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Day Four : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : The Divide

June 4, 2019

“The Divide”, 18×18″

I should talk about premixed paint.

These paintings are all 18” square. Not unusually large, but larger than I would normally paint in the field.

When I’m on location, of course, I only have a folding palette. I learned to paint with only the small mixing areas in the lid of the paint box. Often I pull paint right from the pan and mix it on the paper – not in the palette. As long as I’m painting smaller than half-sheet, this usually works. But – it does tend to push me towards smaller sizes. The amount of generous wet paint I have on hand is limited by the size of the paint box.


I started something new for these which is *Mixing Cups*!!! I’m using 30ml medicine cups. The ones for dispensing pills or liquid meds – I happened to have some sleeves of them handed down from the parents’ job at the hospital. I’m sure you can buy these online or at a pharmacy.

All I do is squeeze a dollop of paint and mix in the bottom of the cup. I used to talk about Tea/Milk/Honey – but now I am using what I call Wasabi Consistency.

You know the green horseradish paste you get with sushi? If you’ve ever mixed that – the idea is a dab of paste and one or two drops of soy sauce. (I use one or two spritz of water from my mini-atomizer bottle). Mix that tiny amount of water into the tube color (I use a needle pointed palette knife) and you get a nice gummy paste. Like a sludgy consistency. You do not want to just toss your wasabi blob into the soy (water) – or all you get is a diluted watery mess with floating flecks of un-mixed wasabi. Yuck. Don’t do that to your expensive sushi. You want a nice smooth paste. I’m sure there’s another cooking analogy here – but the idea is – the thickest possible gummy mix.

The Wasabi mix is too thick to actually paint with. (Except I do – in the dark black/brown here I actually do). But what I do is keep that sludge in the bottom of the cup, adding to it when necessary so I never run out. When I need paint, I take a brush loaded with the right amount of water, or the right amount of another pigment, and pull out a measure of wasabi, blending it on the side-walls of its own cup.

It’s a bit weird. But it’s like each cup is its own little palette. This does dilute and/or tint the paint in the bottom, but that stuff is so concentrated you can’t really lose your intended color.

If I need a volume of tea – for a sky or something – I just take a new cup and make a batch of thinned paint. Periodically I take all these little staining-dregs and pour them together, or just find a place to use them on the painting. I end up with quite a collection of these cups in play. Maybe 10-15 at the most. I do have a traditional paint box, but I only use the mixing areas occasionally. Mostly its straight from these cups onto the page.

This is not quite pouring – but it’s close. I can bring the cup right over the paper and add large amounts of paint incredibly quickly. So yes – this isn’t something I could do on location. There’d be nowhere to put all these little mixing cups.

Alrighty. That’s it for me. See you tomorrow? Hit me up in the comments with your early-marathon pieces!


8 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2019 11:29 AM


  2. Barb permalink
    June 4, 2019 12:19 PM

    great ideas. I have been saving a pile of the med cups for 2 years trying to figure out how to use them. You spelled it out perfectly!! thanks

  3. June 4, 2019 12:23 PM

    Hi Marc, I had a great time and learned a lot from your friend Stephanie Bower on a French Escaped organized workshop on the Costa Brava Spain a couple of weeks ago. I decided to take a workshop from Stephanie when I could back when you recommended her book to me in Portugal.

    I have been busy pouring watercolors as a studio painter in the past few years and seem to have hit the jackpot with two paintings in the AWS international show in the last two years and two solo gallery shows with excellent sales since I started pouring and through pouring achieved a unique style in my work. so I encourage you to keep experimenting with your cups of paint because anything you can do to make your work more unique may bring more success in the long run. Plus it’s just fun to push the watercolors in new directions!

    And here is some good news, I saw watercolors hanging in Chelsea galleries when we went to NYC for the AWS show in April!

    Give Laurel my love, happy painting, and thank you for telling me about Stephanie,


    • June 4, 2019 12:55 PM

      Hey great to hear from you Sandy, I’m sure you had a great time with Stephanie. Also good to know you’re seeing real appearances from watercolor painting! Perhaps we artists just have to stay the course and wait for contemporary art to get back to us :)

  4. Karen Van Raden permalink
    June 4, 2019 1:26 PM

    Ah! I was wondering how you were achieving the rich, dark mixes in your latest #30x30diretwatercolor pieces! Thanks for sharing your latest technique!

  5. June 4, 2019 1:32 PM

    Hi Mark; I’m using plastic Shot glasses for mixing (albeit for an airbrush). Wal-Mart or similar stores should have them in partyware. They should be equaly as good for watercolours.

  6. June 4, 2019 2:17 PM

    Hi, Mark. Interesting ideas about mixing! I will have a go at this method soon. I have a bunch of those little cups that come with souses and salad dressing in take-out orders. Thanks! Elsie

  7. June 5, 2019 7:54 AM

    Sounds like you need to get a piece of wood and a hole saw (specialized drill bit that makes large holes big enough fit those cups!) and make yourself something to hold at least a few of them in the field, Marc. Lovely work, really enjoyed reading this!

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