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Day Three : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : You Can’t Step in a River Twice

June 3, 2019

“You Can’t Step in it Twice”, 18×18″.

I’ve been painting in oils for a year or so > Instagram Link < which has been the longest break I’ve taken from watercolor in – what – 15 years?

But getting back into water media was not a problem in the slightest. If anything, I feel better at it than when I left. Not sure how that works. Magically *any* kind of painting seems to make you better at *all* kinds of painting? That’s good news.

This sort of thing has actually happened to me before. One year, back in the days of art directing, I was managing a big project and didn’t draw for an entire year. Magically, when I got back to it, I was better than before. Weird hey? I was thinking about drawing the entire time. Maybe that’s enough.

Anyway – watercolor > OMG it’s SO FAST. It’s crazy how much faster you have to move compared to oils. I’m literally running for fresh water at times. Literally leaping across the studio to grab paper towels when a bad drip happens (That was just bad planning). Frantically adjusting the tilt of my clunky tripod.

Watercolor flows instantly. You can cover a whole painting in seconds. Nothing like the calm, steady, stroke-by-stroke buildup of oils. I’m paranoid about waiting too long for a touch, losing the wet window. Once the paper dries, it’s never the same. But at the same time, you can’t paint back into a wash too soon. If it’s soggy, you don’t get any interesting edges.

This might be what separates Direct Watercolorists from Oil Painters. It might be too stressful for some people :)

I always felt this is why Sargent switched to watercolor in later life. (Pet theory). For a person who liked alla-prima painting with big brushes – a watercolor wash is the biggest brush you’ll ever have.

Doing these thick, densely pigmented surfaces, I feel like I’m breaking the rules of watercolor. I’m using such rich paint, it ends up looking chalky in areas. But I don’t mind. I’ve always felt like pale, tentative watercolors were a plague on young artists. My mantra is “More Paint, Less Water’.

I should note: I keep two large jars of water, so always have a dirty and a fresh water. I don’t want to have an emergency and not have clean water. I always find a reasonable time to change it out, so I have that backup. If you need to lay clear water – to draw out pigment (edge-pulling, [as per this video], or to lift an overly aggressive mark – or if you switch from a dark sedimentary color to a clear bright color – you can’t use dirty grey water.

So – always keep one water clean! That’s why, in the field, I use three small Nalgene water jars instead of one big one. So I have two backups to try and make it through a sketch.

Ok, that’s it for today! Let me know how your marathon is going? Is it hard to get started? Or hard to get your everyday things done once you start painting? :)


8 Comments leave one →
  1. lynn permalink
    June 3, 2019 12:24 PM

    Hello, great postings! Thank you. I would like to know which renderings are using the ipad and which are old school watercolor. I think I can tell but not sure—they are all great!

    • June 3, 2019 7:20 PM

      Hey Lynn – yes – Anything that’s completely black and white is the digital sketch. If it has any color at all it’s the watercolor :)

  2. June 3, 2019 2:47 PM

    You may have explained why I like acrylics, on canvas etc. Oil is waaaaayyyy to slow for me, i just dont know how you wait. I rarely take more than a day or so on a painting, the thought of waiting for days to add a layer drives me nuts, yet Acrylic is slower than watercolor. And of course the thick paints and such give similar affects to what you get with oil.

    • June 4, 2019 12:05 AM

      It was an issue at first for sure! I’ve just gotten used to hanging a piece up and starting the next one. Sometimes I go back after a few paintings. sometimes I don’t have to :)

  3. June 3, 2019 5:10 PM

    Your paintings are interesting, Marc- great use of rich colors. Love the layering.

  4. June 4, 2019 5:29 AM

    Oh wow. And so nice to have you dropping by again.

  5. Marco permalink
    June 5, 2019 8:57 AM

    I started this challenge as well and I have to say it suits my style. I tend to paint small 7×10 watercolors alla prima anyway. The challenge has been to get the composition right without the initial drawing…fI may try something bigger soon….follow me on instagram #msantarelliart

  6. pbass wil permalink
    June 12, 2019 7:19 PM

    Holy cow, this is the same Citizensketcher we used to know? Wow, oils have transformed your vision! I liked your old w.c. style, but these are… fresh! I hope you’re having as much fun as it looks like you’re having. You’re almost channeling Turner. :^>

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