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Lesson 5 from: Getting Started with Watercolor & Gouache Paints

Mary Jane Begin

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Lesson Info


So this is just salt, salt that you would cook with, and for whatever reason, kosher salt really sucks water to it, and so creates an interesting surface. Maybe we'll use cobalt violet. Kana requested using that color, and I'm gonna go to the glass palette because for me, this is becoming a little too full. I'll have to clean that palette to have more space to be able to work. And again, I can't emphasize enough, when you're painting, really give yourself plenty of room to mix color because when it gets too crowded, it just all the colors start to merge, and you can't make beautiful color if you have no space to work on. So I'm gonna toss this aside, get some more tissues, and as I said, need to have my security blanket. So here, I'm gonna show you the difference. This was wet into wet. So that means I wet the whole surface with water, and then I dropped the pigment on with my brush and it moved that, bloomed, you saw the bloom happen. This time what I'm gonna do is, I'm gonna show you...

a little bit different. I'm gonna lay this color down without putting water down first and you'll see the difference. Now, automatically, do you see the edge? There's an edge there. If I didn't touch this, that edge would dry. It's not gonna move across the surface. It's gonna only move where my brush is hitting the surface. I'm gonna do a little bit deeper color, and I might add dioxazine purple to make it a little bit deeper. So you can see even these two purples are different, and it's fun to have them both in the palette. I'm gonna mix them. Look how deep that is. I want you to see what happens with the kosher salt. The other thing that you can see, notice the stroke, this is called dry brush. You can literally see the texture of the brush. So it's reacting differently to that surface because there's no water on that surface. It isn't better or worse, they're just two different ways the watercolor works, and if you can incorporate both in your palette and in your way of working, it makes for really interesting variation. The one thing I think with media is, you don't want all the surfaces, all the textures and all the things in your piece to be exactly the same. It's much more interesting if you can have variation from one thing to another, whether it's, you know, grass to sky or fur to face. All surfaces are not the same so if your tools can reflect that, that's a wonderful thing. And you can also see the edge of my brush. And the reason why is there's no water on that surface, so this isn't a bad thing, it's just something that creates a different reaction than this one. I'm gonna try to go right to the edge if I can with this color, and I'm gonna show you what happens as soon I throw the salts on here. Okay. ♪ Do-do-do ♪ This is why I use tape (laughs) because it's harder to do it evenly with just a square-tip brush. Okay. So now you see this color here, so let me throw some salts on. (salt sprinkling on paper) I'm gonna wet it a little bit more, so its nice and pooled color. You can really see the salt is absorbing the color. (salt sprinkling on paper) Hm hm, I don't know if there's a difference. We had just sea salts. They weren't necessarily kosher salt. Does that make a difference? The kosher salt absorbs the most. Yeah. It really (sucking) and I used it for this other piece and that's why, I'll pull this over, so you can see the bloom. It's like a textural bloom (sucking) is difference than, this salt is just slightly absorbing the color. It's gonna pull some of that color into it. It's gonna leave little patches of, sort of, lighter tonality. When you're done with that area, it's kinda like what the sponges do. It's just doing it with a different material. When you're done, you blow it dry or you let it dry, you flick the salt off. You pick it off or you brush it off with a brush. You don't leave the salt on there. I supposed you could but most people take that off and then you might add another layer of color on top of it. So that's kosher salt and sponges. Now I want to go back over to this. I want to show you another way of using a tool that basically is, we're talking about pooling color, subtractive color, pulling the color off of the surface. The salts do it, your paper towel will do it. Actually let me do that right now. The paper towel does the same thing. (patting) I'm gonna do it right over the salt. (patting) And you can see, it's pulling that color off and it's wet. It's pulling a lot of color off and it's making a lot of texture. This is a really great method for clouds. I always use my paper towels to make skies and clouds because it's, you can really go back in, and you have to move the paper towel. You know it's purple so I don't want to put that purple back on there. I'll wet it again and you can pull more of the color off. And create really soft passages. I mean it looks very cloud like. I feel like Bob Ross now. Happy little clouds. But the paper towel softly removes that coloration, the pigment on the surface, and you can pull as much as you want off. You'll never get back to the perfect white of the page but that's not really the goal. So these are, it's another subtractive tool. I'll put it right here. You get your sponges, you've got your paper toweling, you've got what I recommend is the kosher salt. Another way is with an oil painting brush. And these are what are called stiff bristle brushes and they're used for oil painting. But I use them to subtract color. So I'm just going to show how I do that. It's basically, you wet the tip of the brush and you pull color right off the surface. Now watercolor is flexible. It allows you to take that color. If I keep putting this brush back in full of pigment I'm gonna add the color back into the surface. What I'm trying to do it I'm blotting it and I'm able to pull the color right off the surface. And that's really wonderful for modeling or for doing, modeling a form or for creating a sense of light. And I'll test it on this side. Works just as well here. It only works with a brush that has a stiffness to it. It's the only way. And you can see I'm able to get pretty close, not back to white but back to sort of a light blue. If this were a sky and this were grass or something I could just go back in and really pull that color off. So stiff bristle brushes are a great tool to have. This particular one is a size four and it's a fairly sizable tip. I have smaller ones as well like this little guy which is a two. And again, it functions the same way. It's just pulling the color off the surface. Okay, so those are your sort of subtracted or subtractive methods of color.

Ratings and Reviews


I really enjoy Mary Jane Begin's style of teaching--I have a degree in Fine Art and have been painting for years, but think she does such a good job of building on the basics and encouraging play. Get your supplies ready ahead of time, if like me you want to play along. Thank you!

Kelly LaFrance

Awesome class! Awesome instructor! Exactly what I was looking for, and highly recommended. :-)


Fantastic class - so informative and inspiring. After watching the lessons, I picked up my watercolors and started playing around with some of the covered techniques. Highly recommended!

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