Creativity Workshop: Speedy Delivery

Synchrony (watercolor on paper, 15×11) by Kathy Collins

I love impressionistic paintings with dramatic darks and brilliant whites, but achieving high contrast in watercolor can be difficult. Over the years, I’ve experimented with various techniques in search of that dramatic look and I’ve found that I get the best results by painting quickly. Using a large brush, I charge a variety of dark, flowing paints onto the paper in quick succession, allowing the deep colors to mingle, while at the same time reserving white spaces. The result is a fresh, high contrast watercolor that I complete in just one painting session.

There are several reasons why this technique works best for me: When I’m painting rapidly with a 2-inch flat brush, I focus on connecting big shapes and seldom get bogged down in detail, painting negatively with the big brush around a center of interest creates unexpected and interesting shapes that I could never have achieved any other way; and luminous dark colors retain their intensity on the mostly dry paper, preventing any dilution. Painting fast also helps me avoid overworking a composition because when I’m fairly satisfied with a painting, I stop.

Using a rapid painting process requires considerable planning prior to bringing paint to paper. First and foremost, it’s important to design a composition, develop a value study, and choose colors.

Try It!
Try these suggestions to achieve freshness in your watercolors and avoid overworking: Take all the time you need to choose your composition, value pattern and colors, but limit the time you spend on the actual brushwork. For example, start painting when you have just one hour before you need to leave the house for work or for an appointment, set an alarm or glance at a clock and stop when the bell rings or the hour arrives, or have a painting partner nearby tell you when the painting is finished, and stop when she says you’re done. Whatever your watermedia style, try painting with a larger brush than you normally use. You may be surprised to find your work is looser and fresher.

Get together with your painting group, or complete the Creativity Workshop Activity on your own; then tell us about it. Send a JPEG image (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to We’ll publish a selection of the entries on our website and choose a favorite. One winner will receive a $100 gift certificate from Jerry’s Artarama. The deadline for entry is August 26, 2008. To see more Creativity Workshop Activities and a gallery of reader responses, click here.

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