Watercolor is a fascinating medium. Many people are reluctant to try because they have been led to believe that watercolor is difficult. While it can be a challenge, this course is designed to provide insight and hopefully instill confidence in even a rank beginner. This is the opportunity to learn about paper, paints, brushes and their application in creating glowing passages of color.
Welcome to Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor.
This course is based upon the revised edition of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, Volume 1 by Dr. Don Rankin.
Painting should not be a spectator sport. This course is designed to allow you to experience using the techniques outlined. I want to encourage you to get involved. When you have questions, send me a message. I will endeavor to answer your questions as quickly as possible.
The exercises are simple. They are planned that way. As you gain proficiency with the concepts outlined in these tutorials you will be able to apply them to any painting. You are only limited by your drive and your imagination.
Pay close attention to the tutorial on color. Understanding the nature of your colors is vital. Learn to work with a few carefully chosen colors. Experiment to gain more insight.
Do the exercises with brushes, learn the language each type speaks.
Feel free to visit my website: www.donrankinwatercolorstudio.com
Quality watercolor paper is the foundation for all of your work.
Gaining an understanding about paper and your options is vital for any watercolor painter. There are many brands from which to choose. How do you know which brand is best for you? At first you may not know; so stick with a well known brand.
Paper is like potatoes it is sold by the pound.
Well, not really but weight is important. We check the weight of the paper to determine how thick it is. I strongly suggest that you avoid any paper that is designated at less than 140 lb. There are exceptions to this if you are working some techniques on rice paper or other exotic fare. For the most part 140 lb. is your best bet. Paper weights go much higher than 140 lb. Most painters know about 300 lb weight. We used to choose it for it would not buckle when dampened. Unfortunately that is no longer true. I find myself having to stretch it like 140lb. An easier solution, if the size permits, is to use a watercolor block as shown in the tutorial. No stretching necessary.
This is a term we use to denote that we are mounting our paper to a stable board. Be careful, you really don't need to stretch the paper. It will shrink up a bit as it dries giving you a smooth, taut surface. Some choices for board include Gator Board, masonite fiber board and plywood. Gator Board and masonite will work, provided you use freezer tape. Personally I use varnished 3/8" plywood and small staples.
To get started I soak my paper in clean cold water. I allow it to soak until it is pliable (al dente, like pasta).
I quickly transfer it to my board, gently blot out all bubbles and begin stapling. If you are using freezer tape merely put tape on all four edges of the damp paper after you carefully smooth it out. As the paper dries the tape will dry and the sheet will be taut.
Some individuals use damp 300 lb. on a glass sheet. As the paper dries they say that it sticks to the glass enough to prevent buckling or ripples. I have never tried this approach.
One word of caution. Wet paper is very easily scarred or damaged. If you press on it or drag an object across it the paper will leave a scar or a bruise that will appear darker when you put a color wash over it.
Like paper brushes are a part of your basic foundation. While paper will require replacement brushes will last a lot longer. That is true if you purchase quality items and take care of them. Remember that creatures such as moths and beetles will love to eat the hair out of natural hair and bristle brushes. I keep my brushes in the clear tube containers they come in. You can keep them in a cedar box or any air tight container.
Nylon brushes don't seem to be on the bug's menu so they may not need to be safeguarded in the same manner.
1. Never leave your brush standing on its tip in a container of water. NEVER!! This ruins the shape of the brush tip and allows the handle to soak up water, swell and crack.
2. Always use the right brush for each task. You'll understand this better after you see the brush tutorials.
3. Seek to buy the best brushes you can afford.
4. Devote time to practice with each brush type in order to be the best you can be.
Choose a palette that gives you room to mix color.
In the studio I often use an enameled butcher's tray for painting. A palette such as the John Pike or Robert Wood palette has a cover that help to keep your paint moist. It also invites mold growth in some climates. It is great for outdoor as well as indoor painting. I usually take it with me for plein aire (outdoor painting) and for workshops outside my studio.
