new icn messageflickr-free-ic3d pan white
BEACH CROW ( Mayday, 2012) / with watercolor notes | by NCMallory
Back to group

BEACH CROW ( Mayday, 2012) / with watercolor notes

brush, pen and india ink / watercolor, tempera and digital color




Grey May morning at the oceanside-- islands obscured in mist.


Even the beach crows working the garbage cans seemed a little disappointed-- but industrious and persistent, as always . . .


My thanks, as always to the great Billy Plummer, photographer extraordinaire, for his inspiration and reference sources.


His website ( May the Circle Remain Unbroken) is here-- don't miss it:




( Some Flickr members have e-mailed me asking for watercolor "tips" or "secrets."


Here are a few from painting watercolors for about half a century. These short remarks apply only to the way I work and the results I have been able to produce over the years. Further, I'm assuming that the folks who asked me to comment are painting in a more or less "representational" manner.):


1. Don't use too much water. Watercolor paint dries much lighter than it looks when you put it down. Both the color saturation and the vividness of the paint can "die" on you. Paint darker and more vividly than you first estimate. Ted Kautzky called this "avoiding anemic watercolors."


2. Work with large brushes. The timidity that comes with wanting the brush to be a pencil or some other familiar writing instrument must be overcome. A brush is not a pencil. Large marks have the advantage of "getting it right" the first time and lessening "noodling" . . .


3. Make as few marks or strokes as you can get by with. Look for large planes in painting portraits or the figure. Put them down simply and decisively. Edgar A. Whitney's remark is still valid:


"How beautiful even a random mark with watercolor is when left unmolested . . ."


( his site):


4. When you move the brush, particularly in anything resembling a linear stroke, look at the place on the paper where you wish to stop your stroke and then make the mark. Don't follow the brush with your eyes as it moves across the paper-- you will wobble and muff it. I learned this from Asian artists and from cartoonists.


5. Paint from the arm, the elbow and even the shoulder as often as possible. Don't exclusively nibble along with tiny finger-strokes.


6. Make one pass over your paper ( the first "stage" of your painting) and let it dry for about half an hour, or until the paper looks and feels dry. Your first pass should be large areas, zones or strokes. Then, when the first paint application is dry, start to look for the darkest darks and lightest lights and proceed with further "layers."


7. Try always to think of light and overall design.


8. Stretching paper is tedious, time consuming and can be a real pain. But it confers the advantage of not worrying about the wrinkling, cockling or "saucering" of the paper. These days I stretch all my large sheets-- anything over 12 by 18 inches, or work on watercolor blocks, which are between stretching and gluing paper and working with loose sheets. Closer to the stretched effect . . .


Subordinate ( do this decisively) your background to your center of interest, which may change a bit as you work.


Remember, cool colors recede and warm colors advance. Your strategy in working transparently, with watercolor, has to be different from your strategy in oil or acrylic as an opaque medium.


Your light issues upward from the white paper. When you subdue or cover it, a little of the overall luminosity dies. Study Homer and Sargent and look at how carefully they preserve ( in the case of Sargent, even add white with opaque white color-- or scrape back to the white paper) white and light areas and use them in their compositions.


When you think you are finished, leave the picture alone for a day.


The next morning or when you feel comfortable about your appraisal of what you have made, when you are thinking more clearly, either save it or throw it away. Some artists like to save their failures, but I am usually too appalled to do that.


There are always chances to re-work your picture and still keep it fresh-looking. Andy Wyeth did it for over sixty years. But dead areas drag the watercolor down, and can't be refreshed as easily as oil can by painting back in.


Finally, don't grieve too much for your first five hundred bad watercolors. You are getting better all the time. Faster than you know.


As Sean Scully says: "Persistence and resistance" do it in painting. You persist even through the bad work and the bad times and you resist trendiness and all the detractors who tell you you don't have sufficient talent.


( here are some of my watercolors, for what they might be worth to you. I have many more on my Flickr site-- these are only some I have selected):


Happy painting to all.




19 faves
Taken on May 1, 2012