Today, for Day 16 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Relaxing,” I decided to sketch this seabird taking a break. It’s some sort of pelican painted in three colors and a perfectly odd bird. I rather adore these birds with their too-long beaks and strange bulbous bodies. It struck me that we don’t often see birds like this illustrated, with most artists preferring more colorful and indeed symmetrical varieties. So, I painted my bird like he thought he looked rather ravishing and sexy. With that slight smile and come hither look normally reserved for the popular kids. When I was a kid, I wasn’t part of the popular crowd. I was a geek and well, an odd bird, so I didn’t often fit in with whatever mainstream thing was all the rage. Though I managed to outgrow a rather unfortunate ugly duckling stage in my life, I never quite became one of the normal birds in the process. I was still a bit odd and always liked forging my own path and doing things that weren’t considered cool. I just thought if I truly found whatever I was doing cool, somebody else might as well. Little has changed since I’ve sort of grown up. Though I know all of the proper ways to do things, I just keep right on experimenting in spite of it all. And, it’s made for a really fun life indeed!
Just a heads up for those of you who participate in the Doodlewash Community here, I’m going to be testing something new as soon as World Watercolor Month ends. This includes a bit of a redesign to the site, and some rather noticeable changes to the way the community works, making it much more intuitive and more Facebook-style as that’s been one of the most requested features. The next most requested feature is a normal username and password login that doesn’t require a social media account and this change will make that possible now as well! Yes, I can’t help but to keep experimenting, but also I hope to provide a much better experience in the process. Like all experiments, it’s going to be a bit of test as everything rolls out, so thanks for your patience in the progress! If you just show up to read these posts, nothing much at all will change for you, but hey, thanks so much for showing up to read these by the way! I truly appreciate it! I know people say you should “leave well enough alone,” but honestly, is “well enough” really a high bar? I think not! If I’ve learned anything on this journey it’s that we should always continue to challenge ourselves and try new things!
Many of you who read the posts here on Doodlewash have no doubt read posts by my friend and World Watercolor Month Artist Ambassador Angela Fehr. One thing you’ll note in those posts is that she always invites artists to be “fearless.” This is probably the best advice in the world! And my own take on this is to listen to your inner child who was born with no fear at all. Yet when we talk about these ideals, it can often seem like just that, some sort of ideal state that’s not possible to achieve all of the time. Trust me when I say, it’s not only possible, but absolutely critical if you want to continually create things with joy and heart! I very often end up painting things that won’t turn out to be crowd-pleasers, like this strange bird, but I loved the process of painting it. And, in the end, that’s what really matters. There are no popular hashtags that will help lead people to this creation I made today. It’s just a bird my heart wanted to make. And that, in the end, is all that ever really matters. Fewer people will see this bird, but if you’re one of them, then I think we might just have something wonderful in common. It’s not being a rebel to set out on your own path, it’s being a leader. When we sketch and paint with heart we lead everyone on a wonderful journey of unexpected things, even something as perfectly random as an odd bird by the sea.
Bang for the buck – a phrase that means getting the most value for the price you pay. It’s a phrase that I often repeat when talking about Princeton brushes. Princeton Artists Brush company sent me five of their Aqua Elite brushes 4850 Series and a Round Travel Neptune Size 8 for the purposes of a World Watercolor Month review. Later, they also sent me two travel brush sets for review. The travel sets also include the Neptune round, so I’ll only be discussing the Princeton Aqua Elite brushes here.
The Aqua Elite series of brushes is part of Princeton’s NextGen line: synthetic hair brushes with high performance. Elite brushes are formulated to act like Kolinsky Sable brushes. Every bristle is pleated like sable hair, and they have a wider midsection to hold more water.
Specialty Shape Brushes
The brushes I’m reviewing are all ‘specialty’ shapes. And what, you may ask, are specialty shape brushes? All brushes fall into two types of brush, flat and round. However, there are variations in the shape of the bristles, handles and ferrules (the metal part). If a brush isn’t a traditional flat or round, it is considered to be a specialty shape.
Sometimes the variation is small, but they can make more of a difference than you might think. The feel of the brush, the weight, where you’ll hold it, what you can do with it – these are all things that may be affected. Many specialty brushes act like a combination of flat and round while others have a feature that is hard to find elsewhere.
The usual flat or round brush might be fine for you, or you might find one of these shapes can really improve your painting experience. Whether or not you like a specialty shape is going to rely on personal preference and painting style.
All of the brushes reviewed here are variations of flat brushes, except for the Rigger. It’s a round.
A Close Look at the Aqua Elite Brushes in the Review
Many brands have these specialty shapes, so I’ll just explain briefly what the shape is used for in general, and what I think is unique to it in the Elite version.
The Mottler 1.5 inch
A Mottler is very similar to the conventional flat brush. The main difference is the short handle that is flat for the entire length of the brush. You can use it the same way as a flat brush, but it feels very different in the hand. You notice the flat handle most when you turn the brush to use the corners or hold the brush parallel to the paper so you can use the tip of the brush.
