I was excited to find a few gems at the local library Friday night, and I’m itching to dig into them more. One book I found is Creating Nature in Watercolor: an Artist’s Guide by Cathy Johnson. I own a couple of her books already and am drawn in by her relaxed watercolor style.
When a friend came over for our occasional Art Day, I struggled with what to work on because there are so many things I want to try out. As a way to force myself to just start somewhere, I opened to the page titled “Mammals of the Grasslands” because of the sweet drawings of rabbits. They looked manageable to work on in a casual way without complete concentration, so I could chat as much as I wanted but still make some progress with the studies.
For the sketches, I used a Stabilo Graphite All Pencil and loosely went over them with a wet brush to soften the lines and add some shadow. I love how Cathy can capture the form and gesture of the rabbits with just a few confident strokes, and tried to imitate that with my sketches.
I used the watercolor versions to practice controlling the washes and glazes. The first one didn’t go so well (the lower left bunny). Part of the problem was that I’m using a Strathmore 500 Mixed Media Journal, where it looks like Cathy used watercolor paper. This journal is great but since the surface is similar to hot press paper I’m having a hard time with washes. It’s like the paint is sucked dry the moment after it’s brushed on. I might be able to get better results if I really loaded up the brush with lots of pigment and water and loosened up.
But on the second bunny (the lower right) I changed my approach. Instead of trying to a variegated wash I focused on flat wash and glazing on dry layers. This worked much better, and I took my time brushing in the fur details. The cast shadow gave me a lot of trouble, and the colors aren’t as rich and golden as I wanted. I did a little practice on those after doing the studies, and will need to continue working on them.
I’d love to do more studies from this book! I’m also excited to explore Beatrix Potter’s Art : Paintings and Drawings. She’s not an illustrator that was on my radar, but after seeing her name mentioned recently I wanted to check her out. Her detailed style has a lot of charm and tranquility that has me fascinated.