Sunday, May 22, 2022

"Queen Anne's Lace Lake" (watercolor and gouache on paper; 12" x 9")


"Queen Anne's Lace Lake"


The following is the description of what we did in the fifth week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week we explored the mixed media of watercolor and gouache. Whenever you add a little white gouache to watercolor, the latter turns into an opaque medium of gouache. Please check out James Gurney's YouTube video on "Painting Peonies with Watercolor". In this video, you will learn the nuts and bolts about plein-air painting and how to paint tree peonies in watercolor and gouache. He is a world-famous painter of many mediums; he is one of the most creative artists I know of.

"Queen Anne's Lace Lake" involves the hard/soft edge handling as well. After drawing the design, we wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly and first painted along the horizon (both above and below) with a very pale winsor lemon (if you are heavy-handed with lemon, your sky will turn green!), then painted the rest of the sky and water in cobalt blue.

After drying the paper, we wetted this time the sky shape only and dropped the greens (lemon and cobalt blue) and purples (French ultramarine and permanent alizarin crimson) to suggest the distant trees. If your paper is too wet, you will lose control and the distant trees will be as tall as the middle-ground tree. Drop purples generally along the horizon, but don't be automatic. Refer to my painting. At one go, I created the impression of the soft-edged distant tree line with layers of tall and short trees.

After the paper dried, we wetted this time the water and tall middle-ground tree shape. We dropped purples for the reflections of the distant trees along the horizon and the reflections of the tall tree and middle-ground land shape. We also dropped greens and purples for the tall tree. Make sure the tall tree shape looks like a tree, not a mitten! If you haven't wetted the paper thoroughly, you will have hard edged reflections!

While the paper is still damp, make grass strokes in the foreground with various greens and even some purples for dark shadows in between grasses. 

When the paper dried, we pained the middle ground land shape (now hard edges are happening for definitions).

Time for gouache! Whenever we use gouache, we have to use it with much less water. If you use it in the consistency of watercolor (with lots of water), gouache practically disappears. Whenever we mix watercolor with white gouache, the mixture dries about two value scales darker (the opposite of watercolor).

Keeping these two things in mind, stipple dots with the watercolor/gouache mixture of appropriate colors in the tall tree, middle-ground land shape, and middle-ground reflections in the water. These dots suggest the tree foliage, distant Queen Anne's lace and their reflections in the watercolor.

For the foreground, we are also using the watercolor/gouache mixture, but in a more controlled manner, tiny dots for the Queen Anne's lace flower heads, elongated strokes for the cattails, and long grass-like strokes for the tall grasses
Make sure that the flowers or cattails don't have the same heights or are not evenly spread out as if they are a marching band. The grasses should have different heights and some should reach all the way to the middle-ground land shape. Grasses should have a variety of greens; stroke in some ocher-colored grasses and dark blue shapes for a variety as well. 

At the end, as the icing on the cake, I painted the tiny water lilies in the water using permanent rose and gouache.

As you can see, introducing a white gouache to watercolor opens a whole new world to the watercolorist. We can go not only from light to dark as the medium dictates, we can also go dark to light. Freedom it allows us may not be for all watercolorists, but I embrace it whole-heartedly!

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