The most delightful feature of watercolor is its luminous, inner-lit quality. I’ve read a lot of articles that touch on the subject of transparency, but until I saw the evidence hanging in my home, I didn’t fully realize its importance. Watercolors painted using transparent pigments let the available light bounce off the underlying white paper, generating an inner brightness.
I find subjects that possess a full range of value—from the lightest white to a deep, dark shadow—to be the most eye-catching. Old architectural details fascinate me, and they often make compelling subjects. But I take care to look for scenes with elements that soften the regularity of the composition, such as flower boxes or crumbling plasterwork.
Finding the correct value balance is really my foundation for creating a rich watercolor painting. Keep in mind that you need to have dark areas to provide contrast so your lighter sections will sparkle. If my lights aren’t white enough, the middle and deep passages need to become darker. If my dark and middle tones make my whites look Clorox-clean, I’ll need to tone down my lightest values with a pale wash. I build the glazes up methodically, always checking to ensure no area is greatly out of balance.
Carl Dalio is a signature member of the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society and the Rocky Mountain Watermedia Society. He has served as a juror for national exhibitions and presented watercolor demonstrations and workshops across the United States and in Canada, Mexico and Italy. His paintings have received many awards and been included in many exhibitions, books and magazines. He lives in Denver.