Small, Pale and Watery? I Don’t Think So

Have you ever tasted a new and delicious dessert, and later found out that it was actually relatively healthy? Food can surprise us, and art is no different. I’m constantly being reminded that pastels, oils and watercolors can be manipulated to raise an eyebrow and the question, “Is that really…?” Transparent watercolor falls within this category as well, as Linda Stevens Moyer can attest. Moyer is the author of Light Up Your Watercolors Layer By Layer: Transparent Glazing Techniques for Luminous Paintings, and in the following excerpt she shares her thoughts on this medium, as well as a mini-demonstration on how to paint a parrot.

How to paint with transparent watercolor

Haiku #2 (transparent watercolor, 40×60) by Linda Stevens Moyer. Private collection. Photograph by Gene Ogami.

“Transparent watercolor is a challenge,” says Moyer. “It has been called one of the most difficult mediums to master. It is true that there are certain rules to follow in creating a painting in transparent watercolor–perhaps more than in a number of other mediums. However, once the rules (or procedures) become part of the painter, I don’t believe that there is a more beautiful way of expressing any subject matter.

How to paint a parrot

“There are many different ‘looks’ to transparent watercolor. The most popular misconception is that watercolor paintings must be small, pale, watery compositions. On the contrary, watercolors may be mural-sized, bright, detailed and filled with strong values. The look depends on the expression of the individual artist.

“I’ve found through years of teaching that a structured foundation will make for a confident painter. I believe that structure in learning leads to freedom of expression.” (Tweet this quote!)

Mini-demonstration: How to Paint a Parrot in Watercolor
by Linda Stevens Moyer

1. Make a Drawing and Apply the Warm Colors
Begin with a No. 2 pencil drawing, and then layer cadmium yellow pale, cadmium orange and alizarin crimson. Use several layers of each color. For example, layer alizarin crimson in three distinct steps: light, medium and dark. This layering of one color can be seen in the shadowed portion of the parrot’s head.

2. Add the Cool Colors
Layer the following colors over the warm colors: phthalo green mixed with a touch of yellow ochre, phthalo green, phthalo blue and ultramarine blue. Notice how the previously applied alizarin crimson dulls and darkens the cool colors. In some areas the warm colors are allowed to come through the new application of cool colors, creating a look of iridescence in the bird’s feathers.

3. Finish With a Dark, Dull Color
Wherever a color or value change is desired, apply various tints of a dark, dull blue-green (mixed with phthalo blue and burnt sienna). The effects may be very subtle, but help to establish detail and subordinate the intensity of the previously applied layers.

Stereotypes do little good, even when it comes to painting with various mediums. I hope that if you’re new to watermedia in particular, that this inspires you to push the boundaries of what you can do with your your art. Note that if you want to try this lesson for yourself, you’ll want to scroll down for the original reference photo. And of course, get even more instruction when you get your copy of Moyer’s Light Up Your Watercolors Layer By Layer today at North Light Shop.

Hoping you find freedom in expression,
Cherie

Cherie Haas, online editor

Reference photo of a parrot

Reference photo from Light Up Your Watercolors Layer By Layer: Transparent Glazing Techniques for Luminous Paintings by Linda Stevens Moyer

 

 

 

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