|Overlay by Ali Cavanaugh, 12 x 12, watercolor painting.|
As a wannabe artist, I have a lot of years ahead of me to invest in perfecting my painting. Knowing this, I often think about the medium I will choose to work with—what will grow with me through the years, show me new and interesting things, and challenge me overall.
For me, watercolor might be the one. I am so energized by the work of watercolor artists I meet. Every time I see a watercolor demo or watercolor art show I learn so much and get excited because there is always a new technique to glean or way of working that I've never seen before.
Watercolor artist Ali Cavanaugh doesn't shrink from the challenges of watercolor. In fact, she actively engages them, and ends up producing watercolor art that yields incredibly realistic skin tones and complicated colors and patterns, all of which we cover in our newest free eBook, Watercolor Lessons on Depth and Luminosity: 10 Watercolor Painting Techniques from Artist Daily.
Cavanaugh likens her process to egg tempera, as she uses multiple, tiny strokes to build up layers of color—sometimes as many as 50 separate layers. Her process begins with a photo shoot where she takes as many as 300 shots, and then she views them in Photoshop, evaluating them in black and white to see what each composition has to offer without the distractions of color and pattern, which I thought was a great tip (and one I won't hesitate to steal!).
She then begins to paint on a clay-covered panel, which she says holds paint really well and allows the painting surface to stay wet over a long period of time. To get the luminous tones her work is known for, she works with her darkest darks first, made with raw sienna and burnt umber. She then uses reds, oranges, and yellows in thin layers to achieve a luminous effect.
To learn more about Cavanaugh's unique practice and see the possibilities of watercolor in terms of brilliance and the illusion of volume–plus a whole chapter from artist Domenic DiStefano on painting boldly and freely with watercolor–download Watercolor Lessons on Depth and Luminosity: 10 Watercolor Painting Techniques from Artist Daily. I learned a lot about how to use color to achieve depth and what a complicated color gray is, which Cavanaugh excels at using—plus so much more. Enjoy!
P.S. If you have a friend or loved one who is spending their spring getting back into the art swing of things, forward them this link so they can enjoy their own copy of Watercolor Lessons on Depth and Luminosity!