Watercolours 101

This week in art class I learned basic watercolour techniques. I was worried that I would suffer terribly, since I had this teacher in Grade 5 who forced watercolours upon us for week upon endless week. It left me with a bad impression. However, that was so long ago that I decided to give watercolours another chance, and you know what, it actually wasn’t that bad. I’m glad that I gave it another shot.

We learned some basic techniques and did a monotone painting of a moon shining on a lake. I had to leave the painting behind to let it finish drying, but I can at least show you what I did for the first half of class.


An exercise in frustration! Actually, it wasn’t that bad. We just learned how to do some washes. First, we did a flat wash.


As you can see, it is solid colour. We do this by dipping the brush completely into the paint and moving it across the page in a smooth, uninterrupted motion from left to right. Dip the brush back in the paint and repeat, matching up the top edge of the brush with the bottom edge of paint already there from the first brush stroke. Continue until the area is filled.

Next, tip the paper up slightly to allow any excess paint to pool along the bottom edge. Watercolour paper is thick and rough, meaning that paint typically won’t spill from a wet area to a dry section of paper. However, we still want to soak up the excess paint before it dries. An easy way to do this is to make the brush “thirsty.” Simply dry the brush with some paper towel. Then, dab it along the areas to be cleaned up. The dry bristles will soak up any excess paint.


A graded wash is similar, except that we dilute the paint as we go along. Start off the same way by dipping the brush in the paint and doing the first stroke. Then, dip the brush in a glass of water, press it against the lip of it to squeeze off any excess water, and do the second stroke. This one should be slightly paler than the first. Keep doing this, making paler and paler brush strokes until the area is complete. It should look like a gradual blending. I used a square brush for this, by the way.


Variegated wash is also similar to the flat wash. Do a solid stroke in one colour at the top, then a solid stroke (or two) at the bottom in a different colour, making sure the two colours overlap in the middle. I think this wash is supposed to be useful when painting sunsets.


Next up is the dry brush technique. I used a small, round brush for this. All we’re really doing here is dipping our brush in the paint as usual, then dabbing off the excess paint on a bit of paper towel. Dragging the brush across the paper in one direction, it should leave an uneven line of colour. We can use dry brush for things like water or anything else that we want to look rough.


Last but not least, my favourite: the wet on wet technique. All I did here was brush on a block of yellow, then applied dots of other colours to it before it dried. As you can see, the blue and red bleed into the yellow. The white spots in the middle were made by dropping just a little bit of clear water into the paint before it dried. The water pushed the paint away, creating a sunburst effect. I tried to paint a butterfly there too but it didn’t turn out so well. Ah well.

I wish I had something more interesting to share today, but as I said, I had to leave behind my painting to dry. As for the pastel sketch that I made two weeks ago, I completely forgot to ask for it so I could bring it home. I’ll try to remember to ask for it next week, and hopefully it hasn’t been thrown out. Anyway, we’re doing a sunset painting with tree silhouette next time and I really hope it dries in time for me to take it home right away!



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