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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Success with a Watercolor Underpainting

'Under the Desert Sun'          8x10          pastel        ©Karen Margulis
I guess I was never quite patient enough. I have had some success with watercolor underpaintings and I knew a few tips and tricks courtesy of watching Richard McKinley work his magic....but the failures far outnumbered the successes. I didn't let it stop me from trying but I wasn't going about it the right way.

The Plein Air Convention opened my eyes in many ways. I have a book filled with notes that I haven't even had a chance to review but I know that I am on the verge of some wonderful things that will help both my paintings and how I teach!  It all began to click at the last paint out of the convention.

under the pavilion with my fellow artists
I was feeling energized yet a bit tired from several very early mornings in a row. So I was content to just sit at the picnic table to paint. I usually am in a hurry to paint as many studies as I can. Perhaps it was because I was tired or maybe it was because I had been painting the desert for several days and was settling down....but I was moving very slow.

Slow was the key! Taking time with a watercolor underpainting is the key to success. (I knew this already but rarely slow down long enough to do it!) Taking time to let the darks dry before adding another wash...Adding layers of colors and letting them mingle.....using a thin brush to draw into dry areas....slowing down to allow things to happen and allow myself to enjoy the painting process was an amazing experience.

the finished watercolor underpainting
When the watercolor was finished I was almost reluctant to add pastel. I wanted to save it as a reminder of what I try to accomplish every time I do a watercolor underpainitng. In the end I did add some pastel but not much. It was a wonderful day of painting for me and one that I will always remember.

There is a lesson in my story and I actually learned it several years ago but I wasn't quite ready. This lesson was driven home by some of the things I learned at the convention and now I am not only ready to implement them but to pass them on to others. (more on this soon)


ROK said...

Watercolor is a beautiful, but challenging medium. Your underpainting is gorgeous and made even better with the additional texture and color of pastel. Did you use sanded pastel paper? Have you tried to use watercolor paper and pastels together? Thank you for sharing your amazing work!

Karen said...

Thank you! Yes I used white sanded paper for this. I have worked on watercolor paper and pastels. I like to add a coat of clear gesso which adds some tooth to the paper.

robertsloan2art said...

Your watercolor underpaintings sometimes look more like finished paintings, it doesn't surprise me you finished with very little pastel. That's fascinating, looking forward to new lessons! I've been doing a bit of watercolor lately with pen and one small piece is taking a long time in layers. I leave it to dry and then I'm done for the day or do something else and pick it up again.