Yesterday I held the Watercolor Simplified for the Sketcher workshop in Petaluma, CA under sunny skies with lovely cool temperatures, and best of all, fresh air! We all seemed to shed the mantle of recent fire storm woes and enjoy dipping brushes into color in the excellent company of other artists.
In planning this workshop I was acutely aware that “watercolor simplified” is indeed a bit of an oxymoron. Watercolor technique is decidedly NOT simple as anyone who is even moderately proficient at it will tell you. But there are certain strategies one can learn to make it easier to capture a scene quickly, with less fuss and more fun.
We started out in a park by the riverfront in Petaluma where there was a symphony of morning birdsong. The students all had good drawing skills but about the watercolor part they made comments like; I want to get beyond painting by numbers. or I want to get more comfortable with sketching outside. or I want to learn how to punch up a sketch with watercolor. or I want to be freer with my painting.
So we practiced making decisions about what to leave white, painting quickly, dashing off a sky and ground shape with a wet application of at least two colors and a splash. And at lunch we took a wet-splash beginning and did a sketch on top of it.
It’s easier sometimes to start drawing on a page with some fun color already there. Instructions were to incorporate the under painting in the sketch design.
It helped that we had such good eats on Petaluma’s riverfront at the Water Street Bistro.
Phyllis’ hat was hard to resist. This is my sketch over a splatter-wash under painting.
The old Petaluma Mill was the perfect setting for the afternoon lesson which was the old One-Two-Punch method.
(above from my handout)
Paint just the shadow shape first using interesting mixed grays. When that’s dry, come back in with the local color of the objects/buildings, exaggerating or inventing color if you want! The Punch is where you define the darkest areas like windows and deep shadows with your darkest pigments. This will often rescue a pretty but timid sketch.
There was not time in this busy workshop to sketch entire scenes, so the students focused in on gem-like parts of the scene.
and drew borders around the focal point to further simplify.
It was nice to have someone to sit with when sketching out in public. Different sketchers doing the same scene always makes for interesting variety. We get to see through each others’ eyes.
Petaluma is such an enticing location for sketching with a combination of riverfront, older architecture, bridge, railroad tracks, old mills and granaries, and even an abundance of ducks under the tracks! I’m looking forward to another day of sketching there soon.
This was my last sketch workshop of the season, but there are more ideas formulating for new workshops in the series next year, so stay tuned! And let me know what you’re interested in.