box and on the page as I went.

The blob at the top formed itself into a clump of leaves without my even really thinking about it, so I gave it some rough sort-of-dandelion heads (though I know they're not really dandelion leaves), and added texture with the end of the brush handle.

Then I found myself playing with stems and grasses over the rest of the page too.

I'm fascinated by how many colour tones you can get with just two paints.

I carried on with those two colours on the next page, but added some Paynes Grey into the mix too - complete change of atmosphere.

Again, the doodling led me to plants and trees.

I like the cooler blue/greens of this page very much.

And I enjoyed painting water on first and allowing the paints to bleed into it - really cool effects.

So those were my hotel room daubings.  I was back home for the next few.  I'd planned to get back into the craft room properly, but I found myself unable/unwilling to stop playing with the watercolours.  Besides, I can do that in the living room where it's much warmer!

There's a whole page of Dioxazine Purple, experimenting with brush strokes after watching some videos on youtube.

Lots of lovely possibilities here, and slightly better brushes to accomplish them with.

(They're still not mega-expensive, I assure you.  I swoon at the prices of some of the brushes you can get!)

I added Quinacridone Gold Deep into the mix for the next page.

I'd been looking at videos about how you get neutrals when you use contrasting colours, and I love the browns and greys I got with these two.

Business as usual with the trees and grasses...

But I also tried out a couple of little figures, very impressionistic, not detailed.  It's mostly chance, but with a little bit of control.

I intentionally created the pairings, but I love how alive they seem to be in their conversations, which I didn't really have much to do with.

I really loved the neutrals I got with mixing, but the purple was maybe a bit much for me, so I retreated to my blues and greens for the next page of playing.

I think this is Sap Green and Indigo in action together.

Continuing to try out brush shapes and strokes and positions...

Some more of the inevitable grasses...

... and some more painting with water and then adding pigment strokes and letting them just do their thing.

Finally for today, some more colour combinations (which I stupidly didn't write down, but there's Payne's Grey and Quin Gold in the bottom half of the page, and I think the Alizarin Crimson again, but the rest is up for debate), and a bit of circle practice.

I was also playing with dropping colours into other colours, wet on wet.  

I completely understand why people become obsessed with watercolour as a medium!

So that's enough experimentation for one day.  I'll be back soon with some watercolour florals... Florals?  Yes, florals - well, flowers are basically glorified grasses, aren't they?!  Thanks for stopping by, and I'll see you again soon.

All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make, the better.
Ralph Waldo Emerson