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”.