Playing with watercolor paints and water on paper has been peaceful and soothing lately which we could all use more of in these wacky times. I'm enjoying a technique of watercolor painting that I learned from my Saint Olaf College art professor, Wendell Arneson. I'd been using watercolors more like acrylics before his class. I wasn't really using their special affinity to water. The paint will only go where there is water. Paint will float around in a puddle mixing colors in interesting ways similar to creating marbling patterns.
I start by tracing circles because I seem to have a circle obsession lately. Then I either wet a circle or create a puddle of water in a circle. Next step is to get your paint brush wet and full of a color from the paint palette and then lightly drop the color into your wet circle. Watch the color spread. Add more of the same color or more water if you like.
Then move on to another color and drop it into another spot. Keep repeating until you have added a few colors. Key point is to know when to stop before the painting gets too muddy. Doing specific color studies with just a few colors helps to keep from going overboard.
From Wendell's Color Design class, we learned to study colors found in other artworks, magazines, or just about anything. For my color play, I have been experimenting with the color combinations in Carter Smith's shibori fabrics. A photograph of one of his dyed silk scraps is on the right below although my photo does not do the colors in the fabric justice. (That's what I get for taking a photograph at night under yellowy light bulbs.)
Aside from knowing when to stop, the only hard part is waiting for the paintings to dry to see what happens. Try it. It's fun and the worst that can happen is your paintings will turn to mud. Just remember color theory - opposite colors mixed together make dulled tones and browns depending on how much of each you use. In the event that you didn't get to take Wendell's class or another color design class, the opposites on a color wheel are yellow/purple, blue/orange, and red/green. Mixing the three primary colors (red, yellow, blue) can also result in mud so you may prefer to avoid those combinations at least at first. Just plop the colors in gently and let them do their thing.
And for extra fun, here's a cute robot drawing by my 5 year old, Tyler, who just started virtual school. All teachers out there dealing with COVID - you are wonderful! Thank you for all you do! (Any software developers out there - please, please, please design easy to use software for teachers to use to teach effectively on-line without incessant bugs.)
Best wishes and stay safe,
Mother & daughter, Ann Lee & Sonja Lee-Austin share their joys and struggles in their art and lives.