Watercolour refresher

When I need a little refresher about painting I always open my favourite art book — Hawthorne on Painting — and read a few Charles Hawthorne quotes. Today it was this nugget, which was perfect for my forest scene:
“These should not be houses to you and not trees — to the painter they are a pattern, an arabesque. See things as spots against the sky, watch for sensitive silhouettes.”

Besides perusing the Hawthorne book, these are the things I think about when I need a refresher about how I want to paint:
• Start with a value sketch
• Use a big brush, bigger than I think I need
• Stick to a limited palette
• Think about every stroke, every mark on the paper
• Lose control
• Mix up more wash than I think I need
• If the brush seems wet enough, add more wash to it


23 Comments on “Watercolour refresher”

  1. Love how you´re spot on with the colors of snow shadows – looks so real and yet lose ❤
    Great recommendation!! But I struggle to bring together the concepts of "think about every brushstroke" and "lose control" 😉

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    • Great to hear from you Isabell. I did think about that too, when I was writing it. But if you think about the paint as you are putting down a brushstroke, and at the same time use a big brush with a bit too much paint on it, you are in effect combining those two concepts. In other words you are being deliberate about losing control. Does that make sense? Otherwise, in my case anyway, everything is a little too dry and I hate that.

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  2. debraji says:

    I just LOVE those shadows. All of the elements combine to make the painting, but the shadows bring me right there.

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  3. Ghislaine Gargaro says:

    Hawthorne is one of my faves. I love those trees. It is a beautiful painting. Being an oil painter does not make you a watercolorist. I am having a hard time but I like the new media.

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  4. Jeff Gold says:

    Beautiful composition. The gradually receding (and dancing!) trees bring one right into the setting. The limited palette unifies all of the elements. I love the diagonals in the foreground. The limited detail at the horizon is just right. Did I leave anything out? You did it again.

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  5. Denise Gowan says:

    At great risk of sounding like a broken record, I just want to say AGAIN how valuable your posts are to me!! Thank you so much for taking the time to write them… Opening your emails is such a delight and I always find a special little sparkling jewel that I tuck in my painter’s apron to be used soon! I am very touched by and appreciative of your generosity. Denise

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  6. Bernadette says:

    My biggest downfall is in NOT doing a value sketch. Even just taking the time to study composition and value pattern makes such an important difference. I am impatient and yet, I will redo a painting time and again to get it “right.” Thank you for the watercolor refresher and for the beauty of this winter scene.

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    • Bernadette, I often fall into that trap too. I jump into the painting phase and skip the planning. My teacher Ed Whitney used to say, “Plan like a turtle and paint like a rabbit”. Don’t you love that?

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  7. April says:

    WOW! that is a great nugget of info. I constantly have to say I am not painting a “house” I am painting shapes, tones, patterns and color…squint and forget it is a “house.” Going to write this down! and go check out his books.

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  8. joantav says:

    Lovely shadows! Great quote that should make us all focus on shapes more.

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  9. rosjenke says:

    One day there will also be a book on Shari’s quotes that people will refer to as their bible. Thank you for sharing so freely.

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  10. Monique says:

    I have that book..should read it:):)Lovely shadows Shari!

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  11. Diane McDaniel says:

    WISDOM! And the pattern in trees and shadow sounds wonderfull!!

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  12. Today has been a day for making notes in my learning journal and this was a post I’d saved to record. On my previous page, I had just made notes about the Japanese concept of Notan from Mitchell Albala. As I recorded the Hawthorne quote, I realized it was saying the same thing about defining a pattern. Serendipity! I bought my copy of Hawthorne on your recommendation 3 years ago and have taken it travelling with me. I am so very grateful for everything that you share with us, Shari.

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