I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am an impatient person, particularly when it comes to painting watercolor. The look of spontaneous painting requires forethought and planning, even for the simplest of pictures. I keep falling for that lie! Therefore, in an effort to tame my monkey mind, I decided to work on negative painting, which is not an easy thing to do. Looking through YouTube, I found a lovely example of negative painting by Krzysztof Kowalski, which you can view below.
This painting study requires the usage of masking fluid in addition to working up layers of colors. My sketch came out fairly good, as you can see below, but the first layer of water over the masking fluid turned rather comical.
I didn’t dilute my dishwashing soap before dipping my brush in it, then the mask. The result, when I began to wet the paper, was soap suds! Okay, dilute it next time. I think the density of the dish soap also may not allow the masking fluid to adhere properly – I’ll find this out when I begin to remove it. I spent a few hours painting the layers; this is my afternoon’s work.
A while back I read an article that a 19th century artist – it may be John Singer Sargent – used wax as a resist in watercolor painting. That was a bit of a surprise as I never thought a “professional” painter would do that. We used crayons and watercolors together in elementary school, and it was a lot of fun. Not having any crayons, I got out a white candle and scribbled away in a palm tree sort of shape. Then I painted, beginning with the yellows and then moving into darker colors. I don’t recall many of the colors I used, but they do include Yellow Ochre, Hooker’s Green, May Green, Payne’s Grey, Ruby Red, Cerulean Blue, Ultramarine Blue. The wax served to keep white spaces white, obviously. And, I actually used negative painting ti create some of the shapes in the fronds and trunk of the tree.
Today has been a day of frustrations. Nothing seems to be going right. Everyone has those days, yeah, I know, but I rather other people have them, not me! But, they do serve a purpose in that they do make you realize … something.
That said, let’s get on to the negative painting scene. It is not easy. I think to create a painting like this, practice and experience play an important part. Practice is what I keep doing. And then I reach a point where I am just irritated beyond measure, and need to break loose. I’ll come back to practice, but by nature, I am a gaudy color lover, and having a monochrome study makes me feel trapped. I wonder if others feel the same way. So, pink daisies, a la the hydrangea, and I am ready to go nuts. Here they are – the first round.
And then the second one from this morning . . .
Some success. And then I did the third layer . . . and had to just mess with it as I was ready to scream. Part of it was just frustration in that I didn’t really like this process at all. Maybe it’s not for me. In the end, just playing with some colors on my palette, some which I just recently got. It was a total color mess – so lines were added. It’s sort of cheery, but it also reminds me of what I cannot do.
The good news, no mud. It’s kind of fun. But I also know what I want to accomplish, and doing this stuff is not going to get me there. The colors are fun, and good practice, but I also know that my impatience and scatterbrained-ness don’t help me, either. Ongoing practice will improve my skills, I hope. So, I keep playing.
A part of me wonders if / when I reach my desired “look” if I will become extremely boring to myself.
Okay, negative painting is not, not, not easy. At least for me. Back to YouTube. This video was a really big help.
The guy is really funny – and does a really good demonstration. This one was probably the most clear of all the ones I have watched. Simple in execution, but sophisticated enough to produce something useful at the end of the video. This is what I got.
Then I watched another video – far more accomplished than I am at the present in execution, and once more, mud is the result and abominable flowers. These are mutant flowers after some sort of environmental disaster!
Ugh. So, back to monochrome – this time, pink daisies from some picture on the internet. This is the first layer of many, but maybe I can just work on very simple things and follow the 1-2-3-4 steps and then get a bit more advanced in execution.
Practice is not always a pleasant experience – but you do learn!
Now that I feel a bit more accomplished in some of my watercolor skills, I have taken the time to think about a few things. Specifically, what to do next. I think negative space, or negative painting, seems like the next best step. I am not sure why – it just feels right. That is how I painted my two moonlit sycamores. Now it is time to paint their leaves. Below is a photo I took the other day, which is my reference point.
I started out with three primary colors: Cobalt Blue, Cadmium Yellow, and Permanent Rose. First, I wet the paper and then made a few distinct areas for each color. Then I tipped the paper around (it’s mounted on a board) so the colors would blend and bleed. As it is probably only 90# paper, there was buckling and pooling, but decided to just let things happen. After it dried, I drew in the shapes of the leaves, and then worked around the leaves and twigs with a wash of varying strengths that combined Cobalt Blue and Burnt Sienna. The veins were a bit of Hookers, Sap, and Cobalt Green. Altogether, there are multiple layers of washes / glazes – some successful, some not. The final overlaying wash was a mixture of Carbazole Violet, Cobalt and Ultramarine Blues.
This painting has a lot of problems – too tight, too overdone – but the problems also present future solutions, which I hope to visit in the not-too-distant future. I feel like it is moving toward mud, too, which is something I always have to watch out for.
My original “Moonlit Sycamore” is below. I like it a lot – except for the squiggly black lines I put into it. They ruined the painting for me.
So, a second attempt, this time on 12×15 paper rather than 9×12. No squiggles in front of the main trunk. Instead, this new version is much darker, and the squiggly lines don’t exist, but dark lines, to suggest other trees and branches, exist, but not across the main trunk. Here is the new version below.
The scan doesn’t really do it justice – the burnt sienna is a bit less intense in the original.
Both painting were designed to work on negative painting. This is not easy and I expect it takes a lot of practice to do it well. Years ago, I did take a workshop and saw negative painting and masking fluid for the first time. It was quite impressive and looked deceptively easy. I am finding it is not – but it will improve with time! Funny how a scan makes you see a painting so differently . . . flaws are more apparent, as are areas of success.