raw cotton

Posted on by Wess Foreman

Raw Cotton, 9x12", SOLDI finally took out the watercolors I purchased half a year ago and tried my hand at the new [to me] medium. This was my first watercolor painting in over fifteen years; as you probably know I normally paint using acrylic paint. So I thought I'd write a bit about the process and maybe some differences between painting in acrylic and painting in watercolor.

I set up these two cotton balls on the table before me and drew a simple sketch, pencil to paper. Then I laid out a few colors on a pane of glass---yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, ultramarine blue, and black---with a piece of white paper beneath the glass to make the colors stand out. Though I used the black, the color was unnecessary since the blue and umber mixes to make a nice black.

In painting a watercolor, it is common knowledge and common sense to start out with the lighter areas since one can always darken a color but cannot always lighten a color once it has dried on the paper---it is a transparent medium afterall. So I started with the red-golden surface surounding the cotton balls, then made my way around the painting in successively darker colors; the last being the black of the stems and the signature. The parts that [barely] save this painting from failure are the darkest darks and the lightest hints of gray in the white of the cotton balls---these details along with the shadows give the painting a passable likeness to the subject matter. (what I'm suggesting is that while this painting is not a disaster, neither is it a masterpiece)

Now for the differences between painting in acrylic and painting in watercolor. First of all, having to wait for the water to dry is something I'm familiar with in theory, but in practice I'm usually only waiting for thick paint to dry (and then only when it's in the latter stages of the painting). Drawing a brush or a finger through a nearly dried shadow, for instance, could totally obliterate the shadow. And I'm not used to painting on paper. Paper wrinkles and water tends to gather in the valleys of those wrinkles. This wasn't a big problem for me---I work with water everyday using acrylic and often as washes---but this was something I had to be more aware of. Water management.

Things I would do differently. First off, I'd have paper towels handy. Second, a blow dryer would be helpful. Third, I would secure the paper to a board to keep it flat and prevent curling. And finally, if I'm going to be doing more watercolor in the future---and here's a hint: I will---I'll want to look into better brushes and quality paper and paint (I'm currently using the cheapest stuff one can find). Anyway, that's all for now. Look for more watercolors in the future.

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