At 1 1/2 inches, this brush is a great size for larger washes. Despite the larger size, the Princeton Elite Mottler is a very light brush, making it easy to hold the brush and move it over large areas. I love the balance. Having used this Mottler, I’ll never go back to a regular flat. I like the balance and the grip that this brush gives me.
Someone with large hands, or who likes the balance of a heavier brush might not like it as well.
The Dagger Striper 3/8 inch
The Dagger Striper is sort of a do it all brush. It’s a brush commonly used by sign painters, so you can use it for lettering. You see it commonly used in watercolor for leaves and grasses, but it is capable of much more.
Note that the handle is straight, rounded, and the ferrule only flattens out at the bristle end.
I like this brush, but the straight handle and balance threw me a bit. It felt too much like a pen and I found myself wanting to use it like one. I struggled a bit to get used to it, but I love the effects I can get and out of all of the brushes, this is the one I’ve been using the most.
The Oval Washes 3/4 and 1/2 inch
The Oval Wash (aka the Cat’s Tongue) brush. In many ways, this brush is similar to the Dagger brush. They are sort of the thick and thin versions of each other. The Oval Wash creates a pointed oval in one stroke, where it would take two strokes with a Dagger. If you are painting longer thin stripes, the Dagger is easier to control than the Oval Wash.
The 3/4 inch looks pointier than the 1/2, even in real life, but both brushes handle much the same and achieve the same effects. You can get very pointed lines with those tips.
The balance is very good in these brushes. I’ve used Oval Washes, in the past, that seemed to want to tip in my hand because they were weighted where the handle swells. These Elite brushes feel solid in my hand and easy to guide.
The Rigger Size 8
The Rigger Brush was created for painting the rigger lines in boats and ships and is good any time you need a long, straight line. Because there are so few bristles, it doesn’t carry as much water as the other brushes so it isn’t meant for covering broad areas. This is true of Rigger brushes in general, not just the Elite version.
This is a nice size brush for paintings those fences in the distance, or the smaller branches of a tree. Since I like dry brushing, I also like using the side of the brush to sweep across an area, leaving a scumbled effect.
What an artist likes in a brush is a personal thing so I’ll let you know that I prefer a softer brush. Princeton gives their Elite series a ‘2’ on the softness scale, with ‘1’ being the softest and ‘5’ the hardest. Their Neptune line has a rating of ‘1’ and their Velvetouch has a rating of ‘3’. The Neptune and Velvetouch are the brushes that I use the most, so I’m very happy to have these in-between brushes. They may be a little soft for some people.
The Elite is a synthetic version of the Kolinsky Sable, which is considered to be the best of brushes by many. I don’t think these brushes handle exactly like Kolinskys, except … sometimes they almost do.
What I found was that the amount of water/paint in the brush, the way you hold the brush, and the amount of pressure make a BIG difference.
Let’s talk about the way the Elite performs by discussing some brush characteristics.
When you move the bristles of a dry brush, the snap – the way the bristles bounce back into shape will give you an idea of how the brush will perform. Some brushes, such as those used for Chinese Brush painting may have no snap. Harder brushes, like those with hog bristles have a lot.
The Elite brushes have a good degree of snap, falling right back into place.
When the brush is wet, the bristles should hold together and spring back to shape when lifted. Applying too much pressure can cause some splaying as in the second photo above, but the bristles should should still snap back when lifted.
The Elite brushes do better than other synthetics I’ve used (except possibly for the Neptune). If I use the right amount of pressure and the right amount of water/paint I get little to no splaying. I found the dagger and oval washes were the most prone to splaying or losing shape. I’m pretty sure that’s because they are the ones that I twist and twirl around the most, with varying degrees of pressure.
I did find that if I’d been painting for a while without washing out the brush, the splaying became more common, especially if I’ve been using thicker mixes of paint. If I see this happening, I just clean the brush thoroughly before continuing.
Wicking refers to how much water/paint a brush will suck up if it is dryer than the paint on the paper. If your brush is thirsty – just damp – and you hold it to an area of wet paint, it pulls the water up into the bristles.
I found all the Elite brushes to work very well at wicking.
The capacity of a brush refers to how much water/paint a brush can hold. In the photos above you can see that I’ve dunked a dry clean mottler into a very watery mix of paint and after only a few seconds the bristles have absorbed paint almost up to the edge of the ferrule. It would in fact have continued to suck up the paint all the way. It is not a good idea to get paint under your ferrule as it can cause damage over the long run and cause problems with cleaning.
Elite brushes have excellent carrying capacity.
Now what happens when you use all that paint that the brush sucked up with its carrying capacity? Release refers to how evenly the paint flows from the brush onto the page.
The Elite has a nice even release. There are techniques that will affect the flow.
I had managed to get some thicker pigment on the very tip of the brush which is why the right bottom has a darker splotch. The splotch a bit further in occurred because I applied extra pressure. In fact, in this photo, I’m applying too much pressure throughout. Notice the angle of the bristles in the two photos and the difference in the flow.
The unexpected pigment wasn’t a good thing, but I like the fact that I can get extra paint by applying pressure. This can cause blossoms – those uneven blotches of color, but blossoms at the right place are cool. With some practice, that’s under your control and you can choose to blossom or not.
