From Sketch to Finish | How Prep Work Produces Dynamic Watercolor Paintings

 

As the saying goes, “Behind every great painting, you’ll find a great drawing.” Well, maybe that’s not a real saying. And maybe it’s not completely true, since plenty of artists dive right into painting without sketching their subject beforehand. But many, if not all, great watercolor paintings begin with some sort of preparatory work—whether a detailed study or a quick two-minute gesture drawing.

See the October 2013 issue of Watercolor Artist for an in-depth look at how expert watercolorists Susanna Spann, Tom Francesconi and Jean Pederson use their prep work as a means for solving key issues relating to composition, value and color—and as a way to get the creative juices flowing, allowing for a deeper and more spontaneous painting experience.

Susanna Spann: “My sketches take maybe five minutes. They’re strictly to help put the image in my head. I carry the photos and the notebook in my purse and do the sketches during downtime—for example, on a plane or at an airport. When I’ve got lost time, I do my sketches.”

Tom Francesconi: “I’ve noticed that when I draw on a full piece of paper, the image gets a bit nebulous as I approach the edges. I like to draw borders proportionate to the paper I’ll be painting on and draw my study within them. This forces me to be more thoughtful about designing to the edge, and it makes the image more complete.”

Jean Pederson: When drawing on her watercolor paper, Pederson prefers an F graphite pencil. “A soft pencil will blur if you paint over it, and a hard pencil can create an indentation in the paper. I find that F is not too dark, not too light and fairly easy to erase.”

Value sketch for Umbrellas in San Francisco Square, Ronda, Spain (pen and ink) by Susanna Spann

Value sketch for Umbrellas in San Francisco Square, Ronda, Spain (pen and ink) by Susanna Spann

Umbrellas in San Franciso Square, Ronda, Spain (watercolor on paper, 30x40) by Susanna Spann

Umbrellas in San Franciso Square, Ronda, Spain (watercolor on paper, 30×40) by Susanna Spann

 

 

Value study for Waiting on Tables (graphite, 9x12) by Tom Francesconi

Value study for Waiting on Tables (graphite, 9×12) by Tom Francesconi

Waiting on Tables (watercolor on paper, 13x20) by Tom Francesconi

Waiting on Tables (watercolor on paper, 13×20) by Tom Francesconi

Line drawing for The Vessel (graphite, 30x26) by Jean Pederson

Line drawing for The Vessel (graphite, 30×26) by Jean Pederson

The Vessel (watercolor on paper, 30x26) by Jean Pederson

The Vessel (watercolor on paper, 30×26) by Jean Pederson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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