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Lively Washes

May 9, 2010

Starting with the level one students of my Rock Valley College classes, I emphasize letting watercolor be watercolor. As these new students learn the basics, I goad them to work for lively, colorful washes. I coach students not to over-mix color combination’s on their palette or on their paper. When a mixture becomes over-mixed, the result is a flat, dull application of paint.

As students reach my third level class, the goal is to create paintings utilizing lessons learned in the first two levels. Students use their own reference photos to create paintings. In working from their references, students are often too faithful to the colors and values evident in the photographic image. Too often they try to replicate the photo exactly as it is. Unfortunately, the photos are taken at the wrong time of day or the exposure has evened out values and tones. No drama. If students follow their reference too faithfully and in a timid way, they end up with a rather flat image in which the values are very close together (image #1).

To help students avoid flat washes, we do an exercise. A demonstration and the exercise illustrates how to avoid over-mixing a washes on the palette or on the paper. Students realize a more interesting application of paint can result.  We can  attract attention to an area of our design by using a  lively application of color  and altering values within the wash to create a more interesting image (image #2).

Image #1 - Flat Wash

Image#2 - Lively Wash

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