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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Two 'P's' of Successful Watercolor Underpaintings

'Lady in Red'       8x8       pastel       ©Karen Margulis  
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It's Watercolor & Wildflower Week here in my studio.  In my pastel classes we will be focused on the watercolor underpainting for pastel so I will be sharing my week with you.  I have had many failed watercolor underpaintings.  In fact when I first tried them they were so awful and washed out that I wondered why I even bothered.  I thought it was a waste of time and paint.  That is until I discovered a couple of tips from Richard McKinley.  I call them the 2 P's of watercolor underpaintings. (WU)

First have a look at two of my under paintings.  The top one I feel is a success. The colors are rich and vibrant and the darks are strong. I can still see that it is transparent. I have an idea of color and value yet it isn't too detailed.  The bottom underpainting is poor.  It is just a wishy washy shapeless blob. This is what all of my watercolor under paintings looked like before the 2 p's.

A Successful Watercolor Underpainting

A Poor  Watercolor Underpainting
I learned so much about doing a WU when I attended a Richard McKinley workshop in Lake Tahoe. (what a fantastic experience!)  These two guiding principles have helped me create stronger under paintings. Here they are:

  • PRACTICE  It makes sense. If you want to get better at something then you must practice it. Richard recommended that I set aside time to paint just the WU....lots of them and not to worry about ever putting pastel on them. The only way you can understand how the paint and water react and how you can get certain effects is to see it happen...more than once.  So plenty of practice will make you more confident with your materials. And while you never can truly control watercolor you can at least guide it somewhat!
  • PATIENCE  Slow down. Don't rush the underpainting.  I use to see it as a way to get some color down quickly so I'd slap on some paint. I was anxious to get to the pastel.  The results revealed my impatience.  I watched Richard demo and he took his time with the watercolor. There was no rushing and his results showed!  (I'll be giving more tips about WU later this week)  So the lesson is to make the underpainting process just as important as the pastel. Take your time with it!

All set up for underpainting practice!
Be sure to come back this week for more on the Watercolor Underpainting and painting wildflowers!


eM said...

Great advices. I am using WU very often and it really needs a time and practice. I am looking forward the next posts about WU. Have a nice day!

Maineland said...

What are you using for paper?

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I would never have thought to use watercolor under the pastels.