Ease of cleaning
I found the Elite brushes very easy to clean, even when I did get the paint under the ferrule.
Aqua Elite Review - YouTube
So what do these brushes do? What kind of marks can you make with them?
You already seen the flat solid line that the Mottler makes. You can also twist it around for cool curves. If you dab each corner in a different color of paint, you can get some awesome blending effects. Using the tips and corners, you can create some surprisingly thin lines. Actually, you could use this brush alone and do almost any painting, except mini-detailed ones.
I mentioned above that the Oval Wash is a bit of a combination brush. You can use the tip and sides of the brush for thin lines and the flat to make pointed oval shapes. You can twist and twirl it too. I found this shape very sensitive to pressure and to accidentally releasing more color than I wanted, After a while, though I was doing it on purpose for the marbly effect I could get.
I got a little carried away with the dagger brush. I love it for doing quick little animals, Cats and bear and…
… horses and giraffes. Lots of leaves and birds too!
I prefer larger brushes so the Rigger isn’t a favorite for me. There are times when you really need that long thin brush though, and you can get larger strokes if you wish to.
Paintings I’ve Done with These Elite Brushes
These specialty brushes are great fun to work with. They made it so easy to create the many flowers shapes in my Panther’s Picnic.
Princeton Aqua Elite Overall
I started this review talking about Bang for the Buck. Princeton’s Aqua Elite brushes definitely fall under that heading. They have great snap, good spring, wicking and carrying capacity, even release and they’re surprisingly easy to clean. They raise the synthetic brush to a professional level at an affordable price.
Princeton Artist Brush Co. sent me five Aqua Elite brushes, 3/8 in dagger, a 1 1/2 inch Mottler, a size 8 Rigger and a 1/2 & 3/4 in Oval Washes for the purpose of this review. I received no other considerations, though this post contains affiliate links which help support Doodlewash community features. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.
For Day 15 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Monochromatic,” my mind immediately leapt to a zebra. Sort of monochromatic, shown here in two colors, because that’s as low as I can ever go. Sure, Lion King comes out this week, but the real reason is, of course, the wonderful heart of World Watercolor Month and our charitable partner, The Dreaming Zebra Foundation. As we hit the half-way point of the month, I hope you’ll join me in donating art supplies and/or shopping in our awesome World Watercolor Shop! (yes, the shop is ONLY open in July and closes August 1st!) Every single dollar in profit from the shop goes to help underprivileged kids get art supplies, and I can’t think of a better cause in the world! If I didn’t have art supplies and art classes as a kid, I wouldn’t be sketching stuff today. There would be no Doodlewash and no World Watercolor Month as I wouldn’t have had those wonderful childhood memories to return to in the first place. I always talk about connecting with your inner child in art, and that all starts when we were kids. So, yes, I’m very passionate about arts education and hope you’ll join me in helping kids get the art supplies they need this month!
When I started World Watercolor Month, I was asked by several people, “how does this help the charity?” And truthfully, my own inner child simply said, “who wouldn’t want to help kids if I ask?” This, of course, isn’t how the world really works, but just try to tell Little Charlie that and he’ll stick his tongue out at you and run away giggling. As organic social reach dropped precipitously almost in the same year the month was founded due to various, nefarious algorithmic changes, fabulous sponsors joined me in the second year to support the cause and help with advertising costs. In the third year, awesome artist ambassadors joined to help spread awareness and donate money themselves from the sales of their classes and products! And everyone and more is back this year as we continue to grow and spread the word about the month. It’s a big dream, to be sure, to take a month-long art challenge and try to actually do some charitable good in the world at the same time. It’s hard to get the message out there about the real cause of the month. So I hope you’ll help me, but spreading the word and reminding folks to donate to The Dreaming Zebra Foundation! ( you can find badges and a video to share at the bottom of the World Watercolor Month page) I’m just one guy, and even though Little Charlie likes to dream big, I know that we’re much stronger when we all come together!
So, thanks in advance for supporting this amazing dream and I hope you’re enjoying this official month-long celebration of watercolor! And in case anyone is actually wondering, of course, I’m going to be seeing Lion King this weekend. Wouldn’t miss i! I love that, each day, I wake up feeling like a kid again, ready to take on all of life’s challenges, even the pesky adult ones. And moreover, I’m thrilled knowing that while I’m acting like a child, I’m also helping actual children along the way. In my heart, I simply believe that art and creativity are the single most important things we can experience as children. And, I’ve read over 500 stories from artists here on Doodlewash who all talk about that same childhood experience. So, yeah, there’s definitely a clear link and I hope to keep that link alive for our future generation of artists. Not alone, of course, I hope all of my friends out there will join me! I know that when we all join forces in our collective awesomeness, incredible things can happen, and soon, together, we’re making dreams come true.
This is a fun rainy day activity which is also an entertaining way to practice color mixing, whatever your age! It works great with any kind of water-based paint. For young artists, this is a good way of learning the basics of color mixing, and for slightly older painters it helps us to get to know our pigments and how they interact! You might also find it a useful warm-up activity before you start a bigger painting, or when trying to get over a creative block.
