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Day 11 : #30x30DirectWatercolor2019 : Wet-in-Wetlands

June 11, 2019

The sketch for this – just something that appeared – ended up feeling oddly specific to me. I think it’s a recasting of an oil painting I did last year. But its also a memory of a visit to the nearby Coopers Marsh. Though it doesn’t look anything like the work I did on location.

Of note to watercolorists: these paintings – the whole series – use a fair bit of white pigment. Both Titanium White, and a mix from Holbein called Grey of Grey – which is just a dirty white. I’m not even sure why they make it – but I find it attractive so I guess that’s why. A cool grey mix that explodes nicely when placed into wet. If you had to make it from black and white, I suppose you’d be hard pressed to get it as pale as it is.

I know many people don’t use white in their watercolor paintings. Our national watercolor society doesn’t even allow any significant use of opaque pigments in the competition entries. They used to have an arbitrary rule of only 10% opaque pigment allowed. Lately they’ve been saying, opaque pigment must not be a “significant portion of the work”.

Whatever that means.

But of course, the use of mixed whites is completely different than reserving paper. Mixed pigment can bloom and float, and it takes on the color of nearby wet areas. Reserved white will always be hard-edged and overly brilliant.

So, if it’s mist, weather effects, frost or seafoam – or returning white glints to a dark passage – I think watercolorists should reconsider the old-school mentality forbidding white. Just the same as banning black. Nothing should be off limits if it gives you the results you’re looking for.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Pegret Harrison permalink
    June 11, 2019 11:19 AM

    Really really helpful…you are a super generous teacher and a magnificent artist….thanks


  2. Carol-Lynn Bond permalink
    June 11, 2019 7:30 PM

    Hi Marc, I can see you’re having fun with the abstract work that you’re doing; however, your realistic watercolour paintings are so beautiful and I think you should go back to doing those and realistic oils. Abstraction is so passe, especially for someone like you who is so talented and gifted to do realism! Very best wishes, Carol-Lynn Bond: my

  3. June 11, 2019 7:55 PM

    Thank you so much for your generosity…sooo inspiring !

  4. Mel permalink
    June 12, 2019 3:13 AM

    These abstract landscapes are to die for! Exciting and inspiring… Thanks for explaining about the white. Marc, do you think it’s possible to paint like this on location or from a photo of a real place? (B.t.w. saucers for separate pigments that I find rather good are small white china Asian sauce dishes)

    • June 14, 2019 9:23 AM

      Thanks so much Mel. – as for painting like this on location – I suppose anything is possible, but you need a lot of water (which is heavy) and a place to put the premixed paints – like a folding table – soooooo – it would be challenging. Plus, I use a hair dryer to settle it down for the final touches – in the field you’d have to wait it out. I’ve had days where I had to read a book while waiting for the washes to dry, and these are even wetter!

  5. Fernanda Fernandes permalink
    June 13, 2019 3:14 PM

    Hello Marc, you are always innovating! I totally agree with you that rules for white in watercolor should be revised and you are demonstrating why and how! Congrats

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