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Friday, July 02, 2021

Revisiting the Watercolor Underpainting with a New Tool!

'Serenade by the Sea'                11x15           pastel            ©Karen Margulis       available $295

I have a love hate relationship with watercolor underpaintings. I love the effects when I am successful preserving the underpainting but I have sometimes struggled with paper buckling if I get it too saturated. Not any more! I have been using LuxArchival sanded paper for the past fe months and I am fan! It is a white sanded surface with just the right amount of grit. The best thing about it is that is does not buckle or wave no matter how much liquid I use. It is not even mounted paper! The white paper is perfect to showcase the transparency and luminosity of the watercolor. You can read more about LuxArchival paper here: 

Enjoy this post from the archives which tackles the other issue with watercolor underpaintings: 
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.

       This painting is the Paint Along for my Patreon group this month. Head over to Patreon to check it out. There is a $4 pledge to access the content but it is a great value!!

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