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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Tips for a Watercolor Underpainting

'Journey's End'                 8x10             pastel              ©Karen Margulis
available $175

 It is elusive....that wonderful peek of watercolor under a thin veil of pastel. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes it doesn't go as planned. But I remind myself that the creation of a watercolor underpainting will influence the direction of my painting even if I completely cover it with pastel.

Still, that thought doesn't stop me from trying! I always approach a watercolor underpainting with the intent to allow a lot of it to show through the pastel layers. I want the wonderful drips, blooms and mingling of the paint to do much of the work.  But once I start layering pastel I often go farther than I wanted. Many a painting gets completely covered with pastel much to my dissappointment. How much pastel is too much? It is a personal preference. I love the contrast between the transparent watercolor and the opaque pastel so I want some of the watercolor to show. I've discovered some tips....
It is all about restraint. Work slowly and deliberately. Think about every pastel mark.

Here are some things I do to help me preserve the underpainting:

  • After the watercolor is dry I spend a few minutes evaluating it. Is there any area I love and want to be sure to save? Do I like the colors? Make note of these areas.
  • When I am ready to add pastel I begin by choosing colors and values that closely match the underpainting. I apply a VERY light layer so that I can hardly see the pastel. I will change color and value very gradually....small areas with a light touch. 
  • If I like the passage with this thin veil of pastel I will leave it and move on. In this way I don't get too heavy too quickly. I remind myself that it is OK to let the paper/underpainting show.
  • I find I most often overwork the pastel application  when I get too thick too fast. I then feel the need to keep adding heavier layers all over the painting. When I keep a light touch and work slowly I have more success.

Today's painting was inspired by my recent cruise to Alaska. I used a watercolor underpainting on an 8x10 piece of mounted vintage white Wallis paper. 

1 comment:

ChrisD said...

I have tended to dip in and out of your blog over the past few years, but have to say that your recent paintings are quite stunning...this one, the blue flowers and the one on "magic of green pastels" have had me coming back to them many times to admire. I'm currently checking out my own supply of greens as a result. Very inspired, Karen, thank you.