Solution for mold growth ? See frame :45
1:04 outdoor palette
1.33 enameled butcher's tray
3:04 cleaning your palette
Test your colors:
If you really want to excel as a painter in watercolor you need to know your materials; especially your paint. You can choose to paint about 1,000 watercolors in order to begin to learn about how your paint behaves. If you don't think you have that sort of time; shorten the process. Test your colors across a water proof black field. Waterproof black india ink makes a perfect ground for testing the relative transparency/opacity of a given paint.
Different brands of paint may behave differently. The only way you will know is to test each new paint you add to your palette.
Key Frames :
2:48 see the opaque trail
3:29 traditional colors
4:30 staining colors vs .floating colors
7:10 Quinacridone colors
8:18 make sure washes are dry
9:39 Quinacridone colors and transparency
11:00 lifting color
13:18 creating neutral colors
A simple exercise using the flat brush:
This small study will combine the use of wet 'n wet technique with direct application of wash to dry portions of the paper. Several final adjustments will be made using glazing techniques. Note the difference in effect. The sky wash was pure American Journey Andrew's Turquoise. Winsor Permanent Sap Green, Winsor Permanent Alizarin and Holbein Marine Blue were also used. Keep in mind that painting is like a balancing act. When one value gets adjusted other elements may require alteration in order to maintain balance.
:57 blotting excess water
2:24 introducing the sky wash
3:01 discussing wet 'n wet technique
3:43 using direct technique for water
4:21 speed of the brush
4:51 establishing the shoreline, why?
5:57 more wet 'n wet
6:23 another way to blot excess wash
7:36 changing the brush direction
8:15 adjusting values
9:05 observe nature
13:30 adjusting value again
15:00 comparing papers
Additional comments regarding paper:
Different brands of paper will produce different results. The best way for you to experience this is by painting on various brands. Some retailers will offer sample packs. You should take advantage of this. It is a wonderful way for you to test the market. Try out Saunders, Bockingford, Strathmore, Kilamanjaro, Lana, D'Arches and other papers you can find. Also try not only cold press but rough and hot press. You don't have to paint large pieces to find out if you like the paper. Small 5" x 7" studies will tell you a great deal.
The flat brush is very versatile. Almost any subject will lend itself to being forcefully depicted with the flat brush. Fortunately flat brushes come in a wide range of sizes, materials and styles. Many of the synthetic brushes will perform almost as well as high quality sable. Choose a brush that will come to a sharp edge when dampened.
This will distinguish it from a general wash brush. With a sharp edge you can get fine lines as well as broad strokes. The synthetic brush featured in this tutorial is capable of producing a wide range of effects.
:08 calligraphic strokes
:51 paint mixture
1:11 discussing neutral colors
1:45 brush strokes
2:00 barn siding
2:32 using the edge of the brush
3:15 blotting the brush
3:25 dry brush technique
4:50 final touches on weathered wood
Using a 2" flat sable brush:
If you find the cost to be prohibitive, you may opt for a 2" nylon flat brush. While the action is not quite the same it will perform pretty well. Relax and practice the twirling of the brush. Be patient. You will find that this approach works well with smaller brushes and will work with any painting medium. I learned this by examining a still life in the Borghese Gallery in Rome in 1968. While it is nothing new, it was a revelation for me. My thanks to Carravaggio!
:50 twirling the brush
1:13 correcting mistakes
1:43 see the effect of the wash
1:58 cleaning up edges
2:58 contrast of color opaque and transparent
3:32 test your washes
3:48 virtue of direct technique
4:10 observe shadows
5:38 more correction
6:08 adjusting color
Setting the stage:
This tutorial will be in three stages. In this first stage I am applying a very light wash to merely allow the viewer to see where the painting will take place. As I explain this is a bit unorthodox but necessary for participant understanding.
In this session we will be modelling/developing the sense of form for the orange. The under painting is subtle but it will exert influence on the sense of form in the orange. I am using complements for this arrangement. Orange and blue are direct complements. In the text I also mention violet. In reality violet and yellow are complements. What that means is that they are direct opposites from one another on the color wheel and tend to intensify one another when place in proximity. Even though violet is not the true complement of orange it has its uses if you consider that orange is a result of a yellow and red combination.
