Monday, June 8, 2009
Secrets of Watercolor Pencil
I have to admit I'm sometimes embarrassed to post some of my work in watercolor pencils and waterbrush. The results are far below my abilities. On Saturday I posted one of a 'Betty Corning' clematis and the results have been bothering me ever since. Why am I so unhappy with this medium? Especially since I liked it when I first started using it to do quick sketches of yard birds this winter.
Looking at the 'Betty Corning' it hit me. I like nuance in color. I like to modify the artwork until I get it right, either right as in 'accurate', or right as in the colors all work well to create a pleasing painting. When I try to do that with watercolor pencils and waterbrushes I ended up with an overworked disaster.
There are a number of reasons for this: 1) since these are just quick sketches I use very cheap recycled paper; but it just doesn't do well with water and soon buckles; 2)once I go over the watercolor pencil with the waterbrush it presents a different type of surface which no longer accepts the watercolor pencils well; it leads toward darkness and opacity, both detrimental to most watercolors; 3) I still try to get the colors right by color blending and continue with new, more vigorous, darker pencil marks and watercolor washes. I end up with a dark mess, or maybe sometimes a dark, but half-successful watercolor.
So today I decided to do a test. I only had 15 minutes or so. I would work from a recent photo(I ended up choosing Black-bellied Plovers from Heislerville WMA), but I would not try to mix colors, except on the first pencil rendering. I would slap my own hand if it tried to go back in and add more pencil markings once I touched the waterbrush to the paper.
I think the results prove my point. This is much more successful. It's still a quick sketch, not a finished watercolor. But it looks much fresher. The blue water would me much improved by using better, white rather than tan, paper. But that's easily fixed in future sketches. The most important lesson learned is that all color mixing must be done with the pencils on the first go, before touching waterbrush to paper and turning the pencil drawing into a watercolor sketch.
Of course one test doesn't really prove anything. But I'm confident that future tests will show the same results. Blend your colors with the pencils. DO NOT try to do so with a brush or pencils after you've touched the waterbrush to the paper. It just doesn't work!