Creativity Workshop: Rough Starts

In Letting Go (watercolor on paper, 27×19), texture is only one of the players and not the central attraction.

Throughout the 10 years I’ve worked in watercolor, I’ve been drawn to subjects with personality and character—the ones that seem to have stories to tell. My favorites are old houses, weathered doors and abandoned trucks. I love developing techniques for rendering the illusion of peeling paint and rusty metal. It may seem crazy when you think about all the hours you’ve spent perfecting your technique for laying in perfectly smooth watercolor washes, but I’ve found that a rough start can be the key to creating the texture you need in order to capture subjects like these. There’s no doubt that watercolor is made for flawless, luminous washes, but let’s not dismiss the infinite textures that are also at our disposal with this unique medium.
During the painting process, I get off to a “rough start” by creating uneven wet, light-valued washes using Winsor & Newton granulation medium. As the first wash is losing its shine, I either splatter on more paint from a heavily loaded mop brush, or spritz on a few droplets of water. To create even more texture, as in Letting Go [above], I drop in darker-valued, thicker mixtures of sedimentary and staining colors (such as cadmiums, siennas, phthalos and sepias) to create all kinds of unexpected rivulets and texturing.
Next, I spray on a few drops with a water mister and tilt the paper to create more movement. When the “rough start” stage is dry, I’m ready to begin carving out values to create drama and depth. The smooth, darker-valued, hard-edged shapes really serve to enhance the texture and pop it forward. Keep in mind that when texture plays center stage, color plays a supporting role. A monochromatic color scheme or the use of subdued, lower intensity colors will complement and not compete with the textural effects.

JUNE ROLLINS ( is a watercolor artist and workshop instructor from Wadesboro, North Carolina. To read the full text of this column, download your copy of the October 2010 issue of Watercolor Artist.

Try This At Home
Get off to a “rough start” by unevenly wetting the paper and painting in a light-valued wash. While the paint is still damp, drop in thicker mixtures of sedimentary colors onto the paper. Tilt the board and watch the textures appear. For added textured effects, use granulation medium or gouache. Send a JPEG (with a resolution of 72 dpi) of your painting to us at and tell us about your process. The “editor’s choice” will receive a six-month subscription to online video workshops, plus $50 worth of North Light ?ne art books. The deadline for entry is October 11, 2010. Happy painting!


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