I’d just added Van Gogh Permanent Red Deep to my little paint box, and wanted to mix it with my Cotman Cadmium Yellow Hue and swatch out some colors to check I was happy with my choice.
I added some water to my pans of color, gave it a minute to soak in then made a thick wash of pure yellow in my palette. If I’m using yellow in a painting, I like to start off with it so I know my brush and water are clean and won’t contaminate the color.
I started off painting some circles on my paper with the pure yellow. Then I added a tiny bit of red to the mix and added more circles to my paper. I repeated the process, adding red and painting more circles until my mixture looked the same shade as the pure red paint. If you want to be organised you can paint from one side of the paper to the other to show the gradation of hue, but I was happy popping circles anywhere.
My circles were all a bit wobbly but that was ok- this activity works best when you don’t make it look perfect! While the paint dried, I found metallic gel pens, coloring pencils and fine line pens in hot colors. I drew petals and spirals over the dry paint, then added some bugs and popped extra patterns and stems on the flowers.
The hot colors made the whole thing look happy, and I didn’t worry if my petals were bigger than my blobs. I wrote the names of the colors I’d used to help me remember what I’d used in the future. I’ve now got a fun and funky reference card, but the design would be a really fun greeting card, post card or journal page!
Taking it further
You can use any pair of colors for this activity, and can turn the blobs into whatever you like. Your circles could become fish or hot air balloons, or you could put two or three blobs together to turn into planes, dinosaurs, llamas, owls… I used pairs of blobs to make a greeting card covered in birds mixed from ultramarine and viridian!
For younger children you might want to start off with pairs of primary colours to teach the essentials of color mixing. If you want to make purples, then cool reds or magenta work better than warm reds, which tend to make neutralised or muddy shades when added to blue. Older children will also enjoy exploring the subtleties of mixing analogous colors (shades which are next to each other on the color wheel), or exploring complimentaries (opposites on the color wheel).
Have fun, and tag your explorations with #WorldWatercolorMonth when you share them online – we’d love to see what you create!
We’ve reached Day 14 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and for our prompt of “Furry Things,” I opted for this tiny little furry kitten. As many of you might know by now, I’m allergic to cats, but that doesn’t stop me from adoring them. And baby furry animals are so cute. It’s probably good to have allergies or I would want one of every kind. Since, I constantly tell people to reconnect with their inner child when painting, it’s equally a wonderful icon of everything I believe. Notice the completely curious stare that’s equally devoid of judgement on this little cat. That’s precisely how I think we’re at our best when we show up to make something new. Without life’s preconceived notions, anything is possible and everything is perfectly wondrous. And knowing I would have very little time to paint anything today wasn’t a concern at all. I just followed my ridiculously easy Scribble, Doodle, Color approach and had a little kitty to post in no time at all. I owe any level of success to my inner child. He’s the one who allows me to create things quickly and without worry. To make something new daily without obsessing over whether or not it’s good enough to post or will be any sort of crowd-pleaser. And, mostly, for making an art journey that’s a lovely trip to a fun playground each and every day!
For me, I still just love the fact that I can manage to post anything at all. It’s like a fun personal challenge each day that I set for myself in the midst of a thousand other obligations. Why on earth would I do this? Because each and every time I make something new, I feel better. It’s nothing more mysterious than that. So, in turn, if I’ve found something that makes me feel this happy, it only makes sense to DO it each and every day. Yeah, that’s logic so simple it could have only come from Little Charlie. But, I’ve proven that it’s indeed true. At least for me personally, after having shown up each and every day with a sketch and story for over 4 years now. Yet, in my heart, I think it’s most likely true for you as well and applies to whatever creative passion currently holds your heart. Don’t let those “have to do” things get in the way of your “need to do” things. Completing something I simply have to do has very little effect on my overall happiness, but when I successfully DO what my heart needs, life gets instantly better. And those things I have to do still get done, and are even better off with the glee I have to bring to them.
Perhaps these are simply the ramblings of a crazy optimist. Life has so many challenges and there are constantly things we have to deal with each and every day. But, I’ve been asked lately how I manage to DO all of the projects I currently have going. And, I don’t have the fancy step-by-step process that people typically want. I just have a mindset and an attitude that guides me. My process is a bit different each and every time, but that’s the lovely side effect when you simply let yourself be guided by glee. I make things simply because it’s what brings me joy. And, the more time I spend making things, the better I get! That’s really everything one needs to know when they set out to create something new. The rest is a mixture of hope, awe, and the unexpected. Not particularly different than a little kitten trying to sort out what is and isn’t in life. After all of these years, we’re all still that little kitten at heart. And it’s the most valuable and amazing feeling in the world when you can approach what you create like a little ball of fur.
