Saturday, March 17, 2012

Negative Painting with Watercolor

Negative painting is one of the most exciting approaches to watercolor I know! The technique is a unique approach of painting around an object to define it in a composition. When working in watercolor we have the challenge that other mediums do not. It is what we don’t paint that becomes the most important element. Think of yourself as a stone carver, chipping away, until only the most precious lights remains.
There are many techniques to saving the “lights” of the paper. I have experimented with masking fluids, tapes to save the “lights” but found the end result was either harsh or cutout looking. I preserve the “lights” of the paper from the very beginning by painting around them.
Opaque & Transparent Paints: It is best to avoid opaque paints (such as cadmiums) for negative painting. Opaque are fine for accent marks at the end but not for glazing. The technique requires numerous glazes which will become muddy with opaque paints. To determine if your paints are opaque or transparent do a simple test. With a permanent marker draw a bold line across a piece of watercolor paper. With paint the consistency of cream paints over the line. If the line is obscured at all it is opaque.
Opaque paints (top row): Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red Light, and Horizon Blue.
Transparent paints (bottom row): Quinophthalone Yellow, Scarlet Lake, and Cerulean Blue.
Underpainting: To determine which 3 colors I will use for the underpainting I make numerous color swatches. The swatches will contain a red, blue, and yellow. The colors do not need to be true primaries. When I mix the colors it is important to have the paint be the same consistence to encourage good mixing on the paper. I am looking for colors that have the underlying feeling of the subject matter. The 3 colors I selected are Carmine (C), Cobalt Teal Blue (CTB), and Raw Sienna (RS).



Step #1, Line Drawing: When I draw for a negative painting I am especially mindful of the space and shapes between the leaves and pomegranate (negative space). I want to have shape and size variety. I draw enough to get the general shapes. It is important not to over draw. Allow opportunities for additional shapes to be developed in the painting process.

Step #2: I wet the entire paper with clean water and introduce the 3 paint colors separately (Raw Sienna, Cobalt Teal Blue, and Carmine). I paint at an angle to encourage mixing as the paint runs down the paper. I don’t over work the surface with a paint brush but encourage the paint to mix on the paper. While the paper was still damp I lifted a little color off one pomegranate with a damp brush. Let thoroughly dry.

Step #3: Start glazing. I will add additional paint colors but I will use the 3 original colors through out the painting process. I consider these my “mother colors”. I paint hard edges against the pomegranate and some of the leaves, and soften edges with water as I move out from the subject. This is what I call the “adolescence of a painting”, because it looks and feels awkward. Let thoroughly dry.

Step #4: With each glaze I create new negative shapes and darker values. I sometimes soften edges with a light spray of water while the paint is wet. This technique is most evident on the bottom pomegranate where I used a brush saturated with Carmine to paint the lower section and quickly used a spray bottle to help move the paint down the paper. Let thoroughly dry.

Step #5: In the final stage I paint the darkest darks and smallest shapes. I use a rich deep green made with Marine Blue and Burnt sienna. While paint is still wet I drop a small amount of Scarlet Lake to the green mixture to liven it up. I am selective to place my darkest darks near my lights to intensify the focal area. I finish with cast shadows and a few details.  
Finished painting “The Forbidden Fruit”.

Happy Painting!
Brenda

25 comments:

  1. Thanks for the reminder about the spray bottle to assist the paint in moving!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is most amazingly beautiful! I am over whelmed with the detail and delicacy!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Brenda...good lesson!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful job on showing your process. Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thank you for the great comments! I am delighted to pass along my unique approach to negative painting.
    Happy Painting!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wonderful lesson. I'm afraid I will have to give it a try! On a smaller scale at first, however, Thanks for posting this demo.

      Delete
  6. Brenda, thank you very much. That was a most interesting and beautiful demonstration!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Since I teach too, I am always delighted when people share thier knowledge! I use negative painting with my students but your approach is different and yields amazingly different results. I find it helpful to be able to stretch my own technique as well as encourage new things for my students. Thanks for the teacher hat!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I developed this approach out of frustration...I couldn't find anyone who knew how to negative paint. It's a hard concept to grasp but my students come away from my workshops excited and inspired. Happy Painting!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you Brenda for sharing your knowlege. It never dawned on my to only use transparent colors for negative painting! Perhaps this will be the "magic" thing that gets me a decent watercolor painting for a change...

    Anyway, when is your next scheduled workshop on negative painting? Inquiring minds want to know...

    Art Goddess

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the lovely response to my blog. I love to hear when my instruction made a difference.
      My next "Negative Painting workshop is:
      September 14,15,& 16, 2012, 3-Day Workshop
      Schroeder Studio Gallery, 112 East Maple Avenue, Orange, CA 92866
      Info: judy@schroederstudio.com, (714) 633-0653

      Happy Painting!

      Delete
  10. What an amazing technique for water color painting. I just found your website and wondering what and where your workshops are this year.

    Bob S

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Bob, thanks for your comment. I have lots of workshops coming up. Please check my website for a complete list at www.swensonsart.net

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful painting...thank you for sharing your process with us

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you for this informative tutorial! It is a nice way for a watercolor beginner like myself to get a nice look to the page before I even begin to paint in the "real" subject. Fascinating process.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow Brenda,your works are very goods...the tutorial is the best. ..sorry for my english...grettings!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I just found you on Pinterest (as one does) this painting is stunning and thanks so much for the tutorial and step by step!!

    ReplyDelete
  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. For people like me, a beginner and so far away from your country, enable to attend one of your workshops, it is of a lot of help! I am your fan, Brenda! I admire your work! Thank you again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nora,
      Thank you gir your words of appreciation 😊

      Delete