Experimental Watercolors ~ It’s all About COLOR!

Experimental Watercolor Palette

Setting Up for Success ~ It’s all About COLOR!

watercolor supplies
My watercolor satchel holds a flat 9 x 12 plastic palette, 2 brushes a few watercolor postcards and a plastic cup and water bottle.. 

The important thing about experimental watercolor painting is using good pigments. Not because you think you are going to make good paintings ~ because good pigments give rich colors your heart can feel. THIS is important!

If your heart doesn’t beat a little faster when you see the color hit your paper, you haven’t made the connection!

You will know you’ve made the all important connection when you feel your heart say, “oh wow I love that,”

Artist’s paints are true pigments with rich formulations. Student paints are not. They are diluted synthetic substitutes. It will be very difficult (if not impossible) for your heart to feel the energy of color resonance with them. If you are trying to save money, buy only a few good artist’s colors and use them. Don’t waste your money on student grade paint.

Artist Quality Pigments

experimental watercolor
Three Primary Colors 2 reds, 2 Blues & 2 Yellows.

My watercolor palette consists of only 6 colors. I use two reds, Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Red Medium; two blues, Ultramarine Blue and Cerulian Blue; and two yellows, Lemon Yellow and Cadmium Yellow Medium.  With watercolor you do not need white paint.

One small tube of each will last a long time. Each brush stroke is 80% water and 20% pigment. This is another reason good pigments are so important.

My palette will help you learn to mix colors. The three primary colors, red, blue and yellow, are used to create most secondary and tertiary colors. By the time you need other colors on your palette, you will know which ones you can’t mix with these.

What to Paint On?

experimental watercolor
Experimental watercolor postcards in this photo are one from the New Hampshire coast and Hollyhocks from Provence, France. The Hollyhocks one inspired a whole series of large-scale paintings two years later. See more about this>

How color feels depends on what it is next to. If you paint a stroke of brilliant red paint on a greenish sheet of paper, it will look dull and lifeless. You will think you can’t paint! And you will give up and never feel the thrill of color beating in your heart.

Use good quality watercolor paper like ARCHES. Or make your own painting panels with Absorbent White Gesso so your colors will make your heart sing. This is why you are painting in the first place?

When I picked watercolor back up after 30 years, I bought 4 packs of Strathmore Watercolor Postcards for pocket change. Painting 30 of them changed my life.

Brushes, Pens & Palette

Brushes

experimental watercolorTwo brushes are sufficient. I use one 1/2″ flat and one #8 pointed round brush. I currently use Creative Mark’s Minik brushes because they are less expensive than sables and hold up well to my abuse.

The biggest mistake is using a brush that is small. My two brushes look too big to many beginners. A big brush helps you see the big shapes of color. Keep it simple, bold and big ~ especially on a postcard sized painting.

Felt Tip Pens

On my way to France, I picked up two felt tip pens, one sage green the other sienna. These colors are earthy, so when I draw back into my painting with a few squiggly lines it grounds the fluid dream to the page. You might prefer different colors. Use your gut and pick two.

experimental watercolor
Two brushes and a couple felt tip pens
Palette

A flat 9 x 12 plastic palette is inexpensive, less than $8 and can be slipped into a plastic bag. It does not matter if the watercolor paint dries out on the palette. Just add water to soften the paint. To wash it off, simply rinse under a faucet and wipe with a paper towel.experimental watercolor

Eight small wells are for paint squeezed from the tube. 12 large wells are for mixing colors together with lots of water.  LOTS OF WATER is the key to painting with watercolors.

I have seen people use white plastic plates as palettes. This could work, but would be awkward and get expensive. Without separate wells to mix colors, you would going through plates quickly.


Postcard Painting Inspiration
Create Your Own Experimental Watercolor Palette and Paint Along>

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Large Scale Abstract Floral Landscape Paintings Sprout After 30 Years Dormant

Large Scale Abstract Floral Landscapes

Blooming Essence Regenerated in Mixed Media Paintings

As a young artist, I painted large scale abstract floral landscapes  What most people don’t know about me is that I created multiple panel murals ~ large scale pastels, 40 x 60 inches side by side. Installed in banks, hospitals, resorts, corporations, universities and private residences, they won me recognition early in my career.  I stopped painting them the summer I turned thirty.