For Day 13 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “glassy,” I opted for this margarita glass. It was sitting in front of me at lunch today when Philippe and I spontaneously decided we wanted to pretend we were on a vacation. The festive glass alone was a unique treat, and the drink inside wasn’t half bad either. Just a little treat that made us feel like we were sitting next to the beach, even though we were sitting next to a window in a restaurant watching people eating just outside as they were swatting flies and dripping with humid sweat. Not quite the the idyllic view, but that’s when one’s imagination comes in quite handy. Our friend Aesha is coming over tonight so we picked up some caviar, blinis and champagne to keep the vacation feeling going. While it would be wonderful to be strolling along a beach right now, I’m rather happy to take the journey in my mind and be spending the evening with a good friend. I hope whatever you have planned for the weekend, it includes lovely breaks like these and a glass of whatever you enjoy most!
Philippe and I have been discussing places we’d like to go on an actual vacation, but haven’t landed on the exact trip yet. It’s fun to dream and plan and we can get so caught up in doing so that we fail to make a decision and actually book the plane tickets. So far, the west coast is winning out as we have friends we’d like to visit there, but it’s anybody’s guess really at this point where we’ll actually land. Québec is also on the list along with a myriad of other places. I’ll just have to distract Philippe when I go to book the tickets so he doesn’t see the prices and scream, “oh la vache!” just before fainting. Once I manage to get him to a destination, everything is fine, but the first bit is always a touch challenging. In truth, World Watercolor Month each year is a bit like taking a month-long vacation filled with wonderful days of lovely watercolor. It’s so exciting and fun to see so many people coming together to paint with watercolor! Of course, there’s also lovely souvenirs, so be sure to grab some of those before the month ends and the shop closes!
And in this spirit of fun, our friends at Winsor & Newton have Professional Watercolour and Designers Gouache to give away today! Click here to learn more about the differences between watercolor and gouache, with transparency and opacity explained in more detail. Both ranges now include cadmium-free alternatives. Ten winners can try the innovative new watercolours for themselves with a Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Cadmium-Free dot card and a sample of Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Paper in 140 lb. cold press. This one is limited to US/Canada only, so definitely check out the main World Watercolor Month international giveaways here! If you’d like a sample, and did not receive one in last week’s giveaway, simply add “I Love Winsor & Newton!” to your comment below! I’ll draw 10 names from everyone who comments with the phrase (and hasn’t won yet) tomorrow evening, just before I post, and those 10 lucky folks will get a free sample (be sure to look for my reply to you so I can let you know, and you can then send me your name and address for shipping). I love having fun prizes to give away, and it’s definitely the perfect way to cap off a day spent taking a pretend vacation!
Have you ever used iridescent color, whether pen or paint or marker, and ended up with something that is hard to see? Literally. Light hitting iridescent color is much like light hitting a mirror. You can end up with one big shine that baffles the eye.
It is easy to avoid this, and I’m going to show you three projects that will help you create iridescent artworks that range from those with a subtle shine to those with galactic drama.
Golden Artist Colors, Inc. was founded in 1980, starting up in a renovated barn. Today they produce a wide range of artist materials, including QoR watercolors. These watercolors have anAquazol® binder, rather than gum arabic or honey. They activate easily, stay bright and are resistant to cracking.
For this tutorial, QoR sent me their three iridescent colors, Iridescent Gold (Fine), Iridescent Silver (Fine) and Iridescent Pearl (Fine), along with six other colors of my choice. I chose colors so that I would have a variety of transparency, opacity, temperature (cool and warm color) and chroma (brightness or dullness).
The Iridescent colors are all ‘Fine’, which means they will produce a more even shine rather than a sparkle.
Tutorial-How to Paint with QoR Iridescent Watercolors - YouTube
These are the six non-iridescent colors, each mixed with Iridescent Gold (Fine), Iridescent Silver (Fine), and Iridescent Pearl (Fine), in that order. Iridescent colors shift according to the light and the particles separate if not mixed often. This makes for some interesting effects.
Benzimidazolone Yellow Mixes
Quinacridone Gold Mixes
Quinacridone Violet Mixes
Cadmium Red Light Mixes
Ultramarine Blue Violet Mixes
Manganese Blue Mixes
Water to Paint Ratio
Watercolor is a wonderful medium that allows a wide variety of effects. The trick is using the paint to water ratio that gives the right effect. Sometimes, you want a paint mixture that is pure liquid and sometimes you want paint just thick enough to spread in an even layer. You should never use thick applications of watercolor because it is too easy to reactivate, and can crack.
Most water-based media, whether watercolor, dye, marker, or ink, has a color shift. That is, the color is brighter when you first put it on the paper, but it lightens as the color dries. The more water used and/or the more absorbent the paper the lighter the color will be. QoR watercolors don’t have a great deal of color shift, making it easier to get the color you want.
I mention this, because there are many variables in play – the pigment, the brand of paint, the brush, the paper, the humidity. I’ll tell you if I’m using a watery or a creamy mix. If you don’t seem to get the same results that I do, try adjusting your paint to water ratio.
The Motmot – Mixing Iridescent with Non-Iridescent Colors
Reference photo courtesy of Backpackerin on Pixabay
With this painting, I was going for a subtle shine. In some lights, there is no shine and in others there is a big shine, but it never hides the detail. By mixing the iridescent colors with non-iridescent and using lots of water, I reduce the shine. Incidentally, I also get lighter colors. As you might guess, I’m using a high water to paint ratio.