In the field of color theory I am using these terms a bit loosely. Color theory is wonderful but we must deal with the paints we can purchase. Consequently many of the reds we purchase are combinations of magenta, yellow and even blue. This can make color mixing a bit perplexing for the novice. (For a better understanding study magenta, process yellow and cyan in their relation to subtractive color theory.)
:18 under painting
1:25 importance of wash sequence
2:56 observe subtle changes
3:12 clean up of edges
3:35 look for effects of under painting
3:58 another method of charging
5:17 glazing potential
6:10 choose transparent paint for under painting
9:19 a word about shadows
Final clean up:
I broke this session away from session 2 in order to allow the paint to dry before proceeding with some final touches. As I stated earlier I chose to stop at this point. As you become more proficient you can carry the effects much farther provided you feel it necessary. Always avoid over working a subject. If you get to the point where you say to yourself, "Gosh, I wish I hadn't done that !" Then you know you have painted too far! Unfortunately you will have quite a few of those moments before you begin to discern when it is a good time to stop. Reality check: many of us still go too far at times.
You can make good use of under painting techniques to enhance texture and a sense of form as well as shadow. Multiple colors in the under painting can help create dynamic effects. Practice different approaches. Analyze the subject, how many colors do you see? Which ones will make a good transparent or staining under painting?
Why staining colors?
Staining colors such as Winsor blue, Thalo blue, Winsor violet and others are less likely to be disturbed as you apply washes over them.
I want to briefly describe this three part tutorial. We will be exploring what happens when we use a minimal amount of water in our brush and what happens when we use a lot of paint and water. The final section will deal with the glazing technique.
These lessons will hopefully not only impart an idea about technique but illustrate how different effects can be achieved by merely changing the ratio of paint to water.
:38 minimal water
1:09 more water
A mixture of techniques:
I begin by discussing glazing. I want you to see an example of a finished glazing piece. I will do a full tutorial on glazing in the third lesson on this subject. In this session I begin demonstrating a combination of direct and wet 'n wet technique.
Specific technique for a specific effect:
Direct: The paper is dry and the brush is minimally wet. Observe the first few strokes of yellow as they are applied. Notice the white spaces between the yellow shapes. There is a minimal amount of water in the brush. As I explained earlier, the paint hits the high spots of the paper leaving open white spaces. This effect will create a soft, airy effect for the foliage.
Wet 'n wet: Winsor red is introduced while the yellow is still moist. The result is a soft mingling of color in some areas with the dry areas of paper receive the color full strength. The result will be a random range of blends and full red color. that will create a convincing foliage effect.
:30 remarks regarding glazing
:59 effect of use of minimal water in brush
1:43 applying yellow (Gamboge)
1:59 Winsor red into Gamboge
2:28 working damp paper
3:09 too much water
3:31 adding Holbein yellow green
5:20 adding trunk
5:43 adjusting/adding more color
6:15 observe color changes in nature
6:13 adding more color
Developing the tree form: Using more paint and water
Take notice of the difference in the appearance of the first wash. If necessary go back to the first lesson for a moment. Look at the marks on the paper from the edge and the end of the brush this time. Does the trail of the brush look more definite? This can have an effect upon the rendition of the foliage.
The side of the flat brush offers a wonderful opportunity to create a "loose" effect for trees. Many times the foliage will look too "tight" if you are too deliberate. I suggest that you study on-line field guides to gain an understanding of the basic shapes of various trees. Then try imitating the general shape of your chosen subject WITH the edge of the brush. Do remember that in the natural there will be variations. Our Creator did not make cookie cutter trees or people! All things have variation. So allow yourself some freedom.
:15 charging red into yellow
2:22 introducing sap green into the wash
2:56 direct technique
3:04 wet 'n wet
3:34 timing: when to add color
At this stage we have worked with direct washes and wet 'n wet techniques. Now it is time to combine them in layers. There will be a brief break to allow the paper to dry. This is necessary in order to do proper glazing. Throughout many of these lessons you will not see a segment of color blending on the palette. The reason is simple. The blending is actually taking place on the paper before your eyes. While there are times when I blend colors on my palette; for these exercises I have opted, for the most part, to show you optical blending on the paper itself.
