Creativity Workshop: Etch-A-Sketch

by DeAnn L Prosia

I love the composition of Bike Bridge, Amsterdam (watercolor with colored pencil and gouache on paper, 13×231⁄4). To help the bridge really stand out, I decided to make it purple. Originally, it was higher up on the painting, but I lowered it in the final stages to create a more pleasing design and to allow the bikes to be more visible.

I developed a style of painting that fit my desire to use drawing within my work, my background in etching and my love for watercolor. If you’re like me, you’ll find it’s a useful technique for bringing these vastly different styles of work together:

1. Working from source photographs I’ve taken on site, I begin by laying down sections of color that represent shapes in the image: forms for trees or shrubs; blocks for buildings or structures; a swish for a river or road. I think about how this first layer of color may react with a second. For instance, I may want to paint the leaves of a tree a shade of yellow knowing that my second layer may be blue.

2. Once the paint dries, I draw the actual image on top of the shapes of color. I often use an insoluble black colored pencil for the foreground, a dark indigo for the mid-ground and a medium warm gray for the background. Parts of my drawing may match up to the sections of color that were first laid down and some may not. This will contribute to the movement and interest of the finished piece.

3. After drawing the image, it’s time to go back into the painting with a second layer of watercolor. Layering on top of the colors that first put down will give the painting a sense of depth. More often than not, more drawing is necessary. Details can be added by drawing back into the image with a colored pencil.

4. There will be times when I find that the first layer of paint is intruding into a space that I would like to be lighter. I go over it with a white colored pencil or a thin layer of gouache to help lighten the area. The idea is not to block it out completely; being able to see through to all the layers gives the painting movement, texture and interest.

Loosen your hand and indulge your love for drawing by combining layers of line work and watercolor in one painting. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to with “Creativity Workshop” in the subject line and tell us about your process. The “editors’ choice” will receive Splash 13: Alternative Approaches, a collection of risk-taking watercolors in print. The deadline for entry is December 10, 2012.

To read the full text of this article (and get more expert painting tips from DeAnn L. Prosia), pick up your copy of Watercolor Artist’s December 2012 issue!

To catch up on the Creativity Workshop exercises you’ve missed, visit our online hub and start painting.



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