I have three mixes in my palette:
Pearly Blue Mix – Manganese Blue and Iridescent Pearl (Fine) in equal amounts
Purple Mix – Ultramarine Blue Violet, Quinacridone Violet in equal amounts and just a touch of Iridescent Gold (Fine)
Brown Mix – Cadmium Red Light, Manganese Blue and Quinacridone Gold
Unmixed colors used:
Iridescent Pearl (Fine)
Iridescent Gold (Fine)
Here’s a step-out to help you draw this bird.
With a paint/water ratio that is liquid, use:
Quinacridone Gold for the head and chest.
The Pearly Blue Mix for the lower wing and belly. Let it blend along the edge of the Quinacridone Gold.
With the Pearly Blue mix still in your brush, pick up a little Quinacridone Gold for the upper wing to make it green. Clean your brush when this is done
Manganese Blue to add some shading to the blue areas.
Continue with watery ratios of:
The Purple Mix for the tail
Drop Manganese Blue into the purple and let them blend
Paint the beak with the The Pearly Blue Mix
Now thicken your paint ratios to runny but not liquid.
Add more of each color (More Quinacridone Gold to Quinacridone Gold, Manganese Blue to Blue, etc) to shade and deepen the values.
With the same water/color ratio:
Add some of the Brown Mix under the branch, along the inside edge of the wings. Add more water to your brush and paint the branch a lighter brown.
With the Purple Mix paint around the eye and under the beak. Be sure to leave some of the Pearly Blue showing. Add more water to the mix and add some purple to the branch.
Let the painting dry and assess it. Look to make sure that the shine doesn’t hide detail. Look at your darkest areas. Does anything draw your eye and seem out of place? You may need to lighten it if so. Does an area that you want to be important seem too light? You may need to darken it if so.
I decided that I wanted the belly lighter, and the ends of the branch darker. I added some pearly blue to lighten the belly. Rather than add more color to the branch, I used a damp brush to pull color to the edges and evened it out along the branch. Then I finished with a swipe of Iridescent Gold.
Folk Art Bird – No Mixing of Colors
I’ve used all nine of the colors in this project. It was difficult to get a good scan because I used the iridescent colors without watering them down and the colors shift in the light. Detail is not obscured because I made sure there was lots of contrast between iridescent and non-iridescent.
All colors are used without mixing them on the palette. I do use glazing, such as letting the Yellow dry, then painting Blue over it, to create green.
I’m using an amount of water throughout this project that lets me spread the color easily, but doesn’t drip or run, even if I tilt the paper while the paint is wet. The paper is a smooth hot press that keeps the colors extra bright.
Paint the eye, the beak and all the leaves with Benzimidazolone Yellow. Let the paint dry.
Paint the head, the center of the eye, and lower part of the bird with Cadmium Red Light, carefully leaving the feathers white. Let the paint dry.
Use Manganese Blue on the upper part of the bird, carefully leaving the feathers white. Let the paint dry.
Use Quinacridone Gold for the tree. Note that I left white stripes (see below). I couldn’t get a still from the video where my hand wasn’t in the way, lol.
Paint the lower sections of the background with Benzimidazolone Yellow and Cadmium Red Light
Paint the upper sections of the background with Quinacridone Violet and Ultramarine Blue Violet
Paint the feathers on the belly with Iridescent Gold (Fine). Add some dots of the gold on the bird’s head.
Paint the upper feathers with Iridescent Silver(Fine). Add some dots of the silver on the upper wings.
Paint the white stripes along the tree with Iridescent Gold (Fine). Let the paint dry.
Paint the white areas of the background with Iridescent Pearl (Fine). I decided to make it a misty morning and glazed portions of the colored background with pearl as well.
This would be a pretty painting for a hanging mobile because the color changes so much in the light.
A Galactic Sky – Letting The Paint Run Together On The Paper
There is no doubt about it. For the highest shine and dramatic effect, use iridescents on black paper. The amount of contrast creates spectacular effects.
In this project, I didn’t use a brush at all. I totally dissolved the paint in water and used a syringe to suck it up, squirt it at random on the paper and then let it all run together on the paper. It’s abstract and easy and lots of fun to do.
I used Cadmium Red Light and Iridescent Gold (Fine) for the abstract background and a black paper with lots of texture.
I’m showing you my steps, but this type of project is highly individual. You’ll never repeat the results exactly and the fun is in trying different things to see what you get.
WARNING: There will be drips that run off the page unless you are very careful. Best to have something underneath to catch them. Put down some paper that you can use for another project!
In separate wells on your palette, dissolve some Iridescent Gold (Fine), and Cadmium Red Light in water. The mixes need to be thin enough to suck up into the syringe.
Off camera, I splattered some Cadmium Red Light onto the paper, by dipping my brush in very liquid color and then tapping it on the back of my hand to send drops across the page. I did this off-camera because I was afraid of getting splatters on my camera lens.
Suck up some of the Iridescent Gold (Fine) in the syringe, as much as you can.
Move the syringe across the page as you push the plunger down.
Tilt the paper and let the color run all over the page.
