Monday, May 4, 2009

Watercolor Techniques and Tips - Backgrounds

                                               CREATING   BACKGROUNDS

This is the topic which began my whole series of Watercolor Techniques and Tips. I have had  requests to share my technique for creating backgrounds such as in my painting "Sunny Trio" or "Lemon Tea", and so today I will attempt to explain how I go about creating a background as in Lemon Tea. Next week I will show you how I do what my daughter calls my "batik backgrounds" like you see in Sunny Trio.

First, different artists have differing ideas about whether to do a background before the rest of the painting, at the end of the painting, or somewhere in the middle. None is more right or wrong than the other. It is all a matter of personal preference.

For me, I tend to have at least one layer of color on the paper before I do my backgrounds. That way, the shapes and underpainting colors are established, and I can work around them. Then I adjust my colors in the shapes according to the background I have created.

Here is a painting that has some of the local color in place, and the shapes have been defined. You will also note that I have a thin layer of masking fluid on the edges. That is because the edge of the eggs will eventually be white against the very dark background.

The first step is to wet the background with clear water. As I am using 300 lb. paper, I really need to use a lot of water to get this wet enough to accept and move paint.

Here you can see how wet the paper is. Once you have your background wet, you need to wait for the shine to just begin to disappear.

As you can see, the shine is almost gone - the paper is beginning to dry.

This is the time you need to MOVE QUICKLY to get your colors down.

I use several colors in my background, moving from one color to another and back again as I go across the paper.

You can pick up your paper to blend the pigment or allow the water to move it so that it blends and forms those lovely transition colors.

The paint is down and now needs to dry. If you don't like what you have in your background, there are ways to go back in and change things... but that would be for another posting on backgrounds. :-)

If you have any questions for me, just email me:

Happy painting!


Kim said...

So you dab the color in. Do you ever sweep across the paper? Does brushing across the paper pose a problem because of the amount of paint you would need to get a good saturation level? I have waited an awful long time for you to do a tutorial on this very thing!

Joanne said...

Hi Kim,
No - I generally do not just sweep across the paper when I am using such dark colors as the colors do not remain distinct when you do that - usually they become one muddy mass. Here, in this painting, and when you look at Lemon Tea, you will see a purple, a blue, and an eggplant color, with the pigment thicker in some places than others, so that there is a sense of "something going on" - not just one big solid block of color.

When you sweep across the paper, in order to get the really dark hues, you would need to go back and do it again, and again, and you would be leaving brush strokes, and perhaps blooms as the paper tends to dry fairly quickly. In this demo, I actually had to rewet the right side of the paper with clear water to continue my wash (took too much time to take photos, and so it dried too much). But, because I did not already have color down, it was fine to add more water and wait until the shine went off again before adding the rest of my pigment.

It really is best if you just lay down the color once in this technique, and make it as dark as you want or need it the very first time.

When I do the background as in Sunny Trio, you will see that it is a different process than this one. There I will show how I go back in two times to achieve the mottled or Batik effect.

Thanks for the great questions. If I have not answered them thoroughly enough, just give me a call! :-)

Kim said...

Makes perfect sense. Thanks for the help! Can't wait to try it, as soon as we're off quarantine and I can get to the art shop for some paper.

Katherine said...

Hi Joanne,

Lovely work and I'm happy to see someone else who works on 300 lb. watercolor paper too!

I'll be back to see more soon.

Joanne said...

Hi Katherine,

I am honored that you have visited my blog!

I love 300 lb. paper - it is what I started out on, and I find I keep returning to it every time I try another weight. Too bad the cost of it keeps rising!!!

Have a great weekend.