Watercolor pigment ratio, water control, and dot-to-dot continuous line contour drawing

I love going to the library and choosing random art books. One recent score was Charles Reid‘s Watercolor Solutions: Learn To Solve The Most Common Painting Problems. Before checking it out, I had no idea who he was. But I’ve since discovered that he’s highly regarded as a watercolor artist. I totally see why! While his loose style looks effortless, I’m learning more and more that it’s surprisingly difficult to actually do.

One of the sections in the book is about color mixing ratios. When I played around with this exercise I also wanted to work on water control because I’d like the colors to mix without backruns. That’s something I’ve watched a lot of videos about and it sounds reasonable in theory, but in practice it’s a lot harder to achieve!

watercolor blending exercise for water and pigment control
Working on watercolor pigment ratios and water control.

I used transparent pyrrole orange, yellow ochre, and cerulean blue. I don’t use yellow ochre or cerulean blue very often, but I’m loving them in this mix. It’s the sort of triad that Charles uses for skin tones.

This morning over donuts a friend and I were chatting about that idea of painting loosely, and how it actually takes a lot of experience working with a medium to get to the point where you can say more with less. And that growth happens by practicing something often.

For example, by painting just 15 minutes every day, you’ll learn more about your tools and process than one day a month for 3 hours because you get immediate and regular feedback about what you’re doing and you can make small tweaks to your process. If you save up all of that painting time for one session a month, you’re stuck trying to learn all of those little things at once. Plus it’s easy to forget what you learned last month as opposed to building upon each experience every day.

Oh, and while I was waiting in the car for her to arrive I did a sketch of my view! That’s something I’d like to do more of when the opportunity appears. I used my new Handbook Travelogue square sketchbook which fit nicely in my purse. Since drawing is the foundation of pretty much anything I want to make, it’s a skill I’m trying to work on more and more. Following the exercises in Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was a huge help!

sketch made while waiting in the car in my new Handbook Travelogue sketchbook
I started this sketch using the dot-to-dot continuous line technique, but got distracted (or maybe rushed) partway through and stopped. I think the sketch was better while I was using the technique.

Another artist I discovered that’s really inspiring me is Pat Weaver, who has a video on painting animal portraits in watermedia that I may buy. She uses a technique she calls dot-to-dot continuous line drawing where she keeps her pencil on the paper to draw the contour lines of her subject. When she stops to measure the location of elements, she pauses and makes a little dot to keep her hand moving, then continues on with the contour. Coincidentally, it’s what Charles Reid does for his sketches as well. I love it when that sort of connection happens.

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