Watercolor Painting Technique – Priming Method – Yellow Underwashes
I use Arches hot pressed paper 140lbs (300gsm) as this has a wonderful hard sized surface which is ideal of detail and smooth washes for flowers and figurative work.
There are two sides to Arches Hot Pressed paper. The right side to use is the one where you can read the 'watermark' the correct way around.
140lbs (300gsm) Arches Hot Pressed paper is the best weight as the surface is the hardest.
300lbs (600gsm) Arches Hot Pressed paper has a much softer surface (less size).
90lbs (180gsm) Arches Hot Pressed paper is too thin - it will buckle even when stretched if you use the amount of water I love to use when using my naturalistic realism style for painting.
I stretch my paper on 1/2 inch gator board and use brown gummed watercolour stretching tape. (I understand this is available thru Cheap Joes) or Lukas White wateractivated gummed tape (available through Jerry's Artarama)
I use Schmincke pigments because they are finely ground and luminous.
The emphasis is on transparent or semi transparent. My methods won't work with opaque pigments. Susan Harrison-Tustain Signature Set of Pigments are available through Yarnell Art Supplies from 1st January 2011:
My Priming method:
Wet the area you wish to paint
Allow the water to be absorbed so the sheen has just disappeared from the paper.
Lay in another clear water wash
While your previous wash is still wet on the surface, now lay in your pigmented wash.
Before you move on to applying another wash or set of priming washes as above - ensure your paper is BONE DRY. I can't emphasize this enough.
It is simple and extremely effective.
My priming method will give you glowing jewel-like colours. Your lights will be delicate and softly blended. Your darks will be luminous pools of transparent colour. I never have a problem with the fibres in my paper lifting despite using anywhere from 2 - 20 washes! Take a look at my work. I hope you agree this glowing method speaks for itself.
Why this method works:
My method will create exquisite colour from softly blended delicate light hues to rich opulent darks. Let's take a look at the converse: Simply laying multiple washes on top of each other will leave much of the pigment sitting on the surface of the paper. With each subsequent wash you will find much of that pigment will lift and mix with the new wash, dulling the final colour and if determined, you could easily create mud.
I developed my priming method because I wanted my work to glow, as an oil painting does when the old masters underpainting methods were and are still used. My challenge was to work out how to make this happen in watercolour. Trial and error lead me to this method and here is why it works:
By wetting the paper first - then allowing that first clear water underwash to become absorbed so the sheen has just left the surface of the paper, we are allowing the paper pull that moisture into the inner layers. Our next clear water wash rewets the surface and allows us a number of advantages:
-Our paper is primed and ready for the pigmented wash.
-It buys us much more time to work with our pigmented wash (step 3) before it is absorbed and entered that 'don't touch' stage.
Now the inner layers of the paper are already moist so the second clear water wash sits on the surface of the paper for longer which gives us much more time to work on the surface without it becoming scratchy and overworked. We can continue to add more hues, deepen tones, lift colour, create paths of colour and even a little detail while the moisture is slowly being absorbed.
-Our pigment is also absorbed into the inner layers of the paper and when dry - it is 'set' into those inner layers of the paper. There is very little pigment left sitting on the surface, therefore your colours and also your subsequent washes are clean and fresh and glowing like jewels. It is almost impossible to create mud with this method.
-Subsequent washes of any hue can change the final hue incredibly so the atmosphere, tone and emotion of a painting can be adjusted with this method without endangering the underneath painting.
-The list of advantages goes on.
Why not try this method. Draw three 1 inch circles. Use my priming method in the first circle, wet in wet in the second and wet on dry in the third. Why not use a transparent yellow for this so you can play with the glow of this in subsequent washes?
Now allow all of the circles to become bone dry. Use a dryer if needed. To check for dryness: Once the heat from the dryer has gone from the paper, touch the paper with the ball of your hand. If it feels cold - there is still moisture in there. If it feels room temperature, then it should be dry.
Now lay in clear water washes over all three of the circles. If you have used transparent colours and my priming method - you will find there is very little pigment movement. The wet on wet will lift more and of course the wet on dry will move easily. Now add further washes and hues to your priming method and see how the yellow underwash glows.
Where my final tones are to be light - I use very little yellow. Naturally where the final tones are dark - I may use three or four priming sets of washes to create enough depth of yellow so it can glow through even the richest dark hues.
Yellow underwashes take away the raw look of colours and establishes a look of substance that can almost feel palpable.