I’ve been working on my book ~ my healing story, why I stopped and how I found my creative voice again. In four weeks I leave for Tuscany. The book has to be finished before I pack. My editor returned the manuscript Friday. “Not much left,” she said. “You’ll be able to finish. You just need a few more details and an ending.”

This morning I wrote the details of my first hours in France. That’s when I began to feel it . . .

The urge to paint was overwhelming.

A watercolor postcard I painted two years ago beckoned me loud and clear.

Hollyhock Series Came to Life in my Studio This Afternoon

FRANCE July 28, 2013 ~ Two years ago today

experimental watercolors
HOLLYHOCK DREAM watercolor postcard

Surrounded by blooming hollyhocks the garden at Mas d’Ariveux felt like a dream. A hideaway where a soul could forget ~ or remember herself ~ in a heart beat,

I stuck my toe in the pool.

Cool and inviting, I let myself down into the water. I swam to the deep end and floated on my back.

Clouds drenched in evening sunlight drifted in slow motion on a light Cerulian canvas. Tall hollyhocks swayed to and fro, puppet silouettes. I rested, letting Tarascon permeate my thoughts.

watercolor study
the garden at Mas d’Ariveaux

How in the world did I get here? It’s a wonder.

excerpt from Finding Joy’s Garden

When I finished writing, the copy spilled onto the next page. I moved the two watercolor postcards to a double spread of their own. That’s when I saw it ~ a large scale painting of the hollyhocks.

watercolor study
watercolor postcard study, Mas d’Arivveaux

The postcard was buried in a drawer of scraps. When I found it last week, I set it aside thinking I might put it on my nightstand. It was still in the heap of papers on my work table.

I really didn’t have time to paint. I needed to finish writing. The next thing I knew, I had cleared the cluttered table and discovered five jars of matching paint I bought at Lowe’s last week ~ exact ly the colors of the watercolor hollyhock sketch from two years ago.

large scale abstract floral
Three verdigris primed canvases from last week waited for me, as if they knew something I did not. With one positioned on the table, the other two called from behind me  ~ a series ~ not just one. A set of three in the same palette, not a triptych ~ a trio of sisters. A triptych is three images tied together, continuing a single design from one to the next. A trio of sisters would each stand on their own.
hand painted fabric
Swatches of hand painted satin I had dug out of the closet two weeks ago  clamored onto the canvas when I finished mixing the paint. Surprisingly they showed me examples of the loose brushwork and colors that were swirling in my head. I plunked them on the table and took the photos.
chalk paint
My custom chalk paint recipe calls for marble dust and a lot of stirring. I created this recipe years ago when I painted gritty textural underpainting for my large scale abstract floral pastels.
large scale abstract floral
A wide wash brush loaded with water soaked the canvas quickly. I dipped it again encouraging the blue paint to run down the canvas. Wet in wet, I let the paint be thick and thin. It would dry overnight.
large scale abstract floral
The sketch felt like coming home to my pastels ~ with a twist. It was just enough to get my hand loose, to help me remember my calligraphy, how it felt to sign my name. The block in needs to be simple, bold areas of light and dark, warm and cool. Since the watercolor was so small and detailed, I wanted a stepping stone to the bolder large scale 46 x 36 inch canvases. 
large scale abstract floral
The second block-in is warmer and deeper than the first. Verdigris paint peeks out from between the warm green leaves and pink red hollyhocks to create the zing.  This is a colorist principle: to balance warm with cool and vice versa.
large scale abstract floral
The third painting shows the cool colors dominant with the warm green as the counter balance. It is striking to note that the green on this canvas is the same as the one on the other two. On the first it appeared to be dark green, beside the light pastel colors. On the second, it appears more neutral beside the red. Yet here it seems much more yellow, especially in areas where it is thickest. This is because color is relative. How it appears to us depends on what is beside it.

See other Large Scale Abstract Landscape Paintings>

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Postcard Painting Inspiration
Create Your Own Experimental Watercolor Palette and Paint Along>

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