Create a drawing path with experts. For me, a successful work of art in any medium depends on its ability to tell a story, convey a vision or idea, or emotionally move the viewer. In my watercolors, the history of light is increasingly essential. With this in my brain, I try to build a light path, a visually connected composition of light and shadow, to draw spectators into the art. Once there, I need them to feel welcome and involved, understand my story, or imagine their stories, depending on how the painting makes them feel.
Paint the lighting
Try not to draw the pictures and things in front of you, but first try to paint the light that illuminates them and gives them identity. I always share this advice with my workshop students to start redefining what we choose to paint and how we choose to paint it as well. In watercolor, the control of what is not applied is as great as the potential of what is. As watercolorists, we work subtractively. In this transparent medium, the only true white, and therefore the only true light, comes from the white surface of the paper itself. Any tone, value, or color that we apply to the report subtract from the total amount of light available. Composing and protecting light in a painting becomes of utmost importance because it is practically gone forever once it is gone.
I see watercolor as a logical increase of the act of drawing. Without watercolor, we “draw” not with a list but with aspects of value, tone, and color. If we begin to see ourselves painted with light, with its structures and forms, rather than with the design and conditions of our subject, we can start to radically change the way we see and feel the world around us.
I have noticed that the most efficient way to get an intense sensation of light is by planning where I want to place the light in my work. So I try to diligently preserve those weak areas by painting white shapes that act as “negative” areas of untreated paper. I manage not to use any frisket or fluid mask to preserve the white. Ultimately unpainted regions serve as the lightest lights possible. A center of focus and real dramatic power can begin to emerge by juxtaposing them with darker areas or bright hues.
When I work in any genre, I try to convey depth or perspective. The intact paper already has two dimensions – height and width – built into the work. But to give the illusion of depth, the third dimension, a sense of perspective, must be involved. It is done mainly in two ways. First, when painting a scene with artificial elements (buildings, roads, train tracks, or bridges, for example), you can use perspective lines that appear to fade into the distance to significant effect. A watercolor painting that relies heavily on butterfly drawing is not as evocative as one drawn with value, tone, and color shapes.
The second way to indicate depth or scene in a landscape is to organize and layer values, from the lightest lights to the darkest shadows. It sets the illusion of foreground, middle, and background. The three fundamental values: light, medium tone. And dark: they can arrange in countless ways. If there is a successful pitch choreography, natural strength and depth can achieve. A painting done in a narrower range of values generally cannot evoke the depth of an image with a broader range of values.
Establish a sense of time
Finally, I often try to hint at something from another dimension: time. It happens due to my choice of topic. Paintings showing bridges, stairways, and streets, for example, draw viewers deep into the work. The images allow you to feel that you are crossing that bridge, climbing that staircase, or walking down that street. In this way, passing from one point of their mind to another, they imagine the passage of time. It is a powerful emotional tool at our disposal when trying to tell a compelling story.
Sometimes I make a quick and valuable sketch of my subject before I start painting. It is useful when I don’t have time to finish a piece on the spot, as it solidifies the impression and inspiration of the place in my heart and mind. It also tells me how to organize my stock composition (light, mid-tone, and dark) and shows me where the whites should keep.
I indicated the basic shapes and elements quickly and in shorthand on the pictorial surface. If he drew too much, he ran the risk of the painting being too tight, too much like an illustration. I leave many possibilities to intuitive painting and unintentional “mistakes,” allowing my brush to draw value, tone, and color shapes.
I went with my painting at a fairly steep incline, making pressure drag the watercolor onto the paper. It allowed the shades to blend on the surface and within the fibers. I quickly laid out all the basic shapes, tones, and values, keeping the light and white paper areas intact that I recognized. I used a restricted palette of equal colors (blues and oranges) to improve the light’s transparency, brightness, and “ambiance.” Instead of dark gray tones for the bottom of the great arch and the balconies, I chose warm orange tones to tell the story of the warm and bright light of the Spanish city.
I like to complete my arts in one session, which means nothing dries entirely before moving on to the subsequent step. So before the initial wash was fully dry, I put in shadows, shapes, and other basics that could mix in various stages of wet-on-wet painting. Most of the final components can make at this stage.
When the paint was almost dry, I added some final details with a No. 10. The path of light I created, a visually connected composition of rescued brilliant whites, invites viewers to spend some time climbing the ancient stone steps within the beautiful medieval city in Steps of Girona (watercolor on paper, 24 x 18).