Archive for June, 2013

A good watercolor is based on a good drawing.  What you usually need is a contour drawing of the kind that Charles Reid talks about.    In fact, many “watercolors” are often just colored drawings.   You can, of course, paint over the details in the drawing, but you have to have the perspective right, the gestures, and so forth, so you have to have a drawing with which to start.  One way to get that drawing on the paper for a watercolor  is to “square up” an image from somewhere else.  I have a post on the details here.  Then you can decide how much of the pencil marks to leave for the viewer to see.  The problem in the field has been that you can’t get that image from which to work.  You would have to carry both a camera and a portable printer.

That has all changed with the ubiquitous smart phone or tablet.  The smart phone is always in your pocket and therefore always available, and the mini ipad is pretty portable.   There are several apps for smartphones and tablets that do the squaring up of a photograph you have just taken.  Here is an image from one I like, an app called Copyit:

copy it example

There are grid lines (the black lines) whose number and thickness can be varied (I have just 6 boxes in the above image), and there are “guide lines” within the grids in red (16 within each grid in the above).  If the grid happens to be obscuring something, you can move it.  You can change the photo temporarily to black and white to get a value picture.  You can zoom in with the usual two finger gesture to look more closely at a grid.  You can save the result like that above to your photo album, print it out, etc.   The developer has thought of most things.  There is a help function and a manual that you can print out which is not particular written with a new-to-the-app point of view.

I hope it’s clear that you have to draw the grid on your paper and the “guide lines” as well in crucial areas.

There are a lot of people out there who are against using photographs in general.  There is something to their criticism, but it applies to people who are trying to copy a photograph rather than use a photograph to make measurements on an already sketched image.  You should definitely start with a freehand sketch of anything your doing.  When you do that, you will notice that you are making measurements usually against some line on your drawing that you have decided to hold constant (like the length of the statue in the above photograph.  The waist is about 1/3 of the way down that line, etc).  This is really not much different from how you work with a grid.  It’s just that the constant lines against which you are making measurements are the added grid lines.  Using the thin red guide lines the waist is about 1/4 of the way down the red line in the box.

Unfortunately I usually can’t spend a whole day outside doing a painting.  That means that my drawing has to be of a rather simple subject if I am to do it completely freehand.  With this app I can take on much more challenging subjects and get a drawing down much quicker than before.

By the way, it is, in fact, very hard to make a drawing or a painting look like the light in a photograph, and most people can’t do it.  So don’t worry.  The problem is that most photographs are not particularly good, have too much detail, etc.

A search (e.g. Google) of the term Copyit will bring up several options to explore including a UTube video, the support page, and the app from iTunes.  If you carry a smart phone you should consider Copyit.

Read Full Post »

water brush


The problem with the waterbrush is that you do not get enough paint on the brush to drop a bead of juicy paint on the paper.  Using it as a regular brush will produce a “colored drawing” type of watercolor, not the juicy washes that I like.

However, I have discovered that, if you put paint on the brush and then squeeze the reservoir really vigorously, a drop of water appears from the seams, flows down to the brush where it picks up paint, and then falls on the paper.  You then have a juicy wash.

I have described juicy washes elsewhere in this blog, but what I mean is a drop of water that doesn’t allow you to see the paper below it.  It slowly absorbs into the paper over time and leaves a very distinctive mark.   (When you use the waterbrush as directed, you are coloring the paper with the paint as opposed to obscuring it with a drop of water which you can lead around the paper by breaking the surface tension with the tip of the brush.

Read Full Post »

huggies in store

(I hope everyone understands that the title is intended to be a joke not to disparage those of us we cannot or do not want to shell out for expensive equipment.)

This is a picture of a brand of diaper wipes which sells for 100th the price of an individually crafted hand-held brass palette.  See here for the three craftsmen I know of making them.   They are beautiful and handy but cost in the $300 range.  Incidentally this is what individually crafted wooden pochade boxes cost which are very popular among oil and acrylic painters. (They are totally inappropriate for watercolor.)   So I am not being critical of the brass watercolor palettes, but merely presenting what I think is a resourceful alternative.

huggies as palette

This is the palette that can be made from an empty Huggies container.  It can hold 20 full pans and 40 half pans as I have set it up.  You can use the top for mixing.  The plastic is a little slick (but perfectly useable)  and I have used some very fine sandpaper on it to roughen it up a bit.  I glued down a few of the pans to try how rubber cement worked, and it worked fine.  I suggest rubber cement because I am not so sure how long the hinge will last.  The plastic stains a bit with some of the paint as you can already see with the slight yellow discoloring on the left.

Here’s an alternative arrangement from the website Wetcanvas, watercolor section, palette talk.  You might prefer this arrangements as the nearer parts of the container are more like wells.

alternative palette

Combine it with this  (See here for the post) and you have a pretty good setup:


Read Full Post »




Here is how I’ve been carrying water outside.  As you know, water is the heaviest thing in a watercolorists kit.  (It’s the paint tubes for the oil painter.)   This is a neat container made in England by Bettix originally designed for measuring oil to put in a motor such as a gas lawnmower.  As you can see,  there is a little cup off to the side (green in the small container above) which is filled by squeezing the bottle.  The water travels up a tube from the bottom of the big unit to the small one.  You clean your brush or pick up water from the small container and dump it when it gets dirty.  then you refill it by squeezing.

There are two containers in the photo.  The larger one holds 16 oz in the big container and 1 oz in the small one.  The smaller one, which I use when I am just working in a sketch book, hold 8 oz in the large container and 1/2 oz in the smaller one.  You can buy them on the internet here.   The small one costs $1.64 and the large one $2.24 (plus postage).   You can buy them in bulk.

There are several websites who repurchase these and sell them for much more.  I’ve seen the large one for $9.00.



Read Full Post »