Keep sucking up color and spraying and tilting. This is an abstract so it is really all about continuing until you like what you see.
Move the paint around with a fan and spray it with water. I have a spray/fan combination that’s really nifty.
Let the paint dry. Reactivate the color that has dripped on the mat by spraying it with water. Take your abstract, color side down and tap it into the color.
Continue to use one or all of these methods until you are happy with your galactic abstract.
I planned to use mine for a birthday card and intended to glue on some other elements so I kept going until my color was sold, but still had areas of black for contrast. Once done, I folded the page in half to make a card.
Taking a separate piece of black paper, I cut out the figure of a girl and painting her with highlights of the Pearly Blue Mix
Cutting up some sparkly ribbon, I glued the bits to the background to simulate fireworks. After folding the base from my girl cut out to make a pop up, I glued that onto the page too.
I forgot to take a photo, but I lettered the inside with Iridescent Silver (Fine), saying “Shoot off the Fireworks. Make it quick. Somebody’s turning 96!”
These are couple more abstracts I did using similar methods. I used the paper I had put down to collect drips.
There are many ways to use iridescent color to great effect. Too much iridescence without enough contrast can cause a shine that hides the details. Fortunately, this is easy to avoid.
If you want subtle shine, mix your iridescent colors with non-iridescent colors and/or add lots of water.
If you want powerful shine, but lots of detail surround areas of iridescence with bold non-iridescent color.
If you want the maximum drama, use your iridescent color on black paper. Be sure to leave enough of the black or other non-iridescent colors to keep strong contrast.
For Day 12 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Blossoming,” I opted for a flower in a vase as I just really like sketching glass. This was a super quick little study as it’s Friday and I’m ready to start my weekend so I found it a bit tough to focus for any length of time at all. Yeah, I’m totally blaming it on Friday, but for those of you who read my posts, you know that with me, this lack of focus is bound to happen most any day of the week. The fun part about taking a little watercolor break is that I get to zone out for just a little bit of play time. Even when my mind is distracted by other things, I can manage just enough focus to make a little sketch for the day. For me, this is cathartic, truly noteworthy, and proves that even those with the shortest attention span in the world can still easily show up make something each and every day. Some days, I’m not really sure if my sketches are getting better or not, but that’s never really been my goal. I just like the act of sketching and my goal is only to show up and make a new one every day. This, I”m quite sure, isn’t much of a goal at all, but it’s certainly what makes me the happiest!
This weekend comes with no specific plans whatsoever qualifying it as my favorite kind of weekend. Though I love having things to look forward to, it’s equally nice to look forward to just a possible of surprise or nothing particularly amazing at all. And though I do have a long list of things I hope to DO this weekend, I’m equally sure that I’ll fail to accomplish most of them. And that’s, okay! In my childish mind I feel like I still get points for intent. And, it’s equally possible I will accomplish much more than I ever dreamed, simply because I put no pressure on myself to do so in the first place. I’ve been asked quite a bit lately how I’ve managed to show up each and every day for over four years now. I guess it seems remarkable in some way. Perhaps it is. But, to me, it’s nothing truly noteworthy. I’m not winning a Pulitzer for my stories or indeed being asked to share my artwork in galleries. Which is just as well, since these simply aren’t the prizes that I hope to win. Instead, I show up simply to share my thoughts each day and hope that in some small way they might be interesting or inspiring for someone reading this.
While I know this approach is seemingly aimless, I’ve managed to publish some books, create a podcast, and a community space for others to share their daily creations as well. But, human nature often steps in, at times, and makes me stop and ask myself, what’s my goal in all of this? What is it that I hope to accomplish? These are those big questions we interrogate ourselves with at times while trying to understand the present in a fervent hope of predicting the future. Then, my inner child kicks in and thinks about how boring life would be if we could indeed predict the future. How dull life would become if we actually knew what was coming next. That’s just not a very good story. Good stories are filled with twists and turns and exciting things that we never saw coming. Surprising, yet inevitable in that thrilling thing happens next. Perhaps, more than just writing stories I also prefer to simply live in on. The beautiful story that’s happening to me in this very moment, when nothing much of anything is really happening at all. There’s just a hint of something amazing just around that next corner in my life. A bit of an uncharted path that I feel I must follow. And I don’t worry about how the story will end, because it’s always a story about beginnings. There are so many things that have yet to happen, and I’m, for one, thrilled to be living a life that’s still blossoming.
I love painting florals. Somehow it always feels like coming home. My first loose paintings were florals; I think because flowers are forgiving, a petal can be a little distorted, and that’s okay, a bug chewed it! Flowers don’t need to be perfectly symmetrical, and they come in many colors. There’s freedom in painting flowers.
Floral paintings can have a bad reputation; once I read a watercolor article that stated that “serious painters don’t paint florals.” We’ll pause here for you to list the professional artists you know that have built a career painting flowers. I can list at least six without stopping for breath.
Flowers offer the opportunity to compose. Buy a flower arrangement, or snap a reference photo and move elements around to create a pleasing composition that suits your style.
Flowers give you the ability to edit; somehow it’s easier to simplify shapes and forms for flowers than for other representational subjects (like landscapes or portraits).
