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Shari Blaukopf: Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo

August 14, 2013

Shari Blaukopf Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo

Yesterday afternoon Shari Blaukopf, my co-instructor from the USK Montreal workshop came by to give me a wet-in-wet watercolor demo.

She’s been telling me for a while that I don’t have to stretch watercolor paper if I just work wetter.

I’ve always been told, in order to work larger, you soak the paper, then nail it to a board with a few hundred staples. (I have an electric staple gun. Kachunk Kachunk chunkity chunk. 100 staples in a minute).

She insisted this wasn’t necessary, I didn’t believe her, so she came by to prove it. She should have made a wager, because – turns out – I was wrong, she was right.

Shari Blaukopf Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo Step (1)

First she wets a quarter sheet of 140lb Arches Cold Press paper – completely soaking both sides with a sponge. (This would work with any size, she’s worked this way on sizes up to double elephant).

Then blot/rolls the excess water away with a towel. (“Like rolling pie dough – from the middle outwards”).

The resulting damp-all-the-way-through paper is glossy but not glaringly glassy-wet.

It’s kind of amazing how it works. She can do a whole painting in the time it takes the soaked paper to air-dry. Though she does say, if you need more time, you can just re-wet the paper (from the back).

Shari Blaukopf Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo Step (2)

She paces herself to get soft washes early and comes back at a dryer (later) stage for smaller hard-edged details. It’s a display of perfect timing, and the hard earned experience mixing the right paint/water viscosity for every stroke. (Richer milkier mixes of paint will keep a cleaner edge, even early on when the paper is soaked).

The work comes together remarkably quickly. Dextrous strokes of pure color mixing on the paper into soft edges and blooming transitions. Wherever pigment touches pigment, the wash that’s slightly wetter expands slowly into the previous color.

Note how large a brush she’s using. She really did 85% of the painting with that 2” flat. No fiddly #0 brushes for her. She puts in small stems and striations just using the sharp edge of this gigantic brush.

My own method involves starting with dry paper and flooding it with pale pigment – creating the wet areas into which I’ll “charge-in” pigment. There’s a narrow window while the wash is wet enough to work. Her approach is much wetter, giving her a lot more ‘open time’ – at least 30 minutes under today’s conditions. (Varies with humidity and direct sun).

Shari Blaukopf Wet in Wet Watercolor Demo Step (3)

Because her paper fibers are fully saturated with water (all the way through the sheet), color blooms can travel quite a bit further, and with a softer effect, avoiding the sedimentary edges I get on puddles. (Though, I like those edges. But I can see the appeal of avoiding them). Some of this might be her pigment choices, rather than just the wetness, not completely sure.

The end result is a beautiful painting with a full range of soft to hard edges, executed in about 45 minutes.

I’ll just note that some of Shari’s original work will be available at the Lakeshore Artists Association’s Fall Exhibition, September 7th and 8th. Details (HERE).

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 14, 2013 2:15 PM

    As you say, hard earned experience, plus her talent, equals magic

  2. August 14, 2013 2:40 PM

    She is very talented! Her unusual technique, clearly, yields wonderful results!

  3. August 14, 2013 4:03 PM

    Very instructional and valuable, Marc. You and Shari have taught me so much.

  4. Pip permalink
    August 14, 2013 11:18 PM

    Lovely style… Wish I could watch her live. Thanks so much for posting this.

    • marctaro permalink*
      August 15, 2013 11:13 AM

      Well, if you have an art club, private class, or a local Urban Sketchers group in your city, we might be able to arrange a weekend workshop. But it does take about 10-15 interested people to make it feasible. I know that’s probably not what you meant, but I like to mention it anyway. If you’re interested, we can talk more :)

  5. August 14, 2013 11:52 PM

    This is really helpful. Thanks for the clear explanation.

  6. Mrs. P permalink
    August 15, 2013 7:21 AM

    It’s so nice to see the step by step procedure used in one of Shari’s paintings. Thank you for sharing this!

  7. August 17, 2013 12:28 PM

    As always–Thanks for the wonderful blog. I appreciate the great tips and the encouragement to not get stymied with rigid procedures and techniques, but keep experimenting. Both you and Shari are so very giving. I pray that good things keep flowing back to you as well.

  8. August 18, 2013 8:18 PM

    Thank you for featuring this! Step-by-steps are just so incredibly helpful and Shari paints beautifully!

    I was wondering, once the paper dries, doesn’t it buckle? Hoes does Shari prevent it?

    • marctaro permalink*
      August 19, 2013 12:05 AM

      It’s quite amazing – it does not buckle at all – because the paper is evenly wet, and is allowed to air dry as she paints, it simply dries flat. There is a slight, slight curl at the outside edges as it dries, but not buckling or rippling by any means. She just clips the paper down with a bulldog clip if it starts to lift at the corner. Pretty neat hey? It just works! you can see why I had to see it demonstrated to believe it :) It seems almost too easy. Keep in mind this is 140lb cotton fiber arches paper, not sketchbook paper.


  1. Wet-in-wet watercolor demo | The Sketchbook
  2. Experimentation | Tarosan
  3. Announcing: Shari Blaukopf: Sketching the City | Citizen Sketcher

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