It’s one of the most satisfying moments in the process of learning something new; that moment when something clicks in your brain, and things that were confusing and hard suddenly become simple and easy. Like art, it’s difficult to define, but I know it when it happens. You probably do too.
I’m having a bit of a break though watercolour week, thanks largely to the books of Mel Stabin. I learned this week the power of the midtone, which is cake, apparently, while lights and darks are the icing. I also learned to see the world a little differently, connect smaller shapes of the same value together, and to simplify. Most importantly, I learned the power of the value sketch, a single colour, quickly executed panting that helps you plan where those all important mid tones should be, and fit the darks and lights around them. Although this painting took an hour, instead of the recommended five minutes, it nevertheless taught me a great deal about how value is used to make a painting work. Thank you, Mel.
On my own, I learned to be a little more fearless, and to experiment, play with my materials, and just see what happens. It’s only paint, afterall. If you like, you can mentally substitute “yarn” where ever you see the word “paint” here. These are lessons I learned in knitting first, but this week I applied them to painting for the first time.
For today’s class I decided to work from a photo I took at a fish market in Italy. There’s not much to show yet, as the class starts in an hour. I decided to work my value sketch on 140lb Daler Rowney Aquarelle, which is inexpensive paper, not the best, but has a good tooth and is perfectly suitable for this purpose.
Where I experimented this morning was with the stretching of Aquarelle paper. Having worked the sketch first using a 2B pencil, I wasn’t sure whether I could immerse it in water without losing the sketch. Seeing as it’s only paper, I decided to give it a try. Guess what? It turns out you can actually sketch first, and stretch later.
Once the value sketch is complete, I’ll move on to the full colour painting, my first ever using a full half sheet of Saunders Waterford Not, which has less of a tooth than the Aquarelle, but still enough texture to grab the paint and help me create fishy scales. I like the sketch for this one even better than I do the one for the value sketch. It’s nice and loose. I’ll post that image later, after I’ve put a little paint on it.
This has been a good week for painting.