Wet-Into-Wet Watercolor Washes: Close-Up

Close-Up: Washes of Watercolor with Michael Reardon

For an expressive, wet-into-wet landscape like Reflections (watercolor, 22x11), I create a dozen or so 2x1-inch pencil sketches at the start. While doing the sketches, I try not to be too pictorial; instead I concentrate on interesting abstract patterns. I then select the ones I like best, enlarge them and draw a light pencil outline on a piece of Arches 140-lb., cold-pressed paper.

On a dry piece of watercolor paper tilted at roughly 45 degrees, I laid down washes of Daniel Smith paints, starting at the top with permanent orange and cobalt blue. After I got the sky color right, I moved into the darker areas, letting the sky wash bleed into the next wash. The key is to work from top to bottom and to apply ever-thicker washes over the lighter washes.

A I let the underpainting dry completely. Still keeping the paper at a 45-degree angle, I took a Daniel Smith nylon brush (that’s more than 20 years old and no longer made) and ran a milky wash of permanent orange down the page.

B When I reached my pre-marked cloud shape (faintly visible as a graphite line above the B), I dipped my brush into a slightly heavier wash of quinacridone burnt scarlet and began to run this down the paper. I also dropped in some cobalt blue and amazonite genuine into the wet wash. You can see that this wash continued under the dark tree on the left.

C At this point I switched to a Cheap Joe’s Legend No. 10 kolinsky sable brush. Before the wash I’d just applied had completely dried, I began to cover the entire area of what would become the tree with a very heavy wash of quinacridone burnt scarlet and phthalo green yellow shade that I’d premixed. At the very top, I let the edge of the tree wash leak into the sky to imply that the sun was breaking through the mists.

D While this wash was still damp, I laid a very thick wash of carmine and phthalo green yellow shade (also premixed) and continued all of the way down the tree’s length, filling my brush with pigment and running the wash down to the bottom edge of the paper.

Read more about Michael Reardon’s process in the June 2011 issue of The Artist’s Magazine.

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