herringbone watercolor exercise from Creating Textures in Watercolor

More watercolor lessons from Cathy Johnson – boulder and herringbone

My studies from Cathy Johnson’s watercolor book Creating Textures in Watercolor continue with a boulder and herringbone fabric texture. These two subjects spoke to me, and I wanted to see how close I could get to her versions.

It’s when I try to mimic her paintings when I see the nuances of Johnson’s skills — her paintings look rather carefree and loose, but recreating that is challenging!

I keep seeing tutorials that suggest using ultramarine blue for shadows, so I’m trying to get a handle on that technique. Mixing ultramarine and burnt sienna is apparently a go-to combo and I’m starting to see why. The range of colors available with just these two mixing together is quite extensive, and very useful.

boulder watercolor exercise from Creating Textures in Watercolor
My version of a boulder with shadow, painted from the lesson in “Creating Textures in Watercolor”
boulder watercolor exercise from Creating Textures in Watercolor - Cathy Johnson's version
Original version from “Creating Textures in Watercolor”
herringbone watercolor exercise from Creating Textures in Watercolor
My version of the herringbone fabric texture, painted from the lesson in “Creating Textures in Watercolor”
herringbone fabric watercolor exercise from Creating Textures in Watercolor - Cathy Johnson's version
Original version from “Creating Textures in Watercolor”

One of the keys for these two paintings was to set them aside to fully dry before going over with details. I could have used a smaller brush on the cap to get finer details with the paneling and texture.

So far for me, achieving a loose, casual look hasn’t been loose or casual at all! I wonder if I’ll reach an ability to actually feel more spontaneous with my painting and drawing strokes…

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Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - moving water exercise

Watercolor lessons from Cathy Johnson

Part of learning how to paint with watercolors is about just doing it and getting familiar with the tools, but I also love learning from experts. I treated myself to two books (print versions, not Kindle version) by Cathy Johnson — Painting Watercolors (First Steps) and Creating Textures in Watercolor.

Her loose, confident, and sketch-like style is what I’d like to get to with my own skills. By following her examples, I hope to learn what it feels like to emulate her style as a way to develop my own.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - moving water exercise
My moving water exercise from Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

One thing I’m struggling with is being patient enough to let the layers dry before adding details on top of them. I keep ending up with a mushed-together blob like in the dark areas below.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - mountains, cliffs and other rock forms exercise
My mountains, cliffs and other rock forms exercise from Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

I love the way my little red building turned out! The wet-in-wet variegated wash was intentional with this one, not the result of rushing layers.

Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson - buildings in landscape exercise
My buildings in landscape exercise Painting Watercolors (First Steps) by Cathy Johnson

Apples have become my achilles heel…there’s something about the red color and highlights that is ellusive to me. But the peach and strawberry turned out well. The strawberry was better for me because it has small, controlled highlights. And the peach doesn’t shine and features softly blended shades. Which was totally fun to do.

Creating Textures in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson - fruits
My apples, peach, and strawberry from Creating Textures in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson

For these, I’ve been using Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper in Traditional White. It’s stating the obvious, but the experience of painting on this paper is hugely different from using my Stilman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook.

Modern Watercolor Techniques - underwater scene

Modern Watercolor Techniques class

When I signed up for Ana Victoria Calderón’s Skillshare class Modern Watercolor Techniques: Beginner’s Level, I honestly didn’t expect it to be so much fun! I figured I’d be getting some intro to watercolor techniques, but she took it way beyond those basics.

The class starts with good watercolor fundamentals, like how to become familiar with your paints and brushes, and how to gain control over your brush strokes. After a basic project is complete, it moves onto super fun “experimental planets” where we used a variety of materials to make little circles with varying effects. (This was my favorite part of the class).

There are a couple more activities she teaches as well that build in complexity, all with an element of play and experimentation. So much great stuff!

Modern Watercolor Techniques - monochrome activity
For for monochrome activity project, I painted a slice of lime complete with little shiny highlights
Modern Watercolor Techniques - experimental planets
My favorite part of the class was making these little experimental circles with salt, rubbing alcohol, ink, and watercolor
Modern Watercolor Techniques - jellyfish activity
The experimental planets helped prepare us for painting jellyfish, complete with white ink for highlights
Modern Watercolor Techniques - underwater scene
The final project of the class was a galaxy or underwater scene (I chose underwater)

Links

Tools & supplies

  • watercolor
  • fine sea salt
  • rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs
  • india ink
  • Copic opaque white pigment
  • paper towel for lifting pigment