I have used this metaphor many times but it still helps convey the message. Almost everyone has had the joy of seeing sunlight filtering through stained glass. In many ways watercolor glazing is similar. The colors are layered over one another. The light bounces off the white of the paper and the resulting color from the layers is modified and we see the change. For the best results using transparent washes, especially in the beginning, is the best formula. There are times when more opaque colors can be introduced in early stages. We can deal with that aspect in a later, advanced course.
In art school one rule of thumb was NEVER use raw color. That is color straight out of the tube. Good advice in most cases. However, in glazing, the use of pure color is modified by the preceding as well as the accumulated layers of color. The raw color is more vibrant and usually produces a more pleasing color.
:35 ratio of paint to water
1:02 wet 'n wet
1:36 correcting brush stroke
2:16 round two, after drying
2:27 rewettting paint surface
2:47 adding red
3:49 adding more color
4:35 why glaze?
5:09 adding stronger color
How to repair a problem:
When watercolor is wet it is pretty easy to make alterations. However, as it begins to dry the situation becomes fragile. Recall I have made mention of the greasy look. As the moisture leaves the wash the binder in the paint begins to adhere to the paper's surface. If left undisturbed the paint will dry and the wash will be intact. However, if water is introduced it begins to flood the damp area washing away a lot of the paint. You can stop this action with blotting or possibly charging with more color. The latter is more problematic, that is risky.
Blot the area. Sometimes that is all you need. If you need more color let the area dry then apply more color.
:34 setting up a disaster
1:12 nasty edge
2:01 blotting the affected area
The round brush:
No doubt this is the most popular and perhaps the most often misused brush in painting.. The vast majority of students try to use it like a pencil only thinking of its fine point. Consequently they miss out on its many virtues. Practice regularly. Learn the language of ALL of your brushes. Like living creatures brushes leave tracks. In this case they are tracks on your paper. Can you spot the tracks of your brushes?
If you like to paint things that look real then you really want to find out what your brushes can do for you. I urge you to get out your brushes and see what kind of marks you can make. Try these simple exercises and then experiment. Learning the language of your brush will help you paint with bold confidence.
:50 keep your eye on the brush
1:15 get the rhythm... press down...
5:35 an enlargement of examples
This series of tutorials is broken into stages in order to clarify important steps.
We are exploring a comparison of two typical wash techniques.On the left we have a typical flat wash of yellow (M. Graham Gamboge.) On the right we have a beginning of a Winsor Blue under painting. Both washes have been applied directly to dry paper. The blue portion has been softened with clear water .
Take note of the following segments in this lecture:
2:17 discussion regarding blue under painting
2:41 blending of sharp edges of blue under painting/ modeling the subject
3:55 discussion of form
4:26 method of adding additional yellow to the sample on the left
5:28 Recap of techniques used in this portion
Refining the under painting. These washes may look very pale. Don't let that fool you. The combined layers of transparent wash can have a very powerful cumulative effect. Watch as wet 'n wet washes are combined with dry brush effects to create a convincing texture. Watch your brush strokes and be careful to clean up any unsightly edges while the wash is still wet.
Always use the most transparent colors first in order to develop vibrant, transparent washes. In that way you can help assure that your paintings will have a crisp, fresh look.
REMEMBER: make sure all washes are dry before proceeding to the next step.
AT TIMES you may alter the rule by introducing an additional color into a wet wash in order to create a special effect. This is often called CHARGING.
Key Frames :
1:07 demonstrating blending techniques
1:52 beginning to use dry brush technique
2:31 let painting talk to you
3:42 clean up harsh edges
4:16 don't allow under painting to get too dark
4:57 more clean up
5:33 using a bristle brush
6:31 refining the blue apple
7:40 brushing and blotting
9:20 discussing charging
10:25 key to glazing
Watch the effect of the under painting:
I don't think it is an accident that earlier artists worked to perfect the under painting technique. I learned of its power as a budding oil painter and re-visited it when I was learning the art of egg tempera. It did not dawn on me to make use of it in watercolor until Rex Brandt demonstrated the glazing technique in watercolor. When I saw the subtle yet powerful glow of his layered washes I saw the possibility of using under painting techniques in this medium as well. I was hooked and the rest is history.
