Creativity Workshop: Background Check

Is the NASDAQ Up Today?
(watercolor on paper, 22×30) by Wendy Hill

I  fell in love with watercolor when I first became aware of it. It was loose, colorful and fresh. But my occupation as a medical illustrator left me feeling tied to detail, with the result that my first watercolors were extremely tight and packed with many small and unnecessary additions. While I painted, a battle surged within my brain: My rational problem-solving mind tended to be objective and logical, but the other side of my brain wanted to experiment. I set out with the mission of loosening up my style.
    I started by dripping color over a wet surface, freely applying spatters in order to get away from the tightness of my previous paintings. Then I borrowed textures from objects, which I pressed onto the surface. The result was a spontaneous and exciting approach to painting backgrounds that led me to the discovery of my own watercolor voice. With each tool that I add to my process, I feel that I’m expanding my watercolor vocabulary. Tea bags, coffee filters, sponges, leaves, paper, plastic wrap and salt are all simple tools that have brought excitement and a sense of fun to my work.
    Deciding how to handle the background can sometimes be the most difficult part of making a painting. Try a loose application of these tools—and others of your own invention—to liberate and invigorate your own process. You may find your watercolor style along the way.

Try It!
Use a loose application of tools such as tea bags and coffee filters to stain your surface and create a spontaneous background. Then take advantage of the design on the surface to define, intensify or exaggerate the subject of your painting.

Send us your Creativity Workshop Activity for a chance to win a $100 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama. Send a JPEG image (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to or send a disc to Watercolor Artist, Creativity Workshop, Experiment Activity, 4700 E. Galbraith Road, Cincinnati OH 45236. The deadline for entry is July 3, 2008.

To read the full column, purchase the June 2008 issue of Watercolor Artist. To see more Creativity Workshop Activities and a gallery of reader responses, click here.

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