Flowers come in a range of incredible colors and shapes. I’m in love with the chartreuse-to-periwinkle hues and stately heights of the delphiniums in my garden, and the yellow-peach creeping rose that I planted last year. It’s so fun to try to capture their subtle shades of color!
How to Paint a Wet-In-Wet Flower on Dry Paper
One of my favorite warm ups when I come to the studio to paint is to create a wet-in-wet floral. I have two methods I use that I love for these warm ups and I’m demonstrating one below.
Step 1: Create a floral shape on dry paper using a clean, wet brush. Make sure it’s “shiny wet” for optimum paint flow. I’m working with the rounded shape of a peony, but I’m keeping the edges irregular to suggest the petals.
Step 2: Drop in a single color. Here I’ve placed Opera Pink along the edges of the petals, letting it flow toward the center of the flower. You shouldn’t need to rub, just touch the brush gently to wet paper to release the color.
Step 3: Add a second color. A Quinacridone Magenta adds rich color to create depth in the flower petals, and I’m letting it flow and mingle with the pink.
Step 4: I touch in a “center color;” Cadmium Yellow to warm up the flower center looks lovely and mingles well with the magenta. Don’t worry if a little color creeps down the stem.
Step 5: Paint the stem – add a green and let it flow along the stem and out the leaves.
Step 6: Tweak and touch in accent colors. I like adding a second color to the leaves (Cobalt Teal Blue) to lighten or darken the center of the leaves. This is also the stage where you might want to increase proportions of a disappearing color – if the yellow takes over in the flower, you might increase the magenta in a few areas to bring back balance to the shape.
Step 7: Adjust the shapes of your flower with your brush. I pulled a few lines out from the leaves to accentuate their shapes, and (below) adjusted the shape of the petal on the left as well.
Optional additional steps: Add spatter to give a little lively energy to the painting.
Soften out some edges and flow to create a hint of background.
Another great option for this exercise is to start your painting on a previously painted first layer wash. Use colors that complement the original hues in the first layer.
Be willing to abstract your flowers a little bit – keeping them loose means your intention might have been peonies, but someone else sees roses, and that’s okay. Lively shapes, patterns and colors can make a loose painting come to life without an excess of detail.
Watch the tutorial video here:
First-Time Watercolor: Paint a Peony Wet-in-Wet for the beginning painter - YouTube
Don’t forget to include the hashtag #worldwatercolormonth when you share your work on social media. I can’t wait to see what you create with a little water and a lot of colorful watercolor paint!
Today, for Day 11 of #WorldWatercolorMonth and our prompt of “Simple Pleasures,” my mind jumped to waffles, since Philippe and I enjoy them on Saturday and Sunday mornings each weekend these days. This is combined with a cartoon of some kind that takes me right back to my childhood. And just like when I was a child, I had trouble staying focused much of the day today. When I came home from work, I hadn’t even thought about what I might sketch and then got distracted by a million other things. Once I landed on my subject matter, I still stopped entirely to fantasy shop for new cars with Philippe. Our own car was in the shop today and we just got it back. Dating back to 1998, it’s now technically considered a classic car, which just makes me feel really old. But, what it lacks in new car reliability it more than makes up for in a lack of a car payment. I haven’t had one of those in over 15 years now and that makes me incredibly happy. This is now the old man in me talking because the kid inside would love to zoom around in a new awesome car. But, that kid will just have to settle for waffles on the weekends instead.
It was actually a fun experience tonight building a car with Philippe online. We dutifully picked our base model and then started looking at all of the add-ons available. I had to stop and giggle many times when Philippe would ask me about a particular trim addition. He’d say simply, “but what does it DO?” to which I would reply, “it doesn’t do a thing! But I guess it makes some people happier to have it!” Then he would scrunch up his nose in that usual way and tell me to move on to the next one. What made it all so fun is that we both agreed on the things we might actually really need in a new car and those things were very few indeed. We’d both skip on the strange blue LED interior lighting that cost over $300, but both adamantly wanted the utilitarian plastic mat in the back that cost only $49. The car, after all, was being “built” to fit our life and therefore didn’t end up requiring any of the usual bells and whistles available. After trying a few different models, we miraculously discovered they all cost the same. Without all of the unnecessary things, cars are all about the same price now it would seem.
Still, it was way more expensive than we wanted to bother with so we moved on to funny pet videos instead. This left me with precious little time to sketch something, but I managed to make this bit of waffle in the process. It was created in fits and starts between conversation and car shopping. That’s pretty much how everything I’ve created has been made and that’s why I love each little thing that shows up here. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but simply a bit of time spent quickly doodling on the side while real life happens. I’m not a painter, I’m a doodlewasher. I’m not a true sketcher, I just like sketching stuff. I’ve made a hobby for myself that I perfectly enjoy and one that never fails to excite me. While I was marveling over the options available in a new car, I realized I’m already experiencing the greatest luxury in the world! I get to show up and make things while living my regular little life. This is the most wonderful thing I could ever have hoped to experience. And, why I think life is just more rewarding when I find myself, once again, living a life full of simple pleasures.