This week I did demos that showed a couple of ways to use the wet in to wet technique though they were not the only ways to use wet in to wet, it is a very versatile technique and one every watercolor artist should learn to use. Because we had done a still life in class many wanted to put some sort of cloth behind it without much success so a demo on material seemed logical if not a bit late.
Unless you can vividly see your subject in your mind it is always best to have some sort of reference in front of you and in this case even a scrunched paper towel will do. You need to be able to see all the subtle changes in the light and shadow of the material. Some of the shadows are just barely lighter than the highlights to suggest little dips, where as other shadows gradually go from the light into dark folds. You need to be able to see this before starting so you understand what is going on. Also, if there is a pattern on the material, pay close attention to the change in direction it takes, in some cases it can disappear altogether and reappear someplace else depending on how the material is folded back on itself.
Keeping all this in mind, one of the easiest ways to create fabric is using wet in to wet, the exception may be satin which is very shiny and may need some hard lines around the highlights. First you wet the entire area you want to paint with water and use a big brush so you can cover a lot of area in a hurry. It can dry right behind your brush so by using a big brush and going over the area a couple of times you can saturate it enough to keep it wet while you work quickly.
Determine where your highlights will be and use any color you choose to paint NEXT TO the highlight, the color should drift into some of the light area but will leave enough to suggest a highlight. Create the folds of you fabric in this manner. Both the highlights and shadows will start and stop so pay close attention. If a shadow gets darker add more pigment and some shadow color (blue and or purple). Each fabric is going to be a bit different depending on its color: If it is white your colors should be in the blues and grays to violets in the deep folds. Dark reds or blues can be almost black in the shadows so the colors need to be more concentrated.
You can also lift out some highlights with a clean damp brush by running it down the length of a dark area or if you want to add subtle shadows, look on your pallet for some light color or used the lifted color to add a soft shadow into a light area.
If the area starts to dry, you may need to take a damp brush and run it down the side of a color to soften the edge, which is another way to do this process. All the information you need is right there, you just need to practice it until you understand what you need to do to get what you want. Wet in to wet, lifting, adding color or water, find the combination that works best for you.
Another way to use wet in to wet is to create soft backgrounds. These backgrounds can be used in still life or landscape, portrait or in any situation where you need to suggest that there is something going on but you don't want it to stand out but support what is in the foreground.
I used the example of looking through a fruit tree at PV, but this is only one example. First I wet the area with lots of water just like I did in the demo above. In to that wet surface I added colors to suggest sky, fruit, limbs, branches and leaves. Because the paper was wet these shapes blurred out into soft forms, some of the colors ran but that was okay too. This could be anything from, distant mountains or fields of flowers, to just splotches of color, you are only limited by your imaginations. You can turn you paper to change the direction of the runs or you can splatter color in to the wet or lift out shapes while it is still wet. Have fun with it while you learn.
I let my background dry completely before putting on my foreground fruit and branches. The contrast between the sharp edges of the foreground and the soft edges in the background create depth so it looks like you are looking up through a tree with fruit. If I was going to be doing a similar painting as more than a demo, I would have started with a detailed drawing of the foreground I wanted to paint, then I would have masked it all out so I could paint the background and not have to worry about painting around anything. When it was totally dry, I would have rubbed off the masking and painted the foreground subject as I normally would.
I can only show you a few of the ways to use different techniques, it is up to you to work on these things at home and find out how you can use them yourself, it is a fun adventure, just trust yourself and don't worry if it isn't perfect the first time nothing usually happens perfect the first few times but you will gain knowledge of how your paints work.
I think that we will work on some sky demos this week. We only have one more week after this week so think of what you want to bring in for critique. Classes start at PV on the week of September 13th and in
I'll see you next week.