I’ve watched Marc Taro Holmes smoosh color onto paper, shifting colors as he “built washes.” I’ve heard Shari Blaukopf talk about creating mosaics of shifting colors on a surface. And I’ve stared at hundreds of Liz Steel sketches (relevance later). Apparently, I’ve got a pretty thick head because in spite of all this exposure to the concept, I didn’t get it.
No, it took a single comment in Liz Steel’s watercolour course (highly recommended) to get me to rethink watercolors. I know little of watercolor use but the first thing shown in every watercolor book I’ve read is how to do a flat wash. That’s how I’ve been applying watercolor…in flat, boring washes. Apparently I learned that lesson well. But in a single statement, as Liz was discussing mixing on paper vs mixing on the palette, Liz said (paraphrasing), “I rarely use flat washes; I prefer adding texture in my washes.” This simple statement somehow connected both of my neurons together and there was a flash of light, at least that’s how I remember it.
So, I started looking more closely and practicing the addition of variability into washes. I still struggle with its application but I was pretty happy with this sketch. It was an experiment to see if I could put a very textured, high contrast “wash” behind the focal point and sort of gradate both the texture and the color (lightening it) as I moved away from that focal point. My table light was just an excuse for a background.