Thursday, August 13, 2009


Have you mastered the watercolor wash? The plain, overall, all one color wash? I haven't. I'm trying but it's not easy. In fact it is downright hard!

After some seriously warped starts and fits, I am now doing what I know I'm supposed to do =
- catching the bead of pigment and water at the bottom of the tilted paper (which is stapled to a board)
- not going back into the wash once I get it done from top to bottom
- using a large brush and putting lots of water in the mix for the wash
- wiping back the edges of the paper so no water seeps back into the paper while it's drying

And yet I still get uneven and tacky looking washes. The first one may be okay, not bad. But then I glaze over that and I get a mess.

So...I've begun doing what Catherine Anderson does and going back into the wash (a no-no, apparently) with a brush full of clean water and brushing up and down and down and up and thinning out the pigment so it's paler and keeping things wet all over the page. That seems to be working. Also, stapling the paper to the Gatorboard helped immensely (I was just taping the paper down and it still created hills and valleys when it dried, making an even wash impossible.)

So...any tricks and tips out there to share on this? Am I using the wrong brush (it's a large, flat synthetic and it will not distribute the pigment and water all the way across the paper but dries out about halfway through, leaving unpainted areas that have to be done over)? Is the coldpress paper the best to use or should I try hotpress again (tried it once and it was really a mess!!)?
The goal is to get a good, pale wash of color, the same from top to bottom of paper, let it dry completely and then get another good, pale wash of color over that with another transparent color.
Using (1) Hansa Yellow Light and then (2) Quinacridone Rose and finally (3) Cobalt Blue. Just those three colors. Just a simple wash - yeah, right!


Anita's art said...

Tackling the wash is indeed hard. I'm practicing now and will take a new class in Sept. called the two-wash approach. So far I received my materials list which includes a squirrel hair mop brush - size 10- so expensive I'm not sure I'll go for it. I practiced a little with a wash of cobalt blue from the top and new gamboge at the bottom. It's so hard to keep the color you have in mind on the paper. I'm going to put it on my blog today. Keep washing!

Angela said...

A very wet, stretched piece of coldpress and a spray bottle of watered down pigment works just fine for me! :)

It's pretty seldom that I'm going for an all over even wash - what's fun about that? - but if I do, that's honestly the way I achieve it. I don't really care whether it's cheating or not. :)

Chris Beck said...

Hot press isn't a good choice for a smooth wash -- the paint wants to puddle up and will be patchy. Cold press is good. Are you stretching the paper by wetting it before you staple it? That's the best way to avoid the ripples. One other suggestion I'd have would be to wet the entire sheet and let it dry long enough that it's not shiny wet, then go into it with your paint. The overall dampness allows the paint to blend more evenly.

shicat said...

So a wash,hmm,your brush should not be synthetic? Should it be Sable? I have a sable brush that I love but I usually don't use it to do a wash, it is too small.The Sable brush really holds the color well. I would think a large flat brush is the way to go.
I noticed my cold pressed paper on a block buckles a bit with washes but goes down after it is dried.

I would love it if you would do a post on glazing.

thanks Rhonda.

Vicki Greene said...

I have read all of the instructions too but still struggle with that "simple" flat wash.

RHCarpenter said...

I think the brush is one of the most important things, Anita, so do get a good one. I may have to look for the squirrel hair mop brush that holds lots of water and pigment. Not one of mine (my sable is too small) holds enough water to make it from the left side of the paper to the right without drying up in the middle - and that's a big problem.

If it works, it's not "cheating," it's creating another way to do it it, Angela! ha ha

Thanks, Chris - the hotpress was a mess. I didn't wet and staple it before putting on the first wash so will do that next time.

Cathy, I think a big mop or wash brush is fine as long as it holds lots of water and pigment - which none of mine does :( I couldn't use the block as it buckled badly and wouldn't go back down at all.

Vicki, maybe this simple technique shouldn't be called "simple" at all?!? ha ha

Thanks so much for all your comments. Still working on mine with the red and blue washes down now and will show later and talk more about this process.

Myrna said...

Read your blog title and started laughing! Brilliant! Judy Morris is the master of the perfect wash and has the best approach. If you can get your hands on her video or cd and watch her it helps. I will try and describe it. You must have enough color mixed before you start. Use a large round brush. Board at a tilt. Fully loaded brush just barely tickling the surface and wiggled up and down slightly giving an irregular edge as you go horizontally across the paper, with enough paint to leave a "bead" on the bottom of the painted edge. The irregular line keeps the striped effect from happening. Just keep going across in this manner until finished. Suck up the extra paint at the bottom with a tissue. Let me know if this works for you.

Cathy Gatland said...

I'm so pleased to read your posts on this, and everyone's suggestions - I'm another one who hasn't managed even washes, after this I'll have to go and try, try, try again...

RHCarpenter said...

Myrna, thanks, I am doing everything according to the "rules" but still it must take exceptional patience and just the right touch (that comes, I imagine, from practice). I thought Judy was the Tuscan Textures salting queen? Didn't know she glazed a lot of her stuff.

Cathy, try it and see - a nice misty morning painting, a foggy seascape, anything like that would benefit from nice, even or graded washes. It's just another tool to have in your painter's kit!