There is power in under painting:
If I repeat this often enough perhaps it will resonate deep inside you. Creating texture as well as implying form and creating beautiful color through the use of a transparent wash or series of washes creates a very powerful effect. You watched as I went through several stages alternating direct, wet 'n wet as well as dry brush to set the stage for color. Now it is time for color.
Order of progression:
In this case I will paint color swatches on the paper so you can see each color variation. In some instances the color will only be a bit stronger or slightly mixed to intensify its effect. Watch the progression, from light to darker..
:20 first color swatch
:1:34 color on yellow apple 1st stage
2:39 leaning up edges
3:10 gamboge on blue apple
4:28 power of under painting
Adding more color in a controlled manner:
Do take note that as the painting progresses more caution is used. By that I mean that I take time to apply the washes carefully. Take note of the brush strokes and how I apply the paint to suggest form. I use every means possible to suggest 3D form on a flat surface. In my mind it is as if I am running my fingers over an actual apple. I allow the brush to flow as if it were flowing over the contour of an actual apple. These strokes, no matter how subtle have a powerful effect.
As you look at the swatches you see that each wash is getting a little stronger. By adding darker washes we maintain transparency. Darker over lighter is a good rule to follow unless you are trying to create special effect.
:14 developing form with color
2:56 adding the same red to the blue /yellow apple
4:20 clean up
By now you should understand that the painting develops from general to specific. It should be clear that each stage refines as well as defines the object. We start off loosely and we start being more careful as the painting progresses. The emphasis for me is to bring the concept to a final acceptable state.
The power of under painting should be clear by now. Hopefully, you can see that with less effort the under painted "blue apple" has a more powerful presence. You can see the intensity of the washes in the small swatches at the bottom of the page. The apple on the left can be made to look as powerful as the blue one but it will take more labor. Also there is a greater chance of creating a muddy or over worked rendition if one is not careful.
:49 adding violet
1:58 continuing to develop form
2:31 softening edges with caution
2:50 observe your subject
3:25 apply violet to "blue apple"
4:35 not much wash required
As you complete your project take time to make any necessary adjustments. The development of your project may vary from my demonstration. That is, you may need more washes to get the look you desire. It should not be a contest but merely a logical order of events. Take your time, work with simple objects in order to get the feel of the approach. There will be time later for your major works. Conquer the method first, then adapt it to your personality. Experience has taught me that this order of applying color is fundamentally sound.
One final thought:
During filming I had no idea how these tutorials would be arranged. As a result the landscape I mentioned came much earlier.
:16 finishing touches
1:09 clean up
3:15 scarred paper repair
3:53 bristle brush clean up
4:25 recap of apple series
5:08 start simple
7:33 final touches on left apple
8:48 avoiding harsh edges
Don Rankin's watercolors can be found in numerous corporate and private art collections world -wide. His work has been exhibited in many national/international invitational juried exhibitions He is the author of the first authoritative book on glazing techniques in watercolor. His book, Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor, was first published by Watson-Guptill Publications in 1985. Due to popular demand it was revised, updated and independently published in 2011. Some of his books on watercolor technique have been translated and published in foreign language editions. His watercolor studio site reaches viewers in over 70 countries and is available in over 100 languages.
Don's work has been featured in numerous publications such as American Artist, Southern Living, Northlight and Watercolor, as well as many regional periodicals and newspapers. Now retired, for 23 years he was an Assistant Professor of Art in the School of the Arts, Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama. He has an earned PhD in Visual Communication.
At the age of 28, Don was one of the youngest artists to be elected to Who's Who in American Art. He is also listed in Who's Who in American Education and Marquis Who's Who. He is also the author of Painting From Photographs, Sketches and the Imagination, Answers to 50 Most Often Asked Questions About Watercolor Glazing Technique, and he was a contributor to Marian Appelhof's book entitled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Watercolor, and Elizabeth Leonard's book Painting the Landscape.
He is a co-founder, life member and past president of the Southern Watercolor Society and a Patron of the Portrait Society of America. Don is a recent recipient/inductee into Marquis Who's Who Life Time Achievement Award. This is one of the highest awards bestowed by